Finding Beretania

The people, businesses, landmarks, history and food that make this street such an integral part of Honolulu’s cityscape.

In just 3.3 miles, Beretania Street manages to pack in a complete cross-section of urban life in Honolulu, passing through residential, business and government areas, and lined with food, shopping, history and interesting people. For all its charms, though, Beretania isn’t known as a walking street, and it’s easy to overlook all kinds of treasures as you’re zooming through on your way to work. We hit the streets, exploring the blocks between Moiliili and Iwilei on foot, to find the best of Beretania—the stuff that’s worth discovering for yourself.

Photo by Sergio Goes

Do you have a favorite Beretania spot? Tell us.

Washington Place

photo by David Croxford

Even if you lived 160 years, you’d be hard pressed to lead a more interesting life than what is perhaps Hawaii’s grandest building: Washington Place. The sea captain who had the mansion built in 1842, John Dominis, was lost at sea just before the home was completed in 1847. (He had left in hot pursuit of Chinese furnishings and was never seen again.) Washington Place hosted the Islands’ first visit of a Mr. S. Claus, on Christmas of 1858; witnessed the death of Queen Liliuokalani, who passed away in her enormous mahogany bed in 1917; and was later home to 12 governors and their families. Too bad the wallpaper can’t talk, but tours of this grand old home are available, just call 586-0240 to schedule. 320 S. Beretania St.

Hungry? Good Luck Chinese Restaurant, in the front of the Chinese Cultural Plaza, has lunch specials for $4.95. (The specials are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.)


Artist Moana Aluli Meyer fosters the loal art scene with StudioBe.

photo by Sergio Goes


Wriggle like you’re in Cairo, or calm your mind while chanting “om”—it’s your choice at the year-old StudioBe, which offers classes in Ashtanga yoga, Egyptian-style bellydancing and Tibetan meditation. The vision of artist Moana Aluli Meyer, StudioBe shares an interior landing with Meyer’s other outpost, Daspace, around the corner on Smith Street. StudioBe is, Meyer says, “a groovy little space. It’s multipurpose; we have drum circles, children’s workshops, we’re on the First Friday route. I do a lot of recycled art. We are happy to be on Beretania, we love the whole Chinatown thing.” For class schedules, visit 63 N. Beretania St., second floor, 351-4960.

Kaikea Kimura, Jarold Webb, John Oliviera, Aaron Lee and Tim Jackson, members of the Aala Park Boardshop team.

photo by Sergio Goes

Aala Park’s Skatepark

Skateboarders rip it up at Aala Park’s skatepark, which is run by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The 10,000-square-foot rink was renovated in 2002. According to skateboard Web site, the spot was, in the early-’70s, a roller-skating rink, before becoming “the birthplace and romping grounds of many talented skateboarders in Hawaii.” It’s open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily.


photo by Michael Keany

Hawaii State Capitol

Every state has its own way of working things out,” says guide Queenie Kuheana, as she leads a group of visitors around the Hawaii State Capitol (415 S. Beretania St.). Hawaii chooses to work out its laws in a remarkably open building, built between 1965 and 1969. The state seal, which hangs facing Beretania, is made of copper, Kuheana says, and weighs 7,500 pounds; the mosaic in the main hall is made of 600,000 tiles.

Cathedral Church of St. Andrew

You see a lot of brides at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew (fronting Beretania, its official address is Queen Emma Square). “It’s very popular for Japanese couples to do a photo op here,” says Linda Verdugo, executive assistant to the canon administrator. “They do what the law requires in Japan, and then come and do a ceremony.” The church is notable among the local music community for its large Evensong on the first Sunday of each month, at 7 p.m., from September to May. There are also two full choirs, and bell ringing by the St. Andrew’s Ringing Society. “They are all rung in a mathematical formula,” explains Verdugo. “It’s not a tune, it’s a sequence. And you either really take to it, or wonder what the heck they are doing.”

photo by Kathryn Drury Wagner

Mix Cafe Honolulu

Chef Bruno Iezzi and his wife, Kim, searched for months before deciding to stake a claim for their new restaurant near HPU on Beretania. Their Mix Cafe Honolulu offers simple, cooked-from-scratch food ($5 to $10) in a chic little spot. Shortly before the restaurant opened, we feasted with the couple and sampled the watermelon juice, waffles, banana-nut pancakes, penne with house-made pork sausage, and spaghetti with spicy shrimp sauce. Espressos and cakes are on offer too, as are salads and panini. It’s home cooking—if you were lucky enough to have an Italian chef in your kitchen. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. 35 S. Beretania St.; 537-1191.

