What to see in Waikiki

By: Brian Berusch

February 25, 2016

If you wanted to point a finger at the epicentre of tourism in the Pacific Islands, Waikiki would be that place on the map. The most dense, activity-laden locale in the entire Hawaiian Island chain fits in a two-mile span of beach. In that space – which sees upwards of five million visitors annually – there are more restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, spas and even waves for surfing than any of the other islands combined. For those planning their next trip, here’s what to see in Waikiki.

For starters, you’ll need somewhere to rest. There are iconic beachfront resorts (which opened at the onset of the 20th century), like the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider and the Halekulani. Economy minded travellers have plenty of options too, like Joie de Vive, Hotel Renew, Aston and some of the off-beach Outrigger properties that surround Kalakaua Avenue. Waikiki has also seen a rise in trendy, urban boutique-style hotels like The Modern Honolulu, Waikiki Parc and The Lotus.

What to see in Waikiki
The Royal Hawaiian © Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson

Foodie travellers can have a culinary field day on foot in this area; from umami rich ramen broths (Ramen Nakamura on Kalakaua, Kamitoku Ramen and Marukame Udon are standouts) to beer halls with inventive food like Yard House on Lewers or Tiki’s Grill & Bar overlooking the ocean. There’s upscale fine French fare at La Mer, sexy decor and beachside banquettes at Azure and candlelit romance inside Michel’s at the Colony Surf. Of course, there is sushi aplenty; Nobu and Morimoto each offer outposts that utilize the Honolulu Fish Market just a few miles down the road. Japengo in the Hyatt melds all flavours of the Pacific on a single menu. And naturally, there are local “must try” snacks like shave ice (similar to a snow cone) from Island Vintage and Waiola, spam musubi (sushi made with spam) from most ABC Stores, and plate lunch (a mixed plate of fusion food) at Diamond Head Market.

What to see in Waikiki
Take a surf lesson in Waikiki © Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson

When it comes to what to see in Waikiki, there are two main places to start – the shopping malls and the beach. Begin with a surf lesson (we love Ty Gurney Surf School and Kai Sallas’ Pro Surf School) where you’re guaranteed to stand up on a wave in your first hour. Spring for the video documentation to insure bragging rights back home. If the adrenaline rush isn’t your thing, maybe an afternoon mai tai or sunset sail on a catamaran is more your speed. Any of the hotel concierges will align you with the nearest departure. And if you’re looking for a little zen, dozens of locals offer (often free or donations based) yoga classes in sprawling Kapiolani Park at the base of Diamond Head Crater, from sunrise through sunset.

What to see in WaikikiThere’s plenty of great shops to explore in Waikiki © Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson

For the shopaholics, there are kitschy t-shirt shops (88 Tees); upscale malls like 2100 Kalakaua’s “Luxury Row“ (Tiffany’s & Co., Tod’s, Gucci, Mui Mui) and the four-floor Royal Hawaiian Center to explore. The Hyatt Regency Waikiki also features an indoor-outdoor mall with dozens of shops and specialty cafes. Those hunting for a bargain can venture up Kapahulu Avenue to find Bailey’s Antiques, home of the “$3 to $3,000 Aloha Shirt,” a favourite of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Jimmy Buffett, Steve Martin and Adam Sandler.

What to see in Waikiki
There are plenty of chances to get out on the water in Waikiki © Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson/Sailing Waikiki

Connecting you to a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada, our partnership with Delta makes booking a trip to Honolulu. Why not explore Waikiki on your next trip?


Wondering what to see in Waikiki? Have recommendations to share? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Brian Berusch


Brian Berusch

Brian Berusch traded in his Manhattan gym membership for a quiver of surfboards, trail running shoes and a one-way ticket to Honolulu more than a decade ago. Since then, he’s interviewed dozens of celebrities and covered the destination for more than 25 travel and lifestyle magazines. He’s an award-winning Editorial Director, a Today Show correspondent and most recently the publisher of two new magazines. He has yet to “get barreled” in the perfect wave.

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