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Honolulu skyline featuring high-rises and mountains in the distance. Getty Images

The 18 best things to do in Honolulu if you love design

Between beach days, go explore the Hawaiian capital’s wealth of architectural gems 

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The design influences of Honolulu, the Hawaiian capital on Oahu island, are as rich as what you might find in the most dynamic mainland metropolises. Honolulu’s most notable architecture was constructed in the postwar era, during which designers sought to capture the breathtaking beauty of its natural surroundings.

Across hotels, museums, chapels, and even government and utility buildings, you’ll find shining examples of everything from the Hawaiian-born Tropical Modernism style to splashes of Islamic and Moorish influence. There’s also a hefty dose of Beaux-Arts buildings, a handful of buildings designed by legendary pioneer Vladimir Ossipoff, and a rare example of American Florentine architecture.

Without further ado, here’s what to see on your next trip to Honolulu, with attractions sorted from west to east.

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1. Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Copy Link
1 Arizona Memorial Pl
Honolulu, HI 96818
(808) 422-3399
Visit Website

To commemorate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Honolulu architect Alfred Preis designed a memorial that floats above the sunken hull of the USS Arizona, the resting place of some 1,100 soldiers who died in the surprise military strike. While the stark-white color and slightly convex silhouette initially caused critics to refer to the 1962 structure as a “squashed milk carton,” the architect defended the design’s distinctive slump. “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory.” After closing in May 2018 for a $2.1 million project to address infrastructure and dock anchoring improvements, the USS Arizona Memorial reopened in September 2019.

A horizontal, rectilinear white building sits on the water. An American flag flies overhead. Shutterstock

2. Iolani Palace

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364 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96813

Now a museum that houses royal accoutrements of the Hawaiian monarchs who once lived there, the current brick-and-concrete Iolani Palace was completed in 1882. It’s actually the second structure to be built on the site, replacing the original termite-ridden, plantation-style building. As the world’s sole example of American Florentine architecture, the palace—also the only true royal residence in the United States—exhibits regal Italian Renaissance elements (symmetrical footprint, stately columns) coupled with breezy Hawaiian design features like stacked lanais. Inside, visitors can marvel at relics like formal dresses worn by Queen Lili’uokulani and a koa wood tobacco pipe that belonged to her brother King David Kalakuaua (the 15.5-inch smoker is kept in a private room manned by white-gloved docents).

A symmetrical palace featuring columns and stacked lanais sits at the end of a road flanked by palm trees. Shutterstock

3. Hawaii State Capitol

Copy Link
415 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96813

Hawaii’s seat of government, completed in 1969, is a landmark display of the International style. Designed in a partnership between local studios Belt, Lemmon, and Lo and John Warnecke and Associates, the open-air structure is not just at the mercy of the elements, but also inspired by them: A perimeter reflecting pool is a nod to the Pacific Ocean. The two legislative chambers, shaped like cones, represent island volcanoes. Columns are modeled after the trunks of palm trees. And, at the center of the structure, where an ordinary state capitol building might post an ornate dome, there is instead an atrium open to the world’s ultimate vault, the sky. Brochures are available for self-guided tours.

A path lined with palm trees leads to a grand government building with a facade of tall columns. Shutterstock

4. Pow!Wow! Murals

Copy Link
Kaka'ako
Honolulu, HI

Now a worldwide phenomenon popping up in places like Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong, Pow!Wow! originated in 2011 in Honolulu’s once-drab industrial district, Kaka’ako, where cofounder Jasper Wong realized the warehouses’ endless blank walls were readymade canvases. The annual festival produces an onslaught of new work each February, most recently including a piece by Shepard Fairey titled, Golden Future?, about the perilous state of the environment.

