I’ve been to my fair share of mansions in my life, but few compare to Doris Duke’s impressive Shangri La, located along the Kahala coast of Oahu. The heiress fell in love with Hawaii and became the first female competitive surfer in the world. She even learned the sport under the tutelage of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing.
A lover of Islamic art, Duke imported numerous pieces and installations from the Middle East to her sprawling home in Hawaii, even, at one point, outbidding the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on a mihrab (prayer niche commonly found in mosques). Her home is filled with such artifacts, each room exhibiting a unique feature or region of its own.
The guided tour is a worthwhile attraction for anyone with a fascination of art and culture. The trip begins at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where a bus takes visitors to the estate (guests are driven back to the museum afterwards). A ticket to Shangri La also includes free admission to the Museum of Art (if you head to Shangri La in the morning, the cafe within the museum is the perfect place for lunch).
Photos are not allowed within the estate, though you can see I misheard the guide with one of my shots in the courtyard (sorry, Deb). This is probably for the best, as it encourages one to appreciate more of the art without distraction.
While outside, a friendly security guard named Brian told us about Cromwell’s Beach. Much like how many beaches in Hawaii have nicknames, the secluded beach directly under Shangri La was named after Doris Duke’s first husband, James H. R. Cromwell. In the photos below, you can see a formation of rocks jutting out into the ocean, a natural resting spot that he had constructed for recreation.
The beach below Shangri La is accessible to the public, though there are some wet and loose rocks that need to be traversed over if you wish to reach the area directly below the estate. We visited Cromwell’s the next day on a whim after the KCC Farmers Market. Access the beach area by heading down Kuine Place along the Kahala coast.
Despite the ominous signs warning of paralysis from diving into the waters nearby, we found groups of kids jumping in during both of our visits (see second-to-last pic). Ah, to be young and invincible again.