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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A couple of blocks mauka (toward the mountains) from Chinatown is the oldest Buddhist temple in the Islands. Mistakenly called a goddess by some, Kuan Yin, also known as Kannon, is a bodhisattva—one who chose to remain on earth doing good even after achieving enlightenment. Transformed from a male into a female figure centuries ago, she is credited with a particular sympathy for women. You will see representations of her all over the Islands: holding a lotus flower (beauty from the mud of human frailty), as at the temple; pouring out a pitcher of oil (like mercy flowing); or as a sort of Madonna with a child. Visitors are permitted but be aware this is a practicing place of worship.
Fancifully called Hawaii's Westminster Abbey, this historic house of worship witnessed the coronations, weddings, and funerals of generations of Hawaiian royalty. Each of the building's 14,000 coral blocks was quarried from reefs offshore at depths of more than 20 feet and transported to this site. Interior woodwork was created from the forests of the Koolau Mountains. The upper gallery has an exhibit of paintings of the royal families. The graves of missionaries and of King Lunalilo are adjacent. Services in English and Hawaiian are held each Sunday, and the church members are exceptionally welcoming, greeting newcomers with lei; their affiliation is United Church of Christ. Although there are no guided tours, you can look around the church at no cost. www.kawaiahao.org. COST: Free. OPEN: Service in English and Hawaiian Sun. at 9 am.
Oahu's wealthiest neighborhood has streets lined with multimillion-dollar homes. At intervals along tree-lined Kahala Avenue are narrow lanes that provide public access to Kahala's quiet, narrow coastal beaches offering views of Koko Head. Kahala Mall is one of the island's largest indoor shopping centers and includes restaurants and a Whole Foods grocery store. Kahala is also the home of the private Waialae Golf Course, site of the annual Sony Open PGA golf tournament in January.
From Chinatown Cultural Plaza, cross a stone bridge to visit Okuninushi No Mikoto, a kami (god) who is believed in Shinto tradition to bring good fortune if properly courted (and thanked afterward).
America's only royal residence was built in 1882 on the site of an earlier palace. It contains the thrones of King Kalakaua and his successor (and sister) Queen Liliuokalani, who was imprisoned in her home after the 1893 overthrow. Bucking the stereotype of simple island life, the palace had electricity and telephone lines installed even before the White House. Downstairs galleries showcase the royal jewelry and a kitchen and offices restored to the glory of the monarchy. The palace is open for guided or self-guided audio tours, and reservations are recommended. If you're set on taking a guided tour, call for reservations a few days in advance. The gift shop was formerly the Iolani Barracks, built to house the Royal Guard. www.iolanipalace.org. COST: $22 guided tour, $15 audio tour, $7 downstairs galleries only. OPEN: Mon.--Sat. 8:30--4, guided tours every 15 min in the morning, self-guided audio tours in the afternoon.
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