Introduction to the Neighborhoods of Oahu
An introduction to the local communities and
neighborhoods on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
The beauty of Oahu glows in its eclectic array of historical sites,
attractions, cultures and people. Hidden between the Pacific Ocean
and the many valleys and ridges of the mountain ranges, lie
communities and neighborhoods rich in heritage, exotic cuisines
and residents with stories to tell. Visitors taking the time to
explore Oahu’s diverse neighborhoods will discover a part of
Hawaii that is often overlooked - the lives of locals.
Downtown Honolulu is the business center of Oahu. Central is the
state’s government center including the state capitol building,
Honolulu Hale (city hall), judiciary buildings and Washington Place
(the Governor’s official residence). The Hawaii State Library
also is located here, as well as Iolani Palace, the only palace
on U.S. soil, and
Mission Houses Museum, which contains the
oldest existing house in Hawaii. Eating venues are in abundance
with countless plate lunch locations. Inland of downtown Honolulu,
visitors will find the 20-acre
Foster Botanical Gardens, a popular
place to enjoy a picnic while surrounded by exotic flora and fauna.
Filled with color, excitement and the hustle and bustle of vendors,
shoppers, business people and tourists,
Chinatown is a place of history,
mystery and fun. Amidst the lei stands, noodle and dim sum
factories; hole-in-the-wall Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants;
and acupuncture and herbal medicine shops, there is a place called
the Oahu Market. The market is known for having the best sashimi
(raw fish), fresh meats and produce. Chefs from many local eateries
and fine dining restaurants often visit the Oahu Market early in the
morning to wrangle for choice cuts for their exotic island dishes.
In the maze of vendors, local produce can be found including bok choy
(Chinese cabbage), mustard cabbage, Manoa lettuce, mango, soy
beans, papaya, avocado, Japanese cucumbers and lemon grass. The
best part is most of these items are bargains compared to major
grocery store prices. If you keep walking mauka (toward the mountains),
you’ll come across the Kuan Yin Temple. This is the oldest Chinese
temple in Honolulu and worshipers still come here to light candles,
burn incense and offer prayers. Another "oldest" is Wo Fat restaurant,
around since 1882 and still a favorite among locals demanding good,
authentic Chinese food.
Moiliili has been a middle-class neighborhood since its
development in the 1920s. As a business district along King Street,
it serves local residents and University of Hawaii at Manoa
students. Flower stalls are numerous, creating a romantic air
about the neighborhood. Le Flowers sells an endless variety of lei
and freestanding tropical flowers at low prices. For those seeking
the natural way to live, Down to Earth, Hawaii’s largest natural
food store, sells everything from organic produce to aromatherapy.
For some of the best ice cream on Oahu, visit Bubbies Homemade Ice
Cream & Desserts, Inc. Open late, you’ll find yourself surrounded by
students who love the unique names of the delicious desserts as much
as the flavors. Then head over to Eastside Grill or Players Sports &
Entertainment Club and enjoy a drink, some dancing and great company.
If the bar scene is not for you, Magoo’s Pizza is a popular gathering
place for casual conversations, loud laughs and plenty of great food
and drinks at college prices. Steps away, ethnic food abounds with
Greek, Thai, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese
Nestled behind the University of Hawaii at Manoa is a lush valley
that has retained much of its old Hawaiian charm. Manoa’s ambience
is best captured in the fine old homes built at the turn of the
20th century by families who established many of Oahu’s first
businesses. In this quiet neighborhood, you’ll find Manoa Valley
Inn, an arts and crafts bed and breakfast featuring beautiful
period furnishings reminiscent of the pre-World War II lifestyle.
Nearby is Manoa Marketplace, home to a host of unique shops including
Hawaiian Bagels, where bagel lovers can enjoy an almost endless
list of choices in fresh-baked bagels and sandwiches; and Island
Manapua Factory, which serves a variety of manapua (Chinese dumplings)
and chow fun. For a more intimate dining experience, just up the
road is the Waioli Tea Room. Residents and visitors frequent this
historical landmark to enjoy blended teas, breakfast and lunch in
a tranquil, secluded teahouse nestled in the lush green valleys
of Manoa. Pamper yourself to a lomi lomi massage or seaweed wrap
at the new Malama Salon & Day Spa. Malama offers everything from
haircare, skincare, and body care, with special Hawaiian touches.
Just inland of Waikiki,
Kapahulu is where you’ll find many favorite
local hangouts. Have a plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-In or Kanak Attack,
where the motto is "eat till you sleep." Enjoy Oahu’s best Hawaiian food
at Ono Hawaiian Food, a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that always
has a line of people out the door and down the sidewalk. For a perfect
end to any meal, stop in at Leonard’s Bakery for a malasada (Portuguese
donut), plain or filled with chocolate or haupia (coconut) pudding.
