04 May 2013

Kahala Mall, Honolulu, HI

An extant asset

7 March 2023

Kahala Mall, located on the eastern edge of Honolulu in the shadow of Diamond Head, takes advantage of its proximity to some of the island's most affluent neighborhoods. Thusly, as the last time I lived in Hawai'i I was a poor college student at the University of Hawai'i, I rarely visited the place. Also, it was a bit out of the way and its smaller size really made a trip to the place pointless. But it was always a nice destination with its carpeted floors and indoor landscaping. 

Kahala Mall Mallmanac ca. 1993. View the full PDF version here.

Kahala debuted as an open-air center in 1954, pre-dating the venerable Ala Moana Center by one year. It was, and still is for the most part, an eclectic combination of five & dimes, full line department stores, grocery stores and even a bowling alley. In 1970, the mall was enclosed and became Hawai'i's first air conditioned shopping center. It's been attracting the crowds ever since. Much like Pearlridge, it is tailored to the local population. The very well off local population.

-UPDATE- Kahala Mall Mallmanac ca. 2011. View the full PDF version here.

The mall had a much more Hawai'i flavor when I was last living on the island. Since then, however, Liberty House has become Macy's, Star Market has become Whole Foods and Long's Drugs has been taken over by CVS (although it still operates under the Long's name.) But Kahala has always worked very well in its niche and as it nears its 55th birthday, it's well positioned to see many more.


-7 March 2023

1- The main entrance.  2- Outside Whole Foods.  3 & 4- Macy's.

Although hardly ever visited at all when I lived in Hawai’i, as an adult, Kahala Mall’s proximity to Waikiki means that I have walked its corridors on a much more consistent basis in recent years.  It’s quite the scenic ride to the retail hub on the #14 Bus as the route runs between the makai slopes of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean below.  The mall itself rises up amongst the beautiful homes of one of Honolulu’s most prestigious neighborhoods just before the viaduct of the Lunalilo Freeway of H1 behind it.

Exterior shots of Kahala Mall.

I can’t really say how much Kahala Mall has changed over the years as I maybe popped in once or twice before I started visiting the islands again starting in 2017, but it certainly seems to be holding up well.  Popular among locals, neighborhood mainstays such as Whole Foods supermarket, Long’s Drugs and even a church share the same walls as Macy’s, Ross and the Consolidated Kahala Theatres.  Center court hosts a diverse and well stocked slate of community events.  I don’t think I’ve ever visited without some sort of display happening in center court.

Kahala Mall Mallmanac ca. 2017. View the full PDF version here.

Never hosting more than one traditional anchor, Liberty House then Macy’s, Kahala Mall has never had to do much shuffling or redeveloping as former retail giants JCPenney and Sears have left the islands over the years.  The collection of shops known as Waialae Shopping Center at its 1954 opening still enjoys a rather robust existence.  And for locals wanting to avoid the more touristy crowds at Ala Moana, it serves an important role.

Kahala Mall's interior.

If this place were located in just about any other city, I would worry about its long-term viability.  But being located on an island with such a high population density that was never overmalled and where open land is at a premium pretty much ensures its survival.  Hopefully.  It’s a cool little place.

Kahala Mall Mallmanac ca. 2021. View the full PDF version here.

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