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Follow in Meher Baba's Footsteps

 

Visiting Meher Baba Sites Today
 

Not many things on Oah'u have stayed unchanged since Baba's day but for those with a desire follow Baba's footprints here, several sights are well worth exploring.

The Hotel Where Baba Stayed.

The Moana Hotel (currently the Sheraton Moana Hotel is located on Kalakaua Ave., the main street in Waikiki. It was the first major hotel built in Waikiki, and opened its doors with 75 rooms on March 11, 1901. In 1918, concrete wings were added to the original wood sculpture nearly doubling its capacity. Later purchased by the Sheraton chain, a major preservation effort, including the reconstruction of the majestic porte cochere and the interior of the first floor, was completed in 1989, thereby restoring the hotel to its original grandeur.* Today, visitors to the Sheraton Moana can view a complete pictorial history of the original hotel and the restoration process in a panorama on the top floor.

Central to the majesty of the Moana is the Banyan Courtyard. As its name suggests, the courtyard is sheltered under a magnificent and historically protected Indian Banyan tree that was full grown even in Baba's day.  It's wonderful to imagine Baba sitting in the same place with his mandali, looking out at the same colorful waters and the busy beach life happening right before one's eyes.

High Tea at the Moana


For those wishing to visit the Moana, a best time to go is an hour or so before sunset. The Banyan Veranda restaurant, located in a open-air terrace of the Eastern wing surrounding the courtyard serves a very enjoyable high tea. If you make a reservation for 4:30, just half an hour before they change from high tea to dinner, you will usually be able to linger on another hour or so---plenty of time to catch the first act of the dinner floor-show and watch the catamarans push out to sea; plenty of time to see the first golden rays of the sun darken to rosy reds and fiery oranges that splash across the waves; and just enough time to leave and trail your own footsteps across the sand while the color still lasts.

Slipping Out Back to the Halekulani Hotel

We don't know that Baba ever visited the Halekulani Hotel, though it existed back then in far different form, but we do know that some of his close ones did. So if you are tempted to step out further on the sands you might want to follow the glowing twinkling lights of the waterfront as it curves away from Diamond Head to the Halekulani Hotel. To go the back way, you will need to navigate past three other hotels (including the Royal Hawaiian).

Take off your shoes and hold them in hand until you have crossed the sands and reached the stairs that continue the path as it cuts through the back of the Sheraton, follows a cement walkway along the water and ends with another set of stairs taking you down to the sand again. Cross the sand to the back gate of the Halekulani and enter the pool area here, or continue along the sea wall until you see an open-air courtyard to the back of the restaurant with a small stage area, tables and chairs. The whole stretch is not that far and the view of Diamond Head looking back from the causeway is one of the best to be had. The outdoor show at the Halekulani closes early so get there no later than eight. Stan Alapa's cousin Gary Aiko used to perform here and local Baba Lovers used to come here a lot.

The Halekulani is Oahu's only current five-star hotel and has been considerably upgraded since Baba's day.  Originally completed in 1931 it seems likely that Baba must have seen it, and maybe he was thinking about those who would stay here in future who would choose to dedicate their lives of service to him.  These would include Murshida Ivy Duce (the first teacher appointed as the Murshida of Sufism Reoriented by Baba) in the seventies, and her successor, Murshid James Mackie, who stayed five carefree days here with a group of Sufis  returning from a whirlwind tour of major Baba Centers in India in 1987.

The Royal Hawaiian

Save your visit to the Royal Hawaiian for Sunday and the champagne brunch. It's expensive but has a great view out to sea and family atmosphere.  If you have young kids you can ask for a seat next to the beach wall and let the kids play in the sand while we watch the beach life and stretch out your time to eat all the goodies from the buffet. To your right you can look out at the expanse of grass where Baba would have watched "the splendid performance by native Hawaiian dancers and singers" as described in Lord Meher.

Built in 1927 with four hundred rooms, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (or the "Pink Palace" as it is known locally), was next to join the Moana in dominating the beach's palm-filled skyline. At that time, with views of either the ocean or the mountains from each of its balconies, the hotel's showcased grounds encompassed approximately fifteen acres containing over 40 varieties of trees and shrubs that presented "a network of beauty unsurpassed".* Try to imagine this setting without the surrounding high-rises that press in from all sides today, and you can understand how it got it's nickname. Watch for it from your plane window and you can have an even better idea of its former majesty. Most of the actual hotel, however, is as it was in Baba's day---elegant, charming, enchanting. The original coconut trees of the ancient Helumoa grove under which Baba most likely strolled are mostly gone, along with the open spaces, but evening shows still take place in the grand ballroom and out back.* A former Baba Lover, used to be a major entertainer there.

