4 In Hawaiian Islands

Kaka’ako – Oahu’s Vibrant Arts & Foodie Neighborhood

Kakaako Street Art, Oahu, Hawaii

During our travels abroad, my husband Sasha and I have started to see a surge of street art revitalizing areas of cities that were once industrial or dodgy dark alleys, and turning them into thriving businesses and hot spots for visitors and locals alike. Over the past two years, we have walked the colorful streets of Cartagena and Guatape, took the graffiti tour in Bogota, Colombia, and most recently meandered through the RiNo District of Denver, Colorado. Oahu is no stranger to the concept of gentrification; its latest revitalization project is in the area that was once synonymous with industrial eyesores and homelessness lining the streets. It was a no mans land where you would never have a reason to be caught walking around in. Now, it’s Oahu’s cool kid on the block; the place to see and be seen…and quite the colorful one, I might add.

Kaka'ako, Oahu

Kaka’ako is our go-to for a relaxed, hip hangout spot, and is our preferred place to meet up with friends for happy hour on a Friday night after work. So whether you want to play board games and drink craft beer, get a hot drinking chocolate and sip it in the courtyard with your loved one, or a morning hangout for coffee and avocado toast with friends, Kaka’ako has it all, including an awesome event centered around art and bringing the community together, called Pow Wow.

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Kaka'ako - Oahu's Arts & Foodie Neighborhood

Kakaako Street Art, Oahu, Hawaii

Where else can you see a beautiful work of realistic-looking art above street graffiti, a beat-up pickup truck parked in front of a surfing dude in a space helmet, all juxtaposed underneath modern skyscrapers? #kakaako

2013 kickstarted the first year of Pow Wow on Oahu, which was originally founded in Hong Kong. It was brought to Oahu to offer a hands-on approach to art and encourage community involvement. This event takes place each year during Valentine’s week in February and brings together over 100 international and local artists to create new works of art. Each year the walls are painted over, paving way to a new beginning, so the neighborhood of Kaka’ako will never look exactly the same as it once did. This concept of transience is breathing life back into this once near-dead neighborhood, and providing people with a greater connection to art and their surroundings. Pow Wow is sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and has now turned into a global event. In 2017 Pow Wow was held: Washington, D.C., Boston, Israel, Guam, Seoul, Kobe, Taipei and our very own Honolulu.

Kakaako Street Art, Oahu, Hawaii

What is the Meaning of Pow Wow?

“Pow” is the classic cartoon onomatopoeia, and “Wow” is the effect the art has on us as humans. Pow Wow is also a derivation from the Native American cultural gathering.

Let’s take a walk through the colorful streets of Kaka’ako…

All of the murals can be found within a two-mile radius in the neighborhood of Kaka’ako, but if you’re feeling a little too lazy to walk, you can rent a Biki (Oahu’s bike share rental), or take a segway tour!

Segway Tour - Kaka'ako, Oahu This sign reads “you’re entering a judgment-free selfie zone”, so we pretended to take a selfie just for fun.

This tour takes a leisurely stroll on a segway through the art murals and down to the Kaka’ako Waterfront, where we saw pods of spinner dolphins just 100 yards from shore! A tour guide will provide a bit of history and background on the area and the artists.

*If you would like to book a segway tour, email me at: Lromanov@expedia.com and I can set it up for you and provide a discount!*

Where to Eat in Kaka’ako

Looking for other delicious places to eat on Oahu? Check out my Ultimate Oahu Foodie Guide for my full list of our favorite restaurants all over the island. If you’re traveling to Maui, Kauai or Big Island, I’ve got foodie guides for those islands as well. My Grandma’s side of the family (my Chinese side) was born and raised here on Oahu and I’ve lived on the island for 11 years cumulatively. I work as a concierge for Expedia Local Expert (Expedia.com’s activities division), so if you have any questions about traveling to Hawaii, I would be happy to help! I love sharing this beautiful island with visitors, especially when it comes to food. 😉

The main complex in Kaka’ako where several retail and food merchants reside, is called SALT at Our Kaka’ako. Salt got its name because many years ago, Hawaiians used the region for fishpond farming and salt making. While there are many other establishments around the Kaka’ako area, the SALT complex is the main draw for visitors and locals alike.

