Monday 17 February 2014

Walking Honolulu

I arrived in Hawaii on Wednesday, a day or so ahead of a media tour of the island of Oahu. With time to kill the next day, and with the weather not too humid, I decided to walk from my hotel in the Waikiki area to the 'Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu.

According to Google Maps the route was only four kilometres (about 2.5 miles), though everyone I mentioned my walk to later sound amazed at the concept - Honolulu is one of those cities where everyone drives everywhere.

It was an interesting route, a cross-section of different ages and uses of the Hawaiian capital.

Starting from the clustered hotel area and marina you can see in the photo below, I crossed the Ala Wai Canal and walked the length of Ala Moana Park, a long stretch of green between the water and a busy road:

Google Maps then dog-legged me through twists and turns, until I saw this impressive building and realised I was on the edge of Kaka'ako, the industrial area which is gradually being transformed to residential:

And yes, that wall really is flat. It features the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani, and the legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku.

Kaka'ako is peppered with street art of this kind, most as commissions for the annual Pow Wow Hawaii Festival which was on while I was visiting.

Walking along a stretch of Queen Street lacking sidewalks and lined with single-story automotive workshops, I dodged cars while seeking out murals. I even caught a few in the process of being painted:

Finally, crossing Cooke Street, I was propelled abruptly into another aspect of the city: Historic Honolulu.

I passed an early 19th century church, with fascinating graveyard attached; a Hawaiian king's tomb; and the very attractive Honolulu City Hall in the Spanish Colonial Revival style I'd previously associated with California:

Then I reached my goal: the 'Iolani Palace, built for King Kalakaua between 1879 and 1882 in a style uniquely known as American Florentine:

Only two monarchs ruled here. Just over a decade later, in 1893, Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown in a coup; and Hawaii was annexed by the USA in 1898.

Nowadays it's a museum which can be visited on tours. Despite its demoted status, however, it remains the only former royal palace on US soil.

I liked this part of Honolulu, with its grand architecture and sense of "What if" history. It was an interesting contrast with the high-rise pleasure zone of Waikiki, and the grit of Kaka'ako.

Then I caught a bus back to my hotel, and had a Mai Tai.

Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of Hawaii Tourism and the Oahu Visitors Bureau.

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