Destination Kailua

Explore the shops, restaurants, schools and businesses that make Kailua an alluring piece of paradise.

With a booming real estate market, new retail developments and a quickly expanding dining scene, there’s no denying Kailua is undergoing an evolution. But even with big changes, some things will always remain—it’s a family-centered place where life is easy-going, neighbors look out for each other and breathtaking beaches are just a quick bike ride away.

PHoto: courtesy le jardin academy (top left) / Maui tacos (Top right) / mulkern landscaping (bottom right).



On The Menu

Kailua is known for its beautiful natural setting. But lately, something else has been drawing droves of people indoors–an exciting restaurant scene. An eclectic mix of favorite keystone eateries and new bistros feed every taste from sunrise to far after sunset.

Kalapawai Café and Deli’s auction fresh fish with lemongrass risotto, house-made potato gnocchi, and roasted beet and orange salad.

Kalapawai Market is one of the legendary businesses that has seen Kailua Town grow up around it. The famed green building on Kalaheo Avenue is the perfect place to grab a coffee, snacks and supplies while talking story with friends and neighbors. “It’s a community gathering place,” says Lindsey Dymond, who owns and manages Kalapawai with his father, Don Dymond. “People feel comfortable, welcome, and at home here.” This is probably true for Lindsey more than anyone—he began working at Kalapawai 20 years ago, when he was just 10 years old.

As Lindsey grew, so did Kalapawai Market, with the introduction of Kalapawai Cafe and Deli. During the day, the café serves up Hawaiian-roasted coffee, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and grab-and-go meals. At night, chef Jason Iwane delivers award-winning, gourmet dishes showcasing locally-grown produce and line-caught fish whenever possible. The friendly neighborhood vibe and casual atmosphere make this a favorite local dinner spot. “I think the growing dining scene in Kailua is wonderful for the community,” Lindsey says. “It’s kept more business in Kailua, which creates more jobs for people in Kailua. And as a bonus, Kailua is now on the culinary map of the island—we’ve become a dining destination.”

The welcoming staff at Cinnamon's serves up smiles and delicious comfort food.

Buzz's original steakhouse, a kailua institution for 51 years.

Photo: courtesy Buzz's

A steady stream of diners proves one of those must-visit destinations is Cinnamon’s, a dining staple in Kailua for 28 years now. The charming eatery has a reputation for generous portions of hearty breakfasts and lunches, stellar service and welcoming staff, who keep the always-bustling mix of visitors and faithful regulars happy. This year, one thing was refreshed; the dining room received a facelift. The entire area was renovated and decorated with artwork from long-time customer Sandra Elizabeth Blazel. “We’re focused on getting even better,” says Alika Nam, vice president of operations, “but we’re conscious to not stray too far from the mainstays everyone loves and expects. We’ve improved with a new Island look and feel, but it’s the same great food and genuine aloha.” Meaning you’ll still be able to find the signature pancakes in flavors such as red velvet and guava chiffon, next to new menu items including a house-made fresh ginger ale, and new combinations of their eggs benedict, pancakes and omelets.

Another Kailua institution, Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, also has some changes in store. Now in its 51st year, the retro-style restaurant across from Kailua Beach Park is expanding its selection of great steaks, fresh seafood, strong cocktails and plentiful salad bar. General manager Mani Schneider says they’ve added a new vegetarian section to the menu, including the Kai fruit salad featuring strawberries, mandarin oranges, mango, grapes, lychee, cranberries, candied pecans, crumbled with blue cheese on Nalo greens with balsamic dressing. Carnivores will want to try the new Jack Daniels burger or the new Hawaiian ribeye, a 13-ounce serving of grass-fed, hormone-free beef from the Big Island. “We also try to keep things new and fresh with changing daily and weekly specials,” says Schneider. But like the other Kailua mainstays, they’ll always continue with their most-requested classics, such as the calamari appetizer or the Artichoke Surprise, which remain in high demand from their loyal regulars.

Choose sweet or savory creations from Crepes No Ka Oi.