5. Board of Water Supply

Copy Link
630 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96843
(808) 748-5000
Visit Website

If you didn’t think a utility company building could be must-see architecture, think again. This striking 1958 concrete building by architect Hart Wood—founder of the Hawaii regional architecture movement—is an early archetype of Tropical Modernism, a style known for its rectilinear silhouettes and indoor-outdoor spaces. This building’s signature moment is its acknowledgement of the island environment with an ocean-colored bas-relief solar screen, inset with louvers that manipulate light as the Hawaiian sun moves across the sky.

6. IBM Building

Copy Link
1240 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
808-591-8411

In 2008, this midcentury landmark by Hawaii’s legendary modernist, Vladimir Ossipoff, was slated for demolition to make room for redevelopment. Luckily, it was spared thanks to the efforts of citizens who saw the IBM Building as an integral part of Honolulu’s postwar boom. While the stocky six-story structure sits in the shadows of neighboring high rises, its distinctive solar screen—comprising 1,360 pre-cast concrete honeycomb-shaped forms that not only symbolize the repetitious patterns of computer logic, but were also designed to be pigeon-proof—still makes it instantly recognizable in Honolulu’s ever-evolving cityscape. The office building, open daily, also hosts community events. There is free self-parking in garages nearby.

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7. Honolulu Museum of Art

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900 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96814

With a rather plain exterior reminiscent of traditional Hawaiian thatched hale (home), this 1926 building hides a tranquil retreat inside. A warren of Chinese-inspired garden courtyards features serene water elements—ponds afloat with lilypads, concrete Chinese lion heads trickling water—that soften a terrain hardscaped with Kaimuki-sourced lava rock and flagstones from the island Molokai. Galleries flank these natural havens, and are themselves hideaways where everything from works dating to Captain Cook’s 1778 landfall to traditional Hawaiian quilts to Georgia O’Keeffe’s verdant Maui landscapes can be appreciated in near-perfect peace.

Low-slung tile-roofed roof building with an entryway to another yard and building. Shutterstock

8. The Rainbow Mural

Copy Link
2005 Kalia Rd
Honolulu, HI 96815

A painstaking 2013 restoration of iconic American painter Millard Sheets’s double-sided rainbow mosaic, installed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki in 1968, involved removing more than 16,000 tiles. A subsequent digital photographic review by UK-based Johnson Tiles ensured an accurate color match for each. Now more vibrant than ever, Rainbow Mural 2.0, completed in 2015, comprises over 31,000 tiles. Measuring 286 feet high by 26 feet wide, it’s the first sign of aloha for airplane passengers coming onto and departing the island.

A view of the side of a hotel entirely covered by a rainbow mosaic mural. Shutterstock

9. Liljestrand House

Copy Link
3300 Tantalus Dr
Honolulu, HI 96822

Tucked into an eucalyptus grove on Mount Tantalus, this 1952 home designed by Vladimir Ossipoff has been preserved as a 6,700-square-foot ideal of Tropical Modernism. Setting a high bar for indoor-outdoor living, the hillside residence—built from the wood of a felled monkeypod tree for physician Howard Liljestrand and his wife Betty—was one of House Beautiful’s iconic Pace Setter homes, a distinction given to a select few aspirational but livable midcentury houses. The generous proportions of the Liljestrand’s open-plan spaces maximize island views, from Diamond Head to Ewa Beach. For guided tours, submit a request on the Liljestrand Foundation’s website.

10. Trousdale Memorial Chapel

Copy Link
47-200 Kahekili Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744

Riffing on ancient Hawaiian heiau (places of worship), the chapel at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, features walls of lava stone, revered for its strength and stability. The stone walls and square arches are a visual counterpoint to a more upright A-frame sanctuary, which is made of glass and smooth white concrete. It’s likely that Wimberly and Cook, the architecture firm behind the 1958-built structure, viewed the lava rock as a strong, grounding symbol of the earthly realm. The chapel, in contrast, represented a more ethereal force.

