On my first trip to Oahu, our hotel was within walking distance of Waikiki Beach. Instead of getting settled in after arriving, we dropped off our luggage and raced to the beach. We didn’t have an itinerary planned, so we were eager to find things to do in the area. As we dipped our toes in the water and took a look around that night, we realized just how many Waikiki activities there are!
While Oahu is booming with tours, attractions, outdoor adventures, and activities, many of them are located right in the greater Waikiki area of Honolulu. Your Hawaii vacation isn’t complete until you’ve experienced one or more of these Waikiki activities!
1. Experience Waikiki Beach
Naturally, the top activity in Waikiki is the beach. Made up of several little beaches, you can’t miss Waikiki Beach (seriously, it’s difficult to miss). If you have the time, I recommend walking as much of it as you possibly can. We walked from Kahanamoku Beach in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village all the way down to Kapiolani Beach Park and back. Add a sunrise or sunset to your walk and it’s a perfect vacation memory in the making.
Along the beach, you’ll find various hotels with their own pools, activities, bars, and more. While most will allow you to walk through or purchase something, others require that you be a guest of the hotel. Be aware of this as you explore the beach!
You’ll also notice that Waikiki Beach is swarming with tourists. It’s a popular (and extraordinarily convenient) beach! If you want to lounge on the beach with minimal distractions, go during “off times” such as the early morning. Or, explore any of the many beaches throughout the beautiful island of Oahu.
2. Hike Diamond Head
Among the many Waikiki activities, hiking the Diamond Head crater ranks high. This 1.6-mile round trip hike offers jaw-dropping 360° views of the island with a spotlight on Waikiki Beach.
Although a popular hike due to the views and easy sounding distance, do note that this trail is narrow and steep! I suggest hiking in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat.
To enter the crater, guests must pay $1.00 per person if walking in or $5.00 per car. With limited parking and massive crowds, walking in is your best bet. The Honolulu bus system drops guests off right outside the entrance and ride-sharing services will do the same. If you prefer to drive, I recommend parking at the community college nearby and walking in. Remember to follow all parking restrictions and signs!
3. Shop Until You Drop
Take a walk around any part of Waikiki and you’ll observe what seems like a never-ending row of stores. From top brands such as Gucci to local souvenir shops, Waikiki has everything.
Top shopping destinations in Waikiki include:
- Ala Moana Center
- Royal Hawaiian Center
- Waikiki Beach Walk
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Shops
However, my favorite place to shop in Waikiki is any locally-owned and operated. Not only will you support the local Hawaiian economy and people by shopping there, you can have confidence knowing you’re purchasing authentic Hawaiian products!
4. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Just outside of Waikiki, you’ll find Hanauma Bay. As a prime destination for visitors, Hanauma Bay is ideal for first-time snorkelers and families and offers a shallow and vibrant snorkeling experience.
You can bring your own snorkeling gear or rent it onsite. However, as it is one of the most popular Waikiki activities, I recommend either bringing your own or reserving your spot on a Hanauma Bay tour experience! All snorkeling tours include snorkeling gear and a guaranteed spot into the park.
Do know that Hanauma Bay visitors are required to pay a parking fee and entrance fee.
5. Stroll Through Kapiolani Park
When discovering all that Waikiki has to offer, you’ll stumble upon the stunning Kapiolani Park. Featuring picnic tables, sporting events, and even concerts at the Waikiki Shell, you don’t want to miss strolling through this park. Plus, it’s free!
In addition, the park boasts the Queen Kapiolani Garden. Located adjacent to the park, this botanical garden is filled with tropical flowers, roses, and so much more. A walk through this garden is definitely picture-worthy so don’t forget your camera!
6. Get Wild at the Honolulu Zoo
Within the Kapiolani Park area is also the Honolulu Zoo. Offering 42 acres of hands-on animal education and conservation exhibits, the zoo features hundreds of animal species including mammals, reptiles, birds, and more. From baboons to hornbills, you’ll see a wide range of animals from all over the world at the Honolulu Zoo.
7. Make a Splash at the Waikiki Aquarium
Didn’t get to see your favorite fish while snorkeling at Hanauma Bay? Don’t worry! You can find them at the Waikiki Aquarium. Learn all about the conservation of Pacific marine life while exploring an underwater world. This interactive aquarium has everything, from vibrant coral to monk seals!
8. Get Tickets to a Luau
What Hawaii vacation is complete without watching a luau? These energetic theatrical performances include music, Polynesian history and culture, dance, fire, a buffet, and so much more. Some of the top luaus around the Waikiki area include:
As you can imagine, luaus are one of the more popular Waikiki activities and as a result, fill up fast! To ensure you have a seat, you’ll want to reserve your spot in advance.
9. Sail Away on a Sunset Cruise
Sunsets in Hawaii are to die for! The array of warm colors combined with the backdrop of the beach and palms trees makes for one incredible memory. Why not spend an evening out on the water watching the sun set over the island? Many of the Waikiki Beach sunset cruises offer dinner, an open bar, and other amenities such as a glass bottom boat!
10. Taste the Local Cuisine
Of the many things to do in Waikiki, my favorite is tasting the local cuisine. Around Waikiki Beach and Honolulu, you can grab a meal at recognizable restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and Benihana. But why travel all the way to an island to eat food you’ve already tried before? Branch out of your comfort zone and sample the local fare!
Some of my favorite restaurants around Waikiki and the greater Honolulu area include:
- Goofy Cafe & Dine
- Maguro Brothers Hawaii
- Rainbow Drive-In
- The Pig and the Lady
- Leonard’s Bakery
Of course, this is only a handful of everything Waikiki has to offer! Go on an adventure to find a local restaurant or bar that suits your palate.