Two statues mirror each other on opposite sides of Nuuanu Stream. Near Legend Seafood (at the Chinese Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St.), there’s a bronze of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, leader of China’s Republican movement. The circa-1976 statue was moved to this location in 1984. On the other bank of the stream, there’s a statue of Filipino novelist, poet and national political hero Dr. Jose Rizal, donated by the Filipina Society in 1983.



photo courtesy Honolulu Academy of Arts

Honolulu Academy of Arts

Honolulu Academy of Arts founder Anna Rice Cooke once lived on this property with her husband, Charles Montague Cooke, directly across from Thomas Square. When she chartered the museum in 1922, however, the Cookes donated the land, and their residence was torn down to make way for a building designed by New York architect Bertram Goodhue. Today, the museum boasts more than 40,000 items from all over the globe, including Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Pacific. It’s also become a reliably hip night spot, thanks to Art after Dark, held on the last Friday of every month, and the Doris Duke Theatre, one of the city’s last venues for art-house movies. 900 S. Beretania St., 532-8700.

Honolulu Police Department’s Law Enforcement Museum

“I’ve got 1,001 stories,” says Eddie Croom, the curator of the Honolulu Police Department’s Law Enforcement Museum. Walking through the museum, it’s not hard to see why—Oahu’s entire law enforcement history is on display, from the admirable to the lurid: confiscated Saturday-night-specials, cock-fighting equipment, drug paraphernalia, vintage surveillance equipment and forensic kits, even a retired Harley-Davidson service motorcycle. Croom says the museum, which welcomes 10,000 to 12,000 visitors a year, including many local school children, helps demystify the Honolulu Police Department. “We like to encourage people to ask questions, find out how things work behind the scenes, so they won’t be afraid to talk with a police officer,” he says. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; guided tours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 801 S. Beretania St., 529-3351.

photos BY (left) David Croxford, (right) Michael Keany


Robyn Buntin of Honolulu

photos courtesy OF Robyn Buntin

Robyn Buntin opened his first art gallery 33 years ago to indulge his passion for collecting. “I don’t buy anything that doesn’t move me,” he says. “I really love this stuff, and it’s a dreadful addiction, really.” He started small, but the shelves of his Beretania gallery are now lined with one-of-a-kind treasures from Asia and the Pacific, including a wide variety of intricately carved netsuke (a type of Japanese miniature sculpture), handpainted Chinese scrolls, and even a more-than-1,000-year-old Southeast Asian stone Buddha head that sells for $550,000. For those with slightly smaller budgets, the gallery also offers art prints and framing services. 848 S. Beretania St., 523-5913.

photo BY David Croxford

Thomas Square

Thomas Square was named in honor of British Admiral Richard Thomas, who in 1843 restored Kamehameha III to the throne, after a misguided naval officer overthrew the monarchy earlier that year. These days, the park hosts a steady stream of craft fairs, plant sales and dog shows, all under the shade of its iconic banyan trees.

Do drop in at the Dew Drop for some of chef Charlie Tsai’s favorite dishes.

photo BY Sergio Goes

Dew Drop Inn

It’s official: This small family restaurant near Pensacola Street has the cutest name ever. But it’s the food that has made the Dew Drop Inn a local favorite since 1988—an eclectic mix of Northern Chinese cuisine with Szechwan and Taiwanese influences. Owner and chef Charlie Tsai, originally from Taiwan, says cooking is in his blood. “My grandfather had a restaurant in Shanghai, and then my father had one in Taipei,” he says. “My older sister had one in Los Angeles, and my older brother had one there, too.” The hours are limited (lunch is available Tuesday through Thursday, 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., dinner Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 10, closed Mondays), but Tsai’s cooking makes it well worth dropping in. 1088 S. Beretania St., 526-9522.

photo BY Sergio Goes

First United Methodist Church

Perhaps best known for its distinctive chapel, designed by architect Alfred Preis in 1955, the First United Methodist Church serves as a dynamic community resource for its primarily Tongan congregation, with services in both English and Tongan. Senior pastor Eddie Kelemeni says he wants to continue to expand the church’s influence in the neighborhood. “We feed the homeless with more than 3,000 meals every week,” he says. “And I’m looking into after-school programs, to help the kids out with their homework. I wish I had 30 hours in a day, and eight days a week, to get everything done.” 522-9555, 1020 S. Beretania St.

photo BY David Croxford

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Honolulu Tabernacle

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Honolulu Tabernacle was built in 1941, 90 years after the first Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in Hawaii. Unlike most of their churches, which are short and square, the tabernacle boasts a tall steeple, a reflection pool and a giant mosaic of Jesus. While the temple in Laie is reserved for practicing Latter-day Saints, the tabernacle is open to everyone. Wear your Sunday best and attend one of the three services held here each week. Each service consists of three one-hour meetings—a “Sacrament Meeting” followed by two hour-long classes—but you don’t have to stay for all of them. 1560 S. Beretania St., 949-7878.

