The Getaway
The Best Ways to Enjoy Waikiki

Ask any random person on the street about their dream getaway, and they'll probably mention Hawaii. Even among the other incredible destinations in Hawaii, Waikiki stands out. This world-famous beach playground probably conjures visions of partying the night away because its nightlife is famously unforgettable. However, from the majestic Diamond Head to the serene beaches, anyone can find something to love about Waikiki. Honestly, there's so much to experience that you could fill up an entire vacation itinerary and still find new ways to enjoy the area.

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01 Catch a hula show on Kuhio Beach

You haven't gotten the full Hawaii vacation experience until you've seen a live hula performance. Performers flock to Kuhio Beach in Waikiki from all over the island every week. Each show opens with the traditional blowing of the conch shell before exploding into an unforgettable display of stunning colors, music, and movements. It's not hyperbole to say that this show features some of the finest halau hula in Hawaii.

Prince Kuhio Beach also called The Ponds Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

02 Learn how to surf

Oahu and Waikiki were home to one of the greatest surfers to ever grace the sport: Duke Kahanamoku. This legend won five Olympic medals in swimming and gave swimming exhibitions all over the world. During these exhibitions, he would also show off his surfing abilities, popularizing the sport. When visiting Waikiki, you would be missing out on a key part of its culture and history if you don't hit the water and give surfing a try in honor of Kahanamoku. Plenty of local businesses provide beginner surfing courses near Waikiki Beach.

Water fun on Waikiki beach anouchka / Getty Images

03 Hop on, hop off a tour

Waikiki is so full of activities and events most people struggle with figuring out what to do first. If you can't decide how to spend your time, why not just see everything Waikiki has to offer? Local companies offer hop-on, hop-off tours that give you an entire vacation's worth of sightseeing in a matter of hours. The best part? The minute something grabs your attention; you can jump off the tour and enjoy yourself. When you're done, head back to the trolley route and resume your tour.

04 Start your weekend with a bang

It should come as no surprise that Waikiki comes to life at night, especially on the weekends. If you want to start your weekend right, head to the Duke Kahanamoku lagoon and beach. Every Friday, the skies above the sands literally welcome the weekend with a bang as they fill with beautiful and wild fireworks. Though the show is relatively short, the finale is absolutely unforgettable, with fireworks synced to music.

Fireworks in Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA on a Friday night agaliza / Getty Images

05 Get a cultural crash course

A full, ceremonial luau is another one of those events on the checklist of "must-sees" of Hawaii. Thankfully, Waikiki is home to a luau that will have you missing the island long after you've returned home. Queens Waikiki Luau not only showcases authentic hula dancing but also adds extra fun with lessons, demonstrations, and, of course, live music from traditional performers. During the luau, you'll fill your belly with a feast that includes a whole sucking pig.

Assorted food at luau Burke/Triolo Productions / Getty Images

06 Wander through Kapiolani Park

Waikiki's parks are just as lovely —if not more so— as the rest of the island. A perfect example of this is Honolulu's oldest and most beloved public park, Kapiolani Park. You can wander through the green fields and take in the distant views of mountains or enjoy leisure activities like tennis, jogging, or picnicking. Kapiolani Park is also home to both the Waikiki Zoo and Aquarium, so it's the perfect stop for families looking to fill their day.

Picnic Table in Kapiolani Park at during day on Oahu, Hawaii. Eric Broder Van Dyke / Getty Images

07 Take in the natural beauty of the Foster Botanical Gardens

The entire island of Oahu, including Waikiki, is full of natural beauty. However, it can be a little rugged and difficult to enjoy. The Foster Botanical Gardens bring all of the gorgeous plant life from around Hawaii to one place, creating a well-cultivated garden for you to experience. Watch butterflies flit from plant to plant as you take in the peace and tranquility of this spot of pure zen. Also on-site are temples, statues, and even themed gardens where you can sit and relax with a picnic.

08 Dive below the waters

Hawaii boasts a massive number of incredible snorkeling spots, and one of the best is right next to Waikiki Beach. The best place to enter is Kapiolani Park, where you can view the reef from the shore. Beginners can participate in an underwater tour that includes a ride to Turtle Canyon. Experienced divers can roam a bit more and discover all kinds of starfish, reef fish, and even octopi.

Sea Turtle, Waikiki Beach Hawaii RugliG / Getty Images

09 Discover Oahu's most famous landmark

The Diamond Head Crater is one of the first things you'll be able to see from your plane's window as you arrive on Oahu. Its stunning silhouette has made it an iconic natural landmark and one of the island's most popular tourist destinations. Hit the hiking trail or take a segway tour up the volcanic crater that has become Waikiki's heart. The summit at the end of the 560-foot climb rewards you with a panoramic vista of Waikiki's most stunning beaches. On the way back down, treat yourself with some shaved ice from a local food truck.