Relatively new to the scene is Cactus, a casual yet upscale bistro from chef John Memering. Open less than a year now, this eatery on Kailua Road features an eclectic menu that draws from the flavors of Central and South America and incorporates locally grown ingredients. “We’re deeply committed to local agriculture, ” says Memering. He works with 15 farmers in Hawaii, sourcing ingredients like organic avocadoes from Waimānalo, pork from Shinsato Farms in Kahalu‘u, beef from Kauai and the Big Island, and sustainably sourced seafood. “Sometimes it takes longer to track those things down,” he says, “but the end result on the plate is well worth it.” Popular choices include the “croquetas” made with local squash and Big Island goat cheese, and Cactus’ signature frozen sangrias. The bright, lively interior mirrors the casual atmosphere and friendly service, making it the ideal stop for lunch, dinner and what they call “tiempo mucho gusto” (happy hour). Chef Memering says to look out for new menu items coming soon this spring.

If you’re craving a taste that’s more south-of-the-border than South America, Maui Tacos has been serving up “healthy Maui-Mex” since first opening on Maui in 1993. Chef Mark Ellman longed for the Mexican food he had while growing up in Southern California and blended the traditional fare with the tropical flavors of his new home, Hawaii. It seems to be working. All meals come with unlimited trips to the to the salsa bar, with choices like “Hula Heat” chile arbol, “Maui Firedancer” chipotle and “Pineapple Passion.” Its laid-back, beach shack vibe feels like a natural fit in Kailua.

Kailua resident Chris Tarvyd says, “We’re getting some great new restaurants in Kailua that we’re excited to eat at ourselves; different concepts with great chefs.” And he should know, as co-owner of the ever-popular Crepes No Ka Oi, along with his wife Rosario “Kakay” Tarvyd. Customers from around the island line up for their heavenly crepes and gourmet loose leaf teas. Many call in ahead just for the best-selling Ultimate Breakfast Crepe, a savory creation with melted cheddar cheese, slow-cooked potatoes, bacon, onions and rosemary with a poached egg and side of fresh Hollandaise sauce. They now offer buckwheat crepes, and look for an expanded menu, more gourmet crepes, and espresso drinks coming soon.

Left: The local squash and Big Island goat cheese “croquetas” from Cactus. Right: The Chingalinga Banana from Maui Tacos.

photos: Stephen guzman, courtesy maui tacos


On the Shopping Block

Shopping often feels like a treasure hunt in Kailua, where the streets are lined with distinctive boutiques filled with one-of-a-kind finds that hold true to the area’s eco-friendly but fashionable style.

Left: A sampling of the eclectic imports from Nomads Hawaii. Above: Gently-used special occasion dresses and accessories line the shelves at Kailua Verde.

Kailua felt like the perfect neighborhood to set up shop, says Nandini Bhattacharjee, owner of Nomads Hawaii. “It’s a vibrant community, and it seems like a very connected community,” she says. “There’s always a block party, always a celebration.” She describes her brand new store as an eclectic mix of “global and local goods, gifts and oddities” that Bhattacharjee hand picks abroad and imports back home. You’ll find  hand-embroidered textiles from India, homewares and décor from Pakistan and Nepal, and jewelry from Ecuador, France and Argentina. Nomads’ lineup of artisanal goods will change, but a focus on fair-trade, ethically sourced materials, recycled, organic and vegan items will remain constant. “I love showcasing anything with a point of view.”

Find handmade furnishings and beachy-chic decor at Red Bamboo.

Finding furnishings with a story is a specialty of Carole Jacobs. She opened Red Bamboo after an eye-opening trip to Indonesia, and travels back to Bali twice a year to uncover more distinctive finds for shoppers. The real stunners are teak and saur wood furnishings. “All the furniture is handmade,” Jacobs explains. “A lot of it is one-of-a-kind. We strive to get unique pieces.” And much of the wood is reclaimed. For instance, you could find a bar made from recycled wood from Balinese boats, or a table made with the handles of a rice cart.

