Explore a shipwreck on a tour with Atlantis Submarines in Waikiki
Explore a shipwreck on a tour with Atlantis Submarines in Waikīkī

Best things to see and do in Waikīkī

Go surfing or stand-up paddleboarding at Waikīkī Beach, explore the underwater world on a submarine tour, and hike Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head) for panoramic views

With its famous beach and world-class shopping and dining, Waikīkī is the ideal place to start your holiday. It’s approximately 30 minutes’ drive from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, where flights from Australia and New Zealand arrive, so within hours of stepping off the plane you can be lying under a palm tree with a coconut drink in hand

A family hitting the surf at Waikiki Beach Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Ben Ono
A family hitting the surf at Waikīkī Beach. Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority Ben Ono

Waikīkī Beach

Located on the South Shore of Honolulu, the neighbourhood of Waikīkī was once a playground for royalty. Now, it’s tourists from around the globe who come to enjoy its myriad of attractions. Undoubtedly, Waikīkī’s biggest drawcard is its beach, with calm waters ideal for sports such as surfing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), outrigger canoeing, kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and even SUP yoga. You can also explore the underwater world on a glass bottom boat tour or an environmentally-friendly submarine to see honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), coral gardens and a shipwreck. Sunset cocktail cruises are a great way to end a day of fun.

The jellyfish exhibit at Waikiki Aquarium Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Tor Johnson
The jellyfish exhibit at Waikīkī Aquarium. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority Tor Johnson

Waikīkī Aquarium

Opposite beautiful Kapi‘olani Park, Waikīkī Aquarium showcases more than 500 marine species and maintains more than 3,500 marine specimens, with a focus on the unique aquatic life of Hawai‘i and the tropical Pacific.

waikikiaquarium.org

Honolulu Zoo

Nearby Honolulu Zoo is also worth a visit – especially for the twilight experience on a Saturday night.

honoluluzoo.org

Afternoon shadows on Leahi Diamond Head in Honolulu Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Vincent Lim
Afternoon shadows on Leahi Diamond Head in Honolulu. Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority Vincent Lim

Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head State Monument)

For panoramic views over Waikīkī, hike to the top of Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head State Monument) – a 230m-high extinct volcanic crater and National Natural Landmark. Advance reservations are required for visitors without a Hawai‘i State driver’s licence to help protect the environment.

Visit dlnr.hawaii.gov

Venetian-style gondola cruises

For something a bit different, Hawai‘i WOW Tours offers Venetian-style gondola cruises along Ala Wai Canal, which was built in 1928 to drain the taro fields and swamps on what would eventually become Waikīkī.

Visit hawaiiwowtours.com

Waikīkī Historic Trail

To learn more about the neighbourhood’s past – from ancient times through to its more recent history – follow the surfboard markers along the Waikīkī Historic Trail.

Visit waikikihistorictrail.org

Polynesian wa’a kaulua (double-hulled canoe)

You can also discover more about Hawaiian culture by booking a sailing tour on the only US Coast Guard-certified Polynesian wa’a kaulua (double-hulled canoe) in the world, Kamoauli. It offers hands-on activities such as ku‘i kalo (traditional taro preparation), live kī hō‘alu (slack key guitar) and ‘oli (traditional chants).

SHOPPING

Shopping is another huge pastime in Waikīkī – especially for Australian and New Zealand visitors keen to grab a bargain.

International Market Place
International Market Place

International Market Place

International Market Place has more than 100 shops showcasing local and international brands and eateries. Stores include Anthropologie, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Honolulu Cookie Co., Kona Coffee Purveyors, Burberry, Vince, Christian Louboutin, Sunglass Hut and MCM. It also hosts a range of free on-site experiences, including open-air fitness classes, a monthly lei-making class, a free cultural audio tour, and a hula show on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays honouring Hawai‘i’s beloved Queen Emma as told through Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance.

The centre also boasts the largest collection of outdoor and open-air restaurants in Waikīkī on its Level 3 Grand Lānai.

shopinternationalmarketplace.com

The Royal Hawaiian Center
The Royal Hawaiian Center

Royal Hawaiian Center

Spanning three blocks on the beach side of Kalākaua Avenue, Royal Hawaiian Center has more than 90 shops and over 30 eateries across four levels. Stores range from internationally renowned, luxury brands Hermès, Tiffany & Co. and Valentino to boutiques featuring Hawai‘i-made products. The Center also hosts free live entertainment at The Royal Grove, such as hula performances, and offers an array of cultural activities and experiences throughout the year, including ‘ukulele lessons, lei-making classes and hula lessons for keiki (kids).

royalhawaiiancenter.com

DFS Waikīkī

Enjoy duty-free shopping at DFS Waikīkī, where a wide range of high-end items are available, including clothes, beauty products, perfume, watches, jewellery, wine and spirits. Stores include Burberry, Bvlgari, Calvin Klein Beauty, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs Fragrances, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada Beauty, Swarovski and Tiffany & Co.

dfs.com

Waikīkī Beach Walk

Shops can also be found all along Kalākaua Ave and Kūhiō Ave, and the two-level Waikīkī Beach Walk, which has more than 40 stores and eateries.

waikikibeachwalk.com

GETTING AROUND

O‘ahu has a comprehensive public transport network incorporating TheBus and the hop-on, hop-off Waikīkī Trolley. Waikīkī Trolley has four routes: The Blue Line, which goes to Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head); the Pink Line, which goes to the Ala Moana Center; and the red line, which incorporates historical and cultural locations, such as Honolulu Museum of Art and ‘Iolani Palace; and the green line, which takes in some of the best local eateries, including Leonard’s Bakery and Da Ono Hawaiian Food. The Turtle Trolley also offers free rides to Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head State Monument), Ala Moana, SALT at Our Kaka‘ako and Whole Foods. Taxis and rideshare services, including Uber, Lyft and Holoholo are also available.