Behind the Glamour of Waikiki: Seawalls

First Published August 28, 2017
Updated March 26, 2020

You always have time for the things you put first.
–Unknown

It’s July 24, 2017, at 5:15 a.m. At the corner of Kuhio Avenue and Kaiulani Avenue at this early hour emerges another side of Waikiki–the non-touristy side as service vehicles are lined up, one after another, on Kuhio Avenue. 

Perhaps the service vehicles are a foreshadowing of what will be seen this morning–which is the solely functional components, also known as the “infrastructure”–the things that need to happen for the glitz and glamour–the nightlife–of Waikiki to take place. And in reality, those functional parts are barely hanging by a thread, as we shall see. The state of Waikiki–its very foundations–are precarious indeed, as one will find out.

Timeline

At 5:45 a.m., I am on Waikiki Beach. On the beach, one person is fishing, and three surfers are getting in the water or are already in the water.

At 6:30 a.m., from the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, I start taking pictures of where the ocean waves hit concrete and then carry sand inland, way into buildings and walkways of Waikiki Beach! The area most affected by the ocean waves includes the Sheraton Waikiki, the Halekulani, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, and Fort Derussy Boardwalk.

At 7:30 a.m., I walk back from the Fort Derussy Boardwalk to the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

The Desire to Commune with the Water

It was cloudy that morning, and the threat of rain loomed, so the handful of people in the water remained just a handful, while most of the people I saw were having their breakfast in one of the resort hotels, and a few were doing a morning walk or jog. 

At the same time, dozens of people walked out onto a concrete wall, similar to the Waikiki Wall. These people want to get their feet wet, see some marine life in the water, and feel how it is to be in the water, without themselves to take a full swim in the ocean. How do they do those mentioned above without getting swept into a seawall?

In these photos, the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel beachfront is non-existent, and the ocean waves lap up and once in a while pound against its seawall. 

(Above) The Seawall at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel at 6:30 a.m.

~~~

Shall We Wait for Things to Get Written Up in Wikipedia?

The below is a picture which was taken on November 11, 2005, of a below-sea-level scenario when there was a breach on the New Orleans side of the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans. So, shall we wait for things to get worse and see a picture of Waikiki on Wikipedia, which says, “Example of sea-level rise?”

A Breach in the 17th Street Canal. Taken on November 11, 2005. New Orleans

~~~

I then took photos from the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel to the Fort Derussy Boardwalk.

Sheraton Waikiki

Approaching the Seawall

(Above and below) Sheraton Waikiki Oceanfront

(Above and below) Sheraton Waikiki Oceanfront
Sandbags at the Sheraton Waikiki

The Seawall

(Above) The Seawall at the Sheraton Waikiki Oceanfront
(Above and below) The Seawall at the Sheraton Waikiki Oceanfront

(Above) The Seawall at the Sheraton Waikiki Oceanfront

(Above) An excellent video of the general area around the seawall is “Waikiki Kahanamoku Beach Walk Oahu Hawaii March 30, 2020 What is Happening in Waikiki” dated April 24, 2020. The footage starts at 1:48; the footage around Fort DeRussy Beach and Park lasts to 8:54.

Under Construction Forever

Of course, as these resorts want to attract business, it’s always nice to have a sign that says,

“Under Construction. Sorry for the Inconvenience!”

or put it another way, it is a sign that would say,

“Until we agree on what to do, we are under maintenance FOREVER! Wish us luck! We’ll need it!”

or

“We, like you, are waiting for this on-going maintenance to finish.”

or

 “The Seas are Rising! Sorry for the Inconvenience!”

or

“The Seas are Rising! We Are Trying to Figure Out What to Do, But We Haven’t Come to a Consensus About How Waikiki Beach Should Look Like!”

What can the resorts tell their customers without revealing awkward and embarrassing, behind the scenes information, while all of the effects of the ocean waves are out in the open for everyone to see?

The Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki

As ocean waves rise higher and higher, the type of architectural design, such as the Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki, will be the norm at Waikiki Beach–where a hotel walkway, which overlooks the beach, has a higher level than the lobby of the hotel.

(Above) At a higher level than the lobby and the ocean, the Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki
(Above and below) At a higher level than the lobby and the ocean, the Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki

As I walk past these hotels, I notice the ocean carried sand way past the front face of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, and for people to enter into the resort, at least two people sweep away sand from the concrete walkway.

At another location, another sand mound and sand bags surround a beachfront entrance. And likely, this process of sweeping repeats itself at least once a day!

There is a similar scenario at the Fort Derussy Boardwalk characterized by piles and piles of swept up sand which lay next to the concrete sidewalk.

What will become of these sand piles?

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Sand between the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort (on the left side of this image) the Halekulani Hotel (on the right side of this image)

Halekulani Hotel

The Seawall

Seawall (on the right side of this image) at the Halekulani Hotel
(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Seawall at the Halekulani Hotel

(Above and below) Between the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort (on the left side of this image) the Halekulani Hotel (on the right side of this image)
Notice the sand with goes way past the front face of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort.

Nearby the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Sandbags at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
Sandbags at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
Oceanfront at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
(Above and below) Piles of sand outside the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

(Above) Piles of sand outside the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Fort Derussy Boardwalk

(Above and below) Piles of sand at the Fort Derussy Boardwalk

(Above) A video entitled “Waikiki Beach Quarantined Drone Flyover,” dated April 1, 2020, contains video footage of the shoreline of Waikiki, which starts from the base of Diamond Head near The Natatorium and end at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

Related Links:


(Above) Proposed Ala Wai Canal “Heiau” and Lock and Dam WITH Narration


(Above) Aquaponics Which Involve Fish and Taro at the “Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa”

~~~

Ho’okuleana Design ©2016, 2017

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Ala Watershed Special Resource Study Report

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Emy We’ i Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” From 2009 to 2016, she served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. During this time, she made appearances at its conferences and met people from all over the world. 

A Chinese-American, Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and was raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 1991 and earned a degree in Architecture. In 1993, Emy Louie relocated to the mainland United States and from 2007 to 2008, she hosted her radio show to interview the movers and shakers of sustainable design and green building. 

From 2008 to 2012, she taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to design professionals. Since 1993, Ms. Louie has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, USA. She is president of Emy Louie, Consulting Services, which is currently working on design and environmental projects.

 

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