For The Warriors
By Brandi-Ann Uyemura
Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center makes for a military retreat and more.
A hop and a skip away from some of the more saturated areas in Waikiki is a place offering history and R&R for little or no cost. Located at the west end of Waikiki is the Fort DeRussy Armed Forces Recreation Center, a 72-acre property managed by the United States Department of Defense. Although many unknowingly bypass the area, which includes the Hale Koa hotel and the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, it’s a prime location for military families and non-military residents and visitors to spend a fun and affordable afternoon in Waikiki.
Hale Koa or “House of the Warrior,” is an 817-room hotel that serves members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. While the General Manager, Richard E. LeBrun, says they aim to provide a world-class resort experience on a budget for the military, they also offer a few services to the public. Everyone can take advantage of their outdoor venue, for example, a massive green space peppered with grills, picnic benches and volleyball courts. If you’re on the hunt for parking in busy Waikiki, there’s a large structure near the hotel and a surface lot close to the Lewers Street district. Both are open to the public and offered at a discount for the military. And, if you’re spending a day in the Fort DeRussy area, you can grab a hotdog at their snack cart or a Mai Tai at the Barefoot Bar while watching the beautiful sunset on Waikiki beach.
For those who want a side of history with their Waikiki experience, consider the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii. Although they receive more than 100,000 visitors a year, many are unaware of its existence. That’s a shame because the museum, which opened in 1976 and is managed and owned by the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawai‘i, is filled with Hawai‘i’s unique military history. Additionally, admission is free. Audio tours are available for a $5 fee ($2.50 for Society members). Museum curator Mike Egami touts it as “the best-kept secret in Waikiki.” The building itself is in what was known as Battery Randolph—a coastal defense system built in 1911 to defend Honolulu Harbor. Filled with photos, medals and other artifacts, there is plenty of material to satisfy history buffs and pique the interest of kids and adults alike. The current exhibits include 100th Anniversary of Battery Randolph at F. DeRussy in the Changing Gallery & Theatre and an exhibit on how Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands. Plan to spend at least an hour perusing the six major galleries. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.