Best of 2021: Editor’s Favorite Articles on HONOLULU Magazine

From exceptional trees to Pidgin, hip bars to beloved bakeries, here are 10 of my favorite stories about Honolulu in 2021.


We technically rang in the new year early Saturday morning. But for many of us, Monday is when the start of 2022 came crashing in, in the form of return to work, school and everyday life. For me, 2021 was a blur in many ways, so it was a treat to spend a few minutes reading back into months past for the HONOLULU team. Here are 10 of my favorite stories from last year and here’s to you finding a few moments of quiet to read and reflect.


10. My Honolulu: The Magic of Magic Island During the Pandemic 

Published August 2021

Magic Island Sunset

Photo: James Nakamura



You usually feel the voice of our creative director, James Nakamura, through his visuals and design. But he’s also an expressive writer. His account of life at Magic Island during the summer of 2020 reveals a moment in time when a backwards walker, solo cell phone conversationalists, an elaborate tent dweller and other characters tell the story of people returning outside but still viewing the rest of the world from a distance.




9. The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Hawai‘i’s Olympians

Published July 2021

Duke Kahanamoku 1924 Paris Hawaii Olympics Photo Outrigger Canoe Club

Duke Kahanamoku at the 1924 Paris games. Photo: Courtesy of Outrigger Canoe Club



I’m an Olympics fanatic. When the games begin, I’ll watch every moment I can, staying up until the early morning hours to catch lesser known sports or to rewind and re-watch photo finishes and outstanding performances. In a year when the summer and winter games are occurring just months apart (and with a Hawai‘i woman bringing home the first surfing gold) it was fun to dig into our files to read more about Hawai‘i’s long relationship with the Olympics.




8. Fashion Feature: Elevate Your Fall Ensembles with Eye-Catching Textures

Published September 2021

09 21 Tommyshih Hm Fashion Ossipoffcabins 2

Photo: Tommy Shih



One day, at a cabin tucked away in the mountains above the Leeward Coast, our style and art team gathered for a photoshoot. Not only are the images of our fall fashion shoot stunning, the story behind the site—Vladimir Ossipoff’s personal retreat—is a hidden slice of architectural history. Our summer intern, Eve Huddleston, gives us the intriguing details including an inscription in the metal door locks that calls back to a specific post-World War II era.




7. Afterthoughts: Drinking at Waikīkī’s Latest Bar Feels Like Both a Homecoming and a Betrayal

Published September 2021

Afterthoughts Drinking At Waikikis Latest Bar Feels Like Both A Homecoming And A Betrayal

Photo: Katrina Valcourt



If you knew the effort it takes to write the seemingly effortless voice of managing editor Katrina Valcourt’s monthly column, Afterthoughts, you would have a new appreciation of her view of life in Hawai‘i. Her September 2021 piece is one of my favorites. The juxtaposition of Katrina’s rosy childhood memories of a Waikīkī hotel and its hip redo into a swanky boutique and bar is a quintessential example of the ongoing challenge of celebrating our Island’s past and bringing it into the future.




6. Beloved Hawai‘i Business Prepares to Close This Weekend After 70 Years

Published March 2021

Kaneohe Bakery Exterior Rainbow Robbie Dingeman

An early morning rainbow greeted customers once the sun rose. Photo: Robbie Dingeman



Just days before Kāne‘ohe Bakery closed its doors for the final time, editor at large Robbie Dingeman joined the long line of people vying for a last guava cake, filled doughnut and ‘ōkole bread. Robbie transports us to that rainy Thursday morning, when regular customers and friends talked story about all the life moments and memories intertwined with the bakery’s comforting and familiar baked goods.




5. The Pidgin History 102 Series

Published June 2021

Essential Books Pidgin To The Max Cover



I have a confession; even though I grew up here, I cannot speak pidgin. It’s a running joke at HONOLULU and Frolic Hawai‘i when co-workers ask me to read phrases just to laugh at the results. Still, I’ve always been fascinated not only in our local vernacular’s history, but also the evolving nature of this living language. Thankfully, da pidgin guerilla himself, Lee Tonouchi, agreed to tackle some of the discussions surrounding it in a four-part series we call Pidgin 102 which covers the history of the Creole language, debates over standardizing it in writing, who should be allowed to speak it and a look at its future.




4. Carissa’s World: How a Self-Effacing Girl from Kaimukī Surfed Her Way to Olympic Gold

Published December 2021

Carissa Moore With Flag Tokyo Olympics Photo International Surfing Association Ben Reed Gold Medal

Carissa Moore shortly after securing the gold medal in the first Olympic women’s surfing competition. Photo: Ben Reed, courtesy of International Surfing Association



We don’t need to explain why Carissa Moore is on the cover of our final issue of the year. But contributing editor Don Wallace went beyond the gold medal for this insightful profile of the world and Olympic champion. Her decisions, from stepping away from the pro circuit at a key time in her career to her choice of roommate, tells us more about the inner strength and character of the surfer girl who grew up to become an icon.




3. 2021 Hale ‘Aina Award Winner: Kapa Hale Named Best New Restaurant in Hawai‘i


2. 2021 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: Danny Kaaialii and Jonny Vasquez of Encore Saloon, The Daley and Pizza Mamo Win Restaurateurs of the Year

Published September 2021

Danny Jonny

Danny Kaaialii and Jonny Vasquez. Photo: Oliver Koning



Our annual Hale ‘Aina issue doesn’t just showcase the dishes of our best restaurant winners, it allows us to introduce you to the people behind the counters and inside the kitchens. In 2021, our two main profiles gave us a glimpse at some restaurateurs and chefs who you rarely see in front of a camera, but whose work and reputation in the industry speaks far louder than their lowkey personnas. Food and dining editor Martha Cheng tells us how our restaurateurs of the year met at a bar and went on to create a trio of comfort food rock stars while our digital dining editor and Frolic Hawai‘i guru Mari Taketa takes us from sunrise to far after sunset in the path of Best New Restaurant owner and chef (and new dad) Keaka Lee.





1. Photo Gallery: See Some of Honolulu’s Exceptional Trees

Published February 2021

Web Benjamin Fig Tree Roosevelt High School Ay Trees 2584

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



It was nearly impossible to select a single favorite story from the talented HONOLULU team in 2021. So, I caved and chose a personal fave that I had the privilege to work on. The idea for this photo essay occurred when staff photographer Aaron K. Yoshino and I spent an entire work day at a park, meeting and photographing kids for HONOLULU Family’s cover kid search. In between our socially distanced appointments, we talked and spent hours looking at the trees surrounding us, wondering where they came from and how many generations they sheltered. This look at the history and stories of our city’s exceptional trees in our first issue of 2021 was the result. As part of the package, Martha Cheng stepped away from her food and dining responsibilities for the cover feature about the losing battle being waged to save and plant more city trees and what you can still do to help.