Exploring Kapolei

Originally dubbed the “Second City,” Kapolei has grown steadily over the past decade. Residents and townies alike have witnessed the construction of a new highway offramp, as well as sprouting neighborhoods and even a Target and Costco. Makakilo, Campbell Industrial Park, Ko Olina and Kalaeloa—or Barbers Point, as many still call it—carry the 96707 Kapolei zip code. We discovered 27 reasons to head out west.

Photo: David Croxford

En Fuego Grill & Poke

While its name is Spanish  for “on fire,” En Fuego Grill & Poke’s cuisine is definitely local: garlic chicken, grilled poke, short ribs and beer-battered fish are among the eatery’s most popular items. “We sell a lot of fish and chips, garlic ahi and pork chops,” says owner Ross Okuhara, who opened En Fuego in 2003. For baby’s first birthday or graduation parties, the restaurant also caters, with à la carte pans of everything from kālua pig to mahimahi. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 534, 674-8805, enfuegogrill.com.

Photo: David Croxford

Tokyo Noodle Shop

» Diners at Tokyo Noodle House  don’t seem to mind the restaurant’s no-frills ambience. The tables at this small eatery are almost always packed with customers slurping down seafood ramen, digging into shrimp-fried rice or biting into pork-fried noodles. Perhaps the best deal on the already budget-friendly menu (almost everything costs less than $8) is the not-so-mini mini ramen set, which comes with a steaming bowl of ramen, a side of rice and four meat-and-vegetable gyoza for about $7. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 510, 692-9888.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Kazoku Sushi

“We wanted to offer a more traditional, sit-down sushi experience, with conveyor-belt pricing,” says owner Melody Chin. “Customers can have the variety right in front of them, plus it’s fast.” On a recent visit, the place was hopping, as customers helped themselves to dozens of plates circling the double-looped conveyor belt—cold tofu, gyoza, edamame, chicken teriyaki and specialty sushi rolls were among the day’s selections. The combination bento, which comes with two choices of entrées, salad, rice and miso soup for $15, was the lunch of choice for several of our fellow diners. 338 Kamokila Blvd., Suite 102, 674-8844.



Why I Love Kapolei

Maeda Timson

Chair, Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board

Its Uniqueness
“There is no place in Hawaii where a city was built with the community involved. Yeah, we have growing pains, but that comes with building a new city. There’s a lot of jobs, there’s a lot of opportunities. Our future is so bright in Kapolei, I wear sunglasses every day!”

The Neighborhood Board
“The neighborhood board gets to see projects before they happen and is able to comment.” Those comments, she explains, can help solidify or make the developer think twice about project plans.

The Latest Project
Kroc Center: “It’s a huge community center: activities from swimming, daycare, seniors activities, cultural events. It’s an opportunity physically, culturally and spiritually.


Chonte Fujioka serves up breakfast at Hapa Grill.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams

Hapa Grill

It’s a family affair at Hapa Grill: Owner Shannon Putnam purchased the five-year-old restaurant, formerly Jurison’s Westside Café, from her uncle and runs it with the help of her parents, Richard and Ellen Tangonan, the retired owners of Sassy Kassy’s lunch wagon. “My mom makes her homemade brownies for the restaurant,” says Putnam. “My father makes his teriyaki sauce for us. We have certain elements of our menu that really draw on their experience and specialties.” The diverse selections include such breakfast staples as Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict; pastas; salads; Sassy Kassy’s teriyaki; and local favorites like mochiko chicken. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 539, 674-8400, hapagrill.net.

Hana Sushi

Hana Sushi is one of the few Kapolei eateries where you might feel underdressed in board shorts and a T-shirt; the place is popular with local business people looking for a relaxed, non-fast-food lunch. The day we dropped by, everyone was digging into piles of golden, crunchy shrimp tempura, while we opted for sushi, including a spicy salmon, shrimp tempura and avocado maki. The menu is huge, with a page of appetizers that includes spicy calamari and age shumai; salads; and entrées such as chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, miso butterfish and tonkatsu. 590 Farrington Highway, 674-9777.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory

The Kapolei location  is big on style, with oversize, custom-made pendant lights and dark-wood and red accents. “Kapolei is a growing city and it’s a beautiful city, and it fit in with the type of architecture we were looking to put up,” says manager Elliott Chun, whose father, Nelson, founded the company. The restaurant is known for its hits-the-spot Chinese food, including perennial favorites such as garlic chicken, fried saimin and Hong Kong chow mein. Diners should also try the manapua, which are available in such inventive flavors as Thai curry chicken and sweet potato. 885 Kamokila Blvd., 693-8838, chunwahkam.com.


