A magnet for surfers since well before the Beach Boys sang about it in the 1960s, Waikiki also offers many activities for families, a vibrant nightlife and local culture.
Waikiki Beach is a great place to start your adventures in Waikiki. It is usually crowded, especially in winter when the surf swells, but it is the one beach that comes to mind for most people when they think of Hawaii.
Rent a board and paddle out to the waves, where you’ll very likely find yourself surrounded by surfing pros. There are many excellent surf schools catering for all experience levels, so book in for a few lessons. For an alternative to surfing, try out any of the other water sports on offer, such as snorkeling, parasailing or scuba diving.
Take a short stroll south to Kuhio Beach. This is a golden stretch of sand sheltered by a coastal wall, and home to Kapahulu Pier. The pier is a great place to visit at sunset.
Queens Surf Beach is at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki and provides a less frantic, grassier area, perfect for picnicking and gazing out to sea. While in the area, visit the Diamond Head State Monument, a calcite crystal crater that’s a Hawaiian landmark. A trail here takes you through a lit 225-foot (69-meter) tunnel to old military bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse.
Head up Kalakaua Avenue, which runs behind Waikiki Beach, and into the heart of town. Along here, luxury-brand stores mingle with Waikiki’s high-end hotels, including the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider hotel. Street performers bring the strip to life, and cocktail bars stay open until the early hours of the morning.
Families should take a trip Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, which is home to more than 500 species of aquatic animals and plants. To get even closer to the aquatic environment, book onto a submarine tour, which will take you down to the Pacific bed to see wrecked ships and exotic sea creatures.