A gem of a store is Bailey’s Antique & Thrift Shop, filled with antique
aloha shirts and other memorabilia. Down the street is Aunty Mary
Lou’s Na Lima Mili Hulu Noeau, a small shop specializing in handmade
feather lei and in classes on how to make a feather lei. For the
sports enthusiast, Island Paddler specializes in shaping and selling
boards. Go Bananas is a kayak and watersport supply store for the
adventurous athlete. Blue Planet Surf Shop, Running Room and Island
Triathlon and Bike also are great places to find out what’s hot in
Oahu sports. Kapahulu is also home to Hale Noa, the nation’s first
kava (awa) bar. This natural herbal elixer is the perfect relaxation
remedy after an exciting day.
Just up the road from Kapahulu, in the shadow of
Diamond Head, is a
delightful neighborhood frequented by surfers, tourists and locals. Teddy’s
Bigger Burgers is always busy serving their 50s-style burgers, fries and
ice cream sodas. For the creative types, sit, chat and create a masterpiece
at Fire It Up!, a ceramics painting studio that supplies the materials to
create your own one-of-a-kind pottery designs.
Kaimuki is a middle-class neighborhood, first developed in
the 1920s. While it was once the hub of banking giants, Kaimuki today has
the feel of pre-World War II Honolulu, with residential side streets
featuring simple homes on neatly tended plots. This quaint town offers
cozy shops, service establishments and a smattering of good and affordable
restaurants. The Temari Center for Asian and Pacific Arts, a small art
center tucked away, offers classes in lei making, basketry, book binding,
flower pressing, paper making and painting on silk. Comme Ci Comme Ca
Consignment Boutique and Pzazz are favorites among those who frequent
thrift and consignment shops. Kwilts ‘n Koa is a small Hawaiian quilt
shop and Montsuki features mother and daughter designed fashions using
Japanese kimonos, silk and natural fibers. On Waialae Avenue, take your
pick of some great restaurants: 3660 On The Rise (Euro-Asian), Beau Soleil
(Mediterranean) and Eastern Garden (Chinese) to name a few. Pick up
delicious manapua at Kwong On and fresh island fruits and vegetables at
Kaimuki Produce Market. Calm your mind, body and spirit at Teja Tea House.
Experience a non-traditional tea ceremony which includes a tea reading,
and learn about how tea ceremonies have evolved in Hawaii.
Palolo Valley is nestled between the green hills of St.
Louis Heights and Wilhelmina Rise. The neighborhood mainstays of schools,
churches and recreation center are scattered, but grocery stores and
other small businesses are aligned mostly along 10th or Palolo Avenues,
the two main streets of the valley. Check out the more than 350,000
orchids at Kawamoto Orchid Nursery. The greenhouse is ablaze in lavender,
yellow, orange, red, green and variegated blooms. Palolo is a community
where everyone takes care of each other, and no where is this more
apparent than at Frank’s Palolo Market, a neighborhood grocery that
keeps prices low in support of the community. Kealii o Kamalu teaches
Christian hula with movements choreographed to Christian-based music,
as well as traditional music. Delve into local artwork at Noelani
Gallery and Picture Framing, and go home with a permanent part of Oahu.
And don’t miss Hobbietat, a small shop that has been around for more
than 21 years and caters to everything a fisherman or an enthusiast of
radio-controlled model car, boat or airplane could want.
Kahala, east of Diamond Head, is one of Oahu’s upscale neighborhoods.
The main shopping center is Kahala Mall, home to big name chains such
as The Gap and Banana Republic, and local favorites including The Vue,
offering Hawaiian clothing and gift items, and Marsha Nadalin Salon &
Day Spa. Not lacking for places to eat, Kahala has numerous restaurants
to choose from including Olive Tree Café (Greek), I Love Country Café
(varied healthy and hearty), Japanese Restaurant Yoshino, Yen King
(Chinese), and Chili’s.
Hawaii Kai is built around a man-made marina that opens to Maunalua Bay,
which is where tourists and locals partake in a variety of water sports
including paddling outrigger canoes, jet skiing, kayaking and fishing.
