13 Great Things About Waikiki (Plus 13 Awful Things)

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Awful No. 5

Not Enough Signs in Chinese

Ya Zhou Yu, Guan Ju Hau and another friend were on a rewards trip as the top three salesmen for their electronics company in Anhui. “Everything is Japanese,” says Ya Zhou. “More Chinese signs, please.”

Xiaquion Chen, 28, and Chen Yu Lin, 28, from Shanghai, China, were in Hawaii for the first time, killing time before they could check into their room at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. “We had trouble communicating at the front desk because they don’t understand Chinese,” said Chen. “The taxi fare from the airport was $37. We gave the driver $50, but he didn’t give us change. We wondered if it was because we had luggage. How do we find out? It would be good to know what the etiquette is, but everything is in Japanese and nothing is translated into Chinese.”

Kelly Zhang, 32, a first-time visitor from southern China, loves everything about Waikiki – the weather, the shopping, the whole experience – but said the Chinese food is so-so. “There are not many Chinese restaurants, just Japanese restaurants. We need good restaurants,” she said.

Photo: Odeelo Dayondon

Awful No. 6

Old Hotels and Traffic

Jerry and Cheris Uhri, from Washington State, were “very disappointed” with their first trip to Oahu, though they plan to return to Kauai. “Our hotel here in Waikiki looks like crap. We had to upgrade the room because there was no space and the TV literally hung out over the end of the bed,” Jerry said. “We went to Germaine’s Luau last night and there is so much traffic on this island that it took two hours to get there.”

Awful No. 7

Hard Work for Housekeepers

“The hardest workers are the maids, the housekeeping staff,” said one man, who asked that his name not be used. “It’s a hard, hard job. They’ve got to do so much in half an hour for each room and there’s no break. You’ve just got to have so many rooms done on your shift, and that’s it.”

Awful No. 8

Too Little Local Flavor

Many tourists love brand-name shopping, but there is less and less local flavor, especially with the closing of the International Market Place. “It seems like mall stuff is going in and we’re going to lose the resident population,” said one worker, who was not willing to share his name.

Awful No. 9

Hold the Plastic

Uta Goelnitz, 38, and Katja Waehnert, 36, from Hamburg, Germany, love so much about Waikiki and Hawaii, but not the plastic cutlery served by some restaurants or the hearty American breakfast of ham, eggs and potatoes. “The breakfast is not our style,” Goelnitz says. They were worn out by their trip here but delighted with the price: It took them an entire day to get to Hawaii from Europe, but the round-trip only cost about 850 Euros.

Awful No. 10

Too Costly for Residents

“For many of us that work in retail, the cost of living is too high,” said Nao Hikichi, who moved to Hawaii from Yokohama, lives in Moiliili and manages a Waikiki retail shop.

“Waikiki is really nice for tourists, but for residents it’s completely different. Imagine how hard it is to live here on a retail income. I was in Boston before, and it wasn’t that expensive.” Mika Ijiri also works in retail in Waikiki, and has been here 13 years, but doesn’t think she can afford to retire in Waikiki or anywhere in Hawaii.

“I live in Waikiki, and it’s so expensive. Every year, the prices go up and up. It’s a good thing my husband is working, too. For retirement, I don’t think we can live in Waikiki. Traffic is getting bad, too.”

Photo: Kristin Lipman

Awful No. 11

Not Like It Used to Be

The bronze statue of Hawaii’s most famous waterman, Duke Kahanamoku, stands with open arms on Kuhio Beach, welcoming visitors to Waikiki.

Head a few hundred yards Ewa along the beach from the statue and the legend of the Duke lives on at Aloha Beach Service Rentals, a vendor that has been renting beach equipment for more than 50 years.

The business is run by Duke’s nieces and nephews and, on this day, grandniece Jill Kahanamoku, 52, works the kiosk. She practically grew up on Waikiki Beach and has seen many changes over the years, including to the beach itself.

“The currents changed when they dredged the sand and now there’s erosion,” Kahanamoku explained. “But there are more turtles and box jellyfish. I don’t remember any jellyfish invasion when I was growing up.”

Kahanamoku says you can’t trust leaving your bags on the beach anymore, as you could in the old days.

“I see a lot of bags get stolen here. They just pick up the bag and start walking fast. One time I saw this happening and I grabbed the bag back from the girl who stole it,” she said. “But now the cops patrol a lot, walking up and down the beach. That has really helped.”

Awful No. 12

International Market Place Closes

Awful No. 13


Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Jan 13, 2014 06:57 am
 Posted by  sunlover

Enjoyed the article. We have a similar problem here in central Florida that is projected to worsen 15 to 20% this year. An interesting program, that would get the homeless permanently off the street, has been proposed that would be funded by local governments,the business and tourism community along with faith-based or nonprofit organizations. Details on the probram can be found here: http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20140110/NEWS/140119875/1040?p=2&tc=pg#gsc.tab=0

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