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By Dayna Kalakau, staff writer
 

Twelve miles from the downtown HPU campus and less than five minutes from Hawai‘i Loa campus, Kailua is a bustling village with a rich history and a diverse mix of people and cultures. While the beach is definitely a main attraction, Kailua is more than just the average “beach town” one often associates with Hawai‘i, even though it offers many of the typical shopping, dining, and recreational options for both locals and visitors. With a core population of more than 50,000 and average high temperatures fluctuating between 76 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, one can have a great day and find many things to do in Kailua.

Located two minutes away—sometimes five minutes in traffic—from Kailua Town, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach just south of it, have been consistently recognized as two of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In 1998 Kailua Beach was ranked as “America’s Best Beach;” the honor was given to Lanikai Beach in 1996. With its fine sand and trade winds that blow nearly year-round, Kailua Beach is a premier, world-class destination for anyone interested in water sports, both pros and amateurs alike. Bodyboarding, bodysurfing, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoe paddling, and swimming are just a few of the many activities found on the two-mile stretch of beach. For those suntan enthusiasts less interested in water sports, the wide beach provides much room for sunbathing.

First-timers to the beach can purchase lessons and gear of any kind nearby from one of the local retailers in and around Kailua Town. Naish Hawai‘i, for example, is a wind-and kite-surfing store owned by famous local windsurfer Robby Naish and his family. Island Snow, across the street from Kailua Beach, and Hawaiian Island Creations on Hahani Street are two one-stop surf shops frequented by local beach goers.

Another of Kailua’s recreational highlights is Maunawili Falls, found in Maunawili, a subdivision of Kailua. Located near the Hawai‘i Loa campus, Maunawili Falls is home to a natural waterfall that empties into a large pool where visitors can dive, jump, and swim. People who don’t mind being adventurous can brave the one-hour hike to the falls through a Hawaiian rainforest, over Maunawili Stream, and up into the Ko‘olau Mountains.

Kailua is also home to approximately 1,500 small businesses and restaurants that contribute to the town’s thriving economy. While Kailua has all the basic amenities expected of a town its size, with more than its fair share of grocery stores and gas stations, many of the businesses found in Kailua are unique to the area and add to its cultural flavor.

Global Village, a local shop that offers unique and sometimes hand-made island apparel, beads, and jewelry, is one such establishment. It is found in the Kailua Village Shops, one the more recent additions to the Kailua community, located at the corner of Kailua Road and Hahani Street. With a vibrant tiled flag-post as its marker, the Kailua Village Shops is also home to the first Jamba Juice and Starbucks combo in Kailua, as well as Jeff Chang Pottery and Fine Arts and the Pottery Barn.
Kailua Village Shops has become a hangout for both locals and visitors and boasts some great snack food, with Maui Tacos and Teddy’s Bigger Burgers at the Macy’s end of the shopping center.

Macy’s, the lone Kailua department store, shares its parking lot with Pier 1. Other unique Kailua gems are Kailua Beachwalk, another Hawaiian apparel and living retailer, and Under A Hula Moon, both found on Kailua Road.

Kailua Village Shops is not the only place for those looking to satisfy their hunger. Aside from the typical fast food places such as McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Taco Bell, Kailua is home to cuisine from all over the world, including China, Italy, and Mexico. Noboru Japanese Restaurant, tucked away behind Kailua hotspot Boardrider’s Bar & Grill on Hamakua Drive, and Rai Rai Ramen on Kailua Road, are both great choices for Japanese food.

Those who prefer food from south of the border can enjoy dining at one of Kailua’s three Mexican restaurants, all within a mile of each other: Mexico Lindo, in the Kailua Shopping Center; Los Garcias, on Kailua Road; and Cisco’s Cantina, on Hekili Street, across from Kailua’s bowling alley, Pali Lanes.

What many visitors to Kailua may also notice are the many health food establishments that line the town’s sidewalks. Kailua is home to the only Down To Earth store on the windward side as well as The Source, another natural food grocer. Lanikai Juice Company and Jamba Juice are also local favorites for refreshing smoothies and natural, fresh-squeezed juices. Both can be found in the heart of Kailua Town, on either side of Kailua Road, and they offer healthy alternatives for the many Kailuaians who have a penchant toward the healthy.

From beach sports to mountain activities, from buying handmade Hawaiian apparel to eating authentic Mexican cuisine, Kailua offers many choices for those looking to fill an afternoon with interesting activities. With everything closely nestled in the small Kailua community, one doesn’t have to drive all around town for a little excitement.



 

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