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Top 5 Best Diving Sites in Hawaii

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Waikiki beach is one of the most famous and visited beaches, not only in Hawaii, but in the world. In 2017, over 5.6 million tourists have visited the island of Oahu. It has maintained its status as the most visited island of all the Hawaiian Islands. Being one of the most famous beaches in the world, Waikiki has come a long way from its ‘creation’—back when only one available hotel to offer tourist accommodation, when there are no tall buildings, international brands, and restaurants yet. Because of these developments, it is interesting to know how the Waikiki creation began.

 

Here are some curious facts about Oahu’s gem that molded it to be the tropical paradise it is now:

First Hotel: The Moana Surfrider

Opened on March 11, 1901, the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, originally the Moana Hotel, was built as the first hotel in Waikiki. Wealthy Honolulu landowner, Walter Chamberlain Peacock, incorporated the Moana Hotel Company in 1896. This is to establish a luxury hotel in a deserted area of Waikiki.

Designed by architect Oliver G. Traphagen and built by The Lucas Brothers contractors, The Moana Hotel originally featured 75 guestrooms including amenities regarded as the ultimate luxury at the time, including telephones, private baths, a billiard room, parlor, library, salon, and the first electric-powered elevator in the Territory. The opening of the hotel marked the beginning of tourism in Waikiki.

Ala Wai Changing Geography

One of the most distinct geographical features of Waikiki is the Ala Wai Canal. This canal is an artificial waterway in Honolulu which serves as the northern boundary of the tourist district of Waikiki.

It was created in 1928, back when the Hawaiian Royalty used to maintain beach houses along the narrow stretch of beach on Oahu known as Waikiki (Spouting Water). However, rice paddies and swamps often become flooded when heavy rains occur in the area, making the Manoa and Palolo Streams overflow. The main purpose of the Ala Wai Canal was to drain the rice paddies and swamps—which eventually became the tourist area of Waikiki.

Waikiki Beach Sand from Australia?

One most-talked about urban legends in Waikiki is that parts of its beaches came all the way from Australia.  Stories circulating for years say that sand were shipped over from all over the world to replenish Waikiki’s famous stretch of beaches. Erosion and rising sea levels have swallowed a foot of Waikiki Beach annually since 1985. This phenomenon, while accelerated in the last few decades, is nothing new. Reports from the 1920s and 1930s revealed that sand was came from Manhattan Beach, California, via ship and barge, to Waikiki Beach. Importation of sand into Hawaii ceased in the 1970s.

But, the truth is, Waikiki’s sand came from Hawaii.

“The benefit of using localized sand is compatibility,” says Sam Lemmo, of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands. Using sand similar in color and structure not only benefits Waikiki Beach aesthetically and environmentally, it also maintains the beach’s integrity from an engineering standpoint, Lemmo adds.

Waikiki’s sand was trucked from various points around Hawaii including Oahu’s North Shore—in particular, Waimea Bay Beach and a sand bar off the town of Kahuku—and Papohaku Beach on Molokai.

However, there is still some truth to this story. It is a fact that some sand is from places like Australia, Polynesia and even China. However, it serves more utilitarian purposes—namely construction and filling sand traps on Hawaii’s golf courses.

High Rise Hotels Changing the Infrastructure

In the 1920s, Waikiki experienced a new age of urbanization and previously rural areas were divided into suburbs. With Waikiki becoming a growing tourist attraction, more and more hotels sprouted—which started from small guest houses to busy hotels.

Over the years of Hawaiian tourism peak, more high-rise hotels along the Waikiki Beach change the infrastructure of the tourist destination. More than a relaxing tropical paradise, the landscape of Waikiki’s beach front is comparable to a city. There are tall buildings, hotels, and condominiums are visible in contrast to the blue sea.

International Market Place

International Market Place is an open-air shopping center first opened in 1956 as a commercial retail and entertainment center. After over five decades of being a neighborhood shopping area, the International Market Place reopened as a modern shopping, dining and entertainment center. It offers 345,000 square-feet of retailers and restaurants on August 2016. Its tenants include approximately 90 stores and 10 restaurants. Its anchor tenant is a three-level, 80,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue, which is the department store’s only full-line Hawai‘i location.

Only two things from the original International Market Place will remain. These are the name and a few trees, including—thankfully—the venerable old Indian banyan tree.

For most Honolulu residents, the International Market Place lost whatever appeal it might have had decades ago—along with the parking. Still, its closing represents the end of an era. This makes it a good time to rummage through the Market’s kitschy past. It is also a chance to ponder its upscale future, and check in on the gigantic banyan tree.