Known as “spouting water”, Waikiki and its narrow, sandy beachfront was once a favourite retreat for Hawaiian royalties. Today, this cosmopolitan South Shore neighbourhood in Oahu sprawls with shops, restaurants, and 5-star resorts along its bustling boardwalks.
Popular among vacationers and locals alike, Waikiki is a buzzing spot for watersports, soaking in the island’s bohemian vibe, and catching golden sunsets dipping below a mesmerizing horizon. Here, contemporary shopping complexes and boutique stores line Kalakaua Avenue before giving way to the imposing, volcanic slopes of Diamond Head.
Hints of Hawaiian tradition are never far, and they accentuate every shop, bar, and restaurant mere steps away from the statue of its homegrown hero and Olympian, Duke Kahanamoku.
Attractions & Landmarks
Duke Kahanamoku Statue
Duke Paoa Kahanamoku remained one of Hawaii’s most revered local hero. The Olympic swimmer and two-time gold medalist brought modern surfing into popularity and taught others how to surf at Waikiki Beach. On Kuhio Beach, a bronze statue of Duke stands with both hands outstretched holding lanai wreaths welcoming visitors, capturing his likeness in life as the “Hawaiian Ambassador of Aloha.”
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Among the most iconic resorts by the beaches, Hilton Hawaiian owns a 22-acre property with an artificial lagoon, luau venues, and hosts weekly Friday night fireworks. The resort features live performances with fire knife dancers, musical concerts, and several terrace pools and barside pools.
A former military garrison, Fort DeRussy was repurposed into a beach park and a museum. Battery Randolph now houses hundreds of military artifacts, weapons, and war machines, most noticeably with a Cobra helicopter parked outside of the compound.
Kapiolani Park and Gardens
The largest park in Hawaii, Kapiolani was named after one of the islands’ last queens and encompasses 300-acres of grassy land and a botanical garden. It’s popular among the locals as an outdoor sports venue and features a concert theatre, the Waikiki Shell, and a zoo.
Honolulu Zoo and Fence
A 42-acre zoo located at the northern edge of Kapiolani Park, Honolulu Zoo is home to thousands of tropical animals and African wildlife. Here, you’ll find giraffes, elephants, and lion enclosures a short walk away from flamingos and reptiles. It opens from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm daily with last admission at 4:30 pm and closes on Christmas. The zoo’s southside fence is an informal outdoor display of artwork from local artists.
Opened in 1904, Waikiki Aquarium is the second oldest aquarium in the U.S. It grew over the century from a modest 35-tank exhibit to containing more than 4,000 species of fish, 7,000 forms of marine life indigenous to northwestern Hawaiian islands.
Waikiki Beach Walk
Waikiki’s modern boardwalk is filled with places to shop, dine, enjoy live music, and to take in the stunning oceanfront views. This sleek beachside promenade is perfect for enjoying authentic Honolulu city life and hunt down a few souvenirs including a ukulele.
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One of the main thoroughfares in Waikiki, Kalakaua is sprinkled with hundreds of stores and Hawaiian-style eateries. A pleasure to explore on foot, this avenue is the place to go designer shop-hopping, pick out a ukulele, and grab quick bites at the farmer’s market.
Ala Moana Center
The largest shopping mall in Hawaii, Ala Moana features over 300 open-air stores connected by cobbled walkways. This busy shopping hotspot is complete with luxury designer stores, boutique shops, and restaurants surrounded by tropical-themed gardens.
A historic shopping complex built around tropical gardens and a 100-year-old Banyan tree, International Marketplace is highly walkable and contains three-levels of shops, restaurants, and boutique stores. Recently restored and reopened in 2016, International Marketplace now has a stage for live traditional Hawaiian performances and dozens more designer brand stores.
Royal Hawaiian Center
The Royal Hawaiian Centre is centrally located on Kalakaua Avenue and is consist of hundreds of shops and restaurants. From upscale retailers to luxury brand stores and jewellery stores, Royal Hawaiian’s marketplace is considered one of the premier shopping destinations in Hawaii. It also offers family-friendly cultural activities and traditional performances from Monday to Saturday.
Located at the front of Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, Duke Kahanamoku is protected by a seawall and, as a result, has the calmest waters among the beaches. It’s a hotspot for watersports, quick access to an artificial lagoon, and a prime location for catching the resort’s Friday night fireworks.
A grassy beach park next to the Museum of Military History, Fort DeRussy Beach is shaded by palms and dotted with picnic tables, tennis courts, and volleyball nets. It’s ideal for family activities, outdoor BBQs, and for spending a quiet afternoon.
A small dab of sand right next to the Halekulani Hotel, Gray’s Beach suffered from erosion and lost most of its body over the decades. However, the beach is known as one of the oldest sections of Waikiki and a nice spot for a nighttime stroll after a few drinks at the nearby bar lounges.
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Named after the adjacent Royal Hawaiian Resort, this lively waterfront fringes highrise hotels, bars, and restaurants. Popularly known as Waikiki Beach Center, this beach is one of the busiest surf spots in the area. It’s perfect for parasailing, outrigger canoe rides, and other watersports.
A busy stretch of Waikiki hemmed in by a concrete enclosure, Kuhio is frequented by locals and travellers for its easy access to bars, restaurants, and nightly hula shows at nearby resorts. You’ll also find three landmarks here: the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, Prince Kuhio Statue, and the Stones of Kapaemahu.
Located near the tail end of Waikiki, Queen’s Beach is comparably quieter than the resort front Royal Hawaiian and Kuhio. Neighbouring Kapiolani Park and Honolulu Zoo, Queen’s Beach is perfect for family outings, sitting in on live concerts and entertainments, and playing watersports by Waikiki Wall.
Connected to Queen’s Beach, San Souci’s flat, white sand is ideal for sunbathing and lounging, and is only steps away from grassy picnic areas. Just off its coast, there is a bar of coral reefs surrounded by marine wildlife, making San Souci a hotspot for snorkelling, kayaking, and surfing.
Also known as Outrigger Canoe Club Beach, Kaimana is at the very end of Waikiki and one of the most secluded parts of the coast. It provides a nice vantage point to catch Hilton Hawaiian’s Friday night fireworks from a distance and a romantic spot to catch the sunset. The beach offers quick access to Diamond Head hiking trails and Kapiolani Park.