Grindz on the Go

Campbell Industrial Park’s lunch wagons cater to area workers hungry for heaping portions of cheap, ono grindz.

Norma Dileon, owner and chef of Norma 2, serves up plate lunches to hardworking customers.

Photo: David Croxford

Monday through Friday, Kalaeloa Boulevard, the main artery bisecting Campbell Industrial Park, is humming with the sounds of industry—the rat-a-tat-tat of heavy machinery, the roar of semis rumbling down the road and the sizzle of meat on the grill. What’s that you say? Meat? Sizzling? Yup, steak, ribs, pork chops and just about anything else you can think of—from fried noodles to fried-rice omelets—is being cooked up at the dozen or so lunch wagons lining the bustling boulevard.

Campbell’s lunch-wagon scene has flourished in recent years, growing from a handful of trucks—Elena’s, Rose’s and Lanie’s lunch wagons have all operated here for 20-plus years—to some 15 to 20 chow carts. “We’ve been in business for about 25 years, and at this location for about 10,” says Norma Dileon, the chef and owner of Norma 2, which serves such Filipino specialties as pork guisantes (pork and peas) and dinuguan (pork blood stew). “When we started out here, there were about three wagons.”

Regulars of Lanie's lunch wagon enjoy the pinakbet, lechon and beef stew plate.

Photo: David Croxford

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., hordes of workers wearing oil-stained coveralls and scuffed work boots pour out of the surrounding buildings and descend upon the wagons. “People in this area are looking for quality and quantity,” says Robin Ganir, the owner of  Ganir Catering & Da Red Lunch Wagon, which is popular for its broke da mout’ daily specials, like teriyaki beef and grilled shrimp. “The boys around here can put away a lunch plate, easy.”

With Kapolei Commons and its still-limited dining options a five- to 10-minute drive from Campbell, the lunch wagons have the upper hand in terms of expediency. “Most guys only have 30 minutes for their lunch breaks. The lunch trucks are convenient for them,” says Junior, the grill master at Samantha’s Lunch Wagon, which is known for its flavorful steak-and-onion plate.

There’s the added bonus of ample street parking: Semi-truck drivers literally pull over next to their favorite lunch wagons, hop out, order and are back on the road in less than 10 minutes.

While there’s definitely a sense of competition among the wagon owners, these are friendly rivalries, and everyone I chat with is happy to recommend another truck’s food, as soon as they’re done telling you why theirs is the best. Fortunately, there’s enough business to go around, and each wagon has its own rabidly loyal following. “People have their favorites,” says an employee of Precision Truss. “I only go to Samantha’s.”

At Rose’s Lunchwagon, which sells Chinese food, owner Rose Ha greets one of her regulars, a city sanitation worker, by asking him if he wants his usual—chicken and mushrooms. “He comes here every day,” says Ha. It’s also a reminder that the food is good. “The food is what makes the lunch wagons popular,” says Ada Summers, of Kristen’s Lunchwagon. “Our prices are good, too.”



The Meaning Behind the Name

Kapolei takes its name from a volcanic cone, Puu O Kapolei. The military later built Fort Barrette there, and today it is an archery range (see page 53). In Hawaiian, Kapolei means “beloved Kapo.” Kapo was a sister of Pele.

Kapolei Demographics

Median Age: 31.2
High school graduates: 27.9 percent
Bachelor’s degree holders: 15.6 percent
Source: Kapolei Property Development, 2000 Census.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Pho & Company

The first sign that this place would live up to the hype (several friends had recommended it) was the six-top of Honolulu Police Department’s finest, all gobbling up steaming bowls of pho. The second sign was the heavenly aroma that greeted us at the door. The third sign was the prompt service—we were seated and given menus in under a minute. Then there was the food: The round eye steak pho came with a generous portion of rice noodles and several cuts of tender steak, and the broth, which tasted divinely of beefy, spicy goodness, was quickly spooned up. 890 Kamokila Blvd., 692-9833.




