A lthough the arrival of Christianity destroyed the fabled sexual diversity and tolerance of Polynesian society (journals from Captain Cook's 1779 expedition tell of male concubines serving the local kings, "bestow[ing] all those affections upon them that were intended for the other sex"), modern Hawai'i is a diverse and liberal state which recognizes same-sex couples in civil unions, and offers a vibrant gay nightlife. Although the best of the gay bars are concentrated on the Waikiki beachfront on the island of Oahu don't let that stop you from venturing further afield.
Arts & CultureThe American tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, once described her Honolulu mansion as a "Spanish-Moorish-Persian-Indian complex". Today you can enjoy for yourself the Central Asian textiles and geometric tiles that Duke lugged back from her travels—as well as five acres of terraced tropical gardens overlooking the Pacific. A 90-minute walking tour begins at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Off the Beaten PathSituated at the eastern end of Oahu, the journey to the Makapu'u Point Trail is almost as spectacular as the destination with its panoramic views of the windward coast and offshore islands, as well as the red-roofed Makapu'u Lighthouse dating from 1909. Take binoculars for a spot of whale watching. If it's surf you want, Lanikai Beach is popular with tourists, but neighboring Kailua Beach is larger, and generally quieter.
Not to Be MissedIolani Palace in downtown Honolulu, a National Historic Landmark, enjoys the distinction of being the only official state residence of royalty in the U.S. Built by King David Kalakaua, the so-called "Merrie Monarch," it boasts Hawaii's first electric light system and flushing toilets.
Get in the MoodRead: Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell, with its tour-de-force central chapter set on the Big Island of Hawai'i in a post-apocalyptic future.
Listen: "Over the Rainbow," by late Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
Watch: Skip the 2003 made-for-TV movie Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding and plump for Hawaii (1966) in which Max von Sydow and Julie Andrews star as a missionary and his wife in 19th-century Hawai'i.
Insider TipsThe Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki offers free hula lessons.
Gay TriviaBette Midler was born in Honolulu.