Waikiki the engine that drives Hawaii’s economy

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Real Estate

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View of Waikiki Beach area hotels. Halekulani ...

Hawaii News Now describes Waikiki as “…the engine that drives Hawaii’s economy…”  However, long before there were high-rise hotels and thousands upon thousands of tourists, Waikiki was the “playground” of the Hawaiian royalty, who surfed at Waikiki on a type of longboard.  Even Kamehameha the Great, who established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810, enjoyed spending time in Waikiki.  European and mainland settlers did not approve of surfing, but at the turn of the twentieth century, there were still some who practiced the art of surfing.  A few fortuitous surfing lessons led to expansion of the sport to other places such as California.  Even Jack London (author of The Call of the Wild) was so enamored of surfing after taking a surfing lesson in 1907 that he wrote an article about it published in a widely circulated magazine.  The legacy of surfing continues on today at Waikiki Beach.

Throughout the past few centuries, Waikiki has borne witness to much of Hawaii’s history, including wars, the arrival of whaling ships, and the arrival of loads of tourists.  Prior to its royal playground status, Waikiki was a marsh that was made into an area of fishponds and fields for growing taro.  Waikiki means “spouting water” and early Hawaiians gave the area this name because the marsh was fed by mountain streams and springs.

Waikiki is a part of Honolulu, which is on the south shore of the island of Oahu. Waikiki stretches from the Ala Wai Canal (excavated to drain the marshy areas) over to Diamond Head.  Some smaller hotels and guesthouses opened in Waikiki in the 1880s. The first large hotel at Waikiki Beach, the Moana Surfrider, was built in 1901. At the time, the Moana was the tallest building in the state. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel also dates back to the early 20th century.

Present day hotels are all over Waikiki Beach.  While there are still a number of low-rise establishments, most are literally overshadowed by the high-rise resort hotels of Waikiki. The Moana Surfrider Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel are still operating.  Other large hotels include the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Halekulani Hotel, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the Sheraton Waikiki, and The Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower Waikiki Beach Walk offers residences that start at $600,000.   Even the most “basic” studio units are luxurious, with gourmet kitchenettes, upscale appliances, and all the amenities of a condominium property plus all of the services of the luxury associated with the Trump name.  The one-bedroom units at Trump cost over $1 million.  There are two bedroom units that cost over $2 million, and other units with much higher price tags.  However, Trump is just the newest of Condominium properties built in Waikiki.  Many other buildings offer great properties available for purchase.

Because of the location, and the relative lack of space, almost any property for sale in Waikiki is going to be a condominium type of property.  There are condominiums for under $100,000, but they are generally rather small (200-500 square feet), and most are at least a few blocks from the beach.  As with anywhere else in the world, you get what you pay for, and in Waikiki the “what” is all about location and views.  Although the 2010 median price of a condominium in Waikiki was $285,000, the types of properties that most people want, ones with spectacular views, in the prime locations, will likely cost more.