Waikiki & Honolulu Region Sights, Tours, & Information

Things to Do & Visitor Tips for Honolulu & Waikiki on Oahu

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and the most populous city in the state.  The name Honolulu means ‘sheltered bay’ in the Hawaiian language, and with its natural harbor, it has become a significant gateway into the United States, as well as a primary tourist attraction, a hub for international business and military defense. Waikiki is best known for its famous white sand beach - it is an international destination and one of the most frequented locations in all of Hawaii.  Over the centuries, Waikiki has been an area where people come to both play and relax.

John Derrick
Published on: 09-16-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick
Waikiki & Honolulu Region Image

The city extends from Pearl Harbor in the west to Makapu’u Point on Oahu’s southeastern shore, encompassing the world-famous area of Waikiki

When the Ali'i (Hawaiian royalty) ruled the land in the mid-1800s, Waikiki was a retreat for the kings, queens, and princesses.  Rivers and springs once flowed into the region, and in the Hawaiian language Waikiki means 'spouting waters.'  In the 1400s an irrigation system was used to direct the springs into fishponds and taro patches.  At one stage, the area was the center of government on Oahu.  Nowadays the skyline is dotted with high-rise apartments, with every hotel room located just a short walk to the beach.

Waikiki & Honolulu Top 5 Attractions

Best Things to Do in Waikiki & Honolulu

Diamond Head - Leahi Trail

#5 Rated in Waikiki & Honolulu

The trail to the summit of Diamond Head (Le’ahi), near Waikiki, was built in 1908 as part of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery defense system. 

From the trailhead to the summit of Diamond Head Crater, it is 0.8miles (1.3km) one way, and it is a 560 foot (171m) climb from the crater floor.  Allow 1.5-2 hours for a safe and leisurely round-trip hike. 

 There are also sweeping views of the southeastern Oahu coastline towards Koko Head and the offshore islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i, and Maui.  

Punchbowl

#4 Rated in Waikiki & Honolulu

The ancient Hawaiians used this bowl-shaped crater for very different purposes than it is used for today. They called it Puowaina which means the hill of human sacrifices. Today, the area is sacred for another reason. It is home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

A large marble memorial is dedicated to more soldiers missing in action. The view from Punchbowl is also inspiring. When you first enter Punchbowl bear to the left and continue up the hill until you reach a lookout which offers views of Diamondhead.

Waikiki

#3 Rated in Waikiki & Honolulu

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world. The two-mile stretch of white sand coast is fronted by hotels and tourist facilities.

The area is excellent for swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, catamaran, and outrigger canoe rides. It's likely that if you are staying in Honolulu, you'll be staying near Waikiki.

Even if you are not into crowds (and there will be A LOT of tourists here) it's worth a visit just to say you walked on Waikiki.

Honolulu

#2 Rated in Waikiki & Honolulu

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and the most populous city in the state.  The city extends from Pearl Harbor in the west to Makapu’u Point on Oahu’s southeastern shore, encompassing the world-famous area of WaikikiToday Honolulu is home to over 390,000 people and has been the capital since 1845, when King Kamehameha III officially moved the capital from Maui to Oahu.

The city is a multicultural epicenter with many historical landmarks and an array of global culinary choices, as well as a buzzing cosmopolitan city with world-class shopping and a lively arts, cultural and entertainment scene.  Honolulu has it all – from the art galleries and international cuisine of the Chinatown district to the fine dining, live music and nightlife of Waikiki.

Hanauma Bay

#1 Rated in Waikiki & Honolulu

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a gorgeous wineglass-shaped bay situated on the southeastern side of Oahu near Hawaii Kai, tucked into the sheltered side of Koko Head. 

Merely a 30-minute drive from Honolulu (traffic permitting), this stunning bay feels like a world away from the bustle of the city, which cannot even be seen from the beach as the large bay is surrounded by the lush green, gently fluted hills of Koko Head.

The bay is secluded and tranquil in the early morning, but during the day becomes a very popular place for locals and visitors.  Thousands of people flock to the bay each day to experience the excellent snorkeling in the area.

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Waikiki Summary

Waikiki is the famous 1.5 square mile neighborhood on the south shore of Oahu, in Honolulu, and it is best known for its famous white sand beach.  Waikiki Beach is an international destination and one of the most frequented locations in all of Hawaii.

The beautiful sands of Waikiki Beach

The beautiful sands of Waikiki Beach

Things you'll discover in Waikiki Hawaii

Longboard surfing is still a favorite activity on Waikiki Beach.  The bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku can be found on Kuhio Beach (at the Ala Moana end), as a tribute to the master of surfing who lived in Waikiki in the early 1900s and won Olympic medals for swimming.  He was one of the surfing pioneers who spread the word about surfing to the U.S mainland and internationally.  He is the acclaimed ‘father of modern surfing’ and was known for being an ambassador of goodwill and the ‘aloha spirit.’  At Dukes Canoe Club and the Outrigger Waikiki, you can see authentic Duke photos and memorabilia.

Waikiki is not the place to stay if you are looking for a quiet or secluded vacation.  However it is an experience to be had, and with Honolulu being the first port of call for most visitors to Hawaii, Waikiki is a definite must-see if only for a day or two.  By day the beach is packed with surfers and tourists from all over the globe.  World-class shopping abounds on the main strips of Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues, with classy boutiques boasting designer fashion and jewelry, as well as Hawaiian crafts, souvenirs, and unique gifts.  By night Waikiki is one gigantic party, with internationally acclaimed restaurants and nightlife with every form of entertainment including Luau Shows, live music, bars, and nightclubs.

There are some transportation options into Waikiki from the Honolulu Airport.  There are some shuttle services that offer transportation to the major hotels, and you can expect to pay approximately $10-$15.  A one-way taxi ride will be around $35 or more.  There are also city buses for only $2.50. However, they are only suitable for passengers with hand luggage only.  Rental vehicles are a very convenient way to get around. However parking in Honolulu and especially Waikiki can be an issue, and the rental companies tend to be located a distance from the airport itself which means being shuttled to and from the place.

Getting around Waikiki is best by foot as everything is within walking distance.  Small motor scooters can also be rented for easy travel on city streets.  Renting a bicycle is another option but can be a little dangerous due to the congested roads and lack of bike lanes.  The Waikiki Trolley offers scenic, historical and shopping routes and passes can be purchased online.

Additional Waikiki & Honolulu Recommendations

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