Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki Beach? Overcrowded. Waialae Ave in Kaimuki? Overrated. These are two prime examples of Honolulu strips that the Hawai’i Tourism Authority wants to send you to. But there is one unassuming road around the bend of Waikiki that you must spend an afternoon exploring – Kapahulu Avenue. What’s on Kapahula that makes it Honolulu’s most underrated thoroughfare? Let’s review!
5 Reasons Why Kapahulu Avenue Might Be the Coolest Neighborhood in all of Honolulu
Shave Ice Hot Spot
Newly crowned shave ice champ of Oahu
There was a time when the Haleiwa Store Lots stretch of Kamehameha Highway was the Mecca for shave ice on Oahu. Unfortunately, the North Shore has rested on its laurels. Matsumoto’s quality was swapped out for quantity and souvenir keys chains a long time ago, while the creamery next to San Lorenzo’s also stopped giving a damn. Aoki’s will always have a place in our heart, but they have become inconsistent since 2020. Meanwhile, Kapahula Avenue has emerged as a sleeper pick to become the new hot spot for shave ice on the island.
Waiola Shave Ice on the corner of Kapahulu and Mokihana is a colorful and tasty option, but Honolulu’s biggest and best is located on the southern of Kapahulu at Castle Street. Although, Shimazu is about to get a run for its money, as the world’s best shave ice recently opened shop on the very same strip. That’s right, Ululani’s Shave Ice (from Maui) is now on Oahu, and they have chosen Kapahulu as their flagship in The Gathering Place. That’s saying something.
Most Historic Surf Shop on Oahu
Step inside of Honolulu’s first (proper) surf shop
There is no shortage of surf shops in the birthplace of surfing. However, only one has lasted for over six-decades and counting, and it’s located in the heart of Kapahulu Avenue. In fact, it just might be the heart of Kapahulu.
Inter-Island surf shop was established in 1959. Today, it stands as a bastion of surf culture that is under relentless attack from Costco and Catch-Surf soft-tops. It’s tiny and discreet, but when you step in you’ll discover how big its aloha spirit is. Owner and operator Barry Morrison is more than happy to drop everything to “talk story” with newbies and surf historians alike. Morrison’s passion is felt in every word that he speaks, but he is also an excellent listener, so don’t be afraid to share tales of your own. Pay a visit to this historic Kapahulu store and show your support by picking up a shirt, or shiny new board!
Best Plate Lunch Destination on the Island
There’s treasure under the Rainbow
There may be innumerable contenders for the “best plate lunch” in Honolulu, but when it comes to overall experience there is none better than the most famous of all – Rainbow Drive-In. The timeless eatery at Kapahulu and Kanaina could stand-in as a backdrop for American Graffiti or other early 60s film, but it’s island “kine” all the way. It’s where locals and visitors gather to refuel for the remains of day, while the parking lot plays host to apres-surf hangouts and VW meet-ups. Then, there’s the gravy:
Oh my, so Ono
Other great Hawaiian places to eat along Kapahulu Avenue include the following:
- Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill
- Da Ono Hawaiian Food
- Ono Seafood
- Haili’s Hawaiian Foods
- Kaimana Farm Cafe
- Kono’s Northshore | Honolulu
- Leonard’s Bakery
15,000 Aloha Shirts
It might be said, that a neighborhood can’t be considered “cool” if it doesn’t have a proper vintage shop on its main drag. Well, Kapahulu delivers on that qualifier too. Bailey’s Antiques at 517 Kapahulu Avenue is on the list of Honolulu’s best vintage stores thanks to its 15,000 authentic aloha shirts and thousands of other relics and knick knacks.
It’s Well Connected
This strip is well connected, not in the Da Hui sense of the word, but logistically speaking. Kapahulu Avenue connects you to other great places to check out in this neck of Honolulu. That means you can start your day here, then hop a quick bus to Kahala Mall (this route) to support local Hawaiian retailers like Mahina Boutique. You can also take a 20-minute walk to the University of Hawai’i (this route) or stroll down South King St. to enjoy a Permanent Vacation or other shops and eateries. And at the end of the day, your walk, bike, bus, or drive back takes you right into Waikiki Beach in time for that unbeatable South Shore sunset.
Kapahulu Avenue isn’t just well connected, it may be the new center of the Honolulu universe.
Do you have any questions about what to see and do on Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu? Leave a comment below and we’ll reply with some added insight!