Reasons We Love Honolulu

People say it all the time: Lucky we live Hawaii. The phrase rolls off the tongue almost without thought. But as we were putting together this month’s package of features—including a story about the Hawaiian language’s amazing recovery, a roundup of people making Honolulu better and a list of endangered historic places worth saving—we realized: you know what? We really are lucky. This city is such an amazing place, filled with so much cool, exciting stuff, we decided it was time to celebrate that we get to call it home. Oh, Honolulu, how do we love thee?

Let us count the ways.

Photo: Gary Saito



Because at least three local companies are making chocolate bars made from cacao that was grown on this very island.



Because we use the sun for more than just getting a tan. With 137 watts of solar-generated electricity produced per capita, Hawaii is one of the nation’s top solar-power generators, behind Arizona and Nevada. We have so many photovoltaic panels feeding electricity back into the grid, we’ve maxed out the capacity of 43 of our power circuits statewide. And we use our renewable energy efficiently: More than anywhere else in the nation, Hawaii uses energy savings to fund the installation of those same energy-saving projects in a loop that amounts to more than $14 million in savings per year, also thanks to geothermal and wind power.


Because you can get a malassada any way you want: hot, simple and fresh at Champions; covered in li hing powder at Leonard’s; done up all fancy with lilikoi and locally made ice cream at Chef Mavro; or crossed with a flaky croissant at the Pacific Beach Hotel. But no matter what, you’re gonna end up with sugar on your fingers.


Because our city buses throw the shaka.


Photo: Courtesy TheBus


Because Obama is coming home for Christmas—again!


Because aloha attire is en vogue. Not just a staid business look or tacky tourist uniform any more, aloha wear has been getting legitimately hip and modern. Brands such as Roberta Oaks, Sig Zane and Reyn Spooner are updating classic patterns and styles to reflect today’s fashions, even showcasing them on the runway. Roberta Oaks’ men’s and women’s aloha shirts are cut to fit with bright (but not loud) colors, while Sig Zane strays from the mundane with original designs. Reyn Spooner, an aloha-wear staple since the 1960s, has teamed up with Urban Outfitters, Stussy and Opening Ceremony for mainstream appeal to a younger generation.


Because you can get help with just about anything through the ohana network. When uncle’s an auto mechanic, auntie’s a tax lawyer, your mother’s cousin has an extended-bed pickup truck that’ll fit that big couch you need moved and your hanai grandfather is good friends with the cop who just pulled you over, life is good.


Because if you do feel like dressing up on a Sunday, there’s always the North Shore polo matches. Come in all white.

Photo: Gary Saito


Because you can find the best treasures (with a little bit of touch up) on bulky-item pickup days. And if you can’t be bothered, there’s always Stand Up Eight’s reclaimed and refinished pieces.


Ahi limu poke—guaranteed potluck success  


You can get your surfshorts in any print, including ulu. 


Because no shirt, no shoes, no problem.



Because even when the Portuguese man-of-war and box jellyfish warning signs are up, we can still catch waves, knowing someone on the beach will always have meat tenderizer or vinegar if we need it.


Because you can spend your whole life paddling. Other cities might have adult sports leagues for soccer and touch football. We’ve got those, plus canoes and waves and well-defined arms and torsos well into our 60s and 70s.


Because the time difference between us and the Mainland works in our favor. We can watch the rest of the world’s New Year’s celebrations before we go out and have our own. Morning kickoffs for NFL and college football games mean we’ve got an excuse to drink beer in the morning. And, hey, we never have to set our clocks back an hour.


Because paiai is the comeback of the century … and you can even get it delivered! Not long ago, most culinary descriptions of poi included the words “wallpaper paste.” But with the legalization of hand-pounded pa‘i‘ai, our starchy staple now graces the plates at Hawaii’s most luxe food and wine festivals, and clever chef riffs include mochiko paiai with compressed watermelon and pohole. Plus, a renewed interest in uncommon taro varieties means more people are milling poi with different tastes from the commercial bagged stuff. Kakoo Oiwi, one of the organizations dedicated to restoring the Heeia ahupuaa, will even deliver its weekly blends of fresh-milled poi and paiai to your doorstep.

