HONOLULU CITY GUIDE: Waikiki’s beaches and the ubiquitous ABC store often obscure Honolulu’s, urban heart. Now that Hawaii has ended its mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers with negative Covid tests, the city is ready to welcome back visitors. Check its pulse in the emerging Kakako neighborhood between Waikiki and downtown, where former car dealerships and industrial buildings covered in murals attract locally owned shops, start-up microbreweries, and adventurous restaurants. It is also the birthplace of Pow! very nice! Hawaii – a celebration of street art that has been replicated around the world, from mainland cities to Israel and Japan, among other countries.
On the slopes of Diamond Head, the late heiress and art collector Doris Duke transformed her seaside home into a museum dedicated to Islamic art from Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and beyond. Along with the new galleries, the renamed Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design displays an incomparable collection of tile murals, textiles, and carvings.
Chef Peter Merriman, one of Hawaii’s earliest farm-to-table champions, turns his new focus on cacao in Merriman’s Honolulu. The restaurant is currently operating a pop-up outdoor burger and beer garden featuring restaurant favorites such as smoked taro hummus, Keahole lobster with pulled butter, and grass-fed steaks from Maui.
Honolulu’s Japanese cult favorite Rinka went into the big dig at Kakako last year, making it somewhat easier to get a table to enjoy its sashimi combinations and signature black-sesame tofu with sea urchins.
Jason Yamaguchi, the nephew of acclaimed chef Roy Yamaguchi, mixes French and Japanese influences in dishes such as matcha sponge cake with edamame coulis and crab and strawberry mousse with strawberry mousse at the recently opened Mugen across Waikiki Beach.
Kakako’s Workplay quenches thirst by day with coffee and, by night, craft cocktails and a strong spirits list that includes small-batch rums from Oahu’s boutique Kohana Distillers. Hop a few blocks south to sample the Peach Bomb Pale Ale or Sandbar Saison at Hana Koa Brewing Company, which offers a wide selection of beers on tap on the weekends as well as brewery tours. Finally, hit up Waikiki’s rooftop hideout for a live set of local musicians and Mai Tais on Lanai, with some sofas and tables set in the sand.
In Salt, the open-air retail and dining center of Kakako, island-born fashion, and accessories boutique Milo sells gifts like its canvas bags and T-shirts, brass limpet-shell bottle openers, and surfer Kelly Slater’s clothing line, Outerknown.
Kahla has made classic aloha shirts since 1936. Find vintage patterns, as well as contemporary print patterns and the island’s most stylish beach towels, at its salt shop.
Where to Stay in Honolulu
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
While the 552-room Ritz-Carlton Residence, Waikiki Beach was already a culinary destination for chef Keiji Nakazawa’s highly acclaimed Sushi Sh, its La Vie has also become a city favorite for open-air dining and beachfront views. The restaurant’s multicourse menu features modern French dishes such as Nihau Antelope Tartare, and quail with truffles and foie gras, with French wines for course pairing options.
Kahala Hotel & Resort
Guests flock to the 338-room Kahala Hotel & Resort for views of Diamond Head and Cocoa Head Craters and a seawater lagoon that is home to bottling dolphins. Reserve a table on the ocean-facing terrace of Plumeria Beach House for bento boxes, wok-fried whole fish, and crab- and macadamia-nut-crusted salmon.
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