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“I'm glad we went!” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Shangri La

Shangri La
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and up
Half-day Bike Tour and Hike to Diamond Head
Ranked #10 of 318 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.
Olympia, Wash.
Level Contributor
58 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 151 helpful votes
“I'm glad we went!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 4, 2008

This is a gorgeous tour and well worth the price, I thought. You can see much of the interior online, but it lacks all the detail and personal explanation you would have on the tour. As others have noted, book this early - basically as you're booking your vacation. Except for very low tourist periods it seems unlikely you will otherwise be able to get in. It was a nice plus that admission to the Honolulu Academy of the Arts was also included, so plan your arrival or departure accordingly (we stayed to see the exhibits after the tour). The only caution I would have is for elderly or disabled persons: the tour is lengthy and involves a lot of standing. There is no where to sit down, and because this is a private home it has not been modified for disabled access (for instance, a wheelchair would have problems).

7 Thank deborahj62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
122 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 191 helpful votes
“A must see if you've been to Oahu a few times”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 29, 2007

Shangri La is a worthwhile visit if you've been to Oahu a few times and have already seen the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and have visited the North Shore and other areas of Oahu. It is a beautiful home with unbelievable contents (one of the finest collection of Islamic art I've seen anywhere). The guides are fantastic, friendly and knowledgeable (and the story told by the original caretaker who still lives there gives the tour an added perspective into the life of a wealthy and private woman). The views of Diamond Head are wonderful. In addition to the wonderful art, the house offers an intimate glimpse into the life and vision of a very wealthy woman and that's not something one can do every day. With all this said, it's not Hawaiian and that's the one reason I say that it shouldn't be on the list of first things one sees on this island.

Plan to go well in advance by contacting the Academy of Arts. The tour we took was fully booked. The Academy itself is well worth a few hours of one's time. They have a great cafe' there to which one also need reservations, but anything on the menu can be prepared for take out and eaten in one of the courtyards of the museum (try the Asian courtyard with its gurgling koi pond and very exotic feel. A wonderful escape).

10 Thank emiana
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
113 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 314 helpful votes
“Shangri La lives up to its name”
5 of 5 bubbles 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.
San Diego, CA
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Excellent, Quirky Tour”
5 of 5 bubbles 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.
Level Contributor
15 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
“A hidden gem”
5 of 5 bubbles 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.

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