Kakaako Graffiti – Honolulu Hawaii’s Gritty Urban Chic Neighborhood

Kaka’ako is one of the fastest growing and most vibrant neighborhoods in Hawai’i. This formerly neglected area between the financial district and Ala Moana consisted mostly of industrial and low rent business for most of the 20th century. In the past ten years it has been transformed with seven luxury condo towers going up in the last five years and reports that up to FIFTY more will be going upn over the next decade. What you see today, probably won’t be there in a few years – which is a shame, because it’s beautiful.
Long ago, before white people came to Hawai’i – the area called Kaka’ako which now sits between Honolulu Harbor, Downtown Honolulu, and Ala Moana Shopping Center was a place where Hawaiian royalty lived – it was a rich agricultural landscape of terrace agriculture. There were fishponds, homes, and burial sites. Even Kamehameha the Great kept a home in Kaka’ako.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, Kaka’ako was a place where families lived and where indsutrial businesses existed. The neighborhood fell on hard times in the 1900s – lots of fight clubs and gyms moved into the warehouses and it gained a reputation as a rough place. Then, because of politics in the 1970s it became even further degraded while all around it development thrived. Kaka’ako became an industrial neighborhood of warehouses and mechanic shops. The city even built a huge landfill near the waterfront – in other words Kaka’ako was a dump.

In the 1990s and 2000s that started to change…

The City and County of Honolulu poured a huge amount of money into developing the Kaka’ako Waterfront into three distinct beach parks over the top of the landfill. The result was a 35 acre greenspace that quickly became beloved by residents for family outings, barbecues, and even beach goers due to the proximity of the Point Panic surf break – to be clear, there is no sandy beach at Kaka’ako. Next artists and those looking for cheaper rent began to move into Kaka’ako. Some surprisingly awesome restaurants opened in dark alleyways next to auto body shops. Finally, Kamehameha Schools in concert with Castle and Cooke began to do some serious redevelopment in the early 2000s. The formation of Our Kaka’ako and SALT has brought new life into Kaka’ako centered around art, culture, and community…a big part of that has been the mural projects in the neighborhood.

Today, no trip to Honolulu, Hawaii is complete without a drive through Kaka’ako to admire the many murals there. Below are just a few of them…there are many more…If you’d like to explore Kaka’ako and the cool neighborhood it is growing into – just get in touch. I’d love to show it to you.  In the meantime, here’s a little sampling:

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