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“Shangri La lives up to its name”
Review of Shangri La

Shangri La
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and up
Half-day Bike Tour and Hike to Diamond Head
Ranked #12 of 339 things to do in Honolulu
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Doris Duke's home, built in 1930, is an architecturally significant home which includes a collection of Islamic artwork.
Reviewed November 17, 2007

Visiting the late Doris Duke's Shangri La has to be planned well in advance of your visit to Honolulu.

The tours are booked through the Honolulu Academy of Art's website. There are only 3 tours per day, with a maximum of 20 visitors on each tour. The price is $25 which includes admission to the Academy of Art.

The tour starts at the Academy with an introductory video on Ms Duke and the history of the house. Then you are taken by mini-bus on a 20 minute drive to the property. The group is split into two groups for touring through the home with very well imformed guides. Photos are allowed outside, but none inside the house (a book is available at the Academy gift shop). Backpacks, tote bags etc have to be put into a locked area, however if you put your camera in there, you will not be able to take photos once you get out to the gardens.

The house had been showing it age, much has been restored, but Ms Duke's bedroom area is not yet on the tour.

Ms Duke had the financial wherewithall to buy anything which caught her eye, and a very educated eye it was. After her death Islamic scholars were astounded at the depth, quality and sheer quantity of the treasures she had collected. As far as is known Ms Duke had no interest in Islam as a religion, but was captivated by Islamic art and architecture

Ms Duke thought nothing of commissioning from the world's leading craftsmen that which she could not find, or when something had to be a specific size, but she also rolled up her sleeves and did a lot of dirty restoration work herself. Even so, at one point she had her houseman cut and lay tile rather than pay an expert.

Ms Duke was very involved in all stages of the construction and the many remodels of various rooms. The whole house is imbued with her peronality, it is an autobiography. The very modest forecourt is the absolute opposite of what the architect suggested, as was siting the house to face the ocean. The architect wanted to build a large mansion facing the drive.

The glass walls which, at the push of a button, lower into the basement, impressed me the most - Otis elevator technology!

The house is so well named, it really is Shangri La. So elegant, so serene. Such wonderful vibes.

At the conclusion of the tour you are returned to the Academy. The restaurant at the Academy is THE place to have lunch. Reservations well in advance are necessary, book lunch when you book the house tour. The gift shop is one of the nicest places to shop in Honolulu and has an excellent selection of books. The Academy's own art collections are excellent, especially all the various Asian collections. Plan on spending a whole day here.

13  Thank travgran
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 13, 2007

Pre-book this tour and get the earliest start time. There is no A/C in the home, and it will get very hot later. The museum has a short movie looping in a couple of rooms of similar Islamic Art. Be sure to look at that before you go on the bus. If you are really into this, look up Doris Duke on Wikipedia or read a book about her before doing this trip. She was quite a character and had a very interesting life.

The tour itself is well done by volunteers who know a lot about the home and details of the renovations. When we went through, Ms. Duke's "houseman" was there and told us several tales about what it was like working for her and dealing with her perfectionism. The views off the back of the house are beautiful.

After returning to the museum, be sure to tour through it. The lunch was very good, and the gift shop had some very nice, unique items.

This was a fun morning for us. I had my 13-year-old with me and he enjoyed this tour. Because of the tour set-up, you are in a very small group, and are well taken care of on the tour.

11  Thank shfr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 11, 2007

I visited Shangri-la last week; what a wonderful experience. (Carol, our guide, was a delight!) It is a place of serenity and beauty that feels light years away from the frenetic pace of Waikiki. There are only three daily tours -- 8:30, 11:00, and 1:30 -- and advance reservations through the Honolulu Academy of Art are a must. Admission is $25 and includes admission to the Academy of Art, a museum worthy of a leisurely afternoon.

7  Thank BirdWalk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 22, 2006

A visit to Doris Duke's home - Shangri la - is well worth the $25 tour fee.

Not all of the house is on view, but the parts which are, are well worth visiting.

It was a real high point of our trip to Hawaii.

6  Thank Leesw8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 3, 2006

Finally got to see Shangri La, after a long wait. It was worth waiting for. And well worth the fee. I am looking forward to visiting again, when more of the estate is on view.
My party went early, before the Museum was open, and returned to see the other exhibits and visit the Gift Shop to buy the books. The only negative was the inability to take pictures inside the house. My pictures of the exterior and gardens are the hilight of thetour.

9  Thank Big Beautiful Doll
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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