Hawaii’s tight-knit community means that running into a familiar face
isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, it’s one of the things that makes this place so special — when our connection to the islands automatically forms this friendly bond between all of us, whether you’re a well-known figure or the faintly recognizable mom, dad, sister, brother, or cousin of a mutual buddy.
If you’re here on vacation and don’t know anyone at all, don’t worry. We’ll introduce you to a few of the local stars you might see around Waikiki Beach Walk.
Antoinette Lee, President of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame
Antoinette "Toni" Lee is a longtime advocate for the native Hawaiian community, having held multiple leadership positions in the Hawaiian Civic Club
communities and serving as a member of the Aloha Festivals
Floral Parade for the past decade. In 2019, the Pewa Awards honored her as one of three esteemed leaders in Hawaii, who embody the transformational change needed in our communities.
She is currently president of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame
, which is the nonprofit behind Waikiki Beach Walk’s free cultural exhibit, The Royal Room
. Offering visitors a deep dive into Hawaii’s musical heritage and traditional arts, The Royal Room offers interactive exhibits, hands-on workshops, and authentic artifacts
illustrating the musical and artistic legacy of the islands.
Dave Carvalho, Owner of Big Wave Dave Surf & Coffee
Photo credit: bigwavedave.com
Look towards Waikiki’s stunning stretch of sandy beach and you may just spot Dave Carvalho, owner of Big Wave Dave Surf & Coffee
. Born and raised in Kailua on the Windward side of Oahu, Dave has been surfing locally for over 40 years, first starting his career in 1976 and going on to compete professionally in 1988. He has won or placed in various surf events throughout Hawaii and California, and even led the team that won the 50th anniversary Malibu Surfing Association’s Invitational Classic.
Dave is currently ranked #35 in North America by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and now runs the top surfing school in Waikiki
with his wife, Krystal. Their mission goes beyond giving a typical surf lesson though. As a former Waikiki Beach Boy (a notable group of skilled watermen), Dave and his crew place an emphasis on ocean knowledge as well as the connection between surfing and Hawaiian culture. It’s a great way to spend part of your day in Waikiki
Roy Yamaguchi, Award-winning Chef & Restaurateur
Regarded as a culinary pioneer, Roy Yamaguchi is known worldwide for his key role in developing Hawaii regional cuisine. His distinct style of Hawaiian fusion
blends bold Asian flavors, local ingredients, and classic European techniques with a bit of creative flare to reflect the many cultures that can be found here in the islands.
An alumnus of The Culinary Institute of America, Yamaguchi worked in some of the most influential kitchens in California before moving to Honolulu and opening the first Roy’s Restaurant in 1988. His culinary prowess has earned him numerous accolades, such as becoming the first person from Hawaii to win the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Pacific Northwest Chef.
A television personality (including stints on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef) and co-founder of the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
, Yamaguchi continues to be a prominent face of Pacific Rim gastronomy. His globally inspired cuisine can be enjoyed at Roy’s Waikiki
located on the corner of Lewers Street.
Wyland, Internationally Renowned Artist & Founder of Wyland Galleries
Photo credit: wyland.com
A painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, and philanthropist in one, Wyland has been deemed the “Marine Michaelangelo” by USA Today for his monumental marine life murals, including the creation of 100 Whaling Walls, one of the largest public arts projects in history. It’s no surprise that he holds the Guinness World Record for the largest mural ever painted as well.
Over time, Wyland has become one of the most celebrated artists in the world
and his work has shined a spotlight on important environmental issues, earning him recognition by the United Nations and U.S. Congress. Since 1993, the Wyland Foundation has changed the way people view the ocean, waterways, and marine life, inspiring millions to help protect and preserve it.
Wyland has a gallery
right here at Waikiki Beach Walk on the first floor, where he occasionally makes appearances and shares stories of his travels.
Gabby Pahinui, Hawaii’s Slack-key Guitar Legend
The late Gabby Pahinui is best known as the father of modern slack-key guitar
, which is a unique fingerstyle genre originating in Hawaii. Pahinui was an incredible self-taught musician whose first recording, Hi'ilawe, is thought to be the first-ever recording of a Hawaiian song featuring sounds of the slack-key guitar. As one of the great legends of Hawaiian music, Pahinui was also a pivotal part of the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s, which inspired a resurgence in Kānaka Maoli identity and culture.
Both talented and charismatic, Pahinui often hosted backyard jam sessions (called kanikapila) that attracted musicians from all over — a tradition that has continued in his honor as the annual Gabby Pahinui Waimānalo Kanikapila festival.
While Gabby may no longer be with us, you can find a statue honoring this brilliant legend at the Plaza Stage near Yard House