The Reasons For Hawaii’s Street Names

Marin Magazine Hawaii

FOR TRAVELERS ON Oahu, giving or getting directions can be tricky, with the abundance of vowels and Ks and the unfamiliar words. For instance: “Take Ala Wai, left on Kalaimoku Street, past Kuhio, left onto Kalakaua and once you get to Kapahulu, Kapiolani Park will be to your left.” Now repeat that back. But it’s much easier to remember street names if you are familiar with where the names came from. Here’s a brief introduction.

Queen Kapiolani Park

The largest and oldest public park in Hawaii, originally built as a place to watch and enjoy horse racing, today contains the Honolulu Zoo, tennis courts, basketball courts, an archery field, the Waikiki Shell and unobstructed views of the ocean.


Born December 31, 1834, Kapiolani Napelakapuokakae, who later became Queen Kapiolani, was the daughter of King Kaumualii, the last king of an independent Kauai before its amicable cession to Kamehameha the Great. Kapiolani is composed of three words (ka, pio, lani) and means “the heavenly arch.”


The two-mile circle is a popular walking or running loop. On your way to the park, stop at one of the eateries on Monsarrat Avenue to grab a picnic or snack. Diamond Head Market & Grill, Monsarrat Avenue Shave Ice, South Shore Grill, Bogart’s Cafe are all great options. After lunch you can burn some calories with a pickup game of soccer or basketball. Sundays, enjoy the Hawaii State Band’s free concerts in the park.

Kalakaua Avenue

If you are staying in Waikiki, you can’t miss Kalakaua Avenue, which fronts major hotels and Waikiki Beach.


This promenade is named for David Laamea Kamanakapuu Mahinulani Naloiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua, aka the Merrie Monarch. Born in Honolulu in 1836, he was the last reigning king. In Hawaiian his name ominously translates as “the Day of Battle,” which refers to the treaty King Kamehameha III was forced to sign the day Kalakaua was born. He earned the name Merrie Monarch for his avid support of Hawaiian culture via the arts, music and hula. Kalakaua Avenue stretches to Queen Kapiolani Park, which is quite appropriate, considering the couple were married.


The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center runs along Kalakaua Avenue, and offers free ukulele, lei-making and hula lessons. The king also famously enjoyed his spirits and you can toast his legacy at one of the many happy hours along his namesake street. One of the most popular spots is Duke’s on the waterfront. Speaking of Duke, don’t miss the photo op in front of the statue of the famous Olympian surfer Duke Kahanamoku.

Kuhio Avenue

This two-way street runs through the middle of Waikiki between Ala Wai Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue.


Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was born on Kauai in 1871 and died in 1922 at age 50 as the first Hawaiian U.S. congressional delegate in the Territory of Hawaii. In Hawaiian the name Kuhio translates as “chief who leaned forward as he stood.”


Kuhio Avenue is your spot for taste and affordability. Rivals at 2211, a sports bar with pizza and sandwiches, is popular with locals and tourists. Marukame Udon is an überpopular spot for noodles. And with all the pennies saved, you’ll soon be able to shop at the new Saks Fifth Avenue and International Market Place, both with access on Kuhio Avenue.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “What’s in a Name?“.

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.