11. Waikiki Galleria Tower

Copy Link
2222 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Formerly the Bank of Hawaii tower, this striking building rising above a duty-free shopping mall is defined by an exoskeleton of concrete swoops intended to evoke familiar motifs of Polynesia, from the languorous arches of fan palms to the skin of a pineapple. From afar, though, the screen looks a bit like chainmail, and armor against the sun may have been architect George “Pete” Wimberly’s main intention for the substantial latticework. But it also serves another practical purpose: Built-in narrow ledges make cleaning the windows of this 1966 building a little easier.

12. The Royal Hawaiian

Copy Link
2259 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Royal Hawaiian is perhaps the most recognizable building on Waikiki Beach. In the 1920s, New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore designed a hotel with regal airs, not only to welcome wealthy guests arriving via steamship, but also to honor the land’s ali’i (noble) heritage as a retreat for Hawaiian rulers. The Moorish architecture remains majestic, especially when compared with the tower-block hotels nearby. And its eccentric hue, supposedly popular at the time of construction, is arguably its most iconic feature. In pop-culture history, the Royal Hawaiian has made numerous cameos in film, television, and in a song by none other than Joni Mitchell. Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” on a visit to Oahu, heartbroken to see the lush island “paved” by parking lots and one unnamed “pink hotel.”

A pink hotel against blue waters of the Pacific.

13. The Surfjack Hotel + Swim Club

Copy Link
412 Lewers St
Honolulu, HI 96815

Since the Surfjack opened in 2016, a slew of midcentury-style lodging has followed suit in Waikiki, adopting an Instagram-friendly approach to luring in millennials with the help of some neighborhood artists. Local design studio The Vanguard Theory spearheaded the community effort at the Surfjack: On the main floor, the pau hana lounge features undulant, oceanic black-and-white works by muralist Brendan Munroe. A hand-painted treehouse by Wooden Wave, a local husband-and-wife art studio, is on view near the elevators. But perhaps it’s Matthew Tapia’s hand-lettered message at the bottom of the pool­—”Wish You Were Here!”—that appears most often on social media, turning every photo into a postcard.

14. Moana Surfrider

Copy Link
2365 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
808-922-3111

Between the grand port cochère—the architectural equivalent of a tiered wedding cake—and the expansive beachside lanai, shaded by a 75-foot-tall, 150-foot-wide banyan tree, this historic Beaux-Arts hotel earns its reputation as the “First Lady of Waikiki.” Built in 1901, it was the first hotel in Waikiki, which was previously a swampy stomping ground for Hawaiian nobility drawn to the area’s saving grace—a beautiful beach with easygoing waves. At the time, the south shore was one of the only spots on the island where the then-dying sport of surfing was kept afloat by a few die-hard shredders. American novelist Jack London fell in love with the centuries-old pastime during a 1907 stay in a housekeeping cottage near the Moana, and wrote a magazine article that subsequently popularized this “sport of kings.”

Historic Beaux-Arts hotel with four columns at the entrance. Palm trees surround the property. Shutterstock

15. The Laylow, Autograph Collection

Copy Link
2299 Kūhiō Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Even though the Laylow—the second-coming of the Coral Reef Hotel from 1969—isn’t on the shoreline, its retro-inflected tropical design excels in creating a toes-in-the-sand experience. Portland-based design studio, OMFGCO, expressed its beachy vision with storied motifs: A monstera-leaf graphic, rendered in the resort’s signature colors—coral, pink, and teal—is emblazoned on the wallpaper in the rooms. In the lobby, a divider made of breeze blocks, recalls Hawaiian tapa (bark cloth) patterns. Vintage hula nodders behind the reception desk say aloha with every hip-sway. And on the lanai, where the hotel’s signature restaurant-lounge, the Hideout, is located, an actual sand pit encourages barefoot mingling, umbrella drink in hand. (There’s just one umbrella drink on the menu: The Purple Rain, which is made with violet-hued butterfly pea flower-infused vodka, mint, lavender, and guava.)

