How Honolulu Gets Its Street Names and Neighborhood Themes

Streets named after flowers, birds, clouds—tell us your neighborhood theme!
Honolulu Street Names


Ever wonder what goes into naming a street? Since 1978, Honolulu City and County law has required all new streets be given Hawaiian names. However, it’s not uncommon to see non-Hawaiian street names—all of which were presumably named prior to 1978. With that legislation came more rules: Hawaiian names must be appropriate to scenic, cultural and topographic features; street names can’t be more than 18 characters in length; and street names must include correct diacritical markings.


While there are some names that we’ll never really understand, there are many neighborhoods on O‘ahu where there are clear themes, such as the birds of Kāhala (‘Elepaio, Pueo, Koloa, ‘Ulili and ‘I‘iwi) or the sea creatures of ‘Āina Haina (‘Ō‘io, Pāpa‘i, Nenue and ‘Opihi.) Other fun ones we’ve noticed are:  


  • In the Koko Kai neighborhood, street names are Kaua‘i towns and places: Po‘ipū, Nāwiliwili, Polihale, Anahola, Lāwa‘i, Makaweli, Hanapēpē, Lumaha‘i, Kōke‘e and Moloa‘a.

  • On Wilhelmina Rise, many streets are named after Matson ships: Monterey, Matsonia, Lurline, Mikahala and Claudine. Carnation, however, wasn’t a ship—it’s named after a carnation farm that used to be there. 

  • In the back of Pālolo along Carlos Long Street, there is a flowery neighborhood: Gardenia, Jasmine, Orchid, Narcissus and Magnolia.

  • In Kaimukī, we see the alphabetically organized streets of Brokaw, Catherine, Duval, Elizabeth, Francis, George, Hayden and James.

  • Around Punchbowl, streets are named for the Portuguese immigrants who settled in the area, famous Portuguese people and the areas from which they came, such as Magellan, Azores, Madeira, Funchal and Lisbon. And Lusitana sure sounds quite a bit like Lusitania.

  • In the McCully area, you’ll find the trees and plants: Fern, Lime, Wiliwili, Hō‘awa, Citron and Algaroba.

  • Near the airport, the streets are named, appropriately, for clouds. Aolele (flying cloud), Aolewa (floating cloud), Aoloko (inner cloud) and Aowena (rosy cloud).

  • Royalty rules in Waikīkī, and not surprisingly, given that it was once the place for royals to relax and unwind. Queens Kapi‘olani and Lili‘uokalani each have streets named for them, King Kalākaua is the namesake of our busiest street for tourists, and Prince Kūhiō and Princess Ka‘iulani both have streets named after them as well.


We’re sure there are many, many more. Tell us your neighborhood themes in the comments!