One of the best known beaches in the world, Waikiki is a famous district of the city of Honolulu, on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Sandwiched between the Ala Wai Canal and the ocean in the shadow of the towering Diamond Head crater, Waikiki is noted for being the tourist center of the Hawaiian Islands.


Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head

Waikiki was the favorite playground of Hawaiian royalty in the 19th century, when it was an area of wetlands fed by streams from the valleys above Honolulu. That all changed in the 1920s when the government decided to build what would become the Ala Wai Canal, which would drain the wetlands and pave the way for later development.

These days, this 1.5 mile (2.4 km) stretch of white sand beach is the nucleus of Hawaii's tourist industry, packed full of high-rise hotels that promise to treat you like a king, some of which may also require a king's ransom for admission. Although it is often criticized for its concrete-jungle appearance, large crowds, and touristy feel, there is a lot to enjoy here and you can still find a quiet spot if you know where to look.

Get in

For information on getting to Honolulu, see the Get in section of the Honolulu article.

From the airport, there are plenty of options for getting to Waikiki. The Airport Waikiki Express provides shuttle service to hotels in Waikiki every half hour for $9 per person; look for the bright yellow t-shirts. Be warned that these are full coach buses, and if your hotel is on the eastern end of Waikiki, it will take the shuttle just as long to get through all the other hotels and traffic as it did to reach Waikiki from the airport. If you are a party of multiple people, it's better to take a cab.

Additionally, city buses #19 and #20 ($2.50, $1 per child or senior; exact change required, local bills and coins accepted) connect Waikiki to the airport once every half-hour, passing through Downtown. You can catch them on the outside second level of the international and domestic departure terminals. Note: TheBus only allows luggage that fits on your lap and under your seat. If you have more luggage than this, consider other options.

If coming to Waikiki by car from the airport or points west, follow signs for the H1 freeway east, then follow H-1 east about 2 miles (3 km) to the Waikiki/Nimitz Highway exit and follow the Nimitz Highway (which turns into Ala Moana Boulevard past Downtown) straight into Waikiki. Another option is to stay on H1 east and take exit 25A (King Street); after merging onto King Street, stay to the right and take the second right onto Kapahulu Avenue and follow Kapahulu into Waikiki. If coming from the east, take H1 west to the Kapiolani Blvd exit and follow to Kapiolani Blvd to McCully Street and make a left into Waikiki.

Get around

When getting directions in Hawaii you're more likely to hear "mauka", "makai", "ewa", and "diamond/koko head" rather than north, south, west or east. Mauka means towards the mountains. Makai means towards the water, in this case the ocean. Ewa means toward Ewa Beach, or roughly west, and Diamond/Koko Head means roughly east in the direction of Diamond Head. This means that directions are dependent on where you are on the island. In the case of Waikiki and Honolulu, which are located on the south shore of Oahu, mauka roughly means north, and makai roughly means south.

In Waikiki, the three main streets, from makai to mauka, are Kalakaua Avenue (one way Ewa to Diamond Head, along Waikiki Beach), Kuhio Avenue (two-way), and Ala Wai Boulevard (one way Diamond Head to Ewa, along the Ala Wai Canal).

Everything in Waikiki is within easy walking distance of each other. Another option is to use a moped - around Waikiki, numerous stands can rent mopeds (small motor scooters). Prices vary greatly, so look around a bit before deciding. These bikes generally cannot exceed 35 MPH, allowing for easy travel on city streets. A couple of rules to remember and locals will respect you better -(1) stay to the right! At all times stay as far right as possible, and if turning, stay to the far right of the lane you are in (moving to the far right side of the road as soon as you can). (2) It is illegal to ride double, so avoid having a passenger on your bike. (3) Don't park your bike on the sidewalk -- police will ticket. (4) Unless experienced, don't ride the bikes in at night in dark areas -- it is very difficult for you to be seen.



Duke Kahanamoku Statue, Kuhio Beach

If not the most famous stretch of beach in the world, Waikiki Beach (which is in fact, a series of beaches) is by far the most famous in Hawaii. It forms the foreground of most postcard pictures, with Diamond Head in the background, and it is the first beach that comes to mind when most people think of Hawaii. Consequently, it is also, by far, the most crowded. It's a good place to learn to surf if you can manage not to hit or be hit by other beginners in the throng.

From west to east:


First time visitors should be sure to book at least one luau. Some are better than others, check with your hotel concierge for recommendations.


At the west end of Waikiki you can find the ridiculously expensive stores like Armani, Tiffany's, Bvlgari, etc.






Almost all bars in Waikiki also serve good food and sometimes it's hard to draw the line between pub and restaurant. Any of these places should also be considered a good place to get dinner.


There are many hotels in Waikiki. Try to find a place that's close to the center of town and has decent amenities and has been recently renovated. Don't bother eating at the hotel restaurant unless it's one of the famous high-end ones like Duke's. The usual hotel booking websites all do a pretty good job here, although don't be surprised to find that the name of your hotel has changed since you booked your reservation.




Stay safe

NOTE: It is actually illegal to go on the beach at Waikiki after midnight. Violators will receive a criminal citation, which will actually become a warrant if you do not turn up for court. The ban is to prevent vagrancy, but plenty of tourists get caught up for the offence of "walking on the beach".


There is an internet cafe,   Blue Hawaii Mobility Internet, at 2463 Kuhio Ave. Also in same building there is a little shop to get a prepaid sim card for your mobile, Dakine Cellular. Tiny place, but helpful staff.

Go next

Waikiki is a pleasant place, but there is much more to see in the rest of Honolulu and other parts of Oahu. Definitely consider making it your base, but unless all you want to do is be on the beach in Waikiki during the day and have dinner and cocktails there at night, don't spend all of your time there.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.