16. East-West Center

Copy Link
1601 East-West Rd
Honolulu, HI 96848

Of the late Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei’s buildings, among the least exalted but nevertheless influential, is the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Built in 1963 as a hub for “intellectuals of the east and west,” its six concrete buildings reflect these different cultures. The campus is anchored by the Jefferson Hall Conference Center, which exhibits stripped-down elements of East Asian temples. The 13-story Hale Manoa dormitory, a Brutalist tower block with a distinctive gridded facade, was inspired by one of the West’s most beloved architects, Le Corbusier, and his groundbreaking Unité de Habitation project in Marseilles, France.

17. George and Janet Wimberly Residence

Copy Link
3288 Huelani Dr
Honolulu, HI 96822

The Manoa Valley home of the acclaimed local architect is distinguished by a unique facade of 152 square windows, some inset, creating a dazzling checkerboard effect. A corrugated-metal shed-style roof is firmly of the midcentury era, as is the simple carport carved into a hillside. The lush, sloped site required a post-and-pier foundation, which also mitigates flood danger and takes advantage of wind currents to cool the interior. Wimberly designed the entrance experience to scale up the drama initiated by the grid of windows: To reach the front door, where a bronze gong-style doorbell is located, one needs to scale a set of sturdy lava-rock stairs, which then give way to risers that seem to glide on air. Note: This is a private residence.

18. Shangri-La

Copy Link
4055 Pāpū Cir
Honolulu, HI 96816
shangrilahawaii.org
Visit Website

While there is no evidence that tobacco heiress Doris Duke was ever a disciple of the Muslim faith, the elaborate home she built on the water’s edge in Ka’alawai is nevertheless a shrine to Islamic art and culture. Consider the building’s simple white-walled facade, a deceptive prelude to the vibrant spaces inside, bedecked in Iranian tile mosaics, gold-brocaded Ottoman silk velvets, centuries-old Mughal rugs, and enough marble and precious stone to rival the Taj Mahal. (In fact, Duke, who died in 1993 at the age of 80, commissioned seven impressive jali—perforated marble screens—to be handcrafted in Agra, India, and then shipped to Hawaii for installation in the master suite at Shangri-La.) Intrigued? Duke’s former home is now a museum, with guided tours originating at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

A low-slung house with a huge round pool in front, and ocean to the back. Shutterstock

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1. Pearl Harbor National Memorial

1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
A horizontal, rectilinear white building sits on the water. An American flag flies overhead. Shutterstock

To commemorate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Honolulu architect Alfred Preis designed a memorial that floats above the sunken hull of the USS Arizona, the resting place of some 1,100 soldiers who died in the surprise military strike. While the stark-white color and slightly convex silhouette initially caused critics to refer to the 1962 structure as a “squashed milk carton,” the architect defended the design’s distinctive slump. “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory.” After closing in May 2018 for a $2.1 million project to address infrastructure and dock anchoring improvements, the USS Arizona Memorial reopened in September 2019.

1 Arizona Memorial Pl
Honolulu, HI 96818

2. Iolani Palace

364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813
A symmetrical palace featuring columns and stacked lanais sits at the end of a road flanked by palm trees. Shutterstock

Now a museum that houses royal accoutrements of the Hawaiian monarchs who once lived there, the current brick-and-concrete Iolani Palace was completed in 1882. It’s actually the second structure to be built on the site, replacing the original termite-ridden, plantation-style building. As the world’s sole example of American Florentine architecture, the palace—also the only true royal residence in the United States—exhibits regal Italian Renaissance elements (symmetrical footprint, stately columns) coupled with breezy Hawaiian design features like stacked lanais. Inside, visitors can marvel at relics like formal dresses worn by Queen Lili’uokulani and a koa wood tobacco pipe that belonged to her brother King David Kalakuaua (the 15.5-inch smoker is kept in a private room manned by white-gloved docents).

