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When the masses imagine a place like Hawaii they most likely think of ‘Waikiki’, located on the island of Oahu. For the most part, Waikiki remains unchanged since I was little:

Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in background.

However, in the past five to seven years diligent marketing folks have presented the western flank of Waikiki as having undergone a dramatic”Renaissance” with the Beachwalk development, the addition of Trump Tower Waikiki hotel/residences, and the promotion of Luxury Row.

Snapshot of Luxury Row on Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki.

And as much as attempts are being made to transform Waikiki into a more sophisticated tropical destination, I think it still remains what it is; predominantly a blue-collar holiday locale with pockets of tropical elegance situated on certain blocks, and at certain finer hotels and restaurants. It’s nonetheless a worthy stopover for a complete experience of the Hawaiian islands since Honolulu IS the hub of the state. And lest we not forget that the Chinese are coming to set this 24-7 place on fire with their investment zeal. As the Japanese were THE herd in the eighties, the Chinese are THE new herd of the 21st century. I don’t foresee this special island state to become economically troubled in the near future. The Chinese will help out.

As a native, I’d like to point out certain classic elements that make Waikiki cool.

The ABC Store: this is like the Walgreens of San Francisco – perhaps spotted on every other block (in Waikiki), or just “all over the place.” I remember going here when I was a kid just to grab a snack. And the employees are always full of Aloha, very happy and helpful. It’s also cool because I believe it’s owned by a local family and hasn’t expanded into the US mainland yet. (Although I think it would be hysterical if one popped up in the middle of Union Square, San Francisco.)

Hello Kitty Hawaii: This display was actually in the ABC store above. Any place that gets Hello Kitty-fied is cool.  I remember when Hello Kitty was such a cool kids club thing when I was little. In fact, I would get sad when I couldn’t get matching pencil and eraser sets. I’ve moved on from that episode of childhood trauma, fortunately.

At the end of the day, Waikiki is a very special place. Check it out.