Fisheye view of Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii Dex Image / Getty Images

10 Live it up at night

If you're even slightly entertaining the thought of visiting Waikiki, its nightlife is probably one of the major factors. Once the sun sets, a new side of the island emerges. You can lounge with creative cocktails at RumFire or dance the night away at any of the bars along Kalakaua Avenue. Beyond that, it's worth revisiting some of the areas you saw while the sun was up. Check out the twilight tours at the Honolulu Zoo to meet the local nocturnal animals, as well as stargazing opportunities.

Neon Gateway Philip Starr / 500px / Getty Images

11 Exploring the history and culture of Honolulu

Honolulu isn't just a modern paradise; it's a city steeped in rich history and culture. Take a day to explore the majestic Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on US soil, and wander through the halls that once echoed with the footsteps of kings and queens. The Bishop Museum offers another deep dive into Hawaii's past, showcasing artifacts that tell the story of the islands' volcanic origins and the vibrant culture of its people.

 Honolulu, Hawaii - February 12, 2022 : Interior of the Hawaiian Hall of the Bishop Museum, the largest museum of Hawaii in Honolulu on the island of Oahu - 3 level exhibition room with wooden arches Alexandre.ROSA / Shutterstock.com

12 Enjoying local cuisine beyond the beach

Shave ice - hawaiian shaved ice dessert. Close up of traditional local Hawaii dessert food.

While Waikiki's beachfront offers dining with a view, venturing into the heart of Honolulu reveals a culinary scene bursting with flavors. From the humble plate lunch spots serving up hearty local fare to the bustling food trucks offering the sweet, shaved ice known as 'shave ice,' there's a taste of true Hawaii waiting around every corner.

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13 Biking around Honolulu

Biking activity couple tourists having fun doing outdoor sport on Florida beach vacation with rental bikes on Sanibel Island by the Lighthouse. woman with man friend riding bicycles outdoor lifestyle.

Embrace the island's breezy lifestyle by renting a bike and pedaling through Honolulu's scenic vistas and urban landscapes. The city's bike-friendly paths lead adventurers from the vibrant street art of Kaka'ako to the serene beauty of Magic Island, offering a unique perspective on island living.

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14 Visiting the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium

Honolulu Zoo Giraffe

For families or those simply young at heart, the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium offer enchanting glimpses into the animal kingdom. From the playful antics of monkeys to the graceful swim of tropical fish, these attractions are perfect for a leisurely afternoon of discovery and wonder.

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15 Taking a scenic drive to the North Shore

North Shore Kauai Coastline From Above

The North Shore is a world away from Waikiki's hustle and bustle, known for its towering waves and laid-back vibe. A scenic drive to this legendary surf mecca reveals charming towns, garlic shrimp trucks, and beaches where watching surfers tackle the ocean's might is a sport in itself.

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16 Experiencing a traditional Hawaiian luau

Two Hawaiian Men preparing to Dance with Fire in Maui

No visit to Hawaii is complete without experiencing the magic of a luau. Beyond the feast of kalua pig and poi, it's a celebration of Hawaiian culture, storytelling, and dance. Attend a luau where tradition takes center stage, and the spirit of aloha is shared with every song and hula dance.

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17 Participating in a cultural workshop

Woman making Hawaiian Lei and Hahu. Process of Handmade flower crown made from Hawaii flower Plumeria.

Dive deeper into Hawaii's cultural roots by participating in a workshop where you can learn the art of lei making, the rhythm of hula, or the melodies of the ukulele. These hands-on experiences offer more than just a souvenir; they provide a personal connection to the island's rich heritage.

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18 Sunset watching from lesser-known spots

Tantalus Lookout at sunset

While Waikiki's sunsets are legendary, there are hidden spots around Honolulu that offer equally stunning vistas without the crowds. Tantalus Lookout and Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail offer breathtaking views as the sun dips below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink and orange.

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19 Exploring Honolulu's coffee scene

Coffee aficionados will find their bliss in Honolulu's burgeoning coffee scene. From the aromatic brews of local coffee shops to the plantations where Hawaiian coffee beans are grown and roasted, there's a deep appreciation for the craft of coffee making here. Sip on a freshly brewed cup as you take in the city's vibrant energy.

Honolulu, Hawaii - December 29, 2022: Honolulu Coffee sign at the Moana Surfrider. Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock.com

20 Discovering street art in Kaka'ako

The Kaka'ako district is Honolulu's canvas, adorned with murals and street art that tell stories of Hawaii's past, present, and future. A stroll through this neighborhood reveals the creative spirit of the islands, with each piece offering a colorful glimpse into the hearts and minds of local and international artists.

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