OAHU PEOPLE & CULTURE
Welcome to Oahu, known for centuries as “the Gathering Place” of the Hawaiian Islands. Today, Oahu is still Hawaii’s gathering place, famous for its Waikiki resorts, university campuses, the Hawaii Convention Center, Hawaii State Capitol, major industries and historic downtown area—home to America’s only royal residence, Iolani Palace.
Oahu is also home to the the majority of the state's population, a rich ethnic potpourri of people that includes Native Hawaiians (approximately 20 percent of the population is part-Hawaiian), Caucasians (accounting for about 29 percent of the total) and the descendants of laborers that came to Hawaii in the 1800s to work on sugar and pineapple plantations. These immigrants came from Europe and Asia, including Spain, Portugal, Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines. In recent years, more immigrants have added to the mix, coming from Samoa, Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia.
The statistical breakdown for the State of Hawaii is: 33.4% Caucasian; 22.3% Japanese; 15.2% Filipino; 12.5% pure and part-Hawaiian (approximately 3,000 pure Hawaiians still living in the State of Hawaii); 6.2% Chinese; and a mix of others, including 24,454 Korean and 15,034 Samoan.
The diversity of Oahu is best represented in its Chinatown, the historic part of Downtown Honolulu that is filled with open-air markets catering to long-time residents and newly arrived immigrants in search of the foods that remind them of their homelands. There are Chinese herbal shops, Vietnamese vegetable stores and Thai shops that sell spicy-hot curries. Visitors come from around the world to enjoy the equally rich offerings of restaurants that serve up everything from exotic Filipino dishes to gourmet Chinese dim sum.
Move a few blocks south and downtown’s appearance soars with the skyscrapers of Bishop Street, the heart of the business and financial center of the Hawaiian Islands. The brand-new First Hawaiian Bank Center typifies the grand architecture of Hawaii’s future, while just across the street are several beautiful historic buildings that represent the days when the Islands destiny was controlled by “The Big Five” (Alexander & Baldwin, Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, Theo. H. Davies and American Factors), a group of merchants who ran the agriculturally dominated economy and the ships that carried freight in and out of the most isolated islands on the face of the earth.
A few blocks farther south and the face of the cityscape changes once again, harking back to the days Hawaii was a Pacific kingdom ruled by Hawaiian royalty. Stepping into the halls of Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church and the Mission Houses on King Street is a journey back to the tumultuous time when the East and the West converged on Hawaii, when missionaries, whalers and merchants from around the world were flocking to this crossroads of the Pacific.
Between highrise and historic Honolulu and the resort area of Waikiki is the Kapiolani Corridor, flanked by several world-class shopping complexes, including Ala Moana Center (once the largest of its kind in the entire world) and the new Ward Complex, offering a variety of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences.
From simple beginnings to a modern present, Oahu is a unique gathering place for visitors and residents alike.