Beginning in the late 1990s, redevelopment in Honolulu’s Chinatown has seen a proliferation of new restaurants, bars, lounges, art galleries, and custom clothing and boutique shops. Although some have come and gone, many remain and have enjoyed relative success. Because of this, and Chinatown’s proximity to historic Aloha Tower, the number of visitors has steadily increased. It has been particularly notable within the past year or so.
Transportation options for Waikiki visitors to get to Chinatown have also expanded, with TheBus being the most popular. Of course, gig-economy rideshares like Uber and Lyft have also increased the accessibility of Chinatown for visitors and residents alike.
Still, many visitors choose to drive their rental vehicles into Chinatown. And while this a perfectly fine option, visitors driving in to the area will soon come up against what even the most experienced Honolulu drivers face daily: finding parking.
Metered street parking is available through most of Chinatown. But it is a bustling area and hoping to find a $1.50/hr metered stall will always be something of a crap-shoot during peak hours. But there are several public lots in the Chinatown area that offer non-extortionate rates and convenient locations. (One notorious lot charges $12/hr, and became infamous for attaching the dreaded “boot” to the tires of offending vehicles. After numerous complaints, the City made the “boot” illegal.)
The public garages listed here are all quite reasonably priced ($1.50-$3 per peak hour), secure, and fairly easy to locate.
Harbor Court Tower
Harbor Court Tower is a mixed-use high rise, home to swanky condominium units and posh law offices and architecture firms. It is the first public garage available to drivers arriving from Waikiki in Chinatown. The tower is the first building on the right after turning from Ala Moana Boulevard onto Bethel Street. Safe and secure, the garage is a mere few blocks from the center of Chinatown and reasonably priced.
Beretania Street/Chinatown Garage
At the end of Bethel Street is Beretania Street, which runs the length of Honolulu’s urban corridor. One-and-a-half blocks north (left) is the Beretania Street/Chinatown municipal parking garage. Drivers need to be on the lookout for the entrance to the underground lot, as it is tucked between The New Hope Chapel and the Chinatown Playground. It’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, even for residents.
Marin Tower Public Parking Garage
Marin Tower is located at the harbor end of Smith Street. Also located just off of Ala Moana Boulevard, drivers arriving from Waikiki turn right onto Smith Street. The garage is located immediately on the left. Just two blocks mauka (toward the mountains) is the center of the action in Chinatown. If planning a night on the town, keep in mind that the lot closes at midnight.
Located on Nuuanu Avenue, this old building is directly across the street from the historic Hawaii Theater. It is also home to The Arts at Mark’s Garage, a gallery and performance space that was pivotal in fostering the creativity and community behind Chinatown’s emergence as Honolulu’s cultural and artistic hub.
It’s always a good idea to check with parking attendants about special rates and whether or not the lot operates 24-hours or has a specific closing time. Many are the drivers, visitors and residents alike, who have found themselves stranded after enjoying a night on the town, and needing to get a cab or rideshare to their end of the night destination.
Posted by: Jamie Winpenny