Two museums to visit in Hawaii

When you think of things to do in Hawaii, a trip to the museum is probably not the first thing to come to mind. But as an Oahu resident, I truly believe that the museums here are the hidden gems of the island.

Since I haven’t been able to travel out of state due to the pandemic, I’ve made it a point to rediscover some of the many treasures this island has to offer in hopes of not only seeing it with a new lens, but also sharing them with you to get a sense of what it’s like living here and give you some ideas of fun activities, whether you’re also a resident like me or planning your next big trip to Hawaii.

Growing up, I tended to take museums here for granted since I knew they would always be there, and frankly, because I thought they were boring. But as an adult, I gained a newfound appreciation for art and history, eventually realizing that they are both instrumental to what make this world so diverse and profoundly beautiful.

Here in Honolulu, we have several great museums to check out, but for this post, I’ll be diving into the experiences of two that I recently visited.

Honolulu Museum of Art

Located in the heart of Honolulu, the Honolulu Museum of Art features several galleries exploring the unique culture, art and history of Hawaii, as well as pieces from renowned artists from around the world.

My boyfriend and I decided to visit on a Friday afternoon, mostly because it’s free for Hawaii residents, or kamaiaana.

Here’s a tip for residents: Admission is free every Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and every third Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

I was really impressed with the museum’s COVID-19 protocols. Prior to visiting, we had to book our appointment online — so the museum would be able to control the number of guests at one time. Upon arrival, we weren’t even allowed to enter until our appointment time. Once they let us in, the front desk worker checked us in and took our temperatures.

With few other visitors in the galleries, I felt completely safe and comfortable throughout.

Perusing the galleries, you’ll find everything from fascinating collections from Asia to a gallery replete with colorful optical illusions that are sure to play tricks on your mind.

Even the Mediterranean and Chinese courtyards will transport visitors to a different time and space.

Bishop Museum

If you want to learn about the culture and history of Hawaii, this is the museum for you. According to its website, Bishop Museum, established in 1889, is home to more than 25 million treasures that tell the story of the people and history of the Hawaiian islands and the Pacific.

There are plenty of galleries to wander, including the Hawaiian Hall with its iconic sperm whale model suspended from the ceiling. But this summer, I highly recommend the museum’s latest exhibit, POW! WOW! The First Decade: From Hawaii to the World presented by Hawaiian Airlines, through Sept. 19.

About a month ago, I was invited to attend the museum’s media event to tour the exhibit and got a sneak peek as well as observe the artists at work.

Located in the Castle Memorial Building, this exhibit — put together by the creative minds behind POW! WOW! Hawaii — is a unique take on the street art experience.

As soon as you enter the building, you’ll be transported to a colorful street scene, with graffiti-clad storefronts, including a record store and noodle shop. As you wind down the different paths throughout the main hall, you’ll see vibrant displays of giant murals and hundreds of other pieces.

The juxtaposition of historical artifacts and modern street art at the Bishop Museum truly show that art can come in many forms, and it’s something to behold. I love that the Bishop Museum isn’t just a museum. It’s a space where people can appreciate others’ artistry, where people can learn about the land they’re on — a place where people will feel enriched when they walk out.

2 thoughts on “Two museums to visit in Hawaii

  1. Hi Mel,

    Great article on the musems. Would you mind if I forward this to my Senior Center art teacher? He’s planning a vacation to Hawaii in August and I think he might be interested in seeing these museums. Let me know what you think.


    Aunty Pat

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