Story by Derek Paiva
Got some daylight hours to give up to Oahu’s South Shore on your next visit? Click on the video above.
It’s the first clip in the new A Day with A Local video series, produced by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) for its ongoing #LetHawaiiHappen campaign. The clips offer a fast-paced and colorful look at hip and happening Hawaii neighborhoods and locations from the perspective of a Hawaii local taking an out-of-state traveler on a tour of must-see spots.
In this first A Day with a Local video, “local” Catherine Toth Fox – an Oahu-based food and dining editor – takes “traveler” Pete Halvorsen – a California-based photographer – into the distinctly urban South Shore neighborhoods of Ala Moana, Kakaako and Chinatown. (Future A Day with a Local videos will visit cool locations on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Molokai.)
Sneak a peek at Cat and Pete’s South Shore Oahu exploring. Then read below for more insider details on each of the neighborhoods and more great places to check out.
One of many (coconut-free) shade palm trees Ala Moana Beach Park.
The Ala Moana area
The Ala Moana area is Honolulu’s gathering place of all things everything for residents and visitors. The area boasts one of Oahu’s most popular resident beaches (Ala Moana Beach Park), one of its most popular resident shopping centers (Ala Moana Center), and a seemingly endless array of multicultural eateries for folks hungry for everything from sushi to bulgogi, panang to pad thai, and tonkotsu to tan tan ramen. Cat and Pete kick off their day at Ala Moana Beach Park—a great city park for stretching out on the sand, taking an ocean dip, or having a picnic–and head straight to Honolulu’s Kakaako area. But you should slow down and chill for a for a bit in this surprisingly walkable ‘hood, perhaps stopping by:
- Ala Moana Center. If you wanted to, you could spend a whole day exploring the more than 400 retailers and eateries in this, the world’s largest open-air shopping center. Listing favorites here would take up too much space. Walk in. Grap a map of the center. Resistance is futile.
- Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard. It’s near impossible to leave hungry after walking the sidewalks of these main Ala Moana-area asphalt arteries and their various side streets, home to multiple real-deal multicultural eateries including Korean, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Chinese and mixed-culture plate lunch spots.
- Kewalo Harbor. Here are some of the outdoor ocean activities you could book at this compact urban harbor. Depart on a South Shore sailing, scuba diving or snorkeling tour. Charter a fishing expedition or yacht tour. Go parasailing. And after you’ve had enough of the sea, grab a bite to eat at the harbor-side Makers & Tasters food truck gathering.
Cat and Pete check out a Pow! Wow! Hawaii mural in Kakaako.
The Kakaako area
Until the turn of the millennium largely a light-industrial, commercial district, Kakaako has in recent years made strides towards becoming a vibrant urban residential area, with hip, modern eateries and retailers. Art and culture here is expressed on building facades in the form of dozens of murals spanning multiple subject matter and styles, re-crafted annually by Hawaii and international artists as part of the Pow! Wow! Hawaii art and music event. In the #LetHawaiiHappen video Cat and Pete check out a few of the colorful murals after stopping by Lana Lane Studios, headquarters for a local collective of mixed-media and -genre artists, and public art workshops. Walk the Kakaako sidewalks and you’ll also find:
- SALT. Its name recognizing the mud ponds for cultivating sea salt that dotted the Kakaako area pre-20th century, this new retail, restaurant and mixed-use complex has aims of being the ultra-cool gathering space for Kakaako’s growing residential population. Check out SALT’s collection of founding businesses, including Bevy (for bespoke cocktails), Hank’s Haute Dogs (for gourmet wieners) and Paiko (a mod plant boutique with an Aussie coffee café, Arvo). Bonus tip for Pokémon GO fans: The Kakaako area is also one of best spots on the island for catching some of the game’s most elusive Pokémon!
- Honolulu Night Market. A monthly Saturday night gathering of small-scale, groovy-modern food and retail vendors offering inspired local eats and made-in-Hawaii stuff appealing to hipsters and non-hipsters alike. You’ll typically find a fashion show headed by one or two local designers, live entertainment and a mass of the most trend-following young adults around town.
- Highway Inn. Think classic Hawaiian food with new school flair – smoked meat loco moco, kalua pig eggs Benedict and grilled sweet potato, three-cheese luau leaf dip. Or opt for classic-preparation Hawaiian food – kalua pig, poi, haupia, lomi salmon, etc. Just try to hold back from ordering everything.
The Pig and the Lady owner/chef Andrew Le puts the broth-y finishing touch on a bowl of pho.
The Chinatown district
Honolulu’s Chinatown district was founded as a merchant area 166 years ago by Chinese laborers released from sugar plantation contracts. These days, its 27-block downtown-area grid blends a vibrant scene of modern-cool eateries, boutique retail and designer shops, and java and libation lounges, alongside longtime flower and Chinese candy shops, open-air meat and produce markets, apothecaries and old world eateries. At must-visit The Pig & The Lady, ever-inventive owner-chef Andrew Le expands the definitions of Vietnamese cuisine. In the video, Cat and Pete stop by The Tchin Tchin! Bar post-Pig for its wine and artisanal cocktail menu, served on an outdoor lanai with views of the Chinatown and downtown Honolulu skyline. While in the area, check out:
- Chinatown Historic Walking Tours. Learn more about the Chinese sugar laborers who moved from the fields to the city to start businesses and live in the district on this brisk tour of the area’s sights, smells, tastes and sounds. You’ll learn some area history, walk away with some smarts about area architecture, and march through several longtime-open Chinatown shops and businesses.
- Old Chinatown grid walk. Rather self-guide? Embark on your own neighborhood stroll, visiting the vendors of Maunakea Marketplace and their organized chaos of fresh produce and (in many cases, still-swimming) fresh seafood; taking in the aroma of crispy roasted pork, duck, chicken and other carnivore faves at Oahu Market; or stopping by a lei shop to give your olfactory senses some floral love.
- Post-millennial Chinatown eats and shopping. Since the early aughts, a number of new, modish restaurants, bars and retail boutiques have set up shop in the district’s distinct vintage structures. Current must-visits (besides The Pig & The Lady and Tchin! Tchin!) include Livestock Tavern and Fete (seasonal American fare), Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop (brunch), Lucky Belly (noodle bar), J.J. Dolan’s (NYC-style pizza), Owens & Co. (gifts/accessories), Roberta Oaks (Hawaii-made fashion) and Madre Chocolate (chocolate from local cacao).
About Derek Paiva: Derek Paiva is an editor and writer on the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau account team at Anthology Marketing Group. A lifelong Hawaii resident, Derek has enjoyed careers in magazine and newspaper journalism, and was editor-in-chief of Hawaii Magazine from 2010 through 2015. He has traveled extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands, written about them exhaustively, and is always looking forward to exploring and learning new things about his home islands. He can be contacted at email@example.com.