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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Volunteers remove invasive algae from from the bay.

Photo: Malama Maunalua

Malama Maunalua

Back in 2007, a group of volunteers pulled out hundreds of pounds of invasive algae from Maunalua Bay by hand, armed only with gloves, tabis and a passion for preserving the environment. This project, spearheaded by the then-new nonprofit group Malama Maunalua, was the start of a major grassroots effort focusing on restoring the bay, which stretches from Diamond Head to Koko Head, to the thriving habitat it once was. Fast forward six years and the nonprofit has removed more than 28 acres of invasive algae such as gorilla ogo from the bay—much of it recycled—with community huki events held twice a month. “The work conducted by our volunteers helps in developing a sense of kuleana for the environment and helps to perpetuate Mālama Maunalua’s call to action by becoming stewards of the bay and of our community,” says Rae DeCoito, executive director. But the nonprofit doesn’t just work in the bay. In April 2012, it launched a new watershed program, Pulama Wai, to educate the community about watersheds and how they are affected by runoff, channelized streams, sediment and pollution. Since then more than 1,500 volunteers have removed 50,000 pounds of dirt and debris from the streams that flow into the ocean.


The Canoe Shuttle

For local paddlers, the wild eight-mile ride from Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai to Kaimana Beach in Waikiki is sheer joy. Known as the “Hawaii Kai Run,” the trip is all downwind, with the prevailing trades and ocean swells at paddlers’ backs. Paddling back upwind, however, isn’t any fun at all. As a service to the paddling community, Hui Nalu Canoe Club’s head coach, Denise Darval-Chang, bought a trailer and a 14-passenger van, and launched the Ocean Playground Shuttle. For $10 per head, she meets paddlers at Kaimana Beach and returns them and their canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards to their cars at Maunalua Bay. The schedule is dictated by weather and demand. “If the wind is blowing and I get at least five riders, I run the shuttle,” Darval-Chang says. For more information, email oceanplaygroundshuttle@gmail.com.


Heiau in a Cul-de-Sac

Pahua heiau.

Photo: Elyse Butler

Architecturally, Hawaii Kai is defined by its mid- to late-20th-century suburban dwellings, which is why it’s so refreshing to drop by 7142 Makahuena Place. There, nestled between a three-bedroom, two-bath, single-family home built in 1970, and a four-bedroom, four-bath residence constructed in 1991, sits a genuine Hawaiian heiau. Pahua Heiau is believed to date to the 14th century, when the area was better known for fishponds and sweet potatoes than for tract housing. The little heiau may have been dedicated to fishing or agriculture, but nobody knows for sure. If you visit, heed the kapu sign erected by the landowner, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs: “Stay on the pavement fronting Pahua Heiau and stay off the fragile structure.”



The Obama Baby House

Long before the beachfront Kailua vacation rentals and the place at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., President Barack Obama stayed at a home along the busy stretch of highway between Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai. Located at 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, it was the first of the half dozen Honolulu houses and apartments where Obama grew up. Obama’s grandparents rented the property, and the 8-pound, 2-ounce president-to-be is believed to have stayed in a cottage in the backyard. Meanwhile, public records show that Obama’s father, still a UH student at the time, had an apartment in Kaimuki at 625 11th Ave. It no longer exists. Birthers, discuss.

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