Affordable Things to Do in Waikiki
Waikiki is the world famous beach playground that comes immediately to mind when travelers think of Hawaii.
With the majestic Diamond Head as the scenic backdrop, and boasting the gorgeous serene waters of Waikiki Beach the area is anything you want it to be. It is the perfect location for a destination wedding, it can be a place to relish in the delights of myriad international dining options and nightlife, or simply a spot to relax and laze on the gorgeous white sands of one of the most well-known beaches in the world. Whatever your desire, Waikiki has it all. We have found what we think to be the top things to do in Waikiki to keep you entertained and amused:
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Be sure to stop and relax. After all, chances are you have traveled a long way to be here! Lay out your towel, choose your favorite book, grab a cool drink, remember your sun protection and bathing suit, and most importantly leave behind your worldly worries - you are all set for a relaxing afternoon. Then as the heat of the sun fades, catch the sunset. It’s a tradition on Waikiki Beach, at sunset - when time seems to slow down or stop altogether - that everybody is focused on one thing. Catching the last of the sun’s rays as the light of the day dips behind the horizon is a great time to enjoy a sunset cocktail or mai-tai at one of the beachside bars or restaurants. Do yourself a favor and experience that magical Hawaiian sunset moment that you traveled so far to soak into your bones.
Surf Lessons Waikiki
This is a must do, no matter your age or ocean experience. Just do it! The ocean at Waikiki Beach is generally calm with smooth, rolling waves that are perfect to learn on. Learning to surf Waikiki is a fun and unique experience, and most surf activity companies offer a variety of surf lessons for all skill levels. There is nothing more satisfying than standing up on your very first wave, or for more experienced surfers, taking advantage of the relaxing, long rides that Waikiki waves offer. Outrigger canoe rides are also a fun and worthwhile experience. It is because of the excellent surfing conditions in Waikiki that surfing legends like the famous Duke Kahanamoku (check out his statue) used Waikiki as a personal surfing playground – and you can too.
Luaus in Waikiki
No Oahu vacation is really complete without attending a Hawaiian Luau, which is the Hawaiian word that describes a traditional Hawaiian party or feast, usually accompanied by entertainment. Luau parties were first created during the reign of King Kamehameha II. During a luau you will be fabulously entertained with authentic Hawaiian music, skilled hula performers, fire dancers and Hawaiian style cuisine. Dine on Kalua pig cooked in an Imu (earth oven), Poi (Taro), Poke (Tuna) and delicious Haupia (coconut pudding). There are many luau venues in Waikiki and each one brings something unique – this is a not to be missed experience.
Dining in Waikiki is a food connoisseurs dream. With an abundance of international as well as Pacific Rim fare, Waikiki restaurants cater for every taste. Hawaii regional cuisine is a culinary movement that combines fresh, local ingredients with the cooking methods and flavors of the world. From fine dining options in gorgeous locations fronting the famous Waikiki Beach, to your favorite national restaurants, Waikiki has it all.
The bustling hub of Waikiki features a wide variety of world-class shopping, including designer boutiques, high-end shops, colorful souvenir stores. Kalakaua Avenue, known as “Luxury Row,” offers one of the finest collections of luxury brands (such as Yves Saint Lauren, Gucci, Hugo Boss) and is right up there with some of the world’s great shopping districts – think Oxford Street or Rodeo Drive. The Royal Hawaiian Center boasts everything from designer apparel to surf shops and jewelry stores. The Ala Moana Center is located just a short drive from Waikiki and is Hawaii’s largest and most varied shopping destination with 230 stores and restaurants, as well as entertainment and an international food court. Incidentally, Ala Moana is the largest open-air shopping center in the world. The International Marketplace is currently undergoing a complete revitalization, is scheduled to open in spring 2016, and will feature an open-air shopping experience with unique landscaping.
As the sun sets at the popular beach playground, Waikiki really comes alive, and evening entertainment is easy to find. Throughout Waikiki, there are endless fine dining and live music options at the many resorts and hotels every night of the week. There are a number of popular bars fronting Waikiki Beach, and various nightclubs in Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu, including some great options in Chinatown (including underground bars for the more adventurous). The streets can be abuzz with activity on the First Friday – a festive evening where local artists share their work. Catering for every taste from jazz and traditional Hawaiian music performances to upbeat DJ dance music – there is something for everyone in the lively Oahu music scene. It is best to check with your concierge daily for the latest info on what’s hip and happening.
The Honolulu Zoo, located between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki is home to 905 species of animals from various tropical ecosystems, including numerous endangered species housed in uniquely designed habitats. There is a strong focus on education and environmental awareness, with many interesting programs such as an Orangutan Outreach Program. There is a lot to see at the Zoo, so be sure to bring a packed lunch, sun protection, and good walking shoes. Open 9am-4.30pm daily (except Christmas Day).
The Waikiki Aquarium is located right near the Honolulu Zoo and is the second oldest aquarium in the United States, exhibiting over 3,500 organisms including living coral, reef sharks, and Giant Clams. The Aquarium features a special Green Sea Turtle exhibit, where young turtles are fed a high-fat diet and then released into the wild, as well as housing two Hawaiian Monk Seals – another endangered species. Allow a couple of hours for the full experience. Open 9am-4.30pm daily (except Christmas Day).
This is Oahu’s (and perhaps Hawaii’s) most famous landmark – the iconic volcanic crater that stands majestically over Waikiki. Diamond Head got its name from the glistening calcite crystals that early sailors thought were diamonds. The summit has always been used for navigation – from ancient times when fires were lit to help guide canoes to more recent wartime when the area was used as a fortification during WWII. The panoramic views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline from the summit - are stunning, and well worth the 0.8 miles, 560-foot climb from the crater floor. The trail can be uneven so good footwear is advised. It is very exposed and dry so take plenty of water with you. There is a lovely picnic area, as well as bathrooms and a shave ice truck during opening hours, which are, 6 am – 6 pm daily.
Cruising the calm waters of Mamala Bay and enjoying the beautiful sunsets that only Hawaii can offer is a great way to spend an afternoon in Waikiki. Escape the crowds, the hustle, and bustle of the traffic and shops, and relax with a Mai Tai to the sound of lapping waves in the gentle breeze. Most companies offer the option to snorkel with green sea turtles also.
However you choose to experience Waikiki, you will not be disappointed. There is so much to see and do, you will inevitably want to stay longer at this multicultural and colorful beach playground.
2023 Oahu Visitor Guides
If you're visiting Oahu soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Oahu Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).