>> FAST FACT In an average 24-hour period, more than 20,000 cars pass through Beretania Street at the McCully intersection, according to the city Department of Transportation. The busiest hour? Between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., when 1,900 drivers make their way through the intersection.


photo BY David Croxford

Asian Grocery

You’ve probably already enjoyed Asian Grocery’s wares, even if you’ve never set foot in its crowded interior: shelves packed with cans and jars, boxes against the wall filled with unfamiliar goodies. “We supply most Thai and Vietnamese restaurants,” says Ravi Winter, the store’s manager. It’s worth making the trip yourself, though. The store has been importing its products directly from Asia since 1976, guaranteeing that you are getting the real deal. “A lot of companies take a certain spice or sauce and adapt it for Western tastes,” Winter says. “Our seasonings are authentic, just like they would taste in their home countries.” 1319 S. Beretania St., 593-8440.

photo BY David Croxford

Occidental Life Insurance Co.

What is that thing? An aircraft control tower? People have been wondering since 1967, when the Occidental Life Insurance Co. added a third story and the iconic cantilevered office to its building. The original Arizona sandstone-covered building, designed by Lemmon & Freeth, was built in 1951. And while the cantilevered section resembles something you’d see at the airport, it’s just an office and boardroom for the insurance company; no need to worry about jets landing on Beretania. 1163 S. Beretania St.

photo BY Sergio Goes

Mercado de la Raza

Sometimes, fast-food tacos just don’t do it. When you want real Mexican flavors, Mercado de la Raza (The People’s Market), Martha Sanchez’ Latin American grocery store, is the place to go. She has been selling exotic spices and other unique products for 14 years. Her tamales, made only twice a month, are popular, as well as her Peruvian produce, which you can’t find anywhere else. For a quick snack, pick up some salsa or guacamole, which she makes herself with fresh ingredients. “People just want authentic ingredients,” Sanchez says. “Chefs like coming here because they know they’re getting the real thing.” 1315 S. Beretania St., 593-2226.

photo BY Michael Keany

>> The symbolism of Central Union Church:

¥ The 12 sanctuary pillars represent the 12 apostles.
¥ The three lanterns at the church entry represent the holy trinity.
¥ The 10 French doors lining the church remind parishioners of the 10 Commandments.
1660 S. Beretania St., 941-0957.

Beretania Firsts:

1. The first traffic light in Honolulu was erected at the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Beretania Street on February 19, 1936.

2. Frozen food first arrived in Hawaii in 1938, when Rawley’s Ice Cream on South Beretania Street received a shipment of Birdseye products.

3. Oahu’s first major bridge was most likely the one that carries North Beretania Street across Nuuanu Stream. It cost $1,200 to build in 1840, which would be $21,915 today. The original bridge was destroyed by a flood seven years later.

4. In 1847, Honolulu’s first water supply pipe was built, linking a kalo field on Beretania to the wharf at Nuuanu Avenue.

5. Hawaii’s first two-way escalator began transporting weary shoppers in June 1947, when Sears, Roebuck and Co. opened the second floor of its Beretania St. department store.

Pet groomer Nick Kedl snuggles four of his customers.

photo BY Sergio Goes

Groom & Go

While cats don’t need pedicures, they do need their nails trimmed, and maybe an occasional bath. As any cat owner knows, both can be prickly tasks. Nick Kedl, a pet groomer at Groom & Go, has discovered the secret to washing a feline without the fury. “What you have to do is pick them up by the back of their necks. That relaxes them,” he says. If you’re going on a vacation, you can also check out Groom & Go’s boarding service. And it’s not just for cats and dogs. “Right now we have parakeets and rats,” he says. 1351 S. Beretania St., 596-4575.