Places: UH West Oahu

After more than 30 years in the making, the new UH West Oahu (UHWO) campus will finally be built in Kapolei beginning next month. Its first five buildings—all meeting LEED standards—include classrooms, a campus center, a library and an administrative building, to open in fall 2012. Developers also hope to start building a 250-room dormitory. “We want to fill a niche in [higher] education in Hawaii,” says Chancellor Gene Awakuni. “UHWO will be a regional leader.” The four-year-degree campus will offer majors that compliment those available at UH Mānoa, such as culinary management, healthcare and elementary education.

Photo: Courtesy of Azul



Located at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, Azul is a special-occasion heavy hitter. The interior smartly takes advantage of its resort surroundings, with dining spaces that open up to lagoons, tropical gardens and a cozy lānai brightened by tiki torches. The focus here is on using fresh, locally grown ingredients—the Hāmākua heirloom tomato stack with Nalo Farms’ fresh sweet basil is one example, as is a Hawaiian ahi tartare with black truffle and taro chips. The hits of the evening included a ridiculously tender eight-ounce cut of Wagyu beef, and the Taste of Azul menu—a choice of antipasti, an entrée and a dessert for $45. 92-1001 Olani St., 679-0079, ihilani.com.


Whether you want a sleeve or a tiny plumeria, James Hoffman of Momentum Tattoo can ink you in his spotless shop.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Momentum Tattoo

When we walked into Momentum Tattoo,  we had to make sure that it was, in fact, a place to get inked. The walls are white, the floor is wood and the place is spotless. Now that’s our kind of tattoo shop. Self-taught artist and owner James Hoffman has been tattooing for 13 years, and says most of his clients request local designs. “We do a lot of tribal tattoos and Polynesian sleeves,” he explains. The shop also offers piercings, if metal is more your thing. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 511, 674-9851, momentumtattoohawaii.com.





Simply Organized store supervisor Leilani Elmy can help you take control of your closets or cupboards.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Simply Organized

Whether you’re a neat freak or Martha Stewart’s worst nightmare, Simply Organized is the place to go when clutter is your nemesis. Too many shoes? A floor-to-ceiling “shoe tree” holds 30 pairs in one foot of space. Can’t see all the food in your pantry? The store boasts an entire wall of see-through food containers, from fat to skinny, glass to plastic. “In Hawaii, our living spaces are so small,” says buyer Michelle Suzuki. “The owners saw a need for a store that offers solutions for our tight spaces.” (They also own City Mill; in-store déjà vu explained). 889 Kamokila Blvd., 693-8888, simplyorganized.net.



Places: Family Court Complex

This February, the state judicial system introduced its newest facility—the family court building in Kapolei. Judges heard the court’s first hearing in March. The $133-million building features art glass windows, stone sculptures and the latest technology, allowing for video teleconferencing. For more than 20 years, family court was located in the Circuit Court building in Honolulu.



Photo: Sheila Sarhangi

Westside Dive & Tackle

“I grew up next to the ocean— fishing, diving, surfing,” says Kris Tyler (pictured), who was raised in Florida, but spent summers with family on Maui. “Ten years ago I wanted a change, so I decided to move to Oahu.” In April 2008, Tyler opened Westside Dive & Tackle, which offers scuba and snorkel equipment, but specializes in all things spearfishing, from gear to repairs. A large cooler near the register also holds frozen bait—tako, squid and small fish—for on-the-go fishermen. Interested in spearfishing? This summer, Tyler debuts a two-day group class for beginners aptly called, “Spectator to Spearo.” 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 504, 228-2295, westsidespearfishing.com.

HIC Outlet

At the HIC Outlet, it’s typical to see new hats, clothes and backpacks at a fraction of the retail price. “About 60 percent of the store is all marked-down items, either because the regular-priced stores didn’t sell them, or our vendors like Hurley and Roxy wanted to bring in special items at a discount,” says store manager Lehua Aiu. On a recent visit, we found colorful beach dresses and men’s T-shirts between 25 percent to 75 percent off. Did someone say tax refund? 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 529, 674-4001, hicsurf.com.




Photo: Sheila Sarhangi

Michelle's Bali Designs

“It’s not glamorous, but a lot of people don’t mind the location,” says owner Michelle Smith (pictured). Her store showcases furniture out of three warehouse containers at Aloha Island Storage. “If it looks good in your house, that’s all that matters.” Smith imports custom teak and rattan furniture and décor made by Javanese and Balinese craftsmen. Items such as beds, dressers, coffee tables, patio furniture and bookshelves possess a sophisticated Island feel, plus Smith’s low overhead costs mean wholesale prices. Another attraction: A percentage of the sales support a birthing clinic in Bali. Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays by appointment. 2009 Lauwilili St. 298-1774, michellesbalidesigns.com.


