Urban Archaeology
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Questionable Territory

Questionable Territory

Where does one neighborhood stop and another begin? Here in Honolulu, the matter usually seems pretty obvious, but I recently had to second-guess myself about the exact dimensions of Waikiki.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was reading the first draft of a story Charley Memminger had written for our upcoming November issue about Honolulu’s pawn shop business. At one point, he described Bags End Pawn II as one of the larger pawn shops in Waikiki.

Really? Waikiki? The store is on Kalakaua Avenue, sure, but it’s mauka of the Ala Wai, and by a healthy distance. When I go to Palama Supermarket, right across the street from Bag’s End, I certainly don’t feel like I’m in Waikiki.

No big deal, though—just a quirky geographical reference. I shrugged, changed the wording to “one of the larger pawn shops in town,” and continued reading through Memmingers’ (highly enjoyable) story.

Then, earlier this week, I happened to visit the website of Uncle Bo’s Restaurant. On its front page, Uncle Bo’s (located near Kapahulu Zippy's) proclaims itself “one of the most popular spots in Waikiki with both the locals and visitors.”

Wait a minute. A second Waikiki claim for an establishment mauka of the Ala Wai? Was I going crazy? Was Waikiki actually larger than I had assumed? I couldn't rule out the possibility--as a Maui boy who only moved to Oahu in 2001, I still sometimes feel as though I'm learning the subtleties of the place. (I've never been able to exactly remember the differences between Aiea, Pearl City and all the little sub-neighborhoods therein, for example.)

Luckily for my sanity, the City and County of Honolulu precisely defines the boundaries of each of its neighborhoods. The 2008 Neighborhood Plan, which sets forth the structure and rule of the neighborhood board system, describes Waikiki this way:


Beginning at the junction of Ala Wai Boulevard and Kapahulu Avenue, thence south along Kapahulu Avenue to the ocean, thence in a westerly direction along the coastline to a line extending to the entrance to the yacht basin, thence north along that line to the Ala Wai Canal, thence along the Ala Wai Canal in a northeasterly and easterly direction to a straight line connecting the end of the Ala Wai Canal with the Ala Wai Boulevard, thence along the Ala Wai Boulevard to its junction with Kapahulu Avenue.


Sorry, Charley. Sorry, Bo. Looks like the Ala Wai is indeed the dividing line. Maybe it’s just that Waikiki’s bustling streets make it seem larger than life?

If you’re not sure where you live, you can check out what the City and County has to say about it, here.

Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010 in Permalink

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About This Blog

Senior Writer Michael Keany has worked at HONOLULU Magazine since 2004, covering everything from architecture to entertainment. He’s a graduate of UH’s School of Journalism and lives in McCully. He blogs about Hawaii architecture, history and urban planning.

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