In DepthMix Boston, Las Vegas, Manila, Singapore and Tokyo, put the combination in a natural setting straight out of a painting by Paul Gauguin, add the scent of ginger flowers and the rush of freeway traffic, and you have Honolulu. Capital of Hawai‘i and O‘ahu's largest city, it is a fascinating combination of East and West, frenetic and laid-back, old and futuristic.
In the Hawaiian language, Honolulu means “sheltered bay.” The harbor—negotiated by freighters, luxury liners and even a sampan fishing fleet—remains at the heart of old downtown. And Honolulu's Waikīkī neighborhood, a surfer's paradise flaunting idyllic sun-kissed beaches, is among the largest resort destinations in the Pacific, its surplus of seaside hotels and restaurants offering respite to countless vacationers.
Centuries before the first lodging (the Moana Surfrider, built in 1901) materialized in Waikīkī, Kamehameha the Great, the ali‘i (chief) of the island of Hawai‘i, landed at Maunalua Bay. Intent on conquering and unifying all of the islands, Kamehameha achieved his goal in 1810. Under his careful watch, a trade network between Hawai‘i and Asia, carried out by sea-hardy Westerners, emerged.
Kamehameha I died in 1819, the same year whaling ships hailing from New England began utilizing the southeastern O‘ahu settlement as a way station. As taverns and brothels proliferated near the waterfront to meet the needs of rough-and-tumble sailors, a completely disparate group of New Englanders—Christian missionaries set on ending the “heathen” ways of the Hawaiians—began arriving in Honolulu.
Eventually, the religious leaders' influence with the Hawaiian monarchy pushed the whalers out. Honolulu became the permanent seat of government in 1845, and from that point the history of the city and the islands as a whole merged. A new Hawai‘i surfaced—one centered on a then-booming sugar industry—with many of the missionaries' business-minded sons among the wealthiest and most powerful residents. Brought in to work on the sugar (and later, pineapple) plantations, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Korean and Filipino laborers settled here, further contributing to the varied cultural heritage of Hawai‘i.
A popular beach destination, present-day Honolulu stretches along the narrow coastal plain between eastward Koko Head and the necklace of military reservations at Pearl Harbor, an area visited by those seeking out traces of the “date which will live in infamy,” Dec. 7, 1941. Vestiges of the missionary era can be seen downtown, while the Chinatown district, which for a time recalled the bawdiness of Honolulu's whaling years in its now-defunct red-light district, creates an exotic atmosphere with open-air lei stands and herb shops.
Honolulu fuses the spirit of the Hawaiian people with tastes, ideals and styles borrowed from Asia, Europe and North America. While watching a dazzling island sunset at one of the many beachside restaurants or bars, you may find yourself enthralled by the sweet murmur of a ‘ukulele, a classically Hawaiian instrument derived from the Portuguese braginha. And, armed with a set of chopsticks in the city's diverse restaurant scene, it's easy to taste the abundance of ethnic influences.
Even the two capitol buildings on the island contrast with and synthesize the essence of their periods in a uniquely Hawaiian way. Marvel over Iolani Palace, the only example of American Florentine architecture in the world, before admiring its 20th-century replacement, the Hawai‘i State Capitol, which showcases many of the Hawaiian Islands' striking natural aspects. Situated between the two structures is a statue of the beloved Queen Lili‘uokalani, the kingdom's last reigning monarch.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Hawai‘i has an excise tax of 4 percent (4.712 percent in Honolulu) on most goods and services. Honolulu has a lodging tax of 10.25 percent; rental cars are subject to state tax and a road tax of approximately $5 per day.
Kaiser Permanente-Moanalua Medical Center & Clinic, (808) 432-0000; The Queen's Medical Center, (808) 691-1000; Straub Medical Center, (808) 522-4000.
2270 Kalākaua Ave. Suite 801 Honolulu, HI 96815. Phone:(808)923-1811 or (800)464-2924
Hertz, (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members and has several area locations: the airport, (808) 837-7100; Kahala Hotel & Resort, (808) 735-8983; Hyatt Regency Waikīkī Beach Resort & Spa, (808) 971-3535; Imperial Hotel, (808) 922-3331; and Pagoda Hotel, (808) 942-5626.
The largest companies serving the island are TheCAB, (808) 422-2222; and Charley's Taxi & Tours, (808) 233-3333.