How DHHL is Helping Kapolei

Kaulana Park
Director, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL)

Its Mission
Established by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, the department leases lands and provides homes to Native Hawaiians; there are currently thousands on a residential wait list. “Our main objective is to [build] residential, single-family homes,” he says. “We do that by partnering with others to create self-sustainable, healthy communities.” The department is in the process of constructing 700 single-family homes on Oahu.

A New Location
Last May, DHHL moved its offices from Honolulu to Kapolei. “For us,” he explains, “it’s about being closer to our beneficiaries, which is mostly along the west side of the island. They feel comfortable coming into our place … we want them to feel at home.”

Hawaiian Values
“Every time we do things, we look at what our ancestors did. Nobody sees what’s underneath—you don’t see what the Hawaiians did—how did that all work? How come they were so vibrant? How come they were so self-sufficient?  It goes back to the values—hard work, discipline, sharing. That is what created, I believe, a prosperous community.”



Wet 'N Wild

HONOLULU readers know all about the Wet ‘n’ Wild’s slides and attractions; the water park was voted Best Family Attraction in this year’s Best of HONOLULU. In addition to surfing on Da Flowrider or floating down the Kapolei Kooler, you can enjoy concerts and movie nights at the water park. On Saturday evenings the wave pool turns into a movie theater during the Dive ‘n’ Movies, showing such films as Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are. 400 Farrington Highway, 674-9283, hawaii.mywetnwild.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Gialuchi Day Spa

Photo: David Croxford

Gialuchi Boutique & Day Spa

From haircuts and massages  to pedicures and eyelash perms, Gialuchi Boutique & Day Spa is a one-stop shop that takes the hassle out of pampering yourself. Its most popular service is the Brazilian wax, but rest assured, owner Gloria Sterman says that employing seasoned professionals is one of her main priorities. “In order to get the best service, you have to bring in pros who are skilled at what they do,” she explains. The front of the store also has a small selection of women’s clothes, like dresses by designer Lucy Love, as well as product lines, such as Eminence Organic Skin Care. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 165, 674-4424, gialuchidayspa.com.

Thanks to KIHA owner Richard Pentecost, inline hockey leagues now have a proper place to practice and compete.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas

They run off of more than 1,000 solar panels. Their floors have more than 30,000 plastic tiles. They are the Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas (KIHA), which opened in April and are the first and only inline arenas on Oahu, nestled in the Campbell Industrial Park. Players skate on a smooth, hard plastic surface and can practice with a team or during the arenas’ open skate hours. The arenas are also home to youth and adult hockey leagues. Owner Richard Pentecost was inspired to build KIHA after watching his then 8-year-old son’s hockey team get crushed by opponents during a Mainland competition. “Now people have a top-notch place to skate,” he says. 1057 Opakapaka St., 372-9270, kihawaii.com.




Barbers Point Naval Air Museum

“Everything we have flew here,”  says Brad Hayes, the director of the Barbers Point Naval Air Museum, referring to the nine airplanes housed at the museum. The largest is a P-3A, a plane used in antisubmarine warfare. Two of the aircraft were used during World War II; Hayes says the museum hopes to add a third plane. The museum is open by appointment only, and Hayes says he gets many student visitors. “I try to advocate history,” he says. 682-3982, nambarberspoint.org

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams

Kapolei Skate Park

Westside skateboarders rejoiced when the Kapolei Skate Park opened nearly four years ago. The park is 7,000 square feet of concrete goodness, and features a 10-foot, a 9-foot and an 8.5-foot bowl into which skaters drop and freestyle.

Places: Island Pacific Academy

This is the only private K-12 school in Kapolei. In May, Island Pacific Academy (IPA) held its first high school graduation, with 45 seniors.



