Some of Hawaii's exceptional trees are popular tourist attractions like the Indian banyan growing in Lahaina Courthouse Square on Maui and the gigantic, perfectly shaped monkey pod tree at Moanalua Gardens on Oahu.
Waikiki has several of these exceptional trees, and we have a rich history of preserving and building around them, which is one of the many things that makes Waikiki such a wonderful place to visit.
The International Market Place in Waikiki has done an absolutely amazing job of doing this.
Brief History: During the reign of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, “Kaluaokau” the land where the International Market Place stands today served as a recreational retreat and playground for Hawaiian royalty.
A New Zealand hotel entrepreneur Henry and his wife Eliza Macfarlane emigrated to Hawaii in 1846, close to the Waikiki beachfront. About 1850, they planted an Indian banyan tree.
Here's what the old International Market Place looked like prior to 2016
About 100 years later... Entrepreneur Donn Beach (Don the Beachcomber) moved to Honolulu and leased a portion of Kaluaokau land from the Queen Emma Foundation. He and architect Pete Wimberly imagined and designed a lush and exotic "International Market Place" with the colossal tree as the centerpiece and everything else built around it.
The new International Market Place was built in 2016. WCIT Architecture was tasked with historical research, cultural consulting, and design of the major courtyards.Banyan Tree. The new design follows the same tradition as before. They have done an absolutely amazing job of building a 345,000 square-foot three-level outdoor shopping center around the colossal, 160+ year old Indian banyan tree. The landmark banyan tree and a number of other old trees inspired the layout of the center. The three courts that are linked by curved retail concourses and the terraced levels were designed to highlight these legacy trees and create a visual connection between the upper level Grand Lanai and the street level below. Visitors will have an immediate sense that International Market Place is a special place.
Among the oldest historic trees in Waikiki and designated as an “exceptional tree” by the City and County of Honolulu, the tree’s broad canopy is decorated with a series of colorful lanterns hanging from the branches – providing a decorative accent during the day and a delightful ambiance at night.
The tree house in Banyan Court is an unexpected surprise for many first time visitors. The original tree house was home to the former International Market Place’s founder Don Beach – serving as his office and later as a local radio station. The tree house and bridge feature are part of an interpretive program that recalls the rich past of International Market Place, by celebrating its history and highlighting iconic local performers.
The Queen’s Court is the open-to-sky area honors the legacy of Queen Emma, whose mission was to provide, in perpetuity, health care services to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawaii. The performance stage is for daily performances, hula dancing and other cultural programming.
Here are five other reasons that a visit (or revisit) to the International Market Place is a must-do for locals and visitors alike.
1) Nightly O Na Lani Sunset Stories
Queen’s Court is the site for nightly storytelling performances that pay tribute to Hawaii’s beloved Queen Emma. Beginning with the ceremonial lighting of the market place’s Lamaku Torch Tower on Kalakaua Avenue at sunset, the O Na Lani Sunset Stories event honors the International Market Place’s rich history and sense of place through Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance, stories, traditions and culture. The nightly show begins at 7pm from March to August, and at 6:30pm from September to February.
Led by contemporary lei artist Meleana Estes, complimentary Ka Papa Lei Hana Lei-Making Workshops are held the first Sunday of the month from noon-3pm in Queen’s Court. Guests can learn about the Hawaiian tradition of lei, which signify celebration, love, family, greetings and aloha.
On the second Thursday of each month from 2-2:45pm, the legendary Royal Hawaiian Band performs free Queen’s Court concerts. Founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III, the band symbolizes Hawaii’s rich royal past by performing songs composed by the Hawaiian Monarchy’s “Royal Four” of King Kalakaua, Queen Liliuokalani, Princess Likelike and Prince Leleiohoku.
Those into wellness and fitness are in for a treat with complimentary yoga hosted in Queen’s Court by a pair of International Market Place retailers. Fabletics provides open-air sessions every other Sunday from 10-11am, while Free People joins the act with yoga on every second Saturday of the month from 9:30-10:30am. For those seeking workout attire, the two retailers offer active wear brands geared to the “yogi” and fitness fanatic in everyone.
4) Monthly Special Events
Each month, the International Market Place becomes even more vibrant with special events like a Mixology Festival and Battle of the Bartenders. Be sure to check ShopInternationalMarketPlace.com for the schedule that’s updated each month.
5) Dining Options Galore
As they have since the first International Market Place graced Kalakaua Avenue, food options run the gamut. Count on everything from fine and casual dining establishments like StripSteak, Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi and Herringbone, to The Street Food Hall by Michael Mina. The latter is gaining popularity among both locals and visitors with more than 10 “hawker stands” serving everything from Mediterranean and Mexican to breakfast and burgers.
Don’t let Waikiki’s infamous hefty parking rates scare you away!
The International Market Place features nearly 700 parking spaces plus valet services. Free validated parking is offered for the first hour, with a discounted rate of $2 per hour up to four hours available with a minimum $10 purchase from any center merchant.
Photos courtesy of the International Market Place