It’s difficult to imagine that the lush, green rolling hills at Kakaako Waterfront Park used to be mounds of smelly trash. Until the late 1980s, Kakaako served as a municipal landfill; today it’s a place for picnics, barbecues, bodysurfing and – of course – hill sliding.

Kakaako Waterfront is known for its forever-rolling hills.

Like many others, my favorite childhood memory of this park was riding flattened cardboard boxes down the grassy hummocks. You’re bound to see school children doing the same on their excursions off campus. But that doesn’t mean only children can do this; I’ve watched adults race right alongside the little tykes, laughing and rolling to a tumbling stop.

The 30-acre park is just east of Ala Moana Beach Park, which could be why people often forget about Kakaako; Ala Moana’s the hub of Honolulu beach-goers. This could be a good thing for those who do visit Kakaako during their Hawaii vacation. No crowds! And it’s true; Kakaako is usually pretty empty. In the early mornings, you may see joggers or a small workout group. Other than that, it’s a great place to enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean with little disturbances.

Rolling, rolling, rolling…a favorite way to spend the afternoon.

I wouldn’t recommend swimming here, as there’s no lifeguard nor is there much sand. Locals like to surf in front of the park at a spot called Flies (from the landfill, get it?) or bodysurf at the east-end of the park at Point Panics. You can still enjoy the free entertainment (and front row view) of watching them charge the surf.

That’s the cool thing about this place. You can chill just about anywhere – in the shade, on a picnic table, in the grass or next to the ocean on the seawalls. If you’d rather be more active, then there are paved sidewalks weaving throughout the hills, perfect for running, jogging or taking a stroll. But the best place to be is in the center of the park, on the tallest hill, where a panoramic view of Downtown Honolulu, Diamond Head and Oahu’s southern shore awaits.

Kakaako has many noted works of public art, including this one – a tribute to the tragic accident that resulted in the sinking of Japanese educational vessel Ehime Maru.

KAKAAKO WATERFRONT PARK • 102 Ohe St., Honolulu, HI 96813 • Amenities: showers, restrooms, drinking water fountains, picnic tables, amphitheater, no lifeguard on duty • Activities: surfing, bodysurfing, picnics, barbecue • Free parking; near bus route


  1. Aloha Ms. Navares,

    I enjoyed reading your article The Hills Are Alive at Kakaako Waterfront.” I had not heard of this park before. Seeing how it is on a former landfill site I am wondering is it really safe to be there from an environmental standpoint? Like no toxic residues etc.?

    Thank you and I look forward to your reply.

  2. Aloha Sandy,
    Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the story on one of my favorite places. That’s a very good question you have, which is something I wondered myself when writing about Kaka’ako. From the people I’ve talked with, there are no toxic residues in the area. For many years since, people have been surfing these waters and visiting the park without any such encounters, thankfully! It’d be ashamed if such a beautiful place could not be enjoyed like it is today.

    Make sure to check it out next time you’re on Oahu!


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