Explore the Architecture of Waikiki

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Waikiki architecture Photo:  The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort.

Photo: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort.

Waikiki is best known for Diamond Head and its beaches, but man has also made his mark there. Don’t miss these impressive achievements in Waikiki architecture.

1.  Ala Wai Canal

Waikiki architecture Ala Wai Canal.  Photo:  Frank Farm.

Ala Wai Canal. Photo: Frank Farm.

Two miles long, 250 feet wide and 10 to 25 feet deep, the Ala Wai (meaning “freshwater way”) was constructed between 1921 and 1928 to drain mosquito-breeding marshes and provide fill for the seaside swath that became Waikiki. Added to the State Register of Historic Places in 1992, it now serves as the mauka (toward the mountains) boundary of the famed resort area.

2.  St. Augustine by-the-sea Church

130 Ohua Avenue

Waikiki architecture Photo:  Dru Kelly.

St. Augustine by-the-sea Church. Photo: Dru Kelly.

This 1962 house of worship features a Gothic-style gable roof, interior arches resembling hands clasped in prayer and magnificent stained glass windows. Above the main entrance, a 36-by-70-foot window honors the church’s namesake and patron saint. On both sides of the church, 10 steeply pitched, triangular creations depict biblical themes and significant events in Roman Catholic history in Hawaii.

3.  King’s Village

131 Kaiulani Avenue

Waikiki architecture Photo:  Wally Gobetz.

Photo: Wally Gobetz.

Stroll through this quaint open-air shopping center and you’ll think you’re in a 19th-century European town, complete with cobblestone paths. Dating back to 1972, it honors King Kalakaua, who was greatly influenced by visits to European countries during his trip around the world in 1881. Interestingly, the complex reflects the Disneyland technique of designing buildings at 3/4 or 7/8 scale.

4.  The Royal Hawaiian

2259 Kalakaua Avenue

Waikiki architecture Photo:  The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort.

Photo: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort.

When the six-story, 400-room “Pink Palace of the Pacific” opened in 1927, it was the largest building project in the Pacific. Also contributing to its distinctiveness were its Spanish-Moorish style, cupolas reminiscent of California mission architecture and pink hue, the inspiration for which came from Portugal. The luxury hotel has undergone changes over the years, including an expansion to 528 rooms, but its eye-catching pink color has remained.

5.  Moana Surfrider Hotel

2365 Kalakaua Avenue

Moana Surfrider.  Photo:  collectmoments.

Moana Surfrider. Photo: collectmoments.

The “First Lady of Waikiki,” Waikiki’s oldest hotel, opened in 1901 with 75 rooms in a six-story structure that its architect, Oliver Traphagen, called “Colonial style adapted for the tropics.” Design highlights included ocular windows, decorative railings, graceful colonettes and six Ionic columns at the porte cochere. In 1917, two symmetrical six-story wings were completed with elaborate window casings and wide, low-pitched, hipped roofs typical of the Renaissance Revival style popular at the time. The original and 1917 sections of the now 791-room hotel were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

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