Celebrity Doris Duke had a lifelong passion for Islamic art and architecture, inspired by a visit to the Taj Mahal during her honeymoon in India at the age of 23. During that same honeymoon in 1935, she stopped at Oʻahu, fell in love with the island and decided to build Shangri La, her seasonal residence, on Black Point in the shadow of Diamond Head. You can visit this extraordinary home as part of a tour, but you must book well in advance.
For over 60 years Duke traveled the globe from Indonesia to Istanbul, collecting priceless Islamic art objects. Duke appreciated the spirit more than the grand scale of the world wonders she had seen, and she made Shangri La into an intimate sanctuary rather than an ostentatious mansion. One of the true beauties of the place is the way it harmonizes with the natural environment. Finely crafted interiors open to embrace gardens and the ocean, and one glass wall of the living room looks out at Diamond Head. Throughout the estate, courtyard fountains spritz. Duke’s extensive collection of Islamic art includes vivid gemstone-studded enamels, glazed ceramic paintings and silk suzanis (intricate needlework tapestries). Art often blends with architecture to represent a theme or region, as in the Damascus Room, the restored interior of an 18th-century Syrian merchant’s house. There are many more highlights.
Shangri La can only be visited on a guided tour departing from downtown’s Honolulu Museum of Art, where you’ll watch a brief background video first, then travel as a group by minibus to the estate. Tours often sell out weeks ahead of time, so make reservations as far ahead as possible. Children under eight are not allowed.