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Photo Credit: Outrigger Reef

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has unveiled its new A’o Cultural Center and a renewed commitment to Hawaiian heritage as part of its US$80 million transformations, which is nearly complete.

The A’o Cultural Center at the lobby level features a collection of art pieces such as a model outrigger canoe, paddles, conch shells and traditional feather lei. The adjacent Herb Kane Lounge has also been updated with a new open-concept design and a conceptual woven map of the Hawaiian Islands by renowned rope artist Marques Hanalei Marzan.

At the centre, guests can find out about Outrigger’s long-standing partnerships with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and the Friends of Hōkūle‘a and Hawaiiloa, a non-profit dedicated to the perpetuation of Hawaiian canoe building traditions.

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Photo Credit: Outrigger Reef

“Both the lounge and cultural centre are places where guests can begin to make meaningful connections with some of the most profound aspects of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance,” said Markus Krebs, general manager of the property.

“The centre also serves as a new place from which to explore the property’s newest artistic features and original works created by cultural practitioners who are on the leading edge of contemporary Hawaiian art and design,” said Krebs.

The centre features a virtual exhibit designed by digital artist Kari Kēhau Noe picturing the legendary sailing canoe Hōkūle‘a. Through immersive projection, visitors are given the impression that the model of Hōkūle‘a is sailing on moving seas. As the canoe sails, various elements of the art of Polynesian navigation are highlighted, providing an engaging and educational experience.

The sail of the canoe model is made from pieces of the actual sail 32A that Hōkūle‘a used on its worldwide voyage from 2013 to 2017. A model of the sailing canoe Hawaiiloa, which was expertly restored by artist Ka‘ili Chun, is at the centre on loan from Friends of Hōkūle‘a and Hawaiiloa.

“The Aʻo Cultural Center exhibits show the genius of Polynesian wayfinding for visitors to the Outrigger,” said the society’s CEO and world navigator Nainoa Thompson. “It is part of Outrigger’s support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and our mission.”

In 1975 Hawaii’s first voyaging canoe in 600 years, Hōkūleʻa, launched into the waters off Oʻahu island, realising a dream long-held by the society’s co-founder Herb Kawainui Kāne.

“Today, the rebirth of the Herb Kāne Lounge and Aʻo Cultural Center at Outrigger Reef is a fitting tribute to Hawaii’s rich voyaging past and its bright future,” said Thompson.

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Photo Credit: Outrigger Reef

Ocean Connections

True to the Outrigger name, the hotel’s connection to the ocean and care for the marine environment is incorporated in many layers. Upon arrival, visitors walk through the iconic canoe hale entrance. There, guests encounter Kalele: a 100-year-old outrigger canoe restored by the Friends of Hōkūleʻa & Hawaiiloa. A stone pathway carved with Hawaiian phrases will then lead guests alongside a bubbling waterway – symbolic of the life-giving streams and springs that Waikiki was named after.

In keeping with Outrigger’s commitment to ocean and reef conservation, the hotel also partnered with marine scientist and artist Ethan Estess. His sustainable sculpture Coming Home, which stands prominently at the resort’s entrance, is a partnership with Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research. Estess collected mounds of discarded fishing nets that were repurposed into this colourful mural of Diamond Head, which is to inspire individuals to be more sustainable and consume less single-use plastics.

Find out more about the property here.