The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a 22-acre mini-polis featuring five towers, 22 eating establishments, and a menagerie of wildlife, including emus, flamingos, and tropical penguins.
It has much to recommend it, but the quality of service can be unreliable. A central depot at the Tapa Tower serves the multitude of sight-seeing and airport shuttles that come and go every day. That probably works out well, as long as the stop is open. The day before our intended visit to Pearl Harbor, my travel companion and I reserved space on one such van. The booking agent told us that the shuttle would pick us up at 6:30 the following morning at the Tapa Bus Depot. Sounds good. On our way to the Royal Luau that evening, my friend and I learned, via a posted sign, that the Tapa Bus Depot would be closed the next day. No worries, a fine hotel like this will have a back-up, and we’ll inquire at breakfast tomorrow. Dumb us.
We awoke at 4:00, early enough to watch the moon set before heading down to breakfast.
It was downhill from there for a while.
Every Hilton staff person we spoke to gave us a different answer of where the back-up bus stop would be that day. Most were pleasant; a few were brusk; all were wrong. We called the van company, whose rep told us that, since we weren’t at the Tapa Tower at 6:35, the driver left. We explained what had happened–you’d think the driver would notice that the stop was closed–and the dispatcher said the van would return for us in about five minutes in front of Benihana (really). This phone conversation was repeated a number of times. Finally, after a Hilton taxi stand worker told us that the van wouldn’t be allowed to pick us up where we were waiting, we gave up. Pearl Harbor is the most-visited tourist attraction on O’ahu. You have to line up early to get tickets, which go fast. One of the hotel’s concierge staffers told us that she’d tried three times to see the Arizona memorial, all unsuccessful. Not wanting to make the hour-long trip out there for nothing, we decided to try again the next day by bus.
That left us a free day, so we rode TheBus to downtown Honolulu for a self-directed walking tour. The Mission Houses Museum, where the original Christian missionaries settled in 1820, was our first stop. The original dwellings include the first wooden structure in Hawai’i, prefabricated in New England. Combined with the coral brick used for buildings and fences, it’s a unique look in the islands.
From there we headed to Kawaiaha’o Church. Called the Westminster Abbey of Hawai’i, this coral-brick building, which still holds services today, was once the place for the weddings, coronations, and funerals of Hawaiian royalty.
Near the graves of missionaries stands the tomb of King Lunalilo, a silent memorial to the relationship between Christianity and representative government. The leading contender to succeed King Kamehameha V, Prince William Charles Lunalilo insisted on an election, which he later won.
From there we travelled to the resplendent statue of King Kamehameha I, where we met fellow citizens of Red Sox World. Less enlightened than Lunalilo, Kamehameha came to power by unifying the now Hawaiian islands through conquest, on one occasion forcing more than 400 of his enemies off a cliff.
Hawaiian statuary is much more ornate than European, and the Kamehameha figure is draped in a golden cloak. Every year, on his birthday, the statue is draped in leis of sometimes more than 18 feet.
The nearby ‘Iolani Palace, America’s only royal residence, had electricity and telephone service before the White House.
Our last stop was the State Capitol. Outside, a grove of banyan trees resembles an enchanted forest in a gothic movie.
The statue of Queen Lili’uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai’i is less imposing than Kamehameha’s, the much-shorter-than-18-foot leis adding a tempered cheer to her somber face.
On the other side of the Capitol stands the statue of Father Damien, a Catholic missionary who treated the lepers on Molokai Island before succumbing to the disease himself. The boxy structure of the statue represents the strength and solidity of the priest’s resurrected body, in contrast to the wasting away he sufferred as he died.
We headed back to the HHV, stopping at its pizza place for a “Maui Zaui”, and brought the fabulous combination of ham, pineapple, red and green onions, and other toppings up to watch the sunset from the oceanside lanai of my room.
On the way up, our elevator companion, for some reason, shared his frustration, which went somthing like this: “I paid $300 for a f—–g Hawaiian thing with the pig and my old lady says, ‘You can’t be yourself; you have to conform,’ so I hitched a ride back from the North Shore; she can get her own f—–g plane ticket home.”
Grateful that our day turned out better than his, we missed the main sunset but did get to enjoy the afterglow.