Photos: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams

Hawaiian Railway Society Train Rides

Did you know that  during the 19th century it took a day to travel from Honolulu to Ewa on foot or by horseback? (And you thought Ewa-bound traffic was bad.) In 1889, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham founded the Oahu Railway & Land Co. (OR&L) to transport sugar cane and pineapple from Ewa to town. During World War II, the Navy used the tracks to haul ammunition from Pearl Harbor. Part of the railroad’s tracks and cars are still in use today, thanks to the Hawaiian Railway Society. Since the mid-1970s, the society has offered Sunday rides from its Ewa station through Kapolei and Ko Olina into Nanakuli. “The society restored 6.5 miles of track and restores and maintains the cars and locomotives,” says society administrator Tom McCarthy. The 90-minute tours, in which the train moves at 15 mph, include the history of the OR&L as well as historical and current landmarks in the area. 91-1001 Renton Road, 681-5461, hawaiianrailway.com.

Strike! Casual bowlers or pros-in-training can get some lane time at the Barbers Point Bowling Center, which is now open to the public.

Photo: Elyse Butler and Matt Mallams


Barber's Point Bowling Center

To the local bowling community,  Bev Brennan and Linda Painter are heroes. The two women decided to buy the Barbers Point Bowling Center and reopen it to the general public in March after the Navy closed it. “There was a need for [the center] on the west side,” says Brennan. “There was no place for families to enjoy themselves for not a lot of money.” Painter adds that “a lot of TLC” was put into renovating the alley, including making the 16 lanes ADA accessible. This month the lanes will be resurfaced. The center also hosts local and Mainland bowling competitions and fundraisers. 91-1259 Saratoga Ave.; call 673-2695 for hours and prices.




Kapolei Yoga & Dance Studio

Whether you’re looking  to strengthen your core or practice your dance moves, Kapolei Yoga & Dance Studio has a class for you. Owners and instructors Tahia Lang and Anna Peahu offer classes in yoga, Pilates, hip-hop, kickboxing, ballet and more, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. “We’ve both been involved in yoga and fitness and wanted to do things our way,” says Lang. “The studio is a more personal and comfortable environment.” It’s easier on the wallet, too, with free hip-hop classes on Thursdays, free summer yoga sessions in Kapolei Park on Saturdays, and an all-ages b-boy program. “We also offer free ballet and fitness classes for children in foster care,” says Lang.  388 Kamokila Blvd., Suite 201, 674-9642, kapoleiyogaanddancestudio.com.

Places: Pacific Aerospace Training Center

Each semester, 50 to 60 Honolulu Community College students learn to fly single-and twin-engine planes at the Kalaeloa Airport to earn their Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) license. 682-6390, pacificaerospace.org.

Photo: Courtesy of Kapolei Archery Range

Puu o Kapolei Archery Range

Next door to the skate park  is the more than 20-year-old archery range, formerly Fort Barrette. The Puu O Kapolei Archery Range is maintained by the 100-member-strong Bushwacker Archery Club and is open on the weekends. The range features four areas: staggered bales, an Olympic-size range at 100 yards, an indoor range and, for those who feel like “hunting,” an 26-artificial-animal archery range with a replicated giraffe, rhino and deer. “We’re the only place on the island with an animal range,” says club representative Weyland Bailey. The club also hosts four to six competitions a year, from keiki tournaments to state championships. Look for the red arrow marking the archery range off Fort Barrette Road; da6pakbushwackers.com.          



Photos: Courtesy Ko Olina Resort

Where to Catch Some Sun

Ko Olina Lagoons

The Ko Olina Resort is popular among families for its four white sand lagoons, with clear waters and little waves. They are open to the public, but parking is limited, so it is best to arrive before 9 a.m. Otherwise, expect a 15-to 45-minute wait.

White Plains Beach

The drive to White Plains Beach takes you past what is left of Barbers Point Naval Air Station and land that is being redeveloped into Kalaeloa, a community within Kapolei. Residents take advantage of Kapolei’s only surfable beach, which has a clear view of Oahu’s south shore, to Honolulu and Diamond Head.



Where to Golf in Kapolei

Ko Olina Golf Club

Voted by our readers as Best Golf Course in this year’s Best of Honolulu issue, this 18-hole championship golf course challenges even the best players with its strategic holes and water hazards. 92-1220 Aliinui Drive, koolinagolf.com.

Kapolei Golf Course

A fun course for all skill levels, this golf course offers beautiful views of five surrounding lakes, while you tackle the undulating fairways and elevated greens. 91-701 Farrington Highway, kapoleigolfcourse.com.

Barbers Point Golf Course

A course for military and government employees only, it’s one of the few that will actually let you walk while enjoying the smooth greens and flat course. 2249 Essex Road, 682-1911.