Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Parking in wacky Waikiki requires specialized skills

By Lee Cataluna


When local people fret about Waikiki parking, it's only partly about the cost. Equally discouraging are the navigational skills required.

Fairly good deals can be found for casual day trips into Waikiki for shopping, people-watching and splashing in the waves in front of the hotels. If you eat at the right place and get your ticket validated, valet parking is as low as 6 bucks.

But you have to know the hook-up ahead of time. It's not a drive, check it out, "Hey, let's park there!" kind of place. There needs to be planning. To be safe, there needs to be a number of alternate plans as well. You never can tell when your favorite secret parking spot has been commandeered by a convention of visiting ichthyologists.

The new credit card parking meters at the zoo are pretty slick. They allow you to add to your time via cell phone rather than walk all the way back to the car with quarters after three hours. But zoo parking is convenient only at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki. If you want to go gawk at the silver man by the International Marketplace or stroll around looking at cute Christmas displays in the lobby of the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, it's a long trek, especially if you're towing grumpy kids or fussy friends.

The typical hotel parking garage is a challenge if you're driving anything bigger than a Geo Metro. Swinging around five stories of tight turns, tires squealing, stuff falling out of your "filing system" in the back seat, is no way to get your mind right for relaxing and enjoying. Most parking structure parking spaces aren't angled, are hopelessly narrow and are often bounded on one side by an ominous concrete post just waiting to take out your passenger-side mirror. Who can enjoy Waikiki after that?

If you're lucky enough to find an open parking spot in one of those noisy, exhaust-filled, dimly lit parking garages, the next challenge is to figure out how to get from where your car is to where you want to be. Ever gone down three flights of car-only ramps in slippery stilettos desperate to find an elevator or fire exit or rope ladder so you can get out of the place? Yeah. Hard to look good at dinner when you've been sweating for 20 minutes trying to bust out of the parking garage.

Some neighbor island families have designated "Honolulu drivers" -- the one person in the clan brave enough to drive a rented Pontiac on the H-1. Some Oahu families have designated "Waikiki parkers," the one person in the clan who can get into Waikiki without bursting into tears, dinging a fender or paying $30 for parking.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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