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. We have walked the colorful streets of Cartagena and Guatape, took the graffiti tour in Bogota, Colombia, and 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 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are Some of our Favorite Eateries, Both Inside and Outside of the SALT Complex:
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.)
For baked goods and chai & matcha lattes – Bar 9 HNL Coffee & Bake Shop
For avocado toast or fresh-squeezed orange juice – Arvo Cafe
For tacos – Taco’ako (order the chicken tinga and mahi mahi fish tacos) and Thyda’s Taco’s (food truck) (closed Mon & Sun)
For coffee – Morning Brew
For dessert – Down To Earth (their vegan baked goods and cold torte selections are always on point)
For macaroni and cheese – Whole 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.
For drinking chocolate or bar chocolate (great to take home as souvenirs!) – Lonohana Hawaiian Estate Chocolate
For craft beer and outdoor seating – Honolulu Beer Works (just one block away from Salt)
For craft beer and playing board games – Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room (the first dedicated beer cafe in the State of Hawaii with over 500 curated beers)
For the best sandwiches on the island – EARL Sandwich
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:
- Fish Honolulu
- 9 Bar HNL Coffee & Bakeshop
- The Boiling Crab
- Butcher & Bird
- Butterfly Ice Cream
- Hank’s Haute Dogs
- Highway Inn Hawaiian Food
- Insomnia Espresso Coffee
- J’s BBQ & Grill
- Juic’d Health Bar
- Lanikai Juice
- Lonohana Estate Chocolate
- Moku Kitchen
- Morning Brew
- Mr. Tea Cafe
- Pioneer Saloon
- Pitch Sports Bar
- Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room
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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