Waikiki is the bustling, touristy heart of Honolulu, where you can find everything from 5-star beachfront resorts to world-renown restaurants. There are plenty of things to do whether you prefer to browse the local farmers’ markets or hike up a dormant volcano for panoramic views of the city below. So without further ado, here’s a short list of what to do in Waikiki.
Best Time To Go To Wakiki
Summertime will unsurprisingly be the most crowded with families taking advantage of summer vacation from schools, the weather will be hot, and the prices will be sky-high. A better alternative is to go during shoulder seasons like April/May or September/October, when it’s less crowded, the weather is more bearable, and the prices are more reasonable. Winter brings with it rain, but the upside is there will definitely be less crowds then.
This famed beach is known for its beautiful white sand beach and clear water, as well as it views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. It can get quite crowded, especially during the summertime, and also depending on which section you go to. The beach stretches for two-miles along the waterfront, and connects to numerous beachfront resorts. There are different sections of the beach, that cater to different needs. The Royal Hawaiian Beach area is water sports central, where you can rent anything from a boogie board to joining a chartered outrigger canoe adventure. If you want a bit of quiet away from the hotel strip, there is San Souci Beach Park, which is on the east end of Waikiki Beach, and has shallow, calm water that’s ideal for snorkeling and swimming.
Waikiki Farmers Market
Located on the ground level of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, this smaller farmers’ market is a great spot to stock up on local tropical fruit (try the lychee) and homemade treats like malasadas and mochi, as well as jams and jars of honey. There are also arts and crafts booths where you can pick up a memorable souvenir such as homemade soaps and jewelry and watch the craftsman create intricate traditional wood carvings. Whatever you do, make sure to get fresh sugar cane juice that is made fresh to order. Open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-8 p.m. Bring cash, since only a handful of vendors accept cards.
Royal Hawaiian Center
A beautiful outdoor shopping center that is great for window-browsing the high-end shops and has plenty of excellent spots to eat at from casual food courts to sit-down dining. Save room for Uncle Tetsu for a slice of Japanese cheesecake. Make sure to stop by the ABC Store to stock up on local snacks and souvenirs. There are always cultural events happening, like hula dancing or lion dancing for Chinese New Years. If you haven’t gotten your fill of shopping, go across the street to the International Market Place, an upscale outdoor mall with banyan trees and solid food court options. Free two-hour parking with validation is available if you spend $10 or more.
Head to this nearby park, official known as Diamond Head State Monument for unparalleled views of Waikiki and beyond. Located on a dormant volcano, this popular outlook was once used as a military post, protecting Honolulu from unwanted visitors. The hour-long hike takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year-old crater, and includes a steep incline, including the 99 steps at the end of the trail. Make sure to bring a water bottle, as there are only water fountains at the trailhead. The best views are naturally during sunrise or sunset, but make sure to start hiking before 4:30 pm since the park closes at 6 pm. Entrance fees are $1 for pedestrians (you can easily take a ride share vehicle from Wakiki) or $5 per car (get there early since parking is limited).
This historical hotel is worth a visit even if you’re not a guest staying in the beautiful beachfront Victorian property. Known as the “First Lady of Waikiki,” this hotel was built in 1901 and is located on the main thoroughfare, Kalakaua Avenue. Book a day of ultimate relaxation at their oceanfront spa, where you can unwind with a massage or detox in their steam room. Find a table on the porch under the giant banyan tree for a decadent afternoon tea at veranda at the beachhouse with idyllic views of the beach. If you want something more casual, grab a drink at The Beach Bar, where the ocean views make the pricey drinks worth it.
View native Hawaiian animals up-close, including nene (Hawaiian geese) and Hawaiian hawks. Fun fact: the zoo is the only one in the U.S. that came from a king’s royal land grant. The zoo is spacious with many different habitats with a variety of animals, and includes a petting zoo for kids. For night owls, the Twilight tours give visitors a peek into what all the critters are up to after hours. The tour consists of a 2-hour walking tour, and runs on Friday and Saturday, October -March from 4:30pm – 6:30 pm, and April-September from 5:30pm -7:30pm. Entrance fee is $19 for adults, $11 for children 3-12.
Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art
For those who want something a bit different, this home of American heiress Doris Dukeo-turned-museum focuses on Islamic art and architecture, and is not to be missed for its beautiful grounds and historical significance. The 2.5 hour walking tour brings you through room after room of art from countries like Syria, Iran, and Morocco just to name a few. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday starting at 9:00 am, 10:30 am, and 1:30 pm. Your ticket includes admission to the Honolulu Academy of Art Museum, which is where the tour begins and ends. Make sure to book your tour in advance through the website.
Where To Stay In Waikiki
Most hotels are clustered around Waikiki Beach, and this is a good place to stay if you want to be central, and walking distance to the beach, restaurants and shops. The area is known to be pricey, but you can usually find something within mid-range depending on the season.
A boutique hotel that is literally step from the beach and provides a home in Hawaii at a reasonable price. Other nearby sights include the Honolulu Zoo, and numerous restaurants and shops. It’s sleek, modern design and hospitable staff is a welcome sight after a long day of sightseeing. A free continental breakfast is included with your stay.
Located in the heart of Waikiki, this property is steps away from the International Marketplace, Waikiki Beach, and the Royal Hawaiian Center. Rooms are spacious and clean, and were recently renovated. The hotel is connected to the Hawaiian Aroma Cafe that specializes in local Kona coffee and Itailan cuisine, and Maui Brewing Co., where you can enjoy a cold brew, and locally sourced bar bites.
This oceanfront Westin property that is centrally located right on bustling Kalakaua Avenue, is a great alternative to more modern luxury resorts. The hotel allows guests to experience historical Hawaii with its beautiful Victorian building that has been around for over a century, but with present-day creature comforts. Highlights include the Moana Lani Spa, The Beach Bar with live entertainment, and fresh seafood at Beachhouse At The Moana.