Fun by day, Honolulu's Chinatown is equally vibrant at night. // © 2016 HTA Tor Johnson
Feature image (above): Free yoga classes are among the ongoing events offered at Ward Village, a mover and shaker in the Kakaako neighborhood. // © 2016 Ward Village
Waikiki is Oahu’s most famous neighborhood, hands down. But as more and more island travelers look outside of Waikiki, they’re discovering thriving communities with undeniable visitor appeal.
For Oahu-bound clients who are ready to think outside the traditional tourist box, these four trending Honolulu haunts have plenty to offer.
Creative spirits have transformed this once-neglected downtown Honolulu sector into a hip hangout. By day, vendors sell exotic produce, fresh seafood, flower leis and curiosities, while temples channel historic China and Japan. Come evening, Chinatown hosts some of Hawaii’s hottest happenings including First Friday block parties, The Arts at Marks Garage events and Hawaii Theatre stage shows. Its rising restaurant scene is unmatched in the state, with current favorites including The Pig & The Lady and Lucky Belly.
At first glance this unassuming neighborhood seems like nothing more than a collection of old, low-rise buildings lining the main drag of Waialae Avenue. But foodies in the know keep a close watch on Kaimuki. The strip has turned into a mecca of mouthwatering experiences, from coffee shops, bakeries and carry-out joints to innovative breakfast, lunch and dinner spots. An easy 10-minute drive from Waikiki leads to talked-about bistros, including Kaimuki Superette, Mud Hen Water and 12th Ave Grill. For sweets, try Via Gelato.
Set between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, Kakaako is in transition. Warehouses and auto repair shops are giving way to high-end condo towers. At the same time, eclectic community events are making Kakaako an edgy, entertaining hub for visitors and locals. Leading the way is Ward Village, which hosts ongoing programs such as free yoga classes, brunches with food vendors, outdoor movies, live music and crafts fairs. Colorful murals on the walls of old buildings are keeping Kakaako vibrant in the midst of change.
Right around the corner from Waikiki awaits Kapahulu, where old and new retailers ooze with local charm. Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts store is jam-packed with vintage island duds and memorabilia. Active clients can find new gear at Running Room and Go Bananas. Like any popular district, Kapahulu is beloved for its longtime restaurants such as Leonard’s Bakery, Ono Hawaiian Foods and Waiola Shave Ice, but don’t overlook its newer hot spots, especially Side Street Inn and Uncle Bo’s.