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Waikiki Rising – The Heart of Honolulu Re-Invents Itself

I live in Waikiki. I love Waikiki. As a child growing up on the West Coast, I visited Hawai’i a few times. It was exotic, it was beautiful, it was everything the postcards promised and then some.

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But most importantly, it was Waikiki: The hula shows, the should-be-out-of-place-but-totally-not Victorian Moana Surfrider, the Grand Dame of Waikiki’s hotels with her beautiful Koa rocking chairs, the sun and sand and surf of Waikiki Beach itself, the other iconic hotel, the amazingly pink Royal Hawaiian and its park-like entryway, and the International Market Place, souvenir shopping taken to another level, a higgledy-piggledy collection of pushcarts and stalls hawking gift boxed ukuleles, tiny hula dancers that shook and shimmied on springs, the omnipresent (for those days) ashtrays, and everything in between, even artfully hand painted coconuts that were their own ‘postcards’ to be mailed out world-wide.

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But that Waikiki has slowly diminished in the intervening years, the hotels becoming a tad run down, a tiny bit tawdry, the Market Place selling less local crafts and more the same, the ubiquitous tchotchkes from you know where. When I told friends from the mainland where I lived, the reaction was almost inevitable: “Waikiki? That tourist trap? Why there??”

Well, that might have been a valid point, but no longer. The tide is turning, and with it, Waikiki is rising. The Moana Surfrider has recently undergone extensive restoration, especially to its original suites. Kalakaua Ave is bursting with the leading retailers from all over the world: Dior, Fendi, Prada, Harry Winston, Chanel, Cartier – the list goes on and on.

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And It’s Not All High-End

If you wander down side streets, you can still find old school cool as well as hip upstarts. Everyone has to try some Spam Musubi while they are here, and Musubi Isayume has a couple locations. My dog Beauford makes sure I stop in a few times a week.

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We have hip local clothing stores like Olive and Oliver bringing Kailua Beach Style to town. We even have food trucks offering up Honolulu’s version of street food.

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And the once, dare I say, cheesy International Market Place has been completely remodeled from the ground up. Anchored by the island’s first Saks 5th Ave department store, there are shops and restaurants for every taste and a gamut of budgets, including a soon-to-be-opened food court that is slated to be locally owned-centric.

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The large Banyan Tree is still there, built around and incorporated into the open air design of the Market Place, which includes streams and pools mimicking those of Taro patches of old.

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Come Discover the New Waikiki

Waikiki is re-inventing itself along with its sister neighborhood to the West, Kaka’ako; they are both quickly becoming modern, urban neighborhoods in the world-class city that is Honolulu. And more is on the way.

If you’ve been one of those people, like my friends, who hold an outdated view of Honolulu and Waikiki, give me a call, I’d love to show you my new Waikiki.

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