Magic Island is not actually an island at all. It is a manmade peninsula and rocky point bordering the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, located within the perimeter of 76-acre Ala Moana Beach Park. Although formally christened in 1972 as "Aina Moana,'' or "land from the sea,'' it is unlikely that anyone other than local residents would be familiar with Magic Island by that name.
Completed in 1964, the peninsula was built on thirty acres of reclaimed shallow reef. The original concept was to create a new resort hotel complex here that would cover two additional islands. But the project died soon after the first stage of reclamation was accomplished, so the area was converted into a public park.
Noted for its picnic and swimming areas, Magic Island offers visitors white sand beaches and a lagoon protected by a rocky breakwater. There are wide grassy spaces for sports and recreation, picnic tables for day-trippers, and trails that can be used for cycling and inline skating.
Off to the east are beautiful views of Waikiki and Honolulu, backed famous Diamond Head and fronted by the yachts moored nearby. In fact, the panorama is so stunning at dusk that Magic Island has become the last stop for sunset photos on deluxe Oahu wedding packages. Many a couple has taken their vows here, too. Romantic "barefoot in the sand'' ceremonies are popular, and there is no charge for use of the crescent-shaped beach or parking facilities.
During the daytime, Magic Island can be quite crowded, especially when there are surf advisories on the North Shore that drive water sports enthusiasts to the south. The surrounding waters have been rated among Hawaii's top spots for shore diving, home to spotted eagle rays, surgeonfish, stonefish, checkered cowries, turtles, coral and other sea life. Both snorkelers and scuba-divers use the beach as an easy access point for underwater excursions.
By late afternoon, the sandy shore empties out a bit. Walkers, joggers and Frisbee throwers take over, joined by tourists having their photos taken beside the coconut palms. The picnic tables are popular hangouts for local residents, their friends and families, too.
Each 4th of July, the city holds a huge fireworks display above Magic Island, which can be seen from hotel windows all along Waikiki. Thousands gather in the park to get a close-up view. This is also the venue for the annual Honolulu Family Festival, with thrill rides, dozens of food stalls, live entertainment, and games. Each August, it draws tens of thousands with free admission and a complimentary shuttle service. All proceeds from the festival go toward the upkeep and beautification of Ala Moana Beach Park.
Along those lines, each October the Hawaii Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors joins local government entities and volunteers at Magic Island for an annual beach clean up. Typically, 500 people show up to gather trash from the shore and shallows. Free bento lunch boxes and printed t-shirts are provided, which turns the half-day clean-up campaign into a much anticipated social event.
Unfortunately, Magic Island became a preferred location for homeless squatters not long ago. As a result, the park area is now open only from dawn till dusk and overnight camping has been banned.
Magic Island is located on the east end of Ala Moana Beach Park at 1201 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814. Visitors should plan to arrive early on weekends and holidays; the parking lot fills up quickly.