Kahala Mall is my favorite Hawaii shopping mall. It’s small, but has everything you need and is family friendly. Plus it has good food! There are my favorite spots at Kahala Mall.
There are four main shoppings malls in Hawaii.
Ala Moana Shopping Center is the biggest. Then there are three smaller neighborhood malls: Pearlridge Center, Windward Mall, and Kahala Mall. Everyone has stories (most of them happy) about time spent at the mall they grew up with.
We lived on the east side of Oahu, so Kahala Mall was our default mall...
I've spent countless hours at Kahala Mall (I can recognize that signature carpet from a mile away). Going shopping with my grandparents as kids (when Woolworth's was still around), meeting friends for dinner (usually at CPK) and a movie during our middle/high school years. We even hung out at Starbucks, often drinking Frappuccinos. I did my SAT studying at the Barnes & Nobles (rip, will miss) and was loyal to Waldenbooks (also rip, bought many good Babysitters Club books and Archie comics there). As an adult I've returned to the mall for a million errands, had a brief few obsessive months doing barre classes upstairs (turns out my favorite form of exercise is just walking). And I still meet friends here! I love Kahala Mall more than ever before.
But as my friend Christina noted, a lot of that is nostalgic. If you're a newcomer visiting for the first time it might not seem that special. It will grow on you though.
Kahala Mall is my Favorite Mall
Kahala Mall opened in 1954 (originally named Waialae Shopping Center)...which means the mall has been around since before Hawaii became the 50th US state!
Kahala Mall feels so wholesome and family-oriented (it's very much geared towards local residents). You often run into friends and relatives. And it feels safe and comfortable. There's a small "center stage" area for performances (think hula from a halau or elementary school kids singing).
I have this funny memory of a famous omelet maker (who traveled all the way from France) to give an omelet making demo at the mall. I was 9 or 10. I got invited to go on center stage as an "assistant," and he told me the secret to making eggs: add a bit of water if you're going to scramble the eggs (to make it lighter/fluffier) and add a bit of milk if you're making an omelet (to make it richer). So that's how I've always made my omelets.
At one point I went to the mall so often, the security guard complimented me on a new haircut! It's small things that make this mall magical.
I like how you see a diversity in age here (and Hawaii in general) that we rarely see in SF and NYC. There are parents with babies and kids, teens and adults, and groups of senior citizen friends that meet for lunch/hang out/exercise time (the Wikipedia page even mentions this). My friend Noelle said that she hopes when we are much older, we'll all still be friends and can hang out at Kahala Mall. Our form of exercise will be snacking and walking around the mall. Not a bad life ^_^
What to Eat at Kahala Mall
If you've made it down this far in the post...here comes the goods! Below, my main stops (pretty much all food) at Kahala Mall...
Iyasume Musubi Cafe is relatively new to Kahala Mall. This is their 7th location on the island. Everyone loves this musubi shop and it's easy to see why. It's fun and affordable, there's something for everyone...and most important, tasty! One musubi makes for a snack and two makes for a meal (with room for dessert at Il Gelato just across the hall). Full post on Iyasume Musubi Cafe here.
The Compleat Kitchen
The Compleat Kitchen has been around for a long time (like many of my favorite shops at Kahala Mall). Think of this as a local Williams Sonoma with a Hawaii twist. The shop is packed (very, very packed) with all sorts of gadgets and cooking-related odds and ends. Service is always so happy and friendly. There's a clear local bent here, lots of rice makers and musubi molds ^_^
I wish I kept track of how many times I've been inside Carousel Candyland...I bet it's over a thousand! I've been going since elementary school, mostly for chocolate covered gummy bears and hurricane popcorn. It looks like your usual candy by the pound shop but what makes Carousel Candyland special is all the local treats they have...
Not food-related, but I love looking for new items at Riches. On my last visit, they just stocked two dreamy lauhala bags from the Big Island. It's weirdly hard to find a good lauhala bag these days, and this one was ideal, with good reinforcements. Only issue was that it had a pocket divider in the middle so it couldn't fit my camera (which I bring everywhere). Please keep your eyes peeled for the perfect lauhala bag ^_^
Next to Riches is Banán! They have five locations on Oahu island and they're popular for a frozen (similar to soft serve or frozen yogurt) dessert made from local bananas. You can get the classic banana or flavors like acai, chocolate mac, lilikoi, and olena (turmeric).
Pearl's Korean BBQ
There's a hallway to your right after you pass Banán. Go down that hallway to find the mainstream places like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Panda Express (did you know Panda Express Hawaii has the only locations that make chow funn?), Pretzelmaker, etc. There are also a few local spots like Pearl's Korean BBQ for Korean plate lunches (I get meat jun, add mandoo, sides of 2x jap chae, cabbage kim chee, and mac salad) and...
The Cookie Corner
...The Cookie Corner for warm cookies. The Cookie Corner has been around forever and I still remember when people sold their cookies for school fundraisers. I like the bags filled with mini cookies and also the bigger cookies which come warm from the oven. Always hard to decide between chocolate chip with walnuts and the oatmeal raisin. They also makes great lemon/lime/lilikoi bars...Hawaiian Airlines used to give on the plane for dessert, such a treat!
Minamoto Kitchoan has several US locations (NYC, SF, and LA)...but the Hawaii one is my favorite. There's a full store at Ala Moana Shopping Center, and a smaller kiosk here at Kahala Mall. This is where you get wagashi for gift giving (or for yourself to eat because why not)...
All locals know that Longs Drugs is secretly CVS. Funny, yeah? So this location was Longs Drugs since forever. Then a few years ago CVS bought Longs Drugs and changed all the Longs Drugs in Hawaii (there are a ton of locations) to CVS. Everyone revolted! So they promptly changed the store name back to Longs Drugs (even though it's still secretly CVS). Longs Drugs (locals just call it "Longs") sells everything. All the usual drugstore stuff and plus a bunch of local foods. Everything from Spam to shoyu/soy sauce (the good local brand, pictured above), to haupia mix and even kulolo mix. Anything! Everything! The also have good sales so look for the Sunday paper ads.
If you exit from the Longs Drugs side of Kahala Mall and cross the covered parking lot, you'll find the Kahala McDonald's (here are the special Hawaii-only items at McDonalds!) and a cluster of other small eateries. I like to visit Brug Bakery. Brug has other locations but this one is the newest. Like many bakeries in Hawaii, Brug has a strong Japanese and local influence so you'll find things like mochi donuts (pictured above), Portuguese sausage musubi buns, and Okinawan sweet potato mochi rolls. This is also where I get soft Japanese loaves to make honey toast.
P.S. One thing I hope will never change at Kahala Mall is their signature flower (is it a flower??) carpet. It has been around since I was born (cleaned and updated many times, of course). If you see that carpet, you know you're at Kahala Mall ^_^
INFO: Kahala Mall | 4211 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816 | (808) 732-7736 | kahalamallcenter.com
HOURS: Monday-Saturday: 10a-9p; Sunday 10a-6p; Holiday Hours, click here