Red Bamboo also has everything you need to finish off any room, from bedding to artwork, jewelry, books, souvenirs and far more. “We recently expanded from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet, which allowed us to bring in more products,” says Jacobs. That now includes apparel, hats, bags, and accessories. New items include custom-made “I Love Hawaii” undies, and exclusive Red Bamboo waterproof tote bags emblazoned with Hawaii street signs.

When it comes to dressing up your wardrobe in an eco-friendly way, Kailua Verde is the stop. Owner Lilian McDonnell’s motto is “Reduce, reuse, refashion,” and the proof is in the racks and racks of stylish staples in her high-end consignment shop. The boutique is chock-full with vintage, gently used, and new clothing and accessories for women and men. Bargain hunters come in for the large selection of designer handbags, shoes, and special occasion dresses. But what really makes the store interesting are the unexpected items, from Niihau shell necklaces to vintage Versace shirts and marionette puppets from Budapest. The shop carries locally made items as well, such as soaps, paintings, koa paddles and more. “Not everything is used,” McDonnell points out. “We have a lot of brand new items. Everything is nice, clean and classic. I’m very selective.” And she aims to keep things affordable, adding, “You don’t have to sacrifice quality or looks for a great price.”

Manuhealii stocks cheerful Hawaiian prints in its cottage shop.

In a quaint cottage on Hoolai Street, traditional aloha attire is getting a very modern makeover by the designers at Manuhealii.  Since 1985, this family company has fashioned vibrantly-hued styles for men, women and keiki. Now, shoppers can find everything from bold, bright prints in stylish sixties silhouettes to sleek sundresses and casually chic slip tops.  “It’s contemporary clothing made from a Hawaiian perspective,” says owner Danene Lunn. Scarves are always big sellers, along with Island themed housewares and stationery. Lunn says they keep things fresh with a new print every four to six weeks, this month’s being the Kuulei collection, named after the owner’s auntie. Manuheali‘i also keeps things eco-friendly; its Mokulua collection uses a sustainable bamboo lycra, and every scrap leftover from every print is used to make fun and breezy shopping bags, pillows and blankets.

Sustainability is also the mantra at Muumuu Heaven, where owners Deb and Eric Mascia resurrect vintage muumuu and aloha attire to create truly one-of-a-kind originals for the entire family. They also keep the shop filled to the brim with earth-conscious homewares, local artwork and recycled treasures. Deb says her shop has a large focus on the community, and this year will offer more art openings, summer concerts and film screenings. “Change is inevitable everywhere, and Kailua is no exception,” she says. “I think the lifestyle here is always going to stay the same. I just hope Mahina will always be there at the bar at Buzz’s when we need her.” So what’s new at Muumuu Heaven this year? Along with the steady stream of new arrivals, Deb urges, “I’d have to say, come on in and see for yourself. You never know what is going to be happening at the store, but it is always fun.”

A vintage fabric tote and dress from Muumuu Heaven.

Out on the Town


One thing is certain: Kailua knows how to throw a great party. Almost every weekend, you’ll find Kailuans gathering for popular community events like the “Kanikapila in Kailua” and “I Love Hula in Kailua” performances. Throughout the year, residents take to the streets for annual parades and festivities like “Cool Kailua Nights,” “Da Kine Canine Festival” and the biggest bash of the year, the “I Love Kailua” town party. These events are sponsored by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation in partnership with Kaneohe Ranch, Kailua’s largest landowner. Kaneohe Ranch is also responsible for improving Kailua’s accessibility, such as adding outdoor seating, Wi-Fi hubs, wider sidewalks, bicycle racks, landscaping, and improved parking. The Castle Foundation also funds grants for public schools, marine conservation programs, and Windward Oahu communities.

For more Kailua event info, visit

Welcome Home

With its amazing eateries, great shopping and laid-back lifestyle, it’s no wonder that every year more and more visitors want to call Kailua home. According to the U.S. Census, from 2000 to 2010, Kailua’s population grew more than nine percent.

