Exploring Honolulu on Google Street View is Like Traveling Back in Time
Google Maps hasn’t updated its Honolulu images since 2011. Do you remember what these neighborhoods used to look like?
Honolulu has seen a lot of changes in recent years. From skyscrapers going up in Kaka‘ako to completely revamped visitor destinations to familiar local spots now demolished, this city looks remarkably different from how it did even just a few years ago. If only there was a way to go back and see the Honolulu of yesterday. …
Luckily, there is. In August 2011, Google sent a special vehicle to Hawai‘i to map ground-level images for its Street View project. This neat technology provides an interactive panorama of most streets in Honolulu (and many places around the world), allowing anyone on the internet to explore a city, for better or for worse. For places inaccessible by car, Google even sends people out wearing special backpacks equipped with cameras.
But here’s the thing: Google hasn’t sent its Street View team back to Hawai‘i since 2011, meaning whatever photos were taken back then are the same ones that are up today. As far as Street View and the rest of the world are concerned, Honolulu today looks as it did eight years ago.
For some neighborhoods, this doesn’t matter because not a lot has changed and certain areas do look the same. But for Waikīkī, Ala Moana, Ward and other places that have undergone major changes in recent years, Honolulu looks like a completely different city. Here’s a roundup of some Google Street View snapshots that look nothing like present-day Honolulu. Can you identify where these places are?
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Before becoming the future home of Ward Village luxury tower Anaha, the corner of Kamake‘e and Auahi streets in Kaka‘ako was home to Pier 1 Imports and a parking lot. (Bonus points if you can remember this corner in the late ’90s, when it was the original spot of the Ward Kua ‘Aina Sandwich Shop before it moved across the street to Ward Centre, where Piggy Smalls is today.)
While the Ward theater complex looks relatively unchanged, it’s the parking lot across the street that’s interesting to see. When this image was taken, it would still be three more years before Ward Village would break ground on Waiea, the wavy green-blue reflective skyscraper that currently occupies this spot.
Ward Warehouse, at the corner of Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard. Back when, you know, there was Ward Warehouse.
Six Eighty got a facelift in recent years, going from a relatively drab white office building along Ala Moana Boulevard to the vibrant green-and-black apartment complex it is today. This was the first major construction project of Kamehameha Schools’ “Our Kaka‘ako” community plan; the first residents moved into their units in November 2012. Highway Inn would move into the ground floor in late 2013 and Sprint would get bounced to the building on the left (although in this photo, the new building wasn’t constructed yet).
Hank’s Haute Dogs is coming up on a decade in Kaka‘ako, although it doesn’t look like this anymore. A new building, part of Salt at Our Kaka‘ako, would eventually pop up between Hank’s former location (which is now The Boiling Crab) and the back of Six Eighty.
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Cooke Street became known for hosting myriad street events and outdoor gatherings in the mid-2010s. Bike shops and performance venues now fill this street, as well as the latest murals from the annual Pow! Wow! event, but back in 2011 things were still pretty quiet.
The former Auahi Business Center is now one of the central hubs of retail and restaurant complex Salt at Our Kaka‘ako. Remember walking past this corner during Honolulu Night Market or Eat the Street? Now this spot is attracting crowds earlier in the day as Morning Brew Coffee & Bistro. Next door is J’s BBQ, women’s clothing shop Here, and beachy boutiques Urban Island Society and Stoke House.
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Before it was Bevy, it was the sports bar Scores at the corner of Auahi and Keawe streets (although, the lava rock wall is still there). Across the street, the former CompUSA was demolished to make way for The Collection Honolulu, which finished construction in 2016.
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Before Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, Ala Moana Center had a Sears. Well, there’s still technically a Sears, but the new one that reopened in 2017 is just for appliances and mattresses. Back before the big Sears store closed in 2013, Ala Moana had a two-story parking garage as a buffer to Pi‘ikoi Street. Not anymore.
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Today, this corner is Park Lane Ala Moana, mall-top luxury residences that borrow their name from the prestigious road in London as well as the term for a garden walkway like the one that leads from the mall to the apartments. Eight years ago, the only walkway was along the edge of Pi‘ikoi Street and Ala Moana Boulevard, but it was relatively green, too.
In this snapshot of the former International Market Place in Waikīkī, you can still catch a glimpse of the kiosks that filled the outdoor shopping complex that closed at the end of 2013.
University Square was razed at the end of 2016 to make way for the Hale Mahana Apartments, a high-end housing complex aimed at students attending nearby UH Mānoa and Chaminade. There aren’t nearly as many retail offerings on the ground floor of the new building as there were in the former three-story shopping center. But among the new places is a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, so that’s something.
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The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group returns to Hawai‘i—it separated from The Kāhala Hotel in 2005—with a new 36-story tower set to go up across from the Hawai‘i Convention Center in 2021. The building will replace a strip mall at the corner of Kapi‘olani Boulevard and Atkinson Drive, which includes the 7-Eleven where The Rock used to steal Snickers bars as a teenager.
Old Wai‘alae Bowl and McDonald’s at Kāhala Mall were demolished to make way for a strip mall—and a newer McDonald’s.
The ’70s-era King’s Village Shopping Center in Waikīkī, styled after Disneyland’s Main Street USA, closed earlier this year. Coming up next in this spot: a 32-story tower by Hilton Grand Vacations set to open sometime in 2022.
Back when nearly this entire block was Indigo restaurant.
Nearly every business on Hotel Street between Nu‘uanu Avenue and Smith Street—notable exceptions are Smith’s Union Bar and Maria Bonita—has changed in the past 10 years. In 2011, Bar 35 and Nextdoor had been around for a few years and Downbeat Diner had just opened. But Lucky Belly was still the former Mini Garden and Livestock Tavern was Amy’s Place. The neighborhood’s transformation to the varied mix of eateries and bars it is today had yet to happen.
Read more stories by James Charisma