Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Aloha Stadium 99-500 Salt Lake Blvd. Honolulu, HI 96818
Year Opened: 1975
Football in the Pacific
Aloha Stadium opened in 1975, and is located in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The stadium is home to the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors Football team, who currently compete in the Mountain West Conference. With a capacity of 50,000, Aloha Stadium is the largest venue in the state, and besides the Rainbow Warriors, the facility is home to the NCAA’s Hawai’i Bowl, and also hosts a swap meet every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday (except on football game days). Aloha Stadium was also home to the NFL’s Pro Bowl for many years, until the game was moved to Orlando.
Food & Beverage 5
Aloha Stadium’s concessions offer a great mix of traditional stadium fare, such as hot dogs, pizza, and burgers, as well as a large complement of local favorites, including kalua pork, saimin, and malasadas. Before you decide what to get, however, be sure to walk around a bit first, as each stand features different items.
Main dishes available at Aloha Stadium include plate lunches, a traditional meal in Hawai’i which includes rice and some type of meat, in this case beef stew, as well as saimin (a noodle soup dish), kalua pork (a traditional favorite at Hawaiian luaus, where the whole pig is cooked in an underground sand pit), gyros, salads, chicken wraps, cheesesteak, pizza, hot dogs (with or without chili), burgers, and chicken strips. Other items include roasted ears of corn, nachos, pretzels, boiled peanuts, French fries (regular or garlic), onion rings, churros, baklava, and two types of donuts (traditional and the aforementioned Hawaiian-style malasadas). Main dishes range from $4 to $12, while side and dessert items run $3.50 to about $6.
There are not a ton of drink options available at Aloha Stadium, but alcohol is served, and there is even a beer garden on the upper level. Non-alcoholic selections include bottled water, coffee, and soda (from the fountain or in bottles), while alcohol selections include both domestic and premium beer on tap. Coffee is $2.75, bottled water is $3.50, soda starts at $4.75, and beer starts at $9.
The parking lots around Aloha Stadium make the venue appear deceptively full – even if you arrive two hours before kickoff, the parking lots seem packed, and there are seemingly thousands of fans outside tailgating and having a grand old time – members of the Rainbow Warriors marching band can even be spotted walking amongst the fans, banging their drums and cymbals in order to rev up the crowd. However, by the time the game begins, there are very few fans inside, so the venue is not able to generate much energy.
On the plus side, Aloha Stadium has live bands performing during tailgating – you can find local bands set up on top of the entrance gates – and the marching band at Aloha Stadium is fun to watch during pregame (and again during halftime), particularly the flag bearers waving their brightly colored UH banners. Before kickoff you can see them spell out U-H, similar to pregame formations seen at other college football venues. However, be sure to arrive early, because there are two things you will NOT see elsewhere – first off, at Aloha Stadium you will hear two songs sung before kickoff: the US National Anthem, followed by the state song of Hawai’i, Hawaiʻi Ponoʻi. In addition, you will also witness the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors football team perform the Haka, a traditional Maori war dance. The Rainbow Warriors have been known to perform the Haka on the road as well, though in the past they have been penalized 15 yards for it.
Aloha Stadium is located within one mile of the Pearl Harbor historic sites, and is only a couple of miles from the Honolulu Airport. There are plenty of restaurants and attractions in the area, but you will likely need to drive to them, as the stadium is bordered by several freeways, and thus is not really pedestrian friendly.
No visit to Oahu is complete without visiting the Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor, which commemorates the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941, which led to the United States’ entry into World War II. Admission to the memorial is free, however, only 1300 walk-up tickets are available per day, so unless you book weeks or months in advance, you should plan on getting there at 7 am (when they open) to guarantee yourself a seat. Once there you can also purchase tickets to other sites, such as the Battleship Missouri Memorial (the site of Japan’s surrender, which ended World War II), the Pacific Aviation Museum (which houses one of the planes flown by former president George H. W. Bush), and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.
If you are looking for something to eat before or after the game, chop suey and sushi restaurants abound on the island, and there are also myriad small bakeries around, where you can purchase all manner of Hawaiian pastries and sweet breads – feel free to stop in at one as you pass by. However, two restaurants I would recommend are Lisa’s House on Dillingham Boulevard, and Restaurant 604. Lisa’s House is about 7 miles away from Aloha Stadium, towards Waikki, and while not much to look at from the outside, features great happy hour specials, and a fabulous kimchi Teri burger. Alternatively, Restaurant 604 offers both American and classic Hawaiian fare, and is not far from the stadium.
There are plenty of hotels near Aloha Stadium, but the “best” ones are all out at Waikki (near the beach) – this is the resort area of the island, and the hotels there are priced accordingly, but cheaper options can be found closer to the airport.
As mentioned previously, the parking lot may appear full, but there are very few fans in Aloha Stadium come game time. A few more fans will trickle in after kickoff, as a lot of fans stay outside partying until the first or second quarter, but even by halftime the stadium will be almost empty, and the Warriors’ ticket pricing doesn’t really take this into account – unlike some venues, Hawai’i does not close off certain sections due to lack of demand, so fans looking to save money will still purchase tickets in the upper deck, despite the fact there is plenty of room closer to the action.
Getting to and from Aloha Stadium can be tricky. For starters, the stadium is at least a 6-hour flight from the US mainland, and even if you live elsewhere in the islands, it will still take a boat ride or a plane trip to get to Oahu. If you are flying in, Honolulu Airport is the most convenient, as it will get you within a few miles of Aloha Stadium; H-1 is the main freeway to get you to the stadium itself, from either the east or the west.
There is plenty of parking in the huge lots right outside Aloha Stadium for $7 per car, but you may want to arrive early, as they seem to fill up. Also, despite the very small crowd, getting out after the game takes a long time because there are only a couple of exits, so you may want to park close to those, rather than trying to get as close to the stadium as possible; this will mean a further walk, but will ultimately save you time.
Once you get inside Aloha Stadium, there are plenty of restrooms and concessions stands to accommodate the small crowd, so you shouldn’t have to deal with any long lines. There are also escalators which you can use to get to the upper levels, which is a plus – these change direction about halfway through the game, so you can use them on your way out as well.
Note that driving around Honolulu is difficult, even during the tourist “off-season”, as traffic is heavy, and there are a lot of one-way streets. Also, there is not enough parking on the island, so during certain hours of the day people are allowed to park in one of the traffic lanes, which restricts traffic even more. Also, note that some of the lanes on the main drags switch direction, so even though they are painted to go a certain way, cones will be set up to switch them to the opposite directions during certain hours.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets to Rainbow Warriors football games start at $25 for upper level seats, but you can’t really move down to the lower levels (even though there is room), as there are staff members on hand guarding the entrances to each section. Parking is cheap, though, and concessions are reasonable – there are plenty of good options for fans on a budget. The biggest downside to attending a game at Aloha Stadium is simply the lackluster attendance.
Hawai’i is a fabulous place to visit, so sports fans should take any excuse they can find to make the trip. Also, music is a huge part of the culture in Hawai’i, so having the chance to hear the state song sung in the native language, and witness the Maori war dance, are both great reasons to visit Aloha Stadium when you come to the islands.
While Aloha Stadium may lack the energy of many big-time college football programs, Hawai’i is an obvious destination for anyone, let alone college football fans, so consider a trip to the islands, perhaps the next time your favorite team plays the Rainbow Warriors on the road.