This is one of the two towers of the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beachwalk in Honolulu, pic shot during our 2007 visit to O`ahu, the Big Island and Maui.
We have fond memories of this place–it was the first hotel we stayed at, during our first visit to the Aloha State in 1996, which included a wedding on Maui and a subsequent honeymoon. It was known as the Outrigger Village back then; later the name changed to the Ohana Waikiki Village. Later it was closed, renovated and reopened under its current name in 2007.
First memories of a place you visit are almost always powerful; following two painfully long flights and a lengthy bus ride from the Honolulu International Airport, we finally arrived at the Outrigger Village. After checking in, we hurriedly tossed our bags onto the bed and rushed down so we could stick our feet into the sand at Waikiki Beach. What a feeling! Thirteen hours earlier we were standing outside in the 10 degree cold at Duluth International Airport, smoking cigarettes and wondering what Hawai`i would feel like. All we had at the time were ideas, hopes and the advice of others who had been there. Now we were, at long last, realizing the dream.
The area of Waikiki where the Village stood then was seedy and more than slightly run down. A change was necessary–here was a fairly prime piece of Waikiki real estate being drastically under-utilized. I understood the need for change, and change it did–the 2007 reopening of the Waikiki Beachwalk featured wider, better lit streets, better and more upscale (read: pricey!) shops, hotels and restaurants. I understand all that.
It doesn’t mean I liked it. I remember eating breakfast in the downstairs restaurant, the first open air restaurant we had ever eaten at, watching birds hopping around the floor looking for a piece of something, anything, to fall to the ground. I remember the open air lobby and bar area. I remember the excitement we felt on that night (Monday, February 12, 1996) as we arrived at the hotel. Likewise, the area had a certain appeal to me; the too-narrow sidewalks, the pencil-thin Lewers Street, all of it. It had atmosphere. It had personality. The strong memories remain to this day.