The International Market was an institution of Waikiki for many, many years. Originally developed by Donn Beach who created the Don the Beachcomber chain of restaurants, in the 1940s. With its iconic Banyan Tree around which the second story restaurant was built, it contained cheap hula shows and trinkets for the visitors to Waikiki and became a “must stop” to thousands of visitors. By the 2000’s, the restaurant had closed and it was mostly the place to acquire cheap Asian-made trinkets, fast food, and clothing. It was still interesting to poke around and we really liked going to Hula Dog whenever we were down there, but it REALLY needed a makeover. That happened with the purchase of the property which saw all the tenants kicked out in 2013 and the whole property gutted and rebuilt. It took a while but the wait looks to be worthwhile.
They smartly included an “anchor store” in the form of Sax Fifth Avenue which is all the way in the back along Kuhio which means you need to go through the whole mall to reach it and see everything along the way – smart!
The first thing that you will notice when entering is the iconic banyan tree. You will immediately notice the homage they have made to Don the Beachcomber by constructing a little room amongst the tree branches. Inside your will find the history of the International Market and Donn Beach. Really interesting.
The area around the circle surrounding the tree contains interesting photos and narratives about the history of the International Market. They have a photo booth thing set up to record oral histories of anyone who wants to contribute their stories of the International Market over the last 70 years.
The International Market is essential a three story outdoor mall. The first two floors are upscale shops and the entire third floor is all restaurants.
They’ve done a great job of integrating the trees and nature into the structures. The rocking chairs look over a large open green in the back part of the mall. This is where you used to be able to catch a cheap hula or magic show. They have incorporated the stage, although there was nothing going on when we were there. Lot’s of kids playing in the fountain and open green space. A good place to park the husband and kids while you get some shopping done ladies.
The shops are all very nice and places to keep your wife out of, especially Sax Fifth in the back.
The third floor is full of very nice, but fairly affordable restaurants.
So this really is the latest and greatest attraction in Waikiki. Check it out next time you are there and report back if you see something great.