The Honolulu Aquarium


We know that Baba visited the Honolulu Aquarium, located along the beach across from Kapi'olani Park (East of the Moana Hotel--or "Diamond Head", as the locals say.) Opened on March 19,1904, in its early days the aquarium boasted 350 fish representing over 80 varieties. The original, picturesque, lava rock building Baba saw, however, of "vaguely oriental style" was razed in 1955.* Only recently, this whole boardwalk stretch of beach, including the aquarium have under gone extensive remodeling once again. If you visit the aquarium, inquire about the evening musical programs held out on the back lawn. Come with a cushion or blanket, a picnic basket and enjoy live local music under the stars for free.

The Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo is just across the way---it's not mentioned in Volume 5, but some people think Baba visited the zoo as well. One might hope that he did, as the zoo's sole trophy elephant, Daisy, was having a very bad time and would meet her death by marksmen less than one year after Baba's visit. Like the whole Kapi'olani Park area, the zoo has also undergone remodeling to establish a more natural environment for the animals, Look out for the periodic free afternoon concerts on the inside zoo lawn featuring popular local entertainers. These are often the same names you pay big bucks for in shows or night clubs and its fun to join in the cheers of the enthusiastically home crowd.

The former Dillingham Estate --- La Peitra

If you continue to follow the road fronting the beach and circle around Ala Moana Park toward Diamond Head, your will come to a crossways at the "corner" of the park. Go straight across and up the hill and you come to the gates of La Peitra, directly under Diamond Head, currently a private girl's secondary school. You can drive up and around the school drive to get a look at the former Dillingham estate. The main building at the top of the drive is the original mansion.  Baba had breakfast here with the Dillinghams from 7:45 to 9:00 am on his last day in 1932.

For a little added local flavor, here's another school tale: 

At the time Lord Meher Volume 5 arrived at our house (Lynne Douglas & family), my    daughters had been attending the Hawaii School for Girls at La Peitra for five years.
When we had first decided on this school, we had felt it held some special, sweet quality---none more than my younger daughter who had fallen in love with Baba upon first seeing His picture at age 3.

At the time I had stated reading Volume 5 in 1990, my older daughter had graduated, but my younger daughter was beginning her first year at La Peitra in the 9th grade.  Imagine my surprise when I got to page 1669 and discovered Baba had eaten breakfast at the girl's school!. I couldn't wait to pick up my daughter on my way home from work that day and tell her---it seemed to explain so completely this bond we had felt with the school. When I told her, I could tell she was pleased. But in her low-key way, she had the ready explanation. "I know why He came here," she said, "Because He knew I would be here."

Location of the Former Nuimalu Hotel

The Empress cinema no longer exists and it is not known what theater Baba attended when he went to a play, but we have learned that the "Huimalu" Hotel mentioned in Volume 5 is most likely an original error for the "Nuimalu" Hotel". This hotel used to stand on the present grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Built in 1926. The Nuimalu was meant to represent the emerging "Hawaiian style", its architecture and plantings.  Thus Baba was taken to an hotel where "an effort toward the last word in Hawaiian atmosphere as the tourist would want it" had been created.  We can get an image of it as it was touted as coming "as near to a grass hut with a girl in a grass skirt dancing the hula as one can get".* When Baba visited, it was also famous for its dance floor and local Hawaiian music.

Across the Field to the Pineapple Hut

Pineapple is becoming scarce in the islands these days, and the pineapple hut has morphed into a major tourist attraction. The only original thing remaining about the "hut" is the location. It has been several times rebuilt, each time becoming more and more elaborate, going from a simple open-air hut to a casual stop off for juice, local fruits, sit-down food and horse rides, to a mega-tourist center with all the trappings. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy the drive across the island though the old pineapple fields and get "copious amounts" of good, fresh pineapple juice at the Dole Pineapple Pavilion. Try the pineapple soft-serve. That's ono grinds brah!


*All quotes and references regarding hotels and sights in the early nineteen hundreds from, The View from Diamond Head: Royal Residence to Urban Resort, by Hibbard and Franzen, Editions Unlimited, Honolulu, 1986.

 

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