A Brief History of Honolulu's Chinatown

Honolulus Chinatown
Honolulu's Chinatown | © Prayitno / WikiCommons
Kalena McElroy

Most Chinese immigrants arrived in Hawaii during the mid-18th century to work on the sugar plantations. They began opening businesses in Honolulu, creating permanent roots in Hawaii, ingrained within Hawaiian culture itself, and establishing the now-vibrant quarter of Chinatown. Here is a brief history of this under-the-radar district.

In ancient times, the now-Chinatown area was known as Kou, and consisted of mud flats with shrubs and loulu palms. The construction of Honolulu Harbor changed the course of history for the region. Honolulu, once known as the best place in all the islands to anchor large ships, led to the emergence of an adjacent city for foreigners. The neighboring town was a hub for business, trade, lodging, and entertainment for foreigners, as well as whalers making a stop in Hawaii. This was the birth of Chinatown.

Lum Sai Ho Tong Temple

The quarter was not easy to establish — Chinatown and its residents overcame many hardships. Most buildings only date to the early 20th century due to a fire in 1886, which destroyed eight blocks and many homes. The rebuilding of the area was unregulated, resulting in poor living conditions and rat infestations from the nearby ships. A few years later, Chinatown suffered from an outbreak of the bubonic plague and the state decided to burn down all infected buildings. Nevertheless, Honolulu’s Chinatown district now flourishes and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its impact on the local Chinese community.

Maunakea Market

On the first Friday of each month, Chinatown’s art walk takes place, and serves as a revitalization for the area. It’s also a great opportunity to discover new places as unique art galleries, exhibits, and art studios open their doors once a month for the event. Starting at 5 pm, the streets transform into pedestrian zones, and visitors can pop into one of the many international restaurants, trendy bars, or live music venues, which bring the district to life.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article