Walking in Waikiki: Renewing The Magic in Waikiki

Waikiki Beach

Walking in Waikiki by Cloudia proudly features Cloudia Charters’ unique “Walking in Waikiki” column from a column from Waikiki News that takes you through the streets of Waikiki and paints a picture of what’s up-and-coming the neighbourhood of Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii. Read past Walking in Waikiki Articles on 

Walking in Waikiki: Renewing The Magic in Waikiki

Old Waikiki was quiet and marshy, a place of rice paddies, duck ponds, and small farmers. The voices of the surf, Nalu, and the wind, Makani, spoke more clearly in those days.

After western contact, the ingenious Hawaiian fishponds, aquaculture pantry to the chiefs and fresh food for generations, crumbled neglected. Their wisdom of sustainability would slumber unappreciated for a hundred years.

Royal Hawaiian HotelYet, scores of tall royal palms as at Helumoa, the “King’s Grove” (where Kamehameha the Great once resided) persisted in their beauty to our own lucky day. Even though, one by one, the beloved Waikiki retreats of royalty were long ago subdivided away, memory of those happy times still lingers in the names on our street signs: Prince Kuhio, King Kalakaua, Princess Kaiulani, and her beloved beach home Ainahau. Even Honolulu’s broad King Street marks an ancient foot trail that carried the retinue of kings to the beach. . .

Young Waikiki tourism grew up barefoot in boarding houses and bungalows back in the days when travel took weeks by ship. Then the Royal Hawaiian Hotel sprang up, a pink fantasy castle, sharing the golden strand with her sister rival the grand gingerbread Moana Hotel whose veranda-courtyard banyan tree still remembers the laughing voices of Queen Lili’uokalani’s and Robert Louis Stevenson as they whiled away golden afternoons over tea. A playground for the rich, for celebrities, and for the very fortunate came of age on the broad lanai of these two sister hotels who are still with us today.

But something unusual is happening. As our Waikiki sparkles in tropical starlight, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel stands dark amidst her coconut palms, as if the front tooth of a well-beloved smile were glaringly absent.

Thankfully it is just a time of refurbishment and renewal for the grand old gal. She will re-open on the first of next year with Moorish stone inlays and other refreshments. Just PLEASE don’t change her too much! The ghosts of golden age Hollywood, the maharajahs, the “swells” might not approve and so recede even further into memory. To enter the Royal is to inhabit a special place of authenticity and quality that is rare today at any price! Those of us who love the eternal Waikiki are counting the days. And please, oh PLEASE keep her pink ;-). . .

HalekulaniLuxe & Easy Does It! Halekulani means “house befitting heaven” and the airy white hotel at the beach end of Lewers Street is certainly that. Most of us will never see the inside of the luxury rooms, but anyone can enjoy a heavenly meal at the House Without a Key restaurant. In fact it’s one of my favorite indulgences. Whenever I deserve some pampering in a world-class atmosphere I put on something “nice” and saunter off to eat delicious food in a relaxed yet gilded atmosphere. Look at me! I’m Holly Golightly having her “breakfast at Tiffany’s,” sure that nothing very bad could ever happen to me there! Oh, and by the way, Tiffany’s is only a block or two away. . .

Caught Palani Vaughn, the monarchy era cultural expert and song writer/performer, at the recent Na Mele No Na Pua Monthly (Free!) Concert down at Beach Walk. The Hawaii Royal Order of Guards opened the show with precision rifle drills in uniforms honoring the real Royal Guard of bygone days. Palani’s daughter, herself a respected Kumu Hula, brought out her men to dance Hula Pahu – the mystical “hula of the temple” that is very rarely seen publicly today. I especially liked the “call and response” between the kane (men) and their Kumu. Next, 3 talented wahine were introduced as members of the Hawaii National Guard leaving soon for deployment to the war zone, a fact that added something intangible yet undeniable to their hula. One hopes the evident confidence and strength they derive from their cultural pride will sustain them in the desert; till they all come home. . .

A quiet moment: walking through fallen mangoes on the slopes of Punchbowl. Time stands still as I contemplate the neat bundles of leaf litter carefully stacked at the curb by proud householders on these quiet residential streets. Music and memories fill my reverie, images of dancers and warriors, the proud names of gracious kings and queens, all carrying me back to an earlier Honolulu Town that still beats as the heart of our little modern city. Turning to the highways and activity below, I am magically returned to our 21st century capitol. But the mangoes, the scent of ginger, the perfect little yards and gardens remain, inviting us to a timeless, musing meander through the rich texture of this place that we love. . .

I saw the sign: the new digital sign at Kapahulu Chevron that is. It’s the first such in the islands. Reminds me of the charming stories of Hawaiians crowding around Iolani Palace to watch the king’s newly installed electric Edison lights come on of an evening (back when the White House was still gas lit). But no one’s oo-ing and ah-ing the daily raising of the fuel prices! . .

Dinner at Sam Choy'sAnd what’s this I see two doors down Kapahulu Avenue?! Sam Choy’s is closed! The upscale but comfortable restaurant (opened in 1995) always bestowed an air of “occasion” and never disappointed. Sam’s food rocks! This is where kama`aina and our welcome visitors alike learned to love “Hawaii Regional Cuisine.” But don’t despair! The Nimitz “Sam’s” is remaining and even getting updated. Favorite dishes from the Kapahulu menu will join the micro-brews and crab, and (good guy) Sam is firing no one. His popular local TV cooking show will also continue. I hope they keep the fishing boat in the dining room. .

There goes the neighborhood: YIKES! A giant SCARY eel the size of a man’s leg has taken up residence in the rocks beside my boat slip. The teeth, I can’t forget those ugly TEETH! At least I’m luckier than the folks on the North Shore who have a whale carcass rotting on their rocky coast! Smelly Gross!! Hmm…wonder what the room rates are over at the Hilton?

Speaking of Hilton, in a stroke of benevolent genius, hotel management the HILTON Prince Kuhio recently had a “taxi day” giving food and cold drinks to any cabby who rolled by. They never did that when I drove taxi, but I’m sure the current drivers will surely remember that there are now two Hilton properties here. . .

Next time you’re down near Ohua Street, stroll into the lobby of the Waikiki Banyan to see all the photos of the old Waikiki. Cool display.

Cirque du Soleil times two: the Montreal based phenomenon will be making their Honolulu Debut this fall! Watch Waikiki News for dates and details. For those who can’t wait, Hawaii Nei, an eye popping pageant of Waikiki’s past and present is opening any day at the show room of the newly revamped Royal Hawaiian Center. Word is that Cirque honchos helped to design the local presentation, and whispers claim it’s GOOD! The center’s new garden of indigenous and endemic plants, a free historic video show, and daily cultural offerings are also welcome additions to the scene.

Exciting things are happening all over Waikiki. I can’t WAIT to get back out there! Magic might be found around any corner, all you need is a small shift in perception and attitude. . . When you’re walking in Waikiki. . . ALOHA!


Walking in Waikiki by Cloudia ChartersWant to enjoy more Waikiki “street” life with Cloudia? Check out her Hawaii “Taxi Cab” Novel: “Aloha Where You Like Go?” at or local bookstores.

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