In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Art merged with the Contemporary Museum and was renamed the (more apropos) Honolulu Museum of Art. It also finished a reinstallation of the European and American art galleries, bringing to light many pieces from the archives. The museum’s Asian collection includes a significant number of items from Japan, China, and Korea.
The Honolulu Museum of Art is also where tours of Shangri La ★★★ start. Shuttles from the museum take visitors to tobacco heiress Doris Duke’s private palace on a 5-acre sanctuary in Black Point. It’s absolutely stunning, packed with Islamic art and intricate tilework from Iran, Turkey, and Syria; textiles from Egypt and India; and custom-painted ceilings by Moroccan artisans. Outside’s not so bad either, with ocean views all the way to Diamond Head. Make sure to book in advance—the tours fill up quickly, a testament to this unique wonder. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday and take 2 1/2 hours.
Admittedly, I love the Spalding House (formerly the Contemporary Museum) more for its views and surrounding gardens than for its art collection. It’s in Tantalus, high above the city, and yet only a 10-minute drive from downtown. One of my favorite activities is the Lauhala and Lunch, where you picnic on the expansive lawn overlooking Honolulu. Call ahead to reserve a picnic basket from the Spalding House Café, which comes complete with tatami mats ($40 lunch for two).