FX Excursions

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Honolulu: Protecting Paradise

by Gregory D. McCluney

Jan 1, 2019
January 2019

FOR A CITY THAT RECEIVES MORE than 5 million visitors a year — a number rising steadily — growth can be difficult to manage. With a reputation as the crossroads to tropical paradise throughout the Pacific, Honolulu is known for its friendly, welcoming people and magnificent natural beauty. U.S. residents need no passport to enter the 50th state, and visitors and business travelers often decide they want to enjoy this climate and lifestyle year-round — and plan their relocation.

Many locals feel the pressure and expect their government to retain the charm and scale of their neighborhoods, parks, retail establishments and local restaurants. As an example, Honolulu’s mayor recently proposed a moratorium on building permits for what he called “monster homes.” These huge homes disrupt the older, established neighborhoods and put a strain on city services and utilities. But, of course, exceptions will be granted in certain cases, and property values will continue to rise. Tourism will grow, and facilities for business meetings and hotel rooms and services will expand to meet these demands. The sunshine factor, mountains, beaches and deep-blue waters prove powerful drivers of growth for any city.

Honolulu is virtually surrounded by military installations, which further puts some land out of play for residents and developers alike. They also drive an economic engine for the city and residents and maintain considerable green space that can’t be developed.

Two areas expect renewed plans for growth in coming years: Kaka’ako, between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki and famous for a vibrant neighborhood food scene, and Kapolei, a fastgrowing town outside the city but close to Ko Olina Beach and Paradise Cove on the leeward side of Oahu.

Queen Kapiolani Hotel artwork © QUEEN KAPIOLANI HOTEL

Queen Kapiolani Hotel artwork © QUEEN KAPIOLANI HOTEL

Hotel availability and cost also affect visitor growth. Affordability for families and groups is high on the wish list for travelers. A new concept, “limited service” hotels, emerged to help fill the cost gap in the city. If a family or visitor doesn’t need or won’t use a spa, gym, pool or bar and restaurant with a full staff, hotels without these amenities can offer significantly lower room costs.

Nevertheless, Honolulu’s hotels and meeting facilities continue to grow and expand. Following a $35 million renovation, the independent boutique Queen Kapiolani Hotel reopened with a 1960s theme and original art from the Bishop Museum, a new pool deck and the best views of Diamond Head on Waikiki. The Shoreline Hotel, also on Waikiki, invested in updates that feature bold art and graphics to become the city’s most Instagram-able property in an attempt to attract younger guests.

For guests who just can’t leave the charms of Honolulu, several new condominium buildings are under construction in the Kaka’ako, Ala Moana and Waikiki sections of the city.

One of the most innovative additions for connecting with the locals, especially those in the creative arts, is a new cellphone app, Art World Escape — AWE — which enables users to discover the true Honolulu. You can spend a few hours a day or hit the streets for the nightlife you won’t find in the guidebooks, all with a connected local in that field: painters, graffiti artists, musicians and local foodies. Want to experience hip-hop Hawai’ianstyle or be one of the first to visit Michael Mina’s new restaurant at the International Market Place? The AWE has the potential to turn a predictable tropical vacation into a true travel experience. And you might make some interesting new friends in the process.

Hanauma Bay © KRIDSADA KAMSOMBAT - DREAMSTIME.COM

Hanauma Bay © KRIDSADA KAMSOMBAT – DREAMSTIME.COM

SCENIC DRIVES

Heading east out of Honolulu on H1 to the island’s arid south shore, the topography changes quickly due to the lack of rainfall. Past Diamond Head and Kahala, you’ll see cactus blooming but few palm trees. Some locals call it a moonscape. Plan a stop at the KoKo Crater just off Hanauma Bay, a great spot to cool off with a quick swim. Don’t miss the Halona Blowhole, where the ocean blows up through a rock about 30 feet in the air and offers a stunning view of Sandy Beach, the most dangerous beach in Hawai’i. An ambulance permanently stands by each day, but body boarders love the place. A bit farther before you turn north find the Makapu’u Lighthouse. Climb the 647-foot tower for great views and, in the winter, some whale spotting. Now turn north on Route 72 back to lush vegetation and calmer beaches like Kailua Park. If you’re ready for lunch, locals love the vegetarian fare at ’Ai Love Nalo not far up the highway. Afterward, return to the city quickly on the H3 or continue north and explore Mokapu Point.

Take H1 north from the city and then H2 through central Oahu past the famous Dole plantation and on to Haleiwa on Route 99 and the beginning of the North Shore beaches, home to some of the tallest waves in the world. Continue on Route 83 as you wave-watch and break for lunch at the outdoor gardens at Waimea Falls Park after a tour of the falls. Continue north to the world-famous Sunset Beach, the location for many surfer movies. Stay for a traditional dinner under the stars and enjoy the performances at the famous Polynesian Cultural Center off Route 83.

Return to the city on H3 with spectacular mountain and city views.

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