PHOTOS: courtesy donna maier/coldwell banker pacific properties / carvill & company

“We can feel our little town changing,” says Donna Maier, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and life-long Kailua resident. “It’s ‘out’–more tourists, more people know about it.” Real estate inventory, which was already low, dropped drastically in 2013 due to high demand. “A buyer needs to work with a full-time realtor who knows the market, is familiar with the area, and knows the nuances and differences between the neighborhoods,” Maier says. For instance, you could find a $500,000 house in Coconut Grove three blocks over from a $25 million house on Lanikai beachfront. She says the Coldwell Banker team often hears about things before they go on the market. “The agents in our Windward office are dedicated professionals that work very hard to meet their clients’ goals,” she says. Her own enthusiasm for Kailua is infectious. “I’m proud to be born and raised in Kailua,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Scott Carvill, a realtor with Carvill & Company, was brought up in Kailua and is now raising three kids of own there. An avid waterman, Carvill says growing up in the area fueled his love of all things ocean-related, like many residents of the coastal community.

“We take advantage of all that Kailua has to offer,” he says. “That’s what people are moving here for.” Carvill & Company can help those very people, he says, thanks to the company’s focus on excellent customer service and depth of knowledge.  “I’ve been here for 12 years, and I’m the young guy,” he says. “We’ve got people with 20, 30, and 40 years of experience.” He also commends their team approach, which helps keep up with growing demand. “Kailua’s gone international. We’re seeing buyers from all over the world.”

The realtors at Home Shoppe Hawaii use a team approach to deliver client-focused service.

“We are a wonderful melting pot, a great mix of people,” says Holly Turl, Realtor and Vice President of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. “We live aloha.”  And if you can live aloha steps away from Kailua’s signature shorelines, even better. Turl, a proud Kailua resident for 35 years, specializes in “walk to the beach” locations. Beyond finding the perfect place for buyers, Turl is known for her beautiful home staging for sellers, which helps properties sell faster and for a higher price. “Our agents are the best trained on the island,” she says. “We believe in a high level of service and we get the job done.”

Another thing that can give potential buyers an advantage is the Internet. That’s where boutique real estate company Home Shoppe Hawaii has made its mark. “We are one of the most tech-savvy brokerages on Oahu,” says Yvonne Jaramillo Ahearn, Kailua resident and Home Shoppe Hawaii’s principal broker. “This makes buying and selling easier, more efficient, and more successful for our clients. We have an information-packed website, complete with Kailua neighborhood information and other frequently asked questions about Oahu real estate.” In addition to the usual real estate services, Home Shoppe Hawaii now offers a Property Management Division to provide rental management and concierge services.  “We’re also looking forward to helping buyers with the Ka Malanai new construction condominiums going up now in Kailua,” says Ahearn.

Once you’ve found your dream home, Kailua-based companies can keep it eco-friendly, from the roof down. “Kailua residents understand the value of solar,” says Alex Tiller, CEO of Sunetric, a full-service renewable energy firm. The locally owned and operated solar company began at a kitchen table in Kailua nine years ago, and has grown into what is now considered the renewable energy leader in Hawaii. With photovoltaic installations, Sunetric helps households reduce their energy consumption and reduce or eliminate their utility bills. The company is expanding substantially on the Mainland, but remains grounded in its Kailua roots. “We appreciate the community, and we consider ourselves a part of the community,” Tiller says of Kailua. “Sunetric has 150 employees, many who live in the area. We’re working on projects with our friends and neighbors.”

Revitalize your landscape with help from Mulkern Landscaping, which also offers free how-to workshops.

PHOTO: courtesy mulkern landscaping

“For many, ‘going green’ is a relatively new concept, but to us, doing something green is a part of our DNA,” says Dorothy Mulkern of Mulkern Landscaping. This family-run business has been providing landscaping services for more than 35 years. If your idea of the ultimate Kailua-style landscape is a fuss-free one, Mulkern can help with a renovation.  “It’s a ‘spring cleaning’ that gets your garden in shape so that regular day-to-day maintenance is easier,” she explains.  Less work, means more time to enjoy your outdoor space. C & J Contracting, Inc. / Pacific Pool & Spa can help make your backyard beautiful. This full-service, Kailua-based company, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, designs and constructs award-winning pools, spas, and outdoor projects, and provides maintenance and equipment as well. “We can do anything in your yard with water, concrete or tile,” says President/RME Clifton Crawford, “and we provide the best customer service out there.”

