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10 Places You Can’t Go in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i is full of amazing places. Most of them you’re free to visit, but there are a few where you’re just not allowed. Here’s a peek into Hawai‘i’s coolest off-limits corners.


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Photo: Olivier Koning

The USS Hawai‘i

It’s just 377 feet long, but the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawai‘i is the densest collection of death-dealing/peace-keeping machinery you’re likely to find in the state. Not only is it powered by a nuclear reactor that never needs refueling, and equipped with a fearsome array of Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Mark 48 advanced-capability torpedoes, the Hawai‘i is specially fitted for today’s new, weird world of warfare. Covert intelligence, special ops, search and rescue—if it needs getting done, this sub can do it.


The corridors are cramped, and the bunk beds ridiculously cramped, but otherwise everything about this sub is light years ahead of what you might have seen in movies such as U-571, or aboard the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.


As you might expect, entrance onto this boat is restricted to a privileged few. “The level of performance here is extremely high,” says commanding officer Stephen Mack of the 134 officers and enlisted crew who call the Hawai‘i home for as long as six months at a time. “When you earn your dolphins [a uniform breast pin worn by qualified Navy submariners], you’re joining an elite crew.”


The Hawai‘i is permanently stationed here in Pearl Harbor, but soon heads out for a six-month mission in the West Pacific.



Want to golf at the 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed golf course at Kukio on the Big Island? You’ll have to own one of the private, gated residential community’s multimillion-dollar homes—or get invited by someone who does. If you manage that, though, paradise awaits. Not only do you not need a tee time at this private equity golf club, you’ll be accompanied by a uniformed caddy, and have access to “comfort stations” on the course with all kinds of snacks and drinks. There’s also a 10-hole short course available if you’re not up to the full championship experience.


Once you’re done golfing, Kukio also boasts a private oceanfront clubhouse, a beach bar and an open-air dining pavilion with employees who will cater to your every need. (If you happen to catch a fish offshore or bag a boar while hunting, for example, Kukio’s chefs can prepare and serve it to you in proper fine-dining style.)


Kukio’s staff wouldn’t give HONOLULU any access to their golf course or club, or even speak to us about their exclusive amenities, which is odd, since the company offers an informative website complete with photos, at kukio.com.


Photo: David Croxford

The Highest Roof in the State

At 30 stories—438 feet, 111/2 inches, to be exact—the First Hawaiian Center is the tallest building in Hawai‘i. Its roof is generally open only to building managers, window washers and other utility workers, but those few people who make their way up that final shaky metal stairway to the top are treated to one of the best views around. This is no place for anyone afraid of heights; peering over the edge of the building’s distinctive jutting prow onto the tiny cars and people on Bishop Street will give you an instant case of vertigo.


Fun fact—the large holiday star that the First Hawaiian Center erects atop the building every December actually lives on the roof year-round. It’s just folded down, out of sight, waiting to be winched into place.


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Honolulu Magazine April 2020
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