One of the most endangered Waikiki landmarks is the Waikiki International Market Place a truly unique emporium encompassing several acres in the very heart of Waikiki nestled between the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani & The Miramar Hotel & the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel. Conceived during the late 1950s as a way to “to meet the visitors expectations of Waikiki being a casual, tropical village with the arts, crafts, entertainment and foods of Hawai’i's truly diverse people, the International Market Place reflected the early awareness that cultural tourism required a creative vision.”
Naturally time has altered that vision a bit, but the International Market Place remains a wonderful mix of kiosks & carts & shops & eateries set in a delightful maze much like a Medieval European Village with meandering footpaths & passageways that delight the senses while inviting exploration. What is truly wonderful is that though one might feel that they are ‘lost,’ or that they have lost a family member or friend along the way, all paths lead back to a few key entry & exits and thus all find themselves reunited, generating exhilarating commentary, “oh, there you are, I just discovered this wonderful – - – - .”
There are more than one hundred and thirty vendors scattered throughout the Marketplace. One can ‘Pick a Pearl’ from several Pearl Factory kiosks, or find that perfect ring or bracelet or necklace from several carts, there are T-shirts & Muumuus & beachwear vendors aplenty, along with an entire store devoted to magnets, a genuine local craftsman & family carving Tiki masks & wooden Honu (turtles) and other items daily demonstrating their skill with chisel & hammer, stores & carts selling crystals & souvenirs of every description, and all sorts of just plain wonderful gee-gads .
Entering The International Marketplace via Kalakaua one swiftly encounters a humongous Banyan tree reputed to be the oldest on O’ahu, judging by its massive size a justifiable claim. Nestled in front of the tree is a Koi pond & waterfall that delights all with its colorful inhabitants. To the left of the main tree trunk, protected by a smaller trunk is The Enchanted Banyan, where one can “get a peek at tomorrow today” courtesy of several psychics, a mix of clairvoyants whose talents are as individual as they are; astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, crystal gazing (808-923-4364).
Stepping deeper into the Market Place one finds an assortment of delectable eateries. Coconut Willies is a venerable institution featuring live music several days a week while The Tree Top Café offers fresh brewed coffee. Further on simply follow the yellow brick road, er ah yellow line, to the food court where one will find one of the best Mexican eateries on O’ahu, Toritos, as well as Choi’s Kitchen for scrumptious Korean food; my favorite, Kim-Cee fried Rice with Spicy Pork. The Food Court boosts a host of excellent choices for any palette, a shout out for Bautistas, Tiki Burger and The Peking Garden.
The Food Court has a stage and five nights a week there is free entertainment. Two of the perennial favorites are the ‘Voyage through Polynesia’ revue, and Greg & Junko MacDonald whose mastery of the steel drums is truly magical. One is guided to http://www.internationalmarketplacewaikiki.com/events/ for times and dates.
The International Market Place is open from 10AM to 10:30 PM seven days a week and is well worth a visit not only if you are a visitor to Hawai’i but if you are a seasoned kaimaina for there many unique gift items to be found and great deals as well as free entertainment and something rarer less definable, a sense of place, a truly unique experience.