Ultimate Guide to Waikiki
Imagine an area less than one square mile that has over 30,000 hotel rooms. Imagine this area being blessed with one of the most user-friendly beaches in the world, a beach where just about anyone can learn to ride their first wave. Imagine a place with more restaurants than most decent-sized towns, a place with limitless shopping. You’ve just imagined world-famous Waikiki.
Waikiki is about walking and gawking, eating and shopping, surfing and soaking up the sun. You don’t come to Waikiki to get away from the action; you come here to get a piece of it. This is the place where you and 4 million of your closest friends embrace the tropics and each other. If you’re looking for a quiet, out-of-the-way destination, look elsewhere. Waikiki is a humming, happening visitor mecca.
Waikiki – Oahu Map
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Waikiki Things To Do
No matter how long you stay in Honolulu, at some point you should take a drive along Tantalus and Round Top.
This 10-mile-long road above Honolulu wiggles and winds up the mountains, through the jungle, taking you 1,610 ft. above sea level, and gives you a view rivaling the birds’.
This is a great drive to put down the convertible top for. Leadfoots may be tempted to take the winding road fast, but you’ll actually want to drive this road slowly or it’ll be over before you know it and you’ll miss the scrumptious scenery. Keep an eye out for car pullouts along the way, as several of them have fantastic views of the leeward side of O‘ahu. Though sometimes bad elements may give you second thoughts about stopping.
Early evening is our favorite time to experience Waikiki, when the intensity of the sun is replaced by the joy of people-watching. Stroll along the sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue and shop, snack and enjoy the warm, secure feeling that dusk in the tropics provides.
If you want to stroll along the beach, we recommend walking from the Kapiolani Park side towards the Hilton Hawaiian Village, essentially going towards the sun. Those few areas that lack sand have other routes traversing the shoreline that will keep you dry. Although sunset walk along Waikiki Beach no matter where you start or stop, is always a dreamy experience. You’ll also probably hear music spilling from the various resorts, perfectly transitioning from the golden hour to happy hour.
A Waikiki restaurant receives an ono in our books when they stand out from the rest.
Hula Grill Waikiki
On the second floor of the Outrigger Waikiki hotel, seating mostly overlooks the beach. The atmosphere is breezy and relaxed, with bamboo and koa wood everywhere. It’s a great spot to get breakfast if the buffet line at Duke’s downstairs is too long, which happens a lot. They’ve got all the classic meat selections, eggs and pancakes with a local twist. They don’t churn you through the way so many other Waikiki restaurants do, and they serve breakfast late, which is great if you want to start your day by going to the beach first. Breakfast and lunch prices are reasonable for what you get and where you’re getting it. Dinner (steak, seafood, salad) is far pricier. Good vegetarian options. Excellent service.
Dinner is a real treat here. Not part of the national Chart House chain, they have a classic steakhouse style (gas lamps on each table, polite service and high prices) with great seafood and a killer pupu menu. Their prime rib borders on perfection and sells out nightly. Some worthy alternatives are the stuffed ‘ahi or their famous garlic steak. For more intimate seating, try to get one of the booths. We like to sit on the lounge side with live Hawaiian music nightly. Seating is first-come first-served and has an elevated view of the harbor. They have an enormous pupu menu, plus they offer some of the more expensive entrées in a smaller portion size (and price).
Waikiki beach weather
Waikiki has an embarrassingly equable climate. The average high is 84 °F, and it has never gotten above 95 °F since thermometers have been in the islands. Waikiki gets only 20 inches of rain per year, and when it does rain, it’s often in the form of short, intense showers.
Picking where to stay in Waikiki is daunting. Price is presumably a factor, and generally, the closer you get to the water, the higher the price. Distance to the heart of Waikiki is also a consideration. If you don’t want to walk great distances whenever you want to experience what Waikiki has to offer, the best location is on the ocean side of Kalakaua Avenue between Saratoga Avenue and the Waikiki Beach Center. The area around the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider hotels is usually considered to be the center of Waikiki life. The following Waikiki beach hotels are real gems compared to others.
Waikiki Hotel – Map
We have listed some of the Waikiki hotels below but you can also find Waikiki hotels, and their reviews in our app, or in our guidebooks. Visit this link to find all the Waikiki hotels and their reviews.
Wow, where do we start? This is an awesome and relaxing resort. It started as a private home back in late 1800s and has been a hotel since 1907 when rooms went for about $6, but it opened in its current form in 1984.
Services are unmatched here. For instance, the check-in: Forget the desk—the greeter will take you on a tour, then to your room and give you a box of chocolates and an excellent fruit platter. They track your preferences and try to anticipate your future needs. If you order coffee first thing in the morning, next time you stay, they’ll already have it covered. This is the way a resort should be run. You see it, you like it, you want it, you’ll get it. Don’t like your pillow? They’ll get you a different kind. They are there for your every need.
The motif is white and pale blue—designed to resemble their name: Halekulani, which means house befitting heaven.
New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
This hotel consists of two buildings: an oceanfront high rise and their Diamond Head wing (3-story walk-up). Their oceanfront category rooms are extremely intimate with the beach—they look straight down onto the sand—and since the tallest room is nine stories up, you’ll never feel completely detached.
Rooms are clean and modern. The bathrooms have hand-held showerheads, which come in handy to clean your sandy feet. Proximity to the beach is the reason for the Real Gem rating. Though it’s still pretty expensive, you won’t get rooms like that for this price in more centrally located Waikiki resorts. There is a reason for the lower prices—it’s a fairly long walk to the heart of Waikiki, and many will opt to drive and pay to park. But you’re also away from the buzz of Waikiki. This is a smaller, quieter resort than the others you’ll find on the beach. Rooms ending in -17 have wrap-around lanais and grand views of the entire Waikiki coastline. We’re told those book out for 4th of July and New Year’s fireworks shows.
If you’re looking for gifts to bring back home for family and friends (or maybe something for yourself), you came to the right island. Daytime in Waikiki is all about the beach and water activities; nighttime is all about the food and shopping. Opportunities to spend money are everywhere, but don’t be surprised if the retail clerks at the more upscale places largely ignore you—they know from experience that most vacationers from the mainland are just browsing. The salespeople prefer to instead focus their attention on the overseas tourists, many of whom come here specifically to shop. (Believe it or not, Hawai‘i’s outrageously high prices are a steal compared to Tokyo). It’s not practical to list and evaluate every store, so here’s some general guidance on where on O‘ahu you’ll want to shop.
The obvious place to start your Waikiki shopping spree is Kalakaua Avenue (the main drag running through Waikiki.) Tons of high-end stores line the street (although for the most part, they are the same kinds of stores you’d find in any major metro area of nearly a million people.) The nearby Ala Moana Center, just outside the boundaries of Waikiki, is the largest mall in the state and has lots of options, even down in the food court. If you’re looking for more bargain shopping, head to the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium, which takes place in the morning-afternoon on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is where you’ll find deals on t-shirts, stickers and tons of souvenirs.