Waikiki visited… where’s the beach?
WAIKIKI – Some 45 years ago, we as honeymooners stepped foot on the beach here when there was a beach. After several visits, we returned ten years ago and were shocked. What had been a beach with some shopping is now shopping with a beach.
Honolulu today is a boomtown. The Hawaiian bird is back in the form of construction cranes. Some 12 high-rises are under construction within sight of Waikiki, perhaps more. The contrast between our neighbor island of Oahu and Maui couldn’t be greater.
On Maui, we wait in cars for the lights to change. In Waikiki, we as pedestrians wait for multiple minutes for lights to change along Kalakaua Avenue.
The old International Market Place is in rehab, and a new Saks Fifth Avenue – of all things – will be built there.
The new Waikiki is a mixed blessing. Lewers Street, a couple blocks from the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, has been turned into a showplace worthy of the finest cities, with curving tiled walkways, plenty of grass and posh shops – a most pleasant place to walk. At the end is the Yard House that sells 100 different beers at a huge oblong bar.
Most prominently along the avenue are all the posh shops: Tiffany, Prada, Louis-Vuitton, Gucci and one shop that boasts a bright red Ferrari formula one racing car to lure in customers.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village, one of the world largest hotels with seven tall towers and 22 restaurants, is jumping. The pool – the largest in Waikiki – is gorgeous. The Tropics Bar and Grille overlooking the beach (there is one there) is jammed. Yet, the check-in lines one Friday afternoon were a zoo, with long lines of guests waiting to get their rooms.
The Fort DeRussy site next door has a great military museum and is looking better and better as a place for our armed forces to get R&R with their families.
A little further down toward Diamond Head, the beach disappears. An ugly concrete wall juts out into the sea. And a very narrow concrete walkway over the ocean accessed by a very tall step (made a little easier to climb onto by sandbag) makes one yearn for the very broad Kaanapali Beach. Since millions were spent to upgrade the avenue, one wonders why this stays the same.
Further along, the beach returns at the Royal Hawaiian, whose builders in the 1920s were smart enough to put their hotel far from the water’s edge. In front of the hotel as well as the Sheraton sits a galleria with 100 glitzy shops. Newcomers may wonder where to find the hotel.
The beautiful Moana Surfrider further down did the same thing and has a kind of courtyard between beach and hotel that is a great place to hang out. Duke’s Beach House on Maui is a very laid back place compared to Duke’s on Waikiki, which appears to always be jammed with people.
One of the most disconcerting sites along the avenue there are hawkers for a firearms attraction, of all things. Seems there is a second-floor place where you can go up and shoot M14 rifles and undoubtedly other deadly weapons. “Come to Waikiki if you are not allowed to have or shoot guns in your own country,” appears to be the message. The NRA, which has done so much to promote gun culture, would be proud.
The gun culture mentality that is wrecking our country last week encouraged a cop to shoot someone in the back eight times after being stopped for a brake light violation on a Mercedes Benz. Cops these days appear to have a license to kill people, even though they are supposed to use guns sparingly, and then only when absolutely necessary to incapacitate someone, not to kill him.
Mauians are fond of saying, “We do not want to become another Oahu.” Oahu might be a good place to visit, but live with the traffic and the narrow beach? No way.
Columnist’s Notebook: To see Waikiki up close and personal, go to my web site at joysofkaanapali.com to see what you might, or might not, be missing.