364 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96813

3. Hawaii State Capitol

415 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96813
A path lined with palm trees leads to a grand government building with a facade of tall columns. Shutterstock

Hawaii’s seat of government, completed in 1969, is a landmark display of the International style. Designed in a partnership between local studios Belt, Lemmon, and Lo and John Warnecke and Associates, the open-air structure is not just at the mercy of the elements, but also inspired by them: A perimeter reflecting pool is a nod to the Pacific Ocean. The two legislative chambers, shaped like cones, represent island volcanoes. Columns are modeled after the trunks of palm trees. And, at the center of the structure, where an ordinary state capitol building might post an ornate dome, there is instead an atrium open to the world’s ultimate vault, the sky. Brochures are available for self-guided tours.

415 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96813

4. Pow!Wow! Murals

Kaka'ako, Honolulu, HI

Now a worldwide phenomenon popping up in places like Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong, Pow!Wow! originated in 2011 in Honolulu’s once-drab industrial district, Kaka’ako, where cofounder Jasper Wong realized the warehouses’ endless blank walls were readymade canvases. The annual festival produces an onslaught of new work each February, most recently including a piece by Shepard Fairey titled, Golden Future?, about the perilous state of the environment.

Kaka'ako
Honolulu, HI

5. Board of Water Supply

630 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96843

If you didn’t think a utility company building could be must-see architecture, think again. This striking 1958 concrete building by architect Hart Wood—founder of the Hawaii regional architecture movement—is an early archetype of Tropical Modernism, a style known for its rectilinear silhouettes and indoor-outdoor spaces. This building’s signature moment is its acknowledgement of the island environment with an ocean-colored bas-relief solar screen, inset with louvers that manipulate light as the Hawaiian sun moves across the sky.

630 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96843

6. IBM Building

1240 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

In 2008, this midcentury landmark by Hawaii’s legendary modernist, Vladimir Ossipoff, was slated for demolition to make room for redevelopment. Luckily, it was spared thanks to the efforts of citizens who saw the IBM Building as an integral part of Honolulu’s postwar boom. While the stocky six-story structure sits in the shadows of neighboring high rises, its distinctive solar screen—comprising 1,360 pre-cast concrete honeycomb-shaped forms that not only symbolize the repetitious patterns of computer logic, but were also designed to be pigeon-proof—still makes it instantly recognizable in Honolulu’s ever-evolving cityscape. The office building, open daily, also hosts community events. There is free self-parking in garages nearby.

1240 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814

7. Honolulu Museum of Art

900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814
Low-slung tile-roofed roof building with an entryway to another yard and building. Shutterstock

With a rather plain exterior reminiscent of traditional Hawaiian thatched hale (home), this 1926 building hides a tranquil retreat inside. A warren of Chinese-inspired garden courtyards features serene water elements—ponds afloat with lilypads, concrete Chinese lion heads trickling water—that soften a terrain hardscaped with Kaimuki-sourced lava rock and flagstones from the island Molokai. Galleries flank these natural havens, and are themselves hideaways where everything from works dating to Captain Cook’s 1778 landfall to traditional Hawaiian quilts to Georgia O’Keeffe’s verdant Maui landscapes can be appreciated in near-perfect peace.

900 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96814

8. The Rainbow Mural

2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
A view of the side of a hotel entirely covered by a rainbow mosaic mural. Shutterstock

A painstaking 2013 restoration of iconic American painter Millard Sheets’s double-sided rainbow mosaic, installed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki in 1968, involved removing more than 16,000 tiles. A subsequent digital photographic review by UK-based Johnson Tiles ensured an accurate color match for each. Now more vibrant than ever, Rainbow Mural 2.0, completed in 2015, comprises over 31,000 tiles. Measuring 286 feet high by 26 feet wide, it’s the first sign of aloha for airplane passengers coming onto and departing the island.

