As Weird as It Gets: Ice Skating in Hawai‘i


The Ice Palace west of Honolulu is Hawai‘i’s only ice skating rink. It opened in 1982 and holds open skates multiple times per week.

It’s noon on a rainy Thursday when I pull into the parking lot. At this point, I’m still not sure whether or not I’m going to skate. I really just want to check it out, to have a look around and see who’s there and what’s happening. An open skate in the middle of the week, at an ice rink in Hawai‘i, seems beyond my wildest imagination.

I arrive to find that snooping around the Ice Palace is not possible. The rink is like a movie theater in that there’s a ticket booth outside, and you can’t go inside unless you pay — the doors are even frosted over with fake frost so you can’t see inside. This drives my curiosity to new, insane heights. Who the hell is in there?

I fork over the $10 entrance fee and am happy to find out that it includes a skate rental. As I reach for the door handle, I’m excited to pull back the curtain on this place. But I make it only a few steps inside before turning back. The temperature is kept at 50 degrees, and stepping through the doors in flip flops is a rude awakening. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I go back to my car for a sweater and socks.

When I return and finally get a glimpse of the ice, my suspicions are confirmed: There is no one on it. Suddenly, it feels like I’m transported back to a grade-school roller rink party. In front of me, a worker preps the snack bar — nachos, soft pretzels, and pizza. Beyond him, the arcade games are all turned off, presumably because no one is here in the middle of the day.

I can feel the staff staring at me. As curious as I am about the place, they are just as curious about me. I put it out of my mind as I rent and lace up the skates. I’m sitting on one of those round, plastic cafeteria-style seats when the unthinkable happens — the type of thing that only happens in movies. As I finish lacing up, a song comes blaring over the speakers. It’s Amazed by Lone Star. The rink is absolutely empty, and I’m standing up on skates for the first time in ten years. There would be other love ballads played throughout the afternoon, but none more memorable than this one, at the start of my skate on an empty rink.

I’m timid as I step out on the ice. My hands are in my pockets to stay warm. I slowly coast along the side of the rink near the boards. I feel more comfortable after a few laps, and I start to have fun. It’s basically a private rink, and it’s not often you get cold cheeks in Hawai‘i. I can’t help but feel amusingly counter culture.

Later, a woman comes out. She looks like a pro, doing spins and swirls. I make up her backstory as I take laps — a former figure-skating star, banished to hot-weather Hawai‘i and mid-week open skates. Then, a group of guys in their twenties, part of a construction team on their lunch break, join us on the ice. They’re having a ball, and, like me, seem to view the experience as something to joke about, like they can’t believe they’re doing it. We instantly bond over it, flashing grins as we pass, our legs wobbly.

We continue to skate as a group until two of us make eye contact during Selena’s Dreaming of You and I decide it’s time to leave.

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