Touring Honolulu’s Varied Architecture by Car

A visit to a new locale is always fun. The metropolis of Honolulu is no exception. Although it’s large, it offers a different experience from its mainland counterparts. After recovering from the surprise of being surrounded by tropical fragrant flowers, gentle breezes and warm ocean, most visitors become interested in experiencing something of the local flavor and history of Honolulu.

Now you know why you rented a car for your stay in Honolulu. Tours are great, but if you’re someone who is interested in the culture of an area (we all love a glimpse into how people live), you’ll want your own vehicle to find the best examples of island architectural design. With a rental car you’ll travel at your own pace, when you want, and as long as you want.

As you head out on your architectural tour, don’t expect to see one distinct building style in Honolulu.  The Hawaiian Islands were once visited by explorers and missionaries of many countries and they all contributed to the divergent influences that exist today in the local architecture.

Drive downtown in Honolulu to see two examples of Protestant Mission Architecture: Kawaiahao Church built from blocks of coral, and nearby Mission Houses Museum utilizing wood construction.

Examples of Gothic Architecture can be seen by visiting The Hawaii Catholic Church and the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew. The latter church is an example of the first vaulted construction in Honolulu.

Prepare to be surprised by the number of architectural styles, from past to present, existing alongside each other in Honolulu. Renaissance architecture is represented in Honolulu via the famous Iolani Palace and nearby Barracks. A drive to the Bishop Museum buildings reveals architecture known as Hawaiian Romanesque style. Beaux Arts and Art Deco styles are also represented in Honolulu. Plantation architectural style is yours to be discovered in Honolulu and across Oahu. The Hawaii State Capital is an example of Bauhaus architecture. You might be surprised to discover that Honolulu’s tallest buildings have ties to native culture. For an example of contemporary, timeless simplicity, the Arizona Memorial, designed by architect Alfred Preis, should be on your tour list of outstanding Honolulu architecture.

For a peek at some of the loveliest homes in Honolulu, go east of Diamond Head and drive Kahala Avenue. These beachfront homes are spectacular examples of gracious Hawaiian living.

Spending time in the Bishop Museum or at the Arizona Memorial offers a more fulfilling experience than simply driving by the buildings. Yet, if you only have time for a quick tour, we guarantee that you’ll find surprises in the architecture of Honolulu. For those of you who like to immerse yourselves in the culture of a new location, you’ll want to do more research before you visit. Websites for the above architectural examples give wonderful histories of these buildings. Additionally, these are only a few of the many buildings that represent Honolulu’s colorful architectural  history.

To simplify your architecture tour, you may wish to reserve a GPS when you make your car rental reservation, or bring a portable one with you in your luggage. Addresses for all the above buildings are easily found online.

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