Doris Duke’s Shangri La

The first time Doris Duke set foot in Hawaii was in 1935 and she was in love. It was the last stop on a round-the-world honeymoon for the tobacco heiress and new husband, James Cromwell.  She fell in love again, this time with Hawaii – the casual relaxed lifestyle, the people, the natural beauty, and the privacy of the islands.

They extended their stay in Honolulu and during their four month stay, she purchased the land that would become her famed Shangri La.

It started with their travels through Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries. During these travels Duke fell in love with the Islamic culture and art.  She became so fascinated with it that she ordered art and materials for her home.  After she made her land purchase in Honolulu, however, she had everything re-routed to her new property so that the construction and interior design could take place there. Shangri La was designed with Islamic art and architecture in mind and Duke planned most details to recreate what she had experienced in her travels.

When you visit Shangri La, you will see exceptional examples of visual and literary arts in a variety of mediums, organized by the visual similarities, yet blending geographic regions together.  All this, set against the amazing backdrop of Oahu’s Diamond Head and sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Tours are available through the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, but you must reserve your tickets well in advance.  Un-guided tours are not possible as her home is truly in a residential area.  If you book well in advance and are here at the right time, you could tour the estate for free, but that is only on the first Wednesday of the month.

Be prepared for a bit of sensory overload, and enjoy seeing the world of art and design through the eyes of one of America’s richest women.


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