10 Reasons Why Hawai‘i Locals Love Pearlridge Center

Who can forget the beautiful fragrance from the Cinnabon in the food court?
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Photo: Kevin Allen

Growing up on the North Shore, Pearlridge Center—centrally located on the island of Oʻahu in the town of ʻAiea—was my childhood mall. (Ala Moana Center was another world away for a country bumpkin like myself.) And I loved it. The smells, the sights—everything about the mall was marvelous to 10-year-old me.

Last month—for the first time in nearly a decade—I returned to Pearlridge Center and was pleasantly surprised to see that, while a lot had changed, the mall still charmed me in the same way it had during my childhood. If you had similar experiences growing up with the mall, travel down memory lane with me for a moment and find out what’s still there and what’s new.

1. Smelling the Cinnabon in the Food Court

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Photo: Kevin Allen

Even after not being in the mall for close to a decade, the smell of that Cinnabon is still deeply embedded in my psyche. And you know what? It’s still there and smells just as good as I remember.

2. It Has a Working Monorail—Kinda

Riding the rail as a kid was the coolest thing. Sure, it goes a lot slower than you’d expect, but it was a working monorail that saved you the walk from the mall’s two main shopping areas. It’s also a rail that runs in Hawaiʻi, which is impressive, to say the least. (As of the time of this article being written, the monorail is currently under maintenance and is not running.)

3. Getting Dippin’ Dots as a Kid was the Best

4. There’s a Movie Theater  

Growing up, we could either watch movies at Pearlridge Center or at the theaters at Mililani Town Center, and I always fought for Pearlridge. It just felt more like a theater, and I always loved standing in line to get tickets and looking at all of the movie posters on the wall.

5. There are Touchscreen Navigation Consoles Now

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Photo: Kevin Allen

For a mall with as many shops as Pearlridge Center, these consoles are legitimately amazing. Ala Moana Center should take notes.

6. T.J. Maxx and Ross Filled my Wardrobe

In my teens, I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and going to T.J. Maxx and Ross at Pearlridge. And I loved scoring new shoes, pants and shirts from designer brands at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere. I think I still have a few shirts and hoodies from those days.

7. Pearlridge Center Supports Local Entrepreneurs

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Photo: Kevin Allen

What I didn’t pick up on as a kid, but now see as an adult, is that Pearlridge does a lot for local entrepreneurs who are looking to get their products out there. Local brands like Manaola, Homegrown and Sweet Treats by Kris—all with stores in Pearlridge Center—got their starts as mall kiosks.

8. It Feels like a Mall for Locals

Unlike Ala Moana Center, which sees thousands of visitors daily, Pearlridge Center feels like a mall for local folks. The pace is slower, there are fewer crowds and the overall atmosphere is much more relaxed. So for visitors looking to shop as kamaʻāina do, Pearlridge Center may be the mall for you.

9. Pearlridge Center Does the Holidays Right

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Photo: Kevin Allen

From the decor to daily photo sessions with old St. Nicholas himself, Pearlridge has always been the best at making its property feel holly and jolly during the holiday season.

10. The Farmers Market is a Community Fave

Running every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, the Pearlridge Farmers Market features over 45 local vendors selling fresh produce, one-of-a-kind treats and more. With live music playing throughout the event, it feels more like a community get-together than a traditional farmers market, with ʻohana from the area talking story, getting cool treats for keiki and enjoying a pleasant Saturday morning together.

For more information about Pearlridge Center and to see its directory of shops and events, visit its website at pearlridgeonline.com. 

Categories: Arts + Culture, Oʻahu, Shopping