Wowed by Waikiki

The revitalization of Waikiki continues, with more than $25 million spent over the past half decade on improvements to Kuhio Beach, Kapiolani Park and the neighborhood's streets and sidewalks. Hotels have been upgraded and facilities added.

"Waikiki is returning to be a quality destination once again, and room products and entertainment will continue to improve," said David Carey, president of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts.

Carey's company is developing one of the largest Waikiki projects, the $460 million Waikiki Beach Walk, which has been in the planning stages for 10 years. Waikiki Beach Walk will upgrade a section of Lewers Street that company officials describe as "sadly deteriorated."

The first phase includes totally refurbishing and converting the Ohana Waikiki Village and Ohana Waikiki Tower hotels into Hawaii's first Embassy Suites hotel. During the process, 844 standard hotel rooms will be reduced to 421 suites. At the same time, a Fairfield vacation ownership resort will join Embassy Suites as the first two of a proposed four hotels for the site.

Signature Restaurants

Waikiki Beach Walk's phase one also encompasses a 90,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex that will include Roy's Restaurant, the first Waikiki outpost of celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi; and Wolfgang Puck Express, along with six specialty retailers.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center will undergo its first major renovation, an $84 million project that will completely upgrade the facility and bring a blend of new stores and restaurants that will bring new life to one of Waikiki's most important shopping complexes.

Improvements will include Kuhio Beach-style paving and landscaping with palms, shrubs and grass mounds along the center's three city blocks, and the creation of a focal point, The Royal Grove, a garden area within the complex suitable for receptions and outdoor events.

The fourth-floor Aloha Showroom will host a new production that highlights the history of Waikiki. The show will include acrobatics, hula and modern dance and incorporate unique costumes, stage sets and lighting.

While work on the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is expected to be completed in late 2006, plans to improve the International Marketplace, another popular Waikiki shopping complex, have been put on hold.

Owner Queens Health System has decided to reserve the funds for possible hospital upgrades.