For decades, Waikiki Beach has been Oahu’s tourist mecca thanks to its palm-fringed white-sand beaches and high-rise luxury hotels that stretch from downtown Honolulu east toward the towering Diamond Head. Here all the spoils of Hawaiian beach life—from sunbathing and swimming to snorkeling and fruity-cocktail sipping—are within steps of world-class shopping and dining.
Waikiki Beach is one of the best spots on Oahu to get out on the water with a surfing lesson or stand-up paddleboarding tour. It’s also possible to check out the beach aboard a duck or catamaran sunset tour, or gaze into the ocean on a submarine excursion. If you’d rather relax, soak up the sun on the sandy beach. The site is visited on most Oahu tours, including those that also hit other Honolulu highlights like the Bishop Museum, Iolani Palace, and Chinatown before heading farther afield to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore, Hanauma Bay, and Sea Life Park Hawaii on the east side of the island. Visitors who want to cram in the most sites on Oahu can even book helicopter or circle-island tours, both of which depart from Waikiki and showcase the entire island.
Know Before You Go
Waikiki Beach is a must-see for first-timers to Oahu and beginning surfers.
If you’re not staying in one of the Waikiki hotels—and even if you are—parking can be expensive and hard to find. If possible, leave the driving up to tour companies and bus drivers.
Waikiki is warm and sunny year-round. Don’t forget your sunblock, hat, sunglasses, and bathing suit—though if you do, rest assured you can find a shop with replacements.
Lifeguards are staffed at lookouts along Waikiki Beach. Though conditions are usually calm and great for swimming year-round, heed the lifeguard’s warnings and exit the water if necessary.
How to Get There
Waikiki is just east of downtown Honolulu on Oahu’s southern shore, and about eight miles (12.5 kilometers) from Honolulu International Airport. The main stretch of Waikiki Beach is along Kalakau Avenue, parallel to the sea, which stretches east to Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head. The Waikiki Trolley connects the downtown Ala Moana Center with Waikiki.
When to Get There
Waikiki Beach is popular year-round, but summer, spring, and winter school holidays are the busiest times. To make the most of your trip, time your visit with one Waikiki’s many festivals and parades, such as the King Kamehameha Floral Parade in June, the Spam Jam in late April, or the Aloha Festival Floral Parade, usually held in late September.
The Duke Kahanamoku Statue
One can’t-miss Waikiki Beach landmark is the nine-foot (2.75-meter) bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the king of surfing. Following tradition, visitors drape leis around Duke’s neck and arms; it’s not uncommon for the man to sport fistfuls of purple orchids and be buried up to his eyeballs in plumeria. Duke Kahanamoku was a Waikiki local who is credited with popularizing the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing and once won an Olympic gold medal in swimming.