WAHIAWA, OAHU — For many Hawaii residents, the rural town of Wahiawa in central Oahu is just a place you drive through when traveling to the beaches on the North Shore or commuting to urban Honolulu.
Fast food restaurants line the small stretch of Kamehameha Highway that snakes through the town. Cars heading north are greeted by signs advertising a pawnshop and several chain stores.
Time has changed Wahiawa. It was long surrounded by Hawaii's prosperous pineapple plantations, which were one of the state’s main economic motors for most of the 20th century.