Waikiki is a neighborhood on the south side of O’ahu island in Honolulu famous for its warm weather, cloud-free skies, and epic surf break. For tourists, it can be challenging deciding what to do around town as there is so much to choose from. We offer an extensive list of the most popular activities Waikiki has to offer.
What is there to do at Waikiki Beach? Waikiki Beach is known as the most fun beach in Hawaii. The most popular activities in Waikiki are relaxing beachside, paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, parasailing, riding aqua cycles, practicing yoga, hula dancing, canoe racing, and volleyball!
While Waikiki Beach is the most famous stretch of sand in the area, remember there are actually 5 different beaches in the vicinity that make up the entirety of Waikiki: Queen’s Beach, Kuhio Beach, Gray’s Beach, Fort DeRussy Beach, and Kahanamoku Beach. The culture that lies just beyond these beaches is absolutely worth getting to know.
Admire Diamond Head
The vicinity offers one of the best views of Diamond Head – a local volcanic cone renowned for its tuna-like appearance amidst the backdrop of other nearby mountainsides. It draws a comparison to Ipanema Beach sitting in the shadows of Sugarloaf Mountain. If you have the athletic ability, a climb to the top of Diamond Head is a must. It only takes 30 minutes to reach the summit but certain sections are known to be quite steep. There is a small fee to hike the trail ($1 per person and $5 per car).
Rent a board!
Whether you’re an experienced surfer or looking to learn, Waikiki is an ideal place to learn. Rental shops and surf instructors can be found around every corner. We understand surfing is an activity that frustrates those who fail to pick it up quickly so for those after a slightly less physically demanding challenge, look into renting paddle boards. The relatively new and popular sport of paddle-boarding is a great way to explore the water. Some tourists even chose to ride their paddle boards in the breaking waves. The larger board offers more balance (albeit, not too much more balance). Boogie boards, body boards, longboards, and short boards are all available here.
Lounge on the Beach
Even if you decide not to climb, basking in the shadows of Diamond Head while relaxing on the beach is always a marvelous option. Each of the 5 beaches of Waikiki (Queen’s Beach, Kuhio Beach, Gray’s Beach, Fort DeRussy Beach, and Kahanamoku Beach) offer a different vantage point and different amenities. Regardless of your beach choice, all present a great opportunity to sunbathe with a tropical drink in hand. Grab a great book and some sunscreen because you’ll be glued to your chair the second you sit down to relax in the Hawaiian sun. This gorgeous view offers us a glimpse into the early 20th-century reasoning behind the drastic changes made in an attempt to maintain Waikiki’s beauty.
Snorkel and Scuba Dive
The view underwater in Waikiki is awe-inspiring. After a few seconds underwater, you’re instantly transported to a different world. Bright colors and huge schools of tropical fish are around every turn. Rental shops are very prevalent in the area surrounding these beaches if you don’t bring your own equipment. A tip for those looking to be surrounded by fish – bring a can of Cheese-Whiz and spray it under water. Within mere seconds, fish will begin encircling you in absurd quantities.
Rent an Experience
If you thought the view from the beach was nice, just wait until you see Waikiki Beach from a parasail. If you’re after a bird’s eye view, this is the place in Hawaii to do it. For those scared of heights but after a similar adrenaline rush, we recommend renting a jet-ski by the hour. Just make sure you steer clear of the crowds! If you’re feeling like something new, try out an aqua-bike. These quirky ways to ride the water will definitely make for a great future Instagram picture. There are a number of great yoga options available. You can even opt for a package that allows you to do early morning sun salutations on the beach.
Let the liquid courage from your mai tais show off your newly tanned skin! Break out the grass skirts and coconut bras! Hula dancing has a long history in Waikiki and you’ll be remiss if you pass on your opportunity to see a hula show. It’s a MUST for the whole family. These shows will occasionally even incorporate a fire twirler.
The Molokai Hoe Canoe Race is a spectacle that only comes once a year. These canoe races date back to 1910 and 1920. It’s one of the largest cultural events Hawaii has to offer. While you might not be competing, it will still surely be a fantastic experience to see this beach city come alive during the annual tradition.
There’s an endless amount to do in Waikiki. It’s one of the few towns in the world so beautiful that it has not one, but two sister cities. The first sister city for this beach town makes a lot of sense – it’s a surfing town called Freshwater in Australia. Quite the match, as the names of both cities, have roughly the same meaning. The second city is a little more peculiar and puzzling…. It makes me scratch my head to think of how Bixby, Oklahoma became this slice of heaven’s sister city. Waikiki must’ve received quite the bargain to make that deal happen. How could you blame Bixby for trying? If you’ve laid eyes on Waikiki once, you could completely understand the feeling of never wanting to go back to a place like Oklahoma. No offense to any readers from the Sooner State, it is only a testament to the beauty of Waikiki.
What is the story behind Waikiki’s name?
The Hawaiian word for Waikiki directly translates to “spouting fresh water”. Springs and wetlands once filled the area near the beach, but because the local community feared disease-carrying mosquitoes, a canal was built in the 1920s to funnel this freshwater elsewhere. Shortly after this time, the beach began to experience much more erosion than usual. The change in salinity of water and destruction of various wetland plants and mangroves led to less protection for the fragile sandy shore. As a solution, the local government began importing sand. The majority of the sand brought to Waikiki was actually from Manhattan Beach, California. However, this was only a band-aid solution to a much larger problem. The community would have to keep restocking the sand unless they could find a way to address the actual underlying issue of erosion. A solution was created! The city built groynes – large, man-made peninsulas that interrupt the abusive water flow responsible for carrying all the sediment away from the shore. This project has molded Waikiki into the beauty of a beach it is today.
What is the most popular beach in Hawaii?
Waikiki is such a popular destination, the neighborhood generates ~42% of tourism revenue for the entire state of Hawaii. This tiny neighborhood brings in almost half of every tourist’s dollar in an archipelago whose most prominent industry is tourism. Pineapple farming comes second in exports.