You can’t help but notice the handsome stone tower that used to be the control tower for all boats in and out of Honolulu Harbor as you drive along Nimitz where it turns into Ala Moana. I believe the first time I went to Aloha Tower was when I was still in my tourist’ days after my move here. But I was there for the view and food while Oahu sightseeing so I didn’t have time to notice the stores. When I did go back, it was a nice place to stroll around and browse through the interesting stores in the mall area and the kiosks lined up along the lane directly in front of the tower. It’s a very attractive facility overall, located close to downtown and not far from Ala Moana Center. The place always seemed to be bustling with tourists and locals. And then the economic crash came and there was a major turndown in business. On top of that the elevator broke for the Tower and it closed. I haven’t been back for ages, until this past week when I met a friend for lunch and took a look around. Aloha Tower overlooks cruise ship & below ship is a natural aquarium.
Unfortunately it didn’t take me long. It’s hard to estimate since it’s a 2 story complex, but I’d say it’s 50% vacant. Only a handful of the original stores still are operating. The rest are new to this venue and few were of significant interest. I was there late afternoon and very few people were around. As I walked by shops, I noted hardly any of them had customers. Shopkeepers looked either bored or strained from lack of business. The place with the most going on was Island Vintage Coffee shop. I smelled them from around the corner and I can vouch that this is my favorite coffee shop on the island. There is one at AMC also. The new Red Bamboo furniture and gifts is an interesting browse, with many local products, but most items too big to buy and take back home without shipping. A nice ukulele shop looked well stocked. The rest of the stores and kiosks were typical of most Hawaiiana shops you can find elsewhere. Being located right on the harbor, I imagine most business must come from the cruise ships that dock right there, plus anyone who comes down to take the local sunset dinner cruise that initiate from there. Speaking of which, if you are around at boarding time, you can watch the live entertainment that greets the guests as they go aboard.
A spattering of stores vie for business.
What hasn’t changed and is still going h3? The restaurants. Anchoring the corners are Hooters, Gordon Biersch (with the best view), Don Ho’s, and Chai’s Island Bistro – all extremely popular with visitors and locals. Besides Hooters, they offer live local entertainment with Chai’s, rating wise, leading the three in food and music offerings. And with validated parking that costs a bargain $2 -$3 dollars, people come and fill these eateries to the brim. That speaks for itself in recommendations.
I was happy to see that the Tower is back open since they fixed the elevator, so a visitor can now see one of the best views of the Honolulu area from 10 stories up. So even though I can’t honestly recommend this destination for shopping, there still are other reasons to visit. Oh, and when you approach, step to the left and go on the bridge area that is over the water and look down. The reef extends out there and it’s like looking into a natural aquarium right below your eyes.
Posted by: Bruce Fisher