Waikiki’s Hidden Gem Is An Excellent Free Activity
It’s by the beach. But it’s not a hotel.
It’s by the beach. But it’s not a restaurant. Or a bar.
It’s by the beach because that’s where it was built for national security well before Waikiki became the Waikiki of today.
It’s the U.S. Army Museum and its location is significant because it’s in the location of a one-time battery of guns put in place to defend Oahu, Fort DeRussy’s Battery Randolf. And now, tourists can take a break from the sun and humidity to learn about the U.S. Army and the full military history in the Hawaiian Islands.
This is also one of SurfsideSam.com’s top Fun Free or Cheap Things to Do in Waikiki, for there is no cost for the museum (but put money in the donation box is at the entrance). It’s well worth whatever monetary amount is placed in that box, for the museum traces the history of warfare and defense of Hawaii dating back to the natives, through World War II and Vietnam. and concludes with recognition of individual heroes.
There are rooms with descriptions and displays like any top-notch museum. The best of these is the area devoted to Vietnam; it has visitors walking through a replica of a Huey helicopter, complete with chopping blade sounds and a glass floor over a Vietcong foot boobie trap.
It can give one the creeps, seeing what the troops went through in that place and time. In another half-hour, visitors are back out walking stress-free in Waikiki, and it makes one thankful they are here and not there.
Another set of chills occurs when reading about Hawaii native General Erik K. Shinseki, who served in Korea, Vietnam and Bosnia and rose to become Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
The biggest area, as one would expect, is devoted to World War II. Just a few miles from here, of course, is where it all started for the United States.
One interesting image unique to this museum is a map and description showing how the US actually inadvertently dropped bombs on Honolulu during the Pearl Harbor attack. Anti-aircraft shells did not explode at set altitudes in the air as they were supposed to do, but instead upon impact when they landed back on the ground. All over Honolulu.
The main part of the museum is on the ground floor. A Gallery of Heroes is on a second level.
It takes between an hour and 90 minutes to go through the museum (which is air-conditioned, a welcome relief on hot, humid days). Plus another 15-20 minutes to check out the US and Japanese WWII tanks in front of the museum.
And here’s one of the best things about the museum: Because no tour buses come here, it’s not crawling with tourists. There’s plenty of elbow room to take time to explore the displays of one’s choice without being rushed, trampled or disturbed by kids or noisy guides.
Cameras are allowed and there is a gift shop.
The museum is located behind to the handball courts between the Outrigger Reef and Hilton Hawaiian Village hotels along Kalia Road, on the grounds of the Hale Koa Hotel and the Ft. DeRussy Recreation Center.
It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Parking is validated in nearby lots.