Photo: David Chatsuthiphan


Because even though we always knew how unreal Hawaii was, Honolulu resident, designer and photographer David Chatsuthiphan shows us just how:




Because Shirokiya’s Yataimura is like a dream world of authentic Japanese street and comfort food, plus cheap beer.


Because we’ve got the most delicious fundraisers. Kalua pig, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Liliha Bakery pancake batter and Zippy’s chili? Take our money!


Because our karaoke is the best. On the Mainland, people get up on stage? Weird. Here, it’s a cozy room with your 20 best friends and a cooler full of green bottles.


Because we get to complain when the temperature drops below 70 degrees. We know it’s ridiculous. That’s what makes it fun.


Because our backyard parties always seem to break out into hula. Whether it’s a baby’s first birthday or a graduation party, there’s someone who’s ready to ami.


Because we’ve got Dave Shoji, the winningest coach in Division I women’s volleyball history, with 1,107 wins. Go Bows!


Because we’ve got the only royal palace in the country where monarchs actually lived. You can look up at Kalakaua’s bedroom while you eat lunch on the Iolani Palace lawn.


Because it’s impossible to leave a party empty-handed.


Because of the velvet voice of Hawaii Public Radio announcer Derrick Malama, who, when he gives the time, does it like this: “The time is 8 o’clock across  the Hawaiian Islands.”


Because we’ve got the biggest sake bash outside of Japan. The annual Joy of Sake tasting event offers up more than 380 sakes, the majority of which are not normally available in the U.S. We’ve never yet managed to try all the different varieties in one night, but there’s always next year. Kanpai!


Because the style obsessed among us get the best of both worlds. We’ve got access to a wide range of world-class luxury retailers, thanks to the millions of tourists streaming through town, and yet there’s no shortage of unique, local boutiques, such as Bamboo Sky, Aloha Rag and Collins and 8th.


Because we get to wave this thing at UH games. Because we get garlic and furikake on our fries. Because a new condo development in Honolulu has proposed a community surfboard repair room.

Photo: Gary Saito


Because Hawaii is the 15th state to legalize marriage for all couples.


Because we’ve got one-block rain showers.


Because every movie at Consolidated Theatres starts with the hula trailer … from 1987.


Because we post signs marking our ancient ahupua‘a divisions, from Kaneohe to Waikiki.


Because you can always find a parking spot at Diamond Head, no matter how many surfers are there.

Photo: Gary Saito


Because paiko teaches us about succulents in their workshops.


Because we know everything tastes better with an egg on it. Especially kimchee steak.



Because we can sell anything out of trucks, from Nuremberger bratwurst (@wurstwagenhi) to Jacqueline Gallagher’s twisted paintings (@arttruckhawaii).


Because you can always get a tree to yourself in Kapiolani Park, even if you can’t always find a parking spot.


Because of Maunakea Marketplace, where the food court feels like you’ve been dropped into the streets of Manila or Bangkok.


Because our bus rides come with a lesson in Hawaiian pronounciation, thanks to the precise, well-mannered voice of TheBus, Puakea Nogelmeier, professor of Hawaiian language, who announces Kapiolani and other Hawaiian street names the correct way.


Because you don’t have to brave crowds of Waikiki tourists to hear luau music and see the sunset. Just catch an end-of-day surf session between Queens and Pops, and you’ll be serenaded by live music wafting over the ocean from Duke’s.


Because a few years back, a graffiti writer painted a humuhumunukunukuapuaa on the side of a building on Alakea Street, and it’s still there today! We love that fish!


Photo: Michael Keany


Because on a quick hike, you can come back with an armful of strawberry guava or mountain apple.

We’ve got more reasons to love Honolulu—125 in all. Pick up a copy of the November issue to get the full list.

Updated Nov. 19, 2013.