Unique Destinations at SALT – A Hub in Honolulu’s Hip Kakaako Neighborhood

The History of SALT

On O‘ahu, the low-lying, flat wetlands of Kaka‘ako were once home to salt and fish ponds. Here, Native Hawaiians practiced traditional methods of fishing and sustainable food supply management, as well as laborious, hand-harvested salt production. The practice of gently raking the delicate salt crystals from the ponds was known as pa‘akai – “to solidify the sea”.

It’s hard to overstate how valuable salt was to Native Hawaiians. It was prized for many reasons, not the least of which was preserving meat in our tropical climate. Careful masters at managing their abundant natural resources, Native Hawaiians needed to store and preserve food for later use, since absolutely everything they needed was drawn from the land and the sea.

Salt harvesting took place in carefully maintained evaporation ponds. Some Hawaiian families still practice pa‘akai today in a few active salt ponds dotting the islands. ‘Alaea salt is a blend of unrefined sea salt and the sacred red volcanic clay from Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i. The pink-hued ‘alaea salt is still produced according to ancient traditions and used in ritual ceremonies to cleanse, heal, purify, and bless. The pink Hawaiian salt sold to tourists is likely not this sacred form since the addition of the clay prevents it from meeting food grade standards.

SALT at Our Kaka‘ako

It’s from these traditions and this sense of place that SALT at Our Kaka‘ako takes its name. Now a mixed-use city block in one of Honolulu’s most happening neighborhood revivals, SALT is an urban, chic hub for dining, shopping, and gathering with friends. The building’s refurbishment and expansion are one of the coolest transformations Honolulu has seen in this area. Kaka‘ako is experiencing a renaissance from its more recent commercial zoning past, where warehousing and wholesaling prevailed. It’s swiftly evolving into one of the hottest addresses in town.

SALT has kept the urban-industrial feel, with plenty of exposed brick, beams, wood and corrugated metal exteriors, with pops of bright color. All these elements are punctuated by the street art of the Pow!Wow! art movement that’s taken hold in this part of Honolulu, sparking a global art movement. SALT draws shoppers and diners, and with its litany of unique shops and service offerings, it’s a far cry from your average mall.

SALT spans the Honolulu city block between Coral and Keawe, and from Ala Moana Blvd. to Auahi St. There’s a convenient, multilevel parking adjacent to a host of hip, new restaurants, shops, and bars. Thoughtful repurposing of existing structures and expansion into a walkable, open-air, mixed-use space was one of the best transformations we’ve seen in recent years. For those who love Honolulu’s unique signage, the preservation of the mid-century Six-Eighty (the original structure’s address on Ala Moana Boulevard) in cursive on the front of the building has probably warmed your heart a little.

For residents of Ward Village and those who work in downtown Honolulu, SALT is just steps away and a convenient destination for residents of the many smartly designed and luxury condos popping up in the area. It’s a seamless addition to the country’s largest Platinum LEED Certified neighborhood development at Ward Village, geared towards an urban, walkable lifely. Here are a few of our very favorite hot spots at this thriving new venue that’s enlivening downtown Honolulu for residents and visitors alike.

Lonohana Estate Chocolate

One of the latest additions to the SALT scene, this tiny boutique chocolatier sells locally produced “from bean to bar” chocolate, made from beans grown on a 14-acre farm on Oahu’s North Shore, first planted in 2009. Chocolatier Seneca Klassen celebrates the farming lifestyle and manages every step of the artful chocolate production process. The shop has a tasting bar and best of all, they ship internationally. Their treats make a beautiful gift for friends and visitors or as an omiyage gift to take home.

18/8 Fine Men’s Salons

Okay, get ready to lose (or refine) those beards, hipsters! This unique salon for men offers straight razor shaves, scalp treatments, waxing, beard grooming, facials, and grey blending – in addition to the more traditional barbershop offerings. Their distinctive services are delivered in semi-private stations that are more akin to what the ladies have been enjoying for decades at their local spa or salon. A fun addition to Honolulu life and definitely an upgrade from the barber pole shop you’ve been frequenting, guys!

Happiness U

Okay, you might assume that a moniker like Happiness U is a clothing store or maybe a gift shop, but it is exactly what its namesake describes – a school where you can up your happiness game with coaching and classes. From personal growth and self-development to positivity and workplace inspiration. This unique concept is brought to Honolulu by Alice Inoue, a self-described “expert life guide” and former columnist at MidWeek and the Star-Advertiser.

Paiko & ARVO & MILO

While this self-described botanical boutique has been around for awhile, they never cease to amaze us with their fresh take on plants and flowers. A unique blend of nursery and florist, they also offer an array of classes and opportunities to learn about the carefully curated local plants and flowers they sell. Their workshops include fresh flower arranging, growing a succulent garden, and making haku – fresh flower head crowns. They also sell lovely botanical and gardening books. You can design and build your own terrarium in the shop, which is a shared space. Grab a latte and a delicious pastry from ARVO, the Aussie café within Paiko, or check out the offerings at MILO, a Hawaiian surf lifestyle boutique sharing Paiko’s welcoming space.

Moku Kitchen

Hip and urban, with exposed brick and a long, inviting bar, Peter Merriman’s Moku Kitchen sits at the center of SALT at Our Kaka‘ako. The farm- and ranch-to-table movement are thriving here, in one of Merriman’s several brands and outposts. A pioneer of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, chef Peter Merriman is still going strong more than 25 years later. At Moku Kitchen, they’re serving up craft beer, live music nightly, and delicious burgers, tacos, pizzas and small plates. Don’t miss their roasted squash ravioli with chèvre, spinach, and walnut sage pesto.

Giving Back to the Community

SALT is a project by Kamehameha Schools, who owns this land endowed by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter and last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I. Kamehameha Schools is a private, charitable educational trust whose mission is to further the education of Hawaiian children. By supporting SALT at Our Kaka‘ako – this urban expression of island culture – you are supporting Kamehameha Schools and their mission.

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