Exploring East Honolulu
We explore beyond the cul-de-sacs to find East Honolulu’s friendly personalities, hidden treasures and where your lost fins ended up.
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PHOTO: ELYSE BUTLER
It’s easy to think of everything past Diamond Head as just a sleepy bedroom community, maybe because there are so many different suburban clusters tucked into the valleys along Kalaniana‘ole Highway. But East Honolulu is more than just a collection of cul-de-sacs and strip malls. Jump in a car, on a bike or on a bus and start exploring and you’ll discover all kinds of cool stuff, from scenic outdoor adventures to tasty treats to new agricultural experiments. Think you know the east side? Holoholo with us to find some roads less traveled.
Think you know the east side? Holoholo with us to find some roads less traveled.
The Haunting at Wai‘alae Drive-In
Photo: Bishop Museum
So the story goes that, back in 1959, a young woman watching a movie at the old Wai‘alae Drive-In Theater went to the restroom around midnight. Standing in the mirror next to her reflection was another girl combing her long, black hair. She had no face and no feet. The woman ran out of the bathroom screaming and, according to lore, was hospitalized from a nervous breakdown. The drive-in, which was located next to an old graveyard, closed in the ’80s. Jolly Roger Drive-In restaurant was replaced by a Zippy's restaurant, the tale of the infamous faceless woman still haunts the minds of many who venture into bathrooms in this area. Some say the ghost still lingers around the old drive-in grounds, others report having seen the faceless spirit in the bathrooms at the theater in Kāhala Mall.
You don’t need a Neighbor Island plane ticket to feel the soft sands of Moloka‘i or Kaua‘i between your toes. All you need is a barefoot walk along the beach fronting The Kāhala Hotel & Resort. Over the years, the hotel has imported barge-loads of sand from both of those islands to supplement its beach.
The First Mickey D’s
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN!
PHOTO: COURTESY MCDONALD'S RESTAURANTS OF HAWAI‘I
Depending on your feelings toward McDonald’s, you can either thank or blame Maurice Sullivan, founder of Foodland, for bringing the fast-food chain to Hawai‘i. In either case, the state’s first Mickey D’s opened at the ‘Āina Haina Shopping Center in 1968, with hamburgers selling for 23 cents apiece. Unlike the Mainland McDonald’s at the time, which sported golden arches on their roofs, the ‘Āina Haina restaurant had an unadorned, peaked, shake roof, like the more elegant Hawai‘i homes of the day. The first Hawai‘i McDonald’s survived until 2011, when it was torn down and replaced by a First Hawaiian Bank, but not before a brand-new location opened right next door. Glenn Waki, owner of the new ‘Āina Haina McDonald’s, got his start as a manager trainee at the old ‘Āina Haina McDonald’s in 1972. “Back then, I thought the original building was beautiful in terms of the Hawai‘i motif,” Waki says. “But I think our new building is very nice, too.”
Aloha in a Cone
PHOTO: ELYSE BUTLER
Anyone who’s stepped into the House of Pure Aloha in the rejuvenated ‘Āina Haina Shopping Center for a gourmet shave ice will encounter “Uncle Clay,” the smiley fixture in this neighborhood who loves to hug his patrons and seems to remember everything about them, from where they went to school to how long it’s been since the last time they stopped by. Most folks who grew up in ‘Āina Haina remember Clayton Chang as the owner of the now-defunct Doe Fang, a beloved mom-and-pop crack seed shop in the same shopping center where he sold his popular Icee creations. Today, he runs HOPA with his nephew, Bronson Chang, serving up all-natural shave ice with syrup flavors that include green tea, liliko‘i, sweet potato and kalespin (a combination of kale and spinach), then topped with fresh fruits, homemade mochi or the signature Dream Sauce. Since it opened in June 2011, HOPA has served more than 100,000 bowls of this local treat.