Aug 30, 2016
4 Honolulu Neighborhoods & Their History
While there are dozens of charming neighborhoods within Honolulu—each with their own unique and wonderful characteristics—we're highlighting a handful of neighborhoods to give you a better understanding of the different facets that create the collectively wonderful city of Honolulu.
For decades, Waikīkī has served as the de facto face of Hawaii. For many outsiders, when they conjure up an image of Hawaii, they picture Waikiki condos, the historic Moana Hotel, carefree canoe-surfing tourists, and a battalion of beach boys. With all of its glitz and nostalgia, it's easy to see how the world fell in love with Waikīkī. Before it became a beacon of international commerce and tourism, Waikīkī was largely composed of dank swampland. With the creation of the Ala Wai canal in 1928, the area was able to be developed into the hub it is today. Prior to statehood, Waikīkī still housed many local families and as the area became more of a travel destination, the charming alleys and nooks gave rise to a stacked horizon of Waikiki condos and high-rise hotels. Over the years, tens of thousands of visitors have purchased Waikiki condos, eager to indulge in all that the area has to offer. As one of Honolulu's main arteries, Waikiki is abuzz 24/7 as it constantly caters to the needs of tourists. The nonstop buzz of visitors and commercialization has driven many locals out of the area who now favor to live outside of the hustle and bustle. Today, Waikiki is a driving force in the state's economy, bringing in well over 10 percent of the state's income and billions of dollars every year.
Much of Honolulu's historic architecture, early history, and businesses are located in the Downtown section of the city, which sits adjacent to Honolulu Harbor. Although there are a handful of residential towers, you'll primarily find a healthy mix of shops, towering office buildings, Iolani Palace, and the state's capital here. Ripe with red brick, Honolulu's Downtown was one of the earliest neighborhoods to develop in the city due to its close proximity to the harbor and was quintessential to the whaling industry that flourished in the city in the 1800s. Farther back, many early Hawaiians called this area home and one of the oldest fishponds (dating back to 890 AD) was discovered here. A temple dedicated to the god Lono once stood near present day Aloha Tower.
Located inland of Waikiki, Kaimuki has historically been seen as a blue-collar neighborhood, situated on the Koko Head side of Honolulu. In its early days, prior to the 19th century, Kaimuki wasn't considered a desirable place to live by many of Oahu's residents—mostly because of a lack of water supporting the area. However, by the 1900s, water was routed to Kaimuki and the land was subdivided and the lots were sold for around three cents per square foot. According to the Historic Hawaii Foundation, many of the homes were prefabricated, shipped in, and assembled for just $700. Not long after, an electric rail was implemented through the heart of Kaimuki on Waialae Avenue, breathing new life into the neighborhood. In recent years, Kaimuki has seen an influx of hip restaurants and small businesses opening up shop as the neighborhood continues to grow and develop today.
The history of Ward Village can largely be tied to a family that bears the area's namesake. The Ward Ohana, who traces their lineage back to Honolulu's missionary days, held a close relationship with the Hawaiian Monarchy that governed the islands in the mid 19th century. C.P. Ward, the family's patriarch, purchased much of the land that encompasses modern day Ward Village and used it to build the family home and estate. As the city developed around the area, much of modern day Ward Village was used for heavy industry and commercial fishing. However, in more recent years, because of its close proximity to Downtown, Waikiki, and Ala Moana shopping center, Ward Village has quickly become one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the city, home to hundreds of shops and restaurants. On the residential end, a slew of sleek towers are being erected as more and more residents are eager to call this storied and central slice of the city home. More than any other area in Honolulu, the future of Ward Village is changing every day as one of the city's most exciting neighborhoods is taking shape before our very eyes.
To learn more about Ward Village, visit the Ward Village Sales Center on Monday through Friday from 10am - 5:00pm.
share this article
more stories to discover
Take A Hike - A Guide To Our Favorite O'ahu Hikes
Feb 15, 2018
Check out our guide to three of our favorite O'ahu hikes
Medium White Tee: An Artists' Homage to Obama
Jan 30, 2017
Artist Emily Spivack sits down for a chat regarding her exhibit, Medium White Tee
Welcome to Mango Season in Hawai‘i
May 22, 2017
Though not endemic to Hawai‘i, the mango has become an integral part of our Island culture.