Ala Moana is a thriving retail hub in the heart of Honolulu. Wedged between bustling Waikiki and hip Kaka’ako, this energetic oceanfront neighbourhood is a playground for shopaholics and an essential pit stop for any visitor to the Hawaiian capital.

    The area, formerly known as Kâlia, was a vast swampland full of taro fields, fishponds, and traditional fishermen during ancient times. In the early 20th century, the Hawaiian Dredging Company began draining the swamp to construct the present-day wharf and Ala Wai Canal. Later, in the 1940s, changes to zoning regulations saw the beginning of large-scale retail development, which has defined the region ever since.

    For most visitors, Alam Moana’s centrepiece is the enormous Ala Moana Center, an open-air mall overlooking Oahu’s southern shores. But there’s more to Ala Moana than rampant consumerism. The neighbourhood also boasts tempting eateries, outdoor recreation, a pretty canal, a world-class convention centre, and a beach park.

    Ala Moana in Honolulu - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Streets in Honolulu and 10 Most Popular Neighbourhoods in Honolulu (Read all about Honolulu here)

    What are the highlights and features of Ala Moana?

    The Ala Moana Regional Park straddles the Pacific Ocean and offers a tranquil space for travellers seeking to escape the crowds. Unlike busy Waikiki Beach, the mile-long golden sand stretch is relatively uncrowded throughout the year. Jogging and cycling trails criss-cross the adjacent leafy park, while sporting and picnic facilities promote pleasant afternoons in the sun.

    To the east of the park, Magic Island Lagoon is even more laidback. This seldom-explored artificial lagoon is a hit among families for its calm turquoise waters – perfect for frolicking with the little ones. Boasting beautiful views of the Diamond Head volcano and the Honolulu skyline, it’s also among the most scenic spots in the city. Come here to watch The Hilton Hawaiian Village fireworks display, which goes off with a bang at 7.45 pm on Fridays.

    The Hawaii Convention Center is the biggest of its kind in the state, boasting 11.1 million sq ft of ballroom and exhibition space. It’s worth popping into the state-of-the-art complex that lines the scenic Ala Wai Canal, even if you haven’t come for an event.

    Where to shop in Ala Moana?

    The retail epicentre of Hawaii is the gigantic Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air mall. This multibillion-dollar development has expanded several times since it opened in 1959, and the complex currently houses over 290 stores. Shops range from big-name designer outlets to chic boutiques and speciality stores – there’s something for most tastes in this enormous megamall.

    Be sure to pop by the popular Centerstage to watch a free hula show or a performance from the boisterous Royal Hawaiian Band. It’s the most famous public amphitheatre in the state and a quintessential Honolulu experience.

    If you’re feeling peckish, an eclectic range of eateries trade in the food court, and the mall hosts several fine-dining digs – the arty Vintage Cave Honolulu is the pick of the bunch. For a sunset tipple, you can’t go past the Mai Tai Bar. As a Honolulu institution, it’s famed for its stunning rooftop views, laidback live tunes, and refreshing tropical-themed drinks.

    Good to know about Ala Moana in Honolulu

    Ala Moana only has a couple of hotels, so most visitors base themselves in nearby Waikiki Beach. It’ll take you around 7 minutes to get to Ala Moana from Waikiki Beach in a car or taxi. Free validated parking is available in the Ala Moana Center, and the Ala Moana Beach Park has limited free spots.

    Ala Moana is a major transit hub for Honolulu and Oahu. Multiple TheBus services rumble down Ala Moana Boulevard outside the mall, taking passengers to the airport, Waikiki, and popular destinations around the island.

    Ala Moana in Honolulu

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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