With its famous beach and family-friendly restaurants and attractions, Waikīkī is the ideal place to start your holiday. It’s around 30 minutes’ drive from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, where flights from Australia and New Zealand arrive
Waikīkī’s biggest drawcard is undoubtedly its beach. Stretching for more than three kilometres, it actually consists of several smaller beaches that interconnect. They include Duke Kahanamoku Beach (named after the Olympian, who’s considered the father of modern surfing), Fort DeRussy Beach and Queen’s Surf Beach. Protected from the surf by a break wall, Kūhiō Beach is ideal for families with younger kids, with activities such as surfing and outrigger canoeing. Other popular water sports include stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and even SUP yoga. Don’t miss the weekly fireworks show that lights up the sky outside Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī Beach Resort every Friday night at 7.45pm.
You can also explore under the water on a glass bottom boat tour, or in Atlantis Adventures’ environmentally-friendly 48-passenger submarine, which dives to depths of up to 30 metres to see coral reefs, fish and other marine life.
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. Located within the park, Honolulu Zoo is home to more than 1,200 animals living in specially-designed habitats. It also offers Twilight Tours.
For panoramic views over Waikīkī, challenge the kids to a hike to the top of Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head State Monument) – a 230 metre-high extinct volcanic crater and National Natural Landmark. Advance reservations are required for visitors to help protect the environment.
If your family includes little shopaholics, head to International Market Place, which has more than 100 stores showcasing local and international brands and eateries. They include Anthropologie, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Honolulu Cookie Co., Kona Coffee Purveyors, Burberry, Vince, Christian Louboutin, Surf Line Hawai‘i, 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 weekly farmers’ market, and a free O Nā Lani Sunset Stories 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.
Spanning three blocks on the beach side of Waikīkī’s main street, Kalākaua Ave, the Royal Hawaiian Center has more than 90 shops and 40 eateries across four levels. These include luxury and lifestyle retailers such as Fendi, Hermès, KITH, Saint Laurent, Stussy, Tiffany & Co. and Valentino. It also hosts live hula and Hawaiian music performances at The Royal Grove, and cultural activities such as ‘ukulele lessons, hula classes and lei-making classes. 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.
Outrigger Resorts & Hotels has three properties in Waikīkī that are ideal for families. The flagship Outrigger Reef Waikīkī Beach Resort is nearing the completion of a US$80 million transformation, with renovated guest rooms, artwork celebrating the islands’ culture, a pool deck with cabanas, and a revamped cultural centre. Located right on the beach, it also offers cultural activities such as hula, ‘ukulele and lei and bracelet-making lessons that kids will love, and the chance to enjoy live music and performances in an intimate setting under the stars at Kani Ka Pila Grille. Anchor restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, is expected to open mid-2023.
Located on Kalākaua Ave next to International Market Place and just steps from the beach, Waikīkī Beachcomber by Outrigger has also undergone a US$35 million upgrade, with its style and design curated by a collection of local artists and influencers. It also has a high-tech interactive Beachcomber Activities Lounge, restaurant and craft brewery Maui Brewing Co. and a poolside café. Home to iconic beachfront eatery Duke’s Waikīkī, Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort also has rooms overlooking the beach and Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head) and offers live music nightly at Hula Grill Waikīkī.
Honolulu-based hotel company Aqua-Aston Hospitality has several properties to choose from, including the landmark ‘Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites, which featured in the opening sequence of the original Hawai‘i Five-O television series and has rooms with full kitchens and two pools, and Aston Waikīkī Beach Tower, which has a pool deck with a spa, barbecues and cabanas overlooking the beach. Aston at the Waikīkī Banyan also has rooms with full kitchens and a pool deck with a playground area.
For families who like the convenience of kitchens or kitchenettes, Castle Resorts & Hotels offers condominium-style accommodation at several properties in Waikīkī. Waikīkī Shores is the neighbourhood’s only condominium option directly on the beach, with panoramic views. Just a block back from the beach, Waikīkī Grand Hotel is a quieter option, while Bamboo Waikīkī Hotel has Asian-inspired décor that celebrates Hawai‘i’s multi-ethnic heritage. The Palms at Waikīkī overlooks Ala Moana Boulevard, with a pool and sundeck enhancing its tropical feel.
Holiday Inn Express Waikīkī is three blocks back from the beach, with a free hot buffet breakfast, a pool with private cabanas, spa, gym, a kids’ games room and a 5th floor deck with a nine-hole mini-golf course, shuffleboard, giant chess, ping pong and foosball ideal for family fun.
Slip into the Hawai‘i groove at Duke’s Waikīkī — a vibrant beachfront eatery known for its barefoot bar, tiki vibe and umbrella drinks. Located at Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort, it offers a kids’ menu that includes fried chicken, a cheeseburger and fish and chips. And Kimo’s original hula pie is a must for dessert!
Barefoot Beach Cafe is a casual oceanfront restaurant on Queen’s Surf Beach, with live music every night from 5.30pm to 8.30pm and Sundays from 10am to 1pm.
With large tiki statues and cups, colourful lights and live music, Tiki’s Grill & Bar is a fun themed restaurant in the Twin Fin Hotel, offering a casual American and Pacific-Rim menu with flavours of the islands.
Teppanyaki is always a hit with kids, and the spectacular fire show at Tanaka of Tokyo won’t disappoint. You’ll find venues on the third floor of Waikīkī Shopping Plaza and at OHANA Waikīkī East Hotel.
If you’re missing home, head straight to Tucker & Bevvy. Inspired by Australian beachside cafes, it serves take-away salads, sandwiches, wraps, smoothies and cold pressed juices at two locations — the Park Shore Hotel and in the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī Beach Resort.
It’s also worth checking out the eateries at International Market Place, which has the largest collection of outdoor and open-air restaurants in Waikīkī, including family-friendly options like Skybox sports bar and restaurant, ShoreFyre, Hawaiian-Cajun seafood restaurant Crackin’ Kitchen, Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar, Honolulu Cookie Company, Liliha Bakery, and Magnolia Ice Cream and Treats.