Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ala Moana Center - Honolulu, Hawaii

Is this your vision of tropical paradise?

Well, it may not be, but in 1966 when this photo was taken, this shopping mall was a very big deal.  Remember that Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, with lyrics that included: "they paved paradise, put up a parking lot?" The song was inspired by a 1970 trip to Hawaii, when Mitchell woke up in the morning and looked out of her hotel window to see a huge parking lot, quite possibly this very one.

Today, with lots of other options for shopping, Ala Moana Center is still a very important shopping destination. When I lived in Hawaii many years ago (but not as early as 1966!), this is where I went to buy groceries. I also had my ears pierced at a jewelry store in the mall. Strange as it may seem, this is also where I bought my first Christmas tree as an adult. For a long time, this mall was scruffy and not a very pleasant place to be. Now it's actually quite elegant - as malls go. It still has a big ugly parking lot.

But, there is something else in the works here right now - an elevated rapid-transit system that will connect a planned new University of Hawaii campus, residential areas, the Honolulu airport, and end at Ala Moana Center.  The first part of the system is scheduled to open in 2012, but it won't connect to Ala Moana center until 2019. There are also some planned extensions, including one to the University of Hawaii Manoa campus and to Waikiki. Currently, if you don't take a taxi, shuttle, or rental car from the airport to Waikiki, your only other choice is the bus, which doesn't theoretically allow luggage.
Here's a link to find out more about Honolulu Rail Transit.

Oh, by the way, Streetcar Sunday will return next week. And here's the back of the card.


  1. I never knew the actually story of the parking lot song. It is great to see the actual offending mall.

  2. Thanks for the memory lane trip. I remember eating in the restaurant the La Ronde that is the spaceship looking thing on top of the tall building. It did a full 360 turn while you ate and was very elegant. My dad went to light a cigarette and 5 waiters in red jackets jumped forward with lighters.

    And there used to be two wonderful Japanese stores. One downstairs was called something like Otaya. I'm sure the spelling is wrong. But loved this store for all sorts of Japanese things like movie magazines. The more expensive store was upstairs and was called Sherokiya. The last time I was back Sherokiya had become an even more elaborate store.

    When I moved to Oahu the center was not yet open so when it did open its doors it was a very big deal.

  3. T & L,
    Funny you should mention Shirokiya. It's the only reason I ever go to Ala Moana Center anymore (with the exception of a trip to Sears a year or two ago to buy my mom a new microwave.) Among other things, they have a counter specifically for mochi ice cream (little balls of ice cream wrapped in flavored pounded rice.) Upstairs, they have multiple counters with cooks preparing sushi and bento and all sorts of Japanese specialties. It's fun even if you don't buy anything.

  4. I could not think of something worse (perhaps a coalmine) as a view from my hotel window when on holidays. I do not like shopping malls at all, never have. All over the world they they have sprouted like mushrooms. Luckily markets are still alive and have also a comeback.
    The photo is interesting and holds memories for you. I understand the concept of a mall, easy to park, do the shopping under one roof. In Italy, there was this cooperative, a big hall, in the morning the farmers came with their three wheeler, cars, bikes etc. bringing their fresh produce. It smelled of basil and fresh peaches.
    Nothing compares, not the newest most modern mall! Christine, sorry for this lament, your postcard was very animating. Cheers T.

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  6. The restaurants in that tall building don't have a problem with Happy Face Spiders trying to climb the outer walls, towards the kitchens.
    The restaurants have trained numerous Hoary Bats to eat those spiders.
    "But why the happy face?" asks the bat.
    [Just kidding, of course].
    Have fun, Christy'uokalani!

  7. Titania, don't think I am a proponent of malls. I avoid them like the plague.

    I think you may be reminding me that I need to send you a postcard. Let me tell you, I looked high and low for a postcard with either a hoary bat or a happyface spider or, finally, any of the birds on the Hawaiian Rainforest stamps. Nothing doing. I even called the zoo and several botanical gardens. I think I may just have to send you a a card of a palm tree. :(

  8. I think the most ironic thing about Ala Moana is that this totally internalized entity surrounded by a sea of parking is right across the street from a huge beachfront park, partially seen at the lower right of the card. How's that for optimizing the use of waterfront property?

  9. Wow, grew up going here, it sure has changed. Thanks for sharing this moment in time.

  10. I'm not positive but I think this mall is where I ate my first broccoli pizza (called California Pizza:) I was humming "paved paradise and put up a parking lot" before I scrolled down and saw that you had the same song on your mind!ha!



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