Hawaii is well recognized for its surf, hula and beaches, but less known for a little gem housing some amazing art. It is the Contemporary Museum. I would encourage a visit to explore one of Hawaii’s most historic homes and stroll along its breathtaking garden courtyards that surround the Academy’s 30 galleries, offering panoramic views of Diamond Head.

Situated high above Honolulu in Makiki Heights, the Spalding house is the home of this unique setting. The residence was originally constructed in 1925 for Mrs. Ann Rice Cooke. After passing ownership in the late 1970s, it was opened to the public in 1988 as the Contemporary Museum. Ann Rice Cooke, wanted to share her love of art with the Hawaiian people, becoming the island’s first patron of the arts and also founding the larger Honolulu Academy of Arts.

An unusual feature of the Contemporary Museum is the 3.5 acres of meditation and sculpture gardens known as “Nu umealani” or heavenly terrace. The gardens were originally landscaped in the 1920’s by a Japanese garden master Reverend K. H. Inagaki. The area’s serenity complements the gracefulness of sculpture garden showcasing numerous artists. Reverend Inagaki created the gardens to encourage contemplative strolls and reflection. Be sure to bring your camera and stroll the grounds.

After a few hours exploring the museum I would recommend a visit to the Contemporary Café. This casual lunch spot is a great way to conclude your visit. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday and free for children under 12.

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