With the support of Koko Marina Center and its collection of specialty
shops and eateries, people from around the island partake in Hawaii Kai’s
offerings. Before jumping in the ocean, visit the local ocean activity
stores for the proper equipment. Hawaii Ocean Tours, Aloha Dive Shop, Fun
Island Watersports, Local Motion, Sea Breeze Parasailing and Suyderhoud
Water Ski & Wake Board Center Inc. are just a few to choose from. Make
sure to grab a picnic lunch at Zippy’s, Yummy Korean Bar-B-Q, Assaggio
Hawaii Kai (Italian), Kozo Sushi (Japanese) or Joy Garden Chinese
In the town of Kailua, visitors will discover a shop of odds and ends
and unexpected treasures at The Hunter: Kalapawai Market, a mom and
pop store in operation since the 1930s that sells everything from
crack seed (Chinese preserved plum) and bento (box) lunches to its
own brand of coffee; and there is a variety of eateries to choose
from, such as Boston’s North End Pizza Bakery and Kolohe Hawaiian
Restaurant. Hearty breakfasts at Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen,
deli fare at Brent’s and Pacifica-style cuisine at Kailua Beach
Restaurant will satisfy all of your cravings. Relax at Kailua Beach
or Lanikai Beach, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, take a
windsurfing lesson or rent a kayak and paddle off shore to the
Kaneohe, a large Windward residential suburb, is nestled at the foot
of misty Koolau Mountains. A must see is the Byodo-In Temple, a place
of beauty and tranquility. Located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial
Park, Byodo-In Temple is a replica of a temple in Japan and built in the
shape of the Phoenix, a mystical bird representing life and spiritual
hope. Inside the temple is the largest wooden Buddha hand carved in 900
years. The temple’s garden, the largest of its kind outside of Japan,
is designed to reflect traditional Japanese grace and serenity. The
reflecting ponds that wind their way around the temple are home to
more than 10,000 carp. It’s common to see local wedding parties posing
for photos throughout the grounds. Hoomaluhia (to bring about/cause
peace and tranquility) Botanical Garden is a 400-acre expanse with a
lake; campgrounds; walking trails and picnic areas; visitors’ center
complete with an exhibition hall used by local artists, workshop and
botanical library; and the largest collection of tropical plants in
the U.S. Walking tours led by trained volunteers are offered on the
weekend. For an awe-inspiring view of Kaneohe Bay, visit Senator Fong’s
Plantation and Gardens. Take a tram ride through 725 acres of lush
green foothills and rain forest or walk through a botanical garden
with more than 75 kinds of trees, plants, fruits and flowers. Senator
Hiram Fong, who served 17 years as the nation’s first Asian-American
senator, can be spotted daily working in the gardens.
A predominately Mormon community,
Laie is a quiet town that hosts some
of Oahu’s largest attractions. Polynesian Cultural Center continues to
be popular among locals and visitors. The cultures of the entire Pacific
basin come together and educate through entertaining performances, the
sharing of arts and culture of native Polynesians. While visiting
Polynesian Cultural Center, tour the handsome white structure of the
Mormon Temple and the campus of Brigham Young University.
At North Shore’s historic town of
Haleiwa, discover old storefronts,
cafes, art galleries and boutiques. Start the day with breakfast at
Café Haleiwa where the food is hearty and surfer-sized. Dine alongside
surfers of all ages who brave the area’s 20-foot winter waves. Browse
through the Wyland Gallery with its incredible collection of marine
art or shop with the locals at Jungle Gems, Oogenesis Boutique and
Silver Moon Emporium, where you can spend as little as $15 for a
pair of earrings or as much as $400 for an exotic dress. Lunch is a must
at Kua Aina Sandwich Shop, a little restaurant with the island’s best
burgers (they claim it’s the splash of vermouth), shoestring french fries
and fish sandwiches. For dinner, the newest place to be is Haleiwa
Joe’s Seafood Grill. A casual oasis, enjoy freshly cooked meals while
enjoying beautiful views as the restaurant is situated next to the
famous Anahulu Stream Bridge (Rainbow Bridge) built in 1921.
Top this off with a rainbow flavored shave ice at Matsumoto’s and
ask for a scoop of ice cream and azuki beans. Don’t miss the Liliuokalani
Protestant Church, founded by Protestant missionaries in the early 1830s,
Waimea Valley Audubon Center’s 1,800-acre flora and fauna wonderland,
or Waimea Bay, popular for its big winter surf.
Wahiawa is an older community with relics of rural life remaining.
While the U.S. Army Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Air Field are
nearby, Wahiawa still hosts some of Oahu’s most sacred treasures.
The Wahiawa Botanical Gardens spread across 27 acres, featuring
plants from Africa and Australia, Asian camphor trees and gum trees
from New Guinea. Another area not to pass up is the Kukaniloko
Birthstones, where royal Hawaiian women once bore their children.
Don’t leave without enjoying lunch at Aloha Korean BBQ or Seoul
In (Korean). But the best part is having dessert at Sunnyside in
Wahiawa Sunnyside specializes in pies, famous for their tasty
double crust pies.
A developing Oahu community is Kapolei, designed to be the island’s
second big city. With a growing business district and residential area,
Kapolei will someday offer a large selection of activities and restaurants.
Currently, dining is favored at Loco Moco Drive In, Panda Express
(Chinese) and Tasty Korean BBQ. Kapolei Golf Course is popular among
locals, and the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park offers thrilling slides,
pools, rides and much more to cool off both the young and young-at-heart.
Waipahu is a neighborhood rich in plantation history, and many of
its residents are descendants of the plantation workers. To get a
glimpse into the history of this
area and Hawaii, visit Hawaii’s Plantation Village, a partially
recreated and restored village. Comprised of more than two-dozen
structures and many different ethnic groups, visitors are provided
with a window into traditional life on a plantation. Then fast
forward through history to the 1890s and take a ride on the
Hawaiian Railway. This train served sugar mills, carried vital
equipment and supplies and transported passengers until 1947. A
recent addition to the Waipahu area is the Coral Creek Championship
Golf Course. No other course in Hawaii can compare to the beauty,
challenge and experience of Coral Creek. Nestled along the Ewa Plain,
the Par 72, 6,870-yard golf course was designed to expose natural
coral rock formations in cliff-like structures, adding to the
beauty of the terrain.
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