For interior remodels, most people start with their kitchens, says Ian Osborne, owner of Custom Built Cabinetry. For more than 25 years, the cabinetmaker and life-long Kailua resident has been designing, fabricating, and installing custom cabinets for kitchens, bathrooms, entertainment centers and more. Osborne says he enjoys running his small, family business in the heart of Kailua town. “I’ve got a seven minute commute and I go through one traffic light,” he says. “Living and working in Kailua couldn’t be better.”

Left: Custom Built Cabinetry can help transform your kitchen, bathroom or entertainment center. Right: A backyard retreat designed by Kailua-based C & J Contracting, Inc., also known as Pacific Pool & Spa.

Photos: Courtesy custom built cabinetry / pacific pool & spa


Family Matters

If there is one element that remains constant in Kailua, it’s the ohana spirit. With its small-town friendliness, safe neighborhoods, world-class schools and exceptional healthcare, Kailua offers opportunities for all families to learn, grow and flourish.

Dr. Sean Holliday of Holliday Orthodontics.

Even a trip to the orthodontist can be a family affair in Kailua.  Step into Dr. Sean Holliday’s office at Holliday Orthodontics and you’ll find a bright, modern room boasting the latest in orthodontic technology, including digital radiography, imaging, and state-of-the-art sterilization techniques. Dr. Holliday was also the first in Hawaii to use all-digital impressions (meaning that pink goop is a thing of the past). While you’re waiting,  patients can tap away on new iPads, browse braces-friendly recipes, or play games and contests posted around the office. “We try to engage patients,” says Dr. Holliday. “It’s a professional atmosphere, but, at the same time, we like to have fun. There’s a lot of celebration when a patient gets their braces off.”

Along with Kailua’s top-notch healthcare, parents can also find some of the best schools on the island, just minutes away. On a stunning campus overlooking the Kawainui wetlands lies Le Jardin Academy, which has offered students a top-quality education since 1961. As an International Baccalaureate World School, Le Jardin emphasizes critical thinking, active learning and creative problem solving. Le Jardin was the first school in Hawaii to offer this prestigious program from preschool through high school, and last year the first graduating class to complete the full program received their diplomas. New to the school this year will be the installation of solar panels to help fund scholarships. “It’s a gift that will keep on giving,” says headmaster Adrian Allan. He also points to new sustainability projects such as a farm complete with goats, chickens, fish and aquaponics, plus mini solar and wind power systems that all students have hands-on access to; just a few of the additions that round out the outstanding programs in music, foreign languages and athletics that Le Jardin is known for.

Le Jardin Academy offers a wide range of activities, including hula.

Photo: courtesy Le Jardin Academy

Students at Trinity Christian School.

Photo: courtesy trinity christian school

Just across the Pali in Maunawili Valley is Trinity Christian School, Hawaii’s only classical Christian school. Its Christ-centered curriculum uses classical methods that teach to the developmental stages of the child, from pre-kindergarten through high school. All students receive instruction in art, music, physical education, swimming and foreign language, and beginning in second grade, students also learn Latin. The ultimate goal is to create a lifelong love of learning, in and out of the classroom.  “Our students know their education is a gift that is designed purposefully to serve God and others,” says Head of School Nancy Shaw. “It is rewarding to see these young people use their gifts in a way that impacts others.”

Learning also takes place beyond classroom walls at St. Anthony School.

photo: courtesy st. anthony school

At St. Anthony School, the oldest private school in Kailua, new tools are giving students new skills. Last year, all middle school students received iPads, and seven classrooms were outfitted with high-tech, interactive Promethean boards.  A new upcoming school-wide activity to remove micro-plastic from Kailua beach, however, will depend on good old-fashioned student power.  “At the core of our education are Catholic values,” says Vince Lowell, St. Anthony School Board chair. “The curriculum and technology may change, but our mission to help young minds develop into outstanding citizens will never change.”