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Exploring Kahuku

Too often, the trip from Honolulu to Kahuku is a well-beaten path from downtown to the comforts of a single resort.


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Daily Bread

The bread is warm, yeasty and fresh at Tita’s Grill, a family owned restaurant opened by professional football player Junior Ah You. A local boy who spent years on the Canadian football circuit, he moved his family back to Kahuku after retirement. For $1 you can get a slice of the Polynesian bread, slathered in butter. For under two bucks, you can get Samoan panipopo, a roll covered in sweet, thick coconut sauce. There are hot sandwiches and local grinds too, but that bread is the main show. And at the intersection of the only traffic light, this place is a crossroads of the community, and a great place to people watch, Kahuku-style. 56-1101 Kamehameha Highway, titasgrill.com.


Signs of Change

Roadsides on the way to Kahuku and Laie are peppered with handmade, anti-development signs. Some of the messages are clear (“Nuff Hotels Already”), but most aren’t (“Eminent Domain Abuse”). Here’s your primer for what’s really going on.

  • The slogan “Keep the Country Country” was coined in opposition to the initial Turtle Bay development in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the city and county gave Turtle Bay the go-ahead to expand to the tune of 840 acres, stretching from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point. The zoning entitlement permits five hotels and 2,500 units. “We’re not against development, but we are against dumb development,” says Tim Vandeveer, vice president of the Defend Oahu Coalition. The original development was way too big, and would effect wildlife habitats and cause snarls of traffic, Vandeveer says.
  • “I think you’ll find that for as many people who oppose any development, an equal number of people would like to have some hotel jobs up here,” says Drew Stotesbury, owner’s representative for Turtle Bay Resort. “But for most people in the community 2,500 units is too much. We think it’s too much also. We’re trying to find out the right size,” he says. Turtle Bay is in the process of drafting a new, court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement to replace the one from 25 years ago; Stotesbury says it will include less than half the original number of rooms.
  • In Laie, Hawaii Reserves, Inc.—the company that manages and owns the Mormon Church’s property—wants to replace the 49-room Laie Inn, demolished last year, with a 222-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. They say it will create 150 construction jobs, $2.5 million in wages and 125 jobs when the hotel becomes permanent. But the Defend Oahu Coalition is worried about flooding and the environmental impact of “pouring 400 cubic feet of concrete,” according to Vandeveer. More important, he says, is to see the hotel as only the first part of a much larger development proposal, dubbed “Envision Laie.” The Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities plan would create a new Malaekahana Residential Community that includes 800 homes.


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Honolulu Magazine May 2019
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