2005 Kalia Rd
Honolulu, HI 96815

9. Liljestrand House

3300 Tantalus Dr, Honolulu, HI 96822

Tucked into an eucalyptus grove on Mount Tantalus, this 1952 home designed by Vladimir Ossipoff has been preserved as a 6,700-square-foot ideal of Tropical Modernism. Setting a high bar for indoor-outdoor living, the hillside residence—built from the wood of a felled monkeypod tree for physician Howard Liljestrand and his wife Betty—was one of House Beautiful’s iconic Pace Setter homes, a distinction given to a select few aspirational but livable midcentury houses. The generous proportions of the Liljestrand’s open-plan spaces maximize island views, from Diamond Head to Ewa Beach. For guided tours, submit a request on the Liljestrand Foundation’s website.

3300 Tantalus Dr
Honolulu, HI 96822

10. Trousdale Memorial Chapel

47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

Riffing on ancient Hawaiian heiau (places of worship), the chapel at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, features walls of lava stone, revered for its strength and stability. The stone walls and square arches are a visual counterpoint to a more upright A-frame sanctuary, which is made of glass and smooth white concrete. It’s likely that Wimberly and Cook, the architecture firm behind the 1958-built structure, viewed the lava rock as a strong, grounding symbol of the earthly realm. The chapel, in contrast, represented a more ethereal force.

47-200 Kahekili Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744

11. Waikiki Galleria Tower

2222 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Formerly the Bank of Hawaii tower, this striking building rising above a duty-free shopping mall is defined by an exoskeleton of concrete swoops intended to evoke familiar motifs of Polynesia, from the languorous arches of fan palms to the skin of a pineapple. From afar, though, the screen looks a bit like chainmail, and armor against the sun may have been architect George “Pete” Wimberly’s main intention for the substantial latticework. But it also serves another practical purpose: Built-in narrow ledges make cleaning the windows of this 1966 building a little easier.

2222 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

12. The Royal Hawaiian

2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
A pink hotel against blue waters of the Pacific.

Known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Royal Hawaiian is perhaps the most recognizable building on Waikiki Beach. In the 1920s, New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore designed a hotel with regal airs, not only to welcome wealthy guests arriving via steamship, but also to honor the land’s ali’i (noble) heritage as a retreat for Hawaiian rulers. The Moorish architecture remains majestic, especially when compared with the tower-block hotels nearby. And its eccentric hue, supposedly popular at the time of construction, is arguably its most iconic feature. In pop-culture history, the Royal Hawaiian has made numerous cameos in film, television, and in a song by none other than Joni Mitchell. Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” on a visit to Oahu, heartbroken to see the lush island “paved” by parking lots and one unnamed “pink hotel.”

2259 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

13. The Surfjack Hotel + Swim Club

412 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815

Since the Surfjack opened in 2016, a slew of midcentury-style lodging has followed suit in Waikiki, adopting an Instagram-friendly approach to luring in millennials with the help of some neighborhood artists. Local design studio The Vanguard Theory spearheaded the community effort at the Surfjack: On the main floor, the pau hana lounge features undulant, oceanic black-and-white works by muralist Brendan Munroe. A hand-painted treehouse by Wooden Wave, a local husband-and-wife art studio, is on view near the elevators. But perhaps it’s Matthew Tapia’s hand-lettered message at the bottom of the pool­—”Wish You Were Here!”—that appears most often on social media, turning every photo into a postcard.