Champion Malasada-maker Joc Miw, with his wife, Sandra.

photo: Sergio Goes

Champion Malasadas

“We always keep the fryer hot,” says Champion Malasadas owner Joc Miw. Anytime during the day or night (from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.) you can get a freshly fried and sugared, hot, delicious malassada. “It only takes five minutes to cook,” Miw says. At that speed, Champion turns out about 200 dozen malassadas (at HONOLULU, we favor the Portuguese spelling) each day. While its basic malassadas bring in 60 percent of the business, customers snap up the custard- or chocolate-filled malassadas as well. Champion is closed on Mondays. 1926 S. Beretania St., 947-8778.

photo by David Croxford

Hawaiian Rent-All

For nearly 40 years, the regularly changing wisecracks on Hawaiian Rent-All’s storefront sign have been a fixture in Honolulu. Owner Paul Gibfried took over creating those catchy phrases when he purchased the business from the original owners in 2003. Though it may be the sign that grabs your attention, cruise around the shop, which offers more than 1,000 rentals, from mango pickers to 100-cup coffee pots to construction machinery. So before you buy that mini excavator you’ve been eyeing, consider renting it for $250 a day instead. 1946 S. Beretania St., 949-3961,

photo BY David Croxf


Casablanca’s selection of wedding gowns and services earned the bridal boutique a Best of HONOLULU nod in 2005. In July, Gladys Agsalud moved her 14-year-old business from Mapunapuna to its new Beretania Street address. Designing the new location from scratch allowed Agsalud to create areas to stage bridal photos, such as the Mediterranean-style rooftop and interior spiral staircase. To further cater to brides-to-be, Casablanca plans to host trunk shows and fashion shows, introducing new and exclusive lines from Agsalud’s trips to the Mainland and abroad. The best part about moving to town? “We’re five minutes from everywhere,” she says. 2058 S. Beretania St., 941-4696.

photo BY David Croxford

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii started as a 1986 project by the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. Then, in 2002, it was almost shuttered due to $9 million of debt. A storm of fundraising ensued; within two months, supporters had raised the money to pay off the debt. Today, the Japanese Cultural Center is the epicenter of Japanese culture in Honolulu. It hosts various events for the Japanese community, ranging from art exhibits to martial arts training in its dojo. Check out “Okage Sama De,” a permanent art exhibit detailing the history of Japanese Americans. 2454 S. Beretania St., 945-7633.

WATCH OUT! Keep an eye out at the intersection of Beretania and Alakea: Between 2002 and 2004, it was the scene of 42 major traffic accidents—more than any other spot on Oahu.

photo BY David Croxford

The Hiroshima-Honolulu Torii

In 2001, Honolulu’s sister city, Hiroshima, sent it a scale replica of the torii gate at Miyajima. Made of stainless steel and titanium, and half the size of the original, it symbolizes friendship between the two cities. In the Shinto religion, a torii is the entry to sacred grounds. Since the gate stands at the juncture of South Beretania and South King streets—it’s anyone’s guess as to which one of the streets is the sacred one.


photo BY David Croxford

The Gun Source

Shotguns and rifles stand in tall, neat rows along the back wall of The Gun Source. Pistols and revolvers fill the glass cases, and pepper spray and gun paraphernalia hang on aisle hooks. While the firepower may intimidate newcomers, owner Anthony Lee welcomes even the most gun-shy customers. Whether for self-defense, law enforcement or hunting, Lee provides each buyer with information on gun safety classes, which you need to take obtain a gun permit. He also caters to hard-core gun enthusiasts, offering in-house repair services and special orders on hard-to-find firearms. 2357 S. Beretania St., 944-3850.

Anna Bannana’s manager, Rick Kubach, deftly handles nightlife staples such as pool tables.

photo BY Sergio Goe

Anna Bannana’s Bar

This bar, with its grimy, monkey-painting-covered exterior, has been misspelling “bananas” since 1969. What keeps people coming back when nothing has changed since the ’70s? The casual, friendly atmosphere, where you can drink a beer and relax among employees who know your name. They’ve recently started dipping into the art world to attract new patrons. “We have a monthly poetry gathering on the first Tuesday of each month,” says manager Rick Kubach. “It’s really popular; we’ve even had people fly in from San Francisco for it.” Perhaps they’ll read some of Shakespeare’s poems; the famous poet’s name was spelled 99 different ways by himself and his colleagues. 2440 S. Beretania St., 946-5190.

FAST FACT Beretania is actually a Hawaiian street name. What does it mean? Britain. Correct way to pronounce it? Bay-ray-tah-knee-yah. Good luck getting that to catch on.

(left) In this undated photo from the State Archives, a horse-drawn trolley passes the gates of Washington Place (on the right). (middle) Paradise of the Pacific, predecessor to HONOLULU Magazine, once called Beretania Street home. In 1925, it set up shop at 424 Beretania St. (right) Fort Street Mall was once just plain Fort Street. This State Archives photo, taken from Beretania Street sometime between 1900 and 1904, shows the Coyne Furniture Co. Today, the building houses part of Hawaii Pacific University. On the left, you can spy the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States.