What to Do in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

Although Waikiki literally means “sprouting fresh water” in English, its heritage as a royal playground and a respite for the world’s most famous are what made it a dream destination for most people. Around 4 million tourists from all walks of life come to this tropical playground, mainly to get away from their rigorous daily routines and busy lifestyles. The best thing about Waikiki is that it is able to combine the laid-back tropical island ambiance with the urban way of life, with many of its hotspots just within walking distance.

Its eclectic environment makes it a unique respite, which caters to both the city slicker and the adventurer. It’s amazing how you can actually find turquoise waters, powdery white sand, iconic volcano crater, as well as world-class shopping and nightlife, all in one place. Plus, the activities and attractions in the neighborhood are not at all intimidating even to those who lead sedentary lifestyles. On top of everything else, Waikiki is just 9 miles away from the Honolulu International Airport, the gateway to the Hawaiian Islands.

Living a dream

If you’re like most people, you may have harbored Waikiki dreams a long time, even saving up so that you can turn that dream into reality. To make sure that you get the most out of your island holiday, you should make your own list of top things to see and experience in Waikiki. Remember, the only thing that you can run out of in Hawaii is time. Here are a few things that should help you get started once you get there:

Top 5 things to see and do in Waikiki

1. Go on a Diamond Head Crater trek.

Of course, a trip to Oahu would not be complete without seeing the Diamond Head tuff cone in close range. Known among locals as Le’ahi, which means “brow of the yellowfin tuna,” the Diamond Head is Hawaii’s most famous landmark. It came to have its English name after 19th century British sailors mistook the calcite crystals embedded in its rocks for diamonds. It is a US State Monument and an icon not only of Waikiki, but of Oahu, in general. The state park is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission would cost only a dollar.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring bottled water. The trail is not that easy, but you’ll know that it was worth the challenge as you get to the rim and take in an outstanding view of the cone’s interior and the Hawaii Kai district of Honolulu against a backdrop of the vast Pacific Ocean.

2. Learn to surf on Waikiki Beach.

On the beach alone, there are plenty of things you can do to celebrate that water baby in you. You can go swimming, snorkeling, body boarding, and outrigger canoeing--that’s just naming a few. Why don’t you try having the ultimate Waikiki experience by taking your first surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach? Nothing can equal the feeling of catching and riding your first wave. Waikiki’s waves are excellent for surfing novices.

Learn from the original Waikiki Beach Boys, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon be dreaming of formidable tunnels and tube rides. You can train one-to-one with a certified Waikiki Beach Boy for $75, or join a group of five for $40 per person. Check out www.waikikibeachservices.com to book online or inquire about other water activities. Waikiki Beach Services has activity desks in front of two beachfront restaurants: Duke’s and Shorebird.

3. Pay tribute to the Duke.

No, he is not a Hawaiian royalty, but Duke Kahanamoku is the legendary Olympic swimming champion who popularized surfing into a modern sport. Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku is actually his given name, which is quite a mouthful. He inherited the name “Duke” from his father, named in honor of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who was in Hawaii when the older “Duke” was born.

After his Olympic years, Duke Kahanamoku traveled a lot, and he is given credit for introducing surfing to Australia and Santa Cruz, California. Before then, surfing was only a Hawaiian sport. In a way, he has become a Hawaiian royalty as a surf king, earning the title “the father of modern surfing.” A monument was erected in his honor at Kuhio Beach Park, located between Moana Surfrider and the Diamond Head side of Waikiki Beach. It stands with arms outstretched, as if eternally saying “Aloha” to locals and tourists, who, in turn, drape lei around his neck as a tribute.

4. Buy souvenirs at the International Marketplace.

It’s an ideal place for picking up your tropical essentials, from Aloha shirts to pearl jewelry. It’s located at 2330 Kalakaua Avenue, right next to Waikiki Town Center. It’s an open-air shopaholic heaven, with over a hundred shops selling the best of Hawaiian items. Of course, you need to bring home a piece of authentic Hawaii to your loved ones, so pick up a bag or two of Kona coffee and chocolate-coated macadamia nuts for which Hawaii is famous for. There are also carts and stands manned by local artisans, so “talk story” (Pidgin-speak for “small talk”) with them to help you pick out the perfect present.

5. Take a stroll and feast your eyes on sunsets on the beach.

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous--if not, the most famous—-beaches in the world. Although it is only a two-mile stretch of glorious white sand, shorter than most Hawaiian beaches, Waikiki is renowned for its beach breaks, which is a true mecca for surfers. It has balmy weather throughout the year and offers a great view of the Diamond Head cone, a true icon of Hawaii on its own. But that’s not all the panorama Waikiki has to offer. After an afternoon of basking on the shore, stroll down Waikiki Beach and catch one of its incredible sunsets. A good place to start your leisurely walk would be the Kuhio Beach Park and work it all the way to the site of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which, by the way, is the same area where the surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku grew up.

On Waikiki Beach, you can catch more than just one sunset. Amazing, isn’t it? How? Well, if you go there on weekends, you’ll find the famous “Sunset on the Beach,” a movie entertainment through a 30-foot screen. It’s all for free! “Sunset on the Beach” was the brainchild of former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris. It was launched in 2001 not only to entertain tourists, but to encourage more community activities as well. The venue for the free movie screening is Queen’s surf, right across the street from the Honolulu Zoo. They play movies fit for the entire family on Saturday and Sunday nights at 7:00 PM, so you can cap your afternoon stroll with a great film. You can check the movie schedules at www.sunsetonthebeach.net.

These are just a few of the tourist attractions in the Waikiki neighborhood. Other points of interest include the Kapi’olani Park, Honolulu Zoo, Ali Wai Harbor, Kahanamoku Lagoon, Fort de Russy Military Reservation, and Waikiki Aquarium, which are all waiting to be explored. Cap your Waikiki holiday off with a totally Hawaiian experience. Treat yourself to a luau and indulge in the succulent Kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, and other Polynesian staples, such as poi, laulau, and ulu, for a true gastronomic feast. Wash it down with refreshing drinks topped with pretty, tiny umbrellas, as Hula dancers sway to island music. A dream coming true is the greatest adventure of all.

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