During my layover in Honolulu, I walked over to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Cultural Gardens…a beautiful centerpiece of one of my favorite airports in the world.
Honolulu Airport Gardens, A Zone Of Tranquility
Most airports, particularly in the USA, are so sterile. On the whole, the experience is getting better, and yet with few exceptions (and there are exceptions), the airports are not exactly beautiful.
But then there is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. On the one hand, the airport is an odd concrete behemoth that is arguably both ugly and aged. And yet there are such endearing qualities of that “retro” airport and one of my favorite aspects is the cultural gardens in the center of it.
Where else can you step outside on a beautiful afternoon and enjoy the shade of the garden and the pleasant sound of running water between planes taking off and landing?
The gardens were designed by Richard C. Tongg and first introduced in 1962. Today, the gardens reflect the Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese heritage of the island of Ohau and the state of Hawaii.
Pathways, bridges and stepping stones connect the three gardens. Waterways flow among these garden ponds and lakes to symbolize the intermingling of the cultures in Hawaii.
In case you are curious, here is how each garden is described by the airport:
Chinese Garden at HNL
The Chinese Garden has a bright red resting pavilion with a curved roof of yellow glazed tile crafted by Hong Kong masons and artists and assembled in Honolulu. A statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China, was donated by the Chinese community to the garden. There is an arched bridge symbolic of the hope of spanning the seas to achieve world peace. Koi fish peacefully swim about in the man-made pond. Pine and bamboo trees along with other native Chinese flowering trees are strategically placed among craggy rock formations.
Hawaiian Garden at HNL
In the Hawaiian Gardens, there are quiet lagoons filled with koi fish, gurgling springs and waterfalls cascading down lava walls. In a tropical setting, banana, coconut, hala (pandanus) and kukui (candlenut) trees shade ti plants, exotic ferns, such as the lawai and monstera and eye-catching flowers, white ginger, red torch ginger and bird of paradise. At night, Luau torches illuminate the garden. You will also find plaques commemorating the 25th anniversary of John Rodgers Terminal on October 15, 1987 and a beautiful kukui nut tree planted for the occasion.
Japanese Garden at HNL
Serenity is found in the Japanese Garden. Across a zigzag bridge (which keeps away evil) is a wood shingle-roofed shelter with stone benches. Colorful carp fish create patterns in the ponds surrounded by sculptured pine and weeping willow trees. Stone lanterns softly illuminate the setting at dusk. A commemorative pagoda on an elevated plateau at one end was donated by Hawaii’s Japanese community on the Centennial Anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
I spent 30 minutes just making laps through the garden.
The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Cultural Gardens are a great place to spend time before, after, or between flights. Don’t miss this very unique aspect of a very unique airport.