Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ala Moana Beach

Ala Moana Beach
This is a beautiful 76 acre park located along the south shore just west of Waikiki and on your way to downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. Ala Moana is a 100-acre park that has a wide gold-sand beach over a half-mile long.  There is also a big grassy area, banyans and palm trees that make the park a good place to picnic, barbecue, and play all kinds of games.  A good 2.5 mi. paved path that is good for running encircles the entire park.  There are lifeguards, showers, bathrooms, phones, tennis courts, picnic tables, food concessions, and a music pavilion.  Ala Moana Beach Park is a favorite among Honolulu residents because it offers a large enough space to picnic and barbecue and is away from tourists (for the most part). The beach itself is protected by a reef so the water is insanely calm.  There are none of the waves you'll see at Waikiki or Sandy's (the other nearby beaches on the South Shore).  As a result, it is a great place to bring kids.  It's also really big with plenty of space to run around.  On the weekends, A LOT of people come here with their whole ohana (family) to picnic, swim and hang out.

There are two downsides to this beach, in my opinion.  The first is the crowd.  If you're looking for a quiet, relaxing day at the beach, you can find it here IF you don't mind screaming kids EVERYWHERE.  Obviously I accept that it is a beach and it is a family-friendly beach park.  That doesn't mean I necessarily like hearing kids scream.  With so many of them, though, this is more of a family beach than a place to relax for the day.  The second "downside" is the coarse, rough sand.  The sand at Lanikai, Sandy's, and even Waikiki is much nicer.  There are a lot of small rocks and sticks strewn all over this beach, which makes it less enjoyable.  The advantages, though, are that the water is much calmer (i.e. better than Sandy's) and there are full facilities and a big park (i.e. better than Lanikai).  I'd still pick Lanikai any day of the week, though.  The water at Ala Moana is very nice, to be sure, but some parts have jagged rocks, which make wading in some parts of the water uncomfortable.  As a result, everyone tends to congregate in the same area (i.e. lots of kids).  If you come for the tennis, picnics, barbecues, or running, though, then this spot has everything you need.

Ala Moana Park

There is, however, a cool back story to this beach.  Ala Moana (and Waikiki actually) is an area of Honolulu that used to be a swamp. It was a wetland that the city used as a garbage dump. Wanting to develop the Waikiki area, though, hotel moguls needed to divert the water.  So they hired a dredging company to build the Ala Wai canal.  Then, a boat channel was created to connect the Ala Wai Boat Harbor with Kewalo Basin.  All of the land over by Ala Moana, including the beach park is man-made.  It was created by the owner of the Dillingham Dredging Company, hired to dredge the Ala Wai canal, who was looking for a place to dispose of his dredged earth.  So in the 1950s, sand was dumped at this park, which created the beach. Today, in addition to the beach park, there is a really nice mall, high rise hotels, restaurants, and a fishing village (anyone familiar with Streeterville in Chicago should understand this concept).

Ala Wai Canal

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