Visual art is a big deal in Hawaii, and yet, the islands’ finest works often fail to get the recognition they deserve. Therein lies the value of the Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA), which pays homage to both past and present talent. Beyond this, of course, the museum offers a wonderfully entertaining experience for art enthusiasts and casual observers alike.
Visitors are often surprised to discover that the Honolulu Museum of Art provides one of the most memorable excursions during otherwise beach-based trips to Hawaii. This isn’t just any art museum; the works displayed here are often described as bold or vivid, as are the interpretations of those pieces.
If you choose to add the Honolulu Museum of Art to your itinerary, you’ll be impressed long before you actually set foot inside. The structure and its location are both gorgeous. The original building was designed by the famed architect Bertram Goodhue. It has since seen many expansions. These days, it houses over 50,000 works, including both historic and contemporary pieces. Several pieces can be traced to the Hawaiian islands, although international works are also heavily represented.
Tickets are required for entering the museum’s galleries, but the shop and cafe can be enjoyed free of charge. Given the prestige of the museum, however, most people visit with the intention of fully exploring its artistic collections. The average visitor is able to see everything within a few hours, so don’t expect a visit to occupy the entire day.
A few of our favorite exhibits at Honolulu Museum of Art include the following:
James A. Michener Ukiyo-e Prints
Rumor has it, prolific author James A. Michener originally intended to give his vast collection of Japanese art to New York City’s Museum of Metropolitan Art. He was disappointed, however, by how poorly he was treated — so he instead headed for Hawaii, where he enjoyed a warm reception. This story certainly feels true to the modern visitor’s experience of HoMA hospitality. The result is a vast collection of works known as ukiyo-e, which are worth checking out not only because of who donated them and how, but also because they provide such a visual feast.
While this is technically a separate attraction, Honolulu Museum of Art provides a shuttle from the main museum for those with extra tickets. It’s definitely worth visiting if you have time, as its vast collection of Islamic art is downright exquisite. The building and collections were once owned by socialite Doris Duke, who became passionate about Islamic art following her honeymoon. From tiles to jewelry, all the curated pieces displayed at Shangri La are sure to delight.
Doris Duke Theatre
Beyond Shangri La, Doris Duke’s influence can also be seen in the venue named after her. The theater is conveniently located at the rear of the museum. With nearly 300 seats, it is currently the largest independent arthouse theater in Hawaii. While it often hosts film festivals, a variety of intriguing documentaries can also be enjoyed there.
Whether you remain onsite to browse art or take a side trip to Shangri La, you will emerge from your Honolulu Museum of Art experience feeling newly inspired. This is your chance to gain a newfound appreciation of Hawaiian and international art, so don’t hesitate to stop in and observe a wonderful array of collections.
-Finding parking at Honolulu Museum of Art can be difficult at times, particularly for anyone who hopes to avoid paying for the main parking spots located near the museum. Many visitors, however, feel that the small fee for the provided lot is more than reasonable, especially given the hassle of hunting for free spots on the busy streets.
-The museum is generally kid-friendly, although some parents report that it’s best saved for older children and teens. Still, special programs and events such as Family Sunday make it abundantly clear that visitors of all ages are welcome here.