HONOLULU, April 12, 2022: Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has unveiled its new A’o Cultural Center and renewed commitment to Hawaiian heritage as part of an $80 million transformation, which is nearing completion.
The A’o Cultural Center on the lobby level features a collection of artwork such as a model outrigger canoe, paddles, conch shells, and traditional feather necklaces. The adjacent Herb Kane Lounge has also been updated with a new open-concept design and a woven concept map of the Hawaiian Islands by renowned rope artist Marques Hanalei Marzan.
“The Lounge and Cultural Center are places where guests can begin to make meaningful connections to some of the deepest aspects of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance,” said Markus Krebs, general manager of the property.
At the center, customers can learn about Outrigger’s longstanding partnerships with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and Friends of Hōkūle’a and Hawaiiloa, a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing Hawaiian canoe-building traditions. .
“The center also serves as a new location from which to explore the property’s latest artistic features and original works created by cultural practitioners who are at the forefront of contemporary Hawaiian art and design,” Krebs said.
For example, the center features a virtual exhibit designed by digital artist Kari Kēhau Noe depicting the legendary Hōkūle’a sailing canoe. Thanks to an immersive projection, visitors have the impression that the model of the Hōkūle’a is sailing on moving seas. As the canoe navigates, various elements of the art of Polynesian navigation are highlighted, providing an engaging and educational experience.
The model canoe’s sail is made from pieces of the 32A sail that Hōkūle’a used on his world voyage from 2013 to 2017. A model of the Hawaiiloa sailing canoe, which was restored by artist Ka’ ili Chun, is at the center on loan from the Friends of Hōkūle’a and Hawaiiloa.
“Exhibits at the Aʻo Cultural Center show the genius of Polynesian orientation for Outrigger visitors,” said company CEO and Global Navigator Nainoa Thompson. “This is part of Outrigger’s support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and our mission.”
In 1975, Hawaii’s first voyaging canoe in 600 years, Hōkūle’a, was launched in the waters off the island of O’ahu, fulfilling a longtime dream of the company’s co-founder. , Herb Kawainui Kane.
“Today, the rebirth of the Herb Kāne Lounge and Aʻo Cultural Center at Outrigger Reef is a fitting tribute to Hawaii’s rich travel past and bright future,” said Thompson.
The cultural center will also serve as a hub for guests to participate in an array of Hawaiian cultural activities. Led by veteran Outrigger Cultural Director Luana Maitland (pictured above), hotel guests will be able to glean from her vast knowledge of Hawaiian arts and take part in hula lessons, try their hand at Hawaii’s official instrument, the ukulele and making a kukui nut kupe’e lei or bracelet, and more.
The station also resumed its quarterly series O Ke Kai – “Of the Sea” – with Friends of Hōkūleʻa and Hawaiiloa. These gatherings will be a unique opportunity for guests to meet navigators and canoe builders, hear stories and enjoy hands-on demonstrations of traditional tools and artifacts.
Next to the cultural center is an original mural by Hawaiian artist Kamea Hadar (pictured right). Known for his large-scale portraits, Hadar I Ka Wa Ma Mua’s piece Ka Wa Ma Hope (Through the past is the future), depicts a traditional wa’a, or sailing canoe, with a crew of children.
The next generation represented are the children of influential Hawaiian figures of the last century, including Hana Kakinami, great-granddaughter of Hawaiian writer, poet, and cultural historian John Dominis Holt IV; La’iku Blankenfeld, grandson of PVS navigator Bruce Blankenfeld; Steel Scott, the great-grandson of Elmer Scott, who founded Scott Hawaii in 1932; and Kawena Kamakawiwo’ole, the great-niece of the great musician and songwriter Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Hadar’s own daughter, Nova Hadar, is also pictured at the wa’a’s steering paddle.
“As parents and elders, we don’t know where our keiki is yet. [children] will arrive or even the nature of the canoe they will sail in, but we know that like in a wa’a, the next generation is in the same boat,” Hadar said. “This mural exemplifies that traditional, yet forward-looking perspective.”
The legacy of the late artist, historian and founding member of PVS, Herb Kawainui Kāne, has been showcased throughout the resort for decades and has now taken on new life in the renovated Herb Kāne Lounge, with earth-toned textures and a updated, modern pattern. The lounge features four original paintings by Kāne and faces an expansive mural of a traditional sailing canoe that runs the length of the check-in counter.
A unique work by textile artist Marques Hanalei Marzan is also featured in the lounge. The sprawling piece called Eia Hawaiʻi, He Moku, He Kānaka (Here in Hawaii, One Island, One People), is an intricately woven sculpture of the Hawaiian Islands that stretches across the living room.
He talks about the interconnectedness of communities across Hawaii. It also recognizes ancestral ties and enduring relationships with Oceania. The book is based on navigational charts of the Marshall Islands which were used to teach ocean navigation practices and Hawaiian knot-making techniques.
True to the Outrigger name, the hotel’s connection to the ocean and care for the marine environment are incorporated on many levels. Upon arrival, visitors pass through the iconic canoe entrance. There, guests meet Kalele: a 100-year-old outrigger canoe restored by Friends of Hōkūleʻa & Hawaiiloa. A stone pathway carved with Hawaiian phrases will then lead guests along a bubbling waterway – symbolic of the life-giving streams and springs that give Waikiki its name.
In keeping with Outrigger’s commitment to ocean and reef conservation, the hotel has also partnered with marine scientist and artist Ethan Estess. His enduring sculpture Coming Home, which stands prominently at the entrance to the complex, is a partnership with the Hawaii Pacific University Marine Debris Research Center. Estess collected mounds of discarded fishing nets that were repurposed in this colorful Diamond Head mural, which is set to inspire people to be more sustainable and consume less single-use plastics.
As an embodiment of Outrigger’s commitment to conservation efforts through Outrigger’s ZONE (OZONE), US$3,000 was donated to the Center for Marine Debris Research, following the unveiling of the mural.
Outrigger also worked with the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum to curate artwork in guest rooms and throughout the resort that honors Hawaii’s past and lends a residential feel to the property.
The first phase of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort’s $80 million transformation was completed in April 2021. It included renovated rooms and the reimagined Kani Ka Pila Grille restaurant. The second phase of the property, including the Diamond Head tower, Waiola Wellness wing and Coral Kids Club, is expected to be completed by fall 2022. The main restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, is expected to open by the end of 2022.
Malama Hawaii Ecotourism Option
To bring the Hawaiian experience outdoors, Outrigger has added an ecotourism option for customers visiting Hawaii by participating in the “Malama Hawaii” campaign, an initiative of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB).
By booking Outrigger’s Malama Hawaii Experience, guests can participate in a hands-on, two-hour voluntourism activity at Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Preserve, a 45-minute drive from Waikiki.
During the journey, guests immerse themselves in community service and cultural learning, including the importance of caring for the upland ʻahupuaʻa waterways as they feed the loʻi in the valley.
Guests who book the Malama Hawaii Experience receive a third night free when they stay at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, or Waikiki Malia by Outrigger.
(Your stories: Outrigger)