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A few decades ago, Kakaako was primarily composed of body shops, factories and other businesses, with little-to-no visitor appeal. Today, the Oahu neighborhood — sandwiched between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu — is arguably the island’s most buzzed-about hub. Older establishments have been repurposed as hip cafes, brewpubs and galleries. Locals love its ongoing outdoor markets, free yoga classes and similar forums for culture and creativity.
But perhaps Kakaako’s biggest draw is its colorful wall murals, which decorate complete sides of buildings. Each February, these immense palettes take center stage during Pow! Wow! Hawaii, a street festival where clients can meet artists from around the world, watch them work and enjoy live music, break-dancing battles and other trendy events.
While clients can explore Kakaako by car, foot or bike, Segway of Hawaii has come up with a novel — and fun — way to see its highlights. Its Kakaako Waterfront Park & Wall Art Mural Tour excursion uses Segway tours to introduce visitors to the area.
“Kakaako gives people a taste of the way Waikiki used to be, with locally owned shops and businesses,” said Alan Rice, owner of Segway of Hawaii. “We saw Kakaako growing into a walking, biking, Segway and electric scooter-friendly community, and since we’re part of the sustainable transportation community, it seemed like a terrific location for new tours outside of Waikiki.”
Astonishing Art MuralsMy tour was led by Armin Bitaraf, who first gave us a lesson in operating a Segway. It was a snap to ride. By leaning forward or back, I made the electric, two-wheel rig go faster or slower, and by tilting the handlebars one way or the other, I turned it right or left.
Bitaraf steered us to fascinating landmarks both old and new, but the wall murals were what really revved up our group. Industrial structures and commercial warehouses have been turned into enormous canvases that display innovation to the hilt. We saw everything from whimsical cartoon characters and elegant representations of Hawaiian goddesses to eye-popping abstracts that seemed to fly off the walls.
Members of our tour enthusiastically took photos of the murals and posed in front of them for Instagram. Adding depth to each stop, Bitaraf shared information about the creative spirits behind the murals. At next year’s Pow! Wow!, he says, artists will paint new works over the existing ones, so future tour participants will see an entirely different collection of wall art than what we experienced.
Spinning Around the ParkDuring the second half of our tour, we rolled merrily through Kakaako Waterfront Park, another place Waikiki visitors might otherwise overlook. The 35-acre spread offered spectacular views of the sea, with its intrepid surfers and array of boats. Cruising along its oceanside promenade, we were treated to a dramatic, westward panorama of the Waianae Range, Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Harbor.
While in the park, Bitaraf guided us to Ehime Maru Memorial, which honors those who died when a U.S. submarine crashed offshore with a Japanese training vessel in 2001. Thanks to the flexibility of our vehicles, we visited the memorial — and all the other sights on the tour — easily and up-close.
Our adventure ended where it began, at Segway of Hawaii’s convenient Kakaako headquarters. After the tour, I kept the neighborhood vibe going by walking across the street to Salt at Our Kakaako, an 85,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and mixed-use space that opened in 2015. Featuring food, shopping, culture and special events, Salt has become one of destination’s most popular draws.
Rice says the 1.5-hour tour is a great option for clients seeking something out of the ordinary on Oahu.
“It provides an opportunity to explore an area of Honolulu that will delight and surprise people,” Rice said. “It’s always terrific to be exposed to something new.”
The DetailsPow! Wow! Hawaiiwww.powwowworldwide.com
Segway of Hawaiiwww.segwayofhawaii.com
Salt at Our Kakaakowww.saltatkakaako.com