412 Lewers St
Honolulu, HI 96815

14. Moana Surfrider

2365 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Historic Beaux-Arts hotel with four columns at the entrance. Palm trees surround the property. Shutterstock

Between the grand port cochère—the architectural equivalent of a tiered wedding cake—and the expansive beachside lanai, shaded by a 75-foot-tall, 150-foot-wide banyan tree, this historic Beaux-Arts hotel earns its reputation as the “First Lady of Waikiki.” Built in 1901, it was the first hotel in Waikiki, which was previously a swampy stomping ground for Hawaiian nobility drawn to the area’s saving grace—a beautiful beach with easygoing waves. At the time, the south shore was one of the only spots on the island where the then-dying sport of surfing was kept afloat by a few die-hard shredders. American novelist Jack London fell in love with the centuries-old pastime during a 1907 stay in a housekeeping cottage near the Moana, and wrote a magazine article that subsequently popularized this “sport of kings.”

2365 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

15. The Laylow, Autograph Collection

2299 Kūhiō Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Even though the Laylow—the second-coming of the Coral Reef Hotel from 1969—isn’t on the shoreline, its retro-inflected tropical design excels in creating a toes-in-the-sand experience. Portland-based design studio, OMFGCO, expressed its beachy vision with storied motifs: A monstera-leaf graphic, rendered in the resort’s signature colors—coral, pink, and teal—is emblazoned on the wallpaper in the rooms. In the lobby, a divider made of breeze blocks, recalls Hawaiian tapa (bark cloth) patterns. Vintage hula nodders behind the reception desk say aloha with every hip-sway. And on the lanai, where the hotel’s signature restaurant-lounge, the Hideout, is located, an actual sand pit encourages barefoot mingling, umbrella drink in hand. (There’s just one umbrella drink on the menu: The Purple Rain, which is made with violet-hued butterfly pea flower-infused vodka, mint, lavender, and guava.)

2299 Kūhiō Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

16. East-West Center

1601 East-West Rd, Honolulu, HI 96848

Of the late Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei’s buildings, among the least exalted but nevertheless influential, is the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Built in 1963 as a hub for “intellectuals of the east and west,” its six concrete buildings reflect these different cultures. The campus is anchored by the Jefferson Hall Conference Center, which exhibits stripped-down elements of East Asian temples. The 13-story Hale Manoa dormitory, a Brutalist tower block with a distinctive gridded facade, was inspired by one of the West’s most beloved architects, Le Corbusier, and his groundbreaking Unité de Habitation project in Marseilles, France.

1601 East-West Rd
Honolulu, HI 96848

17. George and Janet Wimberly Residence

3288 Huelani Dr, Honolulu, HI 96822

The Manoa Valley home of the acclaimed local architect is distinguished by a unique facade of 152 square windows, some inset, creating a dazzling checkerboard effect. A corrugated-metal shed-style roof is firmly of the midcentury era, as is the simple carport carved into a hillside. The lush, sloped site required a post-and-pier foundation, which also mitigates flood danger and takes advantage of wind currents to cool the interior. Wimberly designed the entrance experience to scale up the drama initiated by the grid of windows: To reach the front door, where a bronze gong-style doorbell is located, one needs to scale a set of sturdy lava-rock stairs, which then give way to risers that seem to glide on air. Note: This is a private residence.

3288 Huelani Dr
Honolulu, HI 96822

18. Shangri-La

4055 Pāpū Cir, Honolulu, HI 96816
A low-slung house with a huge round pool in front, and ocean to the back. Shutterstock

While there is no evidence that tobacco heiress Doris Duke was ever a disciple of the Muslim faith, the elaborate home she built on the water’s edge in Ka’alawai is nevertheless a shrine to Islamic art and culture. Consider the building’s simple white-walled facade, a deceptive prelude to the vibrant spaces inside, bedecked in Iranian tile mosaics, gold-brocaded Ottoman silk velvets, centuries-old Mughal rugs, and enough marble and precious stone to rival the Taj Mahal. (In fact, Duke, who died in 1993 at the age of 80, commissioned seven impressive jali—perforated marble screens—to be handcrafted in Agra, India, and then shipped to Hawaii for installation in the master suite at Shangri-La.) Intrigued? Duke’s former home is now a museum, with guided tours originating at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

4055 Pāpū Cir
Honolulu, HI 96816