PARKING – parking is free for the first hour in the parking structure and $1 per hour after that, with validation. There is also coin-metered street parking and a small car park just across the street with marked stalls that you can park in for free after 5:30 PM. If you plan on drinking, Uber is a great option. If you plan on drinking a lot, consider a pub crawl tour with Paradise Pedals. With a max of 12 people, this fun giant mobile bike requires you to work for your beer! There’s a guide on board who also does the steering. If you don’t pedal your weight, you may get thrown off. 😉 (joking). Tours begin from the garage at the entrance of the SALT complex.

Paradise Pedals - Kaka'ako, Oahu

Here are Some of our Favorite Eateries, Both Inside and Outside of the SALT Complex:

Arvo - Kaka'ako, Oahu

Arvo and Paiko share a retail space, and are a cafe, retailer and build-your-own-live-succulent plant all in one!

  1. For Dinner and Libations – Moku Kitchen – American (order the truffle oil fries and the corn chowder. All of their cocktails (though pricey at $11 – $14 per drink) are delicious.)
  2. For baked goods and chai & matcha lattes – 9 Bar HNL Coffee & Bake Shop
  3. For avocado toast or fresh-squeezed orange juice – Arvo Cafe
  4. For tacosTaco’ako (order the chicken tinga and mahi mahi fish tacos) and Thyda’s Taco’s (food truck) (closed Mon & Sun)
  5. For coffeeMorning Brew
  6. For dessertDown To Earth (their vegan baked goods and cold torte selections are always on point)
  7. For macaroni and cheeseWhole Foods (this is a 15-minute walk or quick drive from the SALT complex) – they always have at least 4 varieties of mac & cheese (including “mac and yease” vegan style) at their hot bar.
  8. For drinking chocolate or bar chocolate (great to take home as souvenirs!) – Lonohana Hawaiian Estate Chocolate
  9. For craft beer and outdoor seatingHonolulu Beer Works (just one block away from Salt)
  10. For craft beer and board games insideVillage Bottle Shop & Tasting Room (the first dedicated beer cafe in the State of Hawaii with over 500 curated beers)

Here is a directory list of all the food vendors in SALT at our Kaka’ako complex. What I love about these eateries is that they’re mostly one-of-a-kind, meaning the only chain you’ll find here are Starbucks and Lanikai Juice.

FOOD DIRECTORY AT SALT COMPLEX:

  1. Fish Honolulu
  2. 9 Bar HNL Coffee & Bakeshop
  3. Bevy
  4. Taco’ako
  5. The Boiling Crab
  6. Butcher & Bird
  7. Butterfly Ice Cream
  8. Hank’s Haute Dogs
  9. Highway Inn Hawaiian Food
  10. Insomnia Espresso Coffee
  11. J’s BBQ & Grill
  12. Juic’d Health Bar
  13. Lanikai Juice
  14. Lonohana Estate Chocolate
  15. Moku Kitchen
  16. Morning Brew
  17. Mr. Tea Cafe
  18. Pioneer Saloon
  19. Pitch Sports Bar
  20. Starbucks
  21. Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room
  22. Vein

Thinking about moving to Hawaii? Check out my posts on What It’s Really Like to Live on Oahu (the pros) and 18 Reasons Living in Hawaii Isn’t Always Rainbows and Butterflies (the cons).

If you’re visiting, I hope you have a chance to check out this awesome neighborhood! If you’re a local, I hope you found something new to try during your next visit!

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Kaka'ako - Oahu's Arts & Foodie Neighborhood

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Mahima
    February 11, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Really nice blog and beautiful pictures would love to visit that places once.

    • Reply
      culturalfoodies
      February 13, 2019 at 1:36 am

      Thanks Mahima! I hope you get to visit Oahu!

  • Reply
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    April 8, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    […] By the way, Kaka’ako is the newly gentrified “hot spot” for eateries, cafes and street art on Oahu. You can learn more about Kaka’ako, POW WOW!, wall art murals and all the best food in the area in my blog post here: Kaka’ako – Oahu’s Vibrant Arts & Foodie Neighborhood. […]

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