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Top 13 Things to Do in Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki is a true paradise for all kinds of travelers, with a wide range of incredible activities and beachfront accommodations to suit every taste and budget. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the local culture, or take part in thrilling outdoor adventures, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in this gorgeous Hawaiian neighborhood.

From surfing lessons and scuba diving to hiking and food tours, a trip to Waikiki offers the chance to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and cultural richness of Hawaii from the moment you step foot on the sand. Not sure where to start? Read on for the top things to do in Waikiki, Hawaii.

Spend Time Soaking up the Sunshine on Waikiki Beach Waikiki Beach and Honolulu's skyline
Credit: Waikiki Beach and Honolulu's skyline by © Sorin Colac | Dreamstime.com

Spend Time Soaking up the Sunshine on Waikiki Beach

What Is It? Waikiki Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in Hawaii (and the world), known for its soft sand, crystal clear waters, and picturesque views of Diamond Head.

Why Do It? The beach itself is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, or just lounging under the sun with a good book in hand. You can also rent a beach umbrella and a beach chair and enjoy a cold drink while taking in those stunning views as the hours go by.

Good to Know: Feeling peckish? Waikiki Beach is also home to a variety of beachside bars and restaurants, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat or a refreshing cocktail or cold coconut.

Visit Diamond Head Visit Diamond Head
Credit: Visit Diamond Head by Unsplash.com

Visit Diamond Head

What Is It? Diamond Head is a must-see attraction in Waikiki, no matter what you’re heading to Hawaii for.

Why Do It? The hike to the top is relatively easy, even for beginners, and the views of the coastline are stunning and well worth the exertion. The trail is well-maintained, with plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. If you do need to stop, just use it as an opportunity to snap a photo or two! Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.

Good to Know: It’s recommended to bring sunscreen, water, and a hat as the hike can be quite hot and sunny, especially in the middle of the day.

Take a Surfing Lesson Take a surfing lesson
Credit: Take a surfing lesson by Unsplash

Take a Surfing Lesson

What Is It? Where better to learn how to ride the waves than Hawaii? This incredible state is well known for its world-class surfing, and Waikiki is the perfect place for beginners to learn.

Why Do It? You’ll find plenty of surf schools dotted around here that offer lessons, and the instructors are experienced and patient. They’ll teach you how to stand up on the board, how to catch waves, and how to stay safe in the water.

Good to Know: After your lesson, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for this popular Hawaiian sport. And maybe you’ll even end up joining the surfers over at Peahi or “Jaws” in Maui!

Go Scuba Diving Go scuba diving
Credit: Go scuba diving by Unsplash

Go Scuba Diving

What Is It? Scuba diving in Waikiki is one of the most thrilling ways to experience the beauty and wonder of Hawaii’s underwater world, and there are plenty of dive shops that can show you the sights.

Why Do It? One of the most popular dive sites is the YO-257 wreck, a former Navy vessel sunk as an artificial reef. Dive here to swim alongside green sea turtles, moray eels, and schools of colorful fish. You can also check out the Kewalo Pipe, an artificial reef made from concrete pipes, and the Turtle Canyons, where you’re practically guaranteed the chance to swim with sea turtles.

Good to Know: Looking to step up your scuba knowledge? Waikiki is a great place for scuba diving schools, where you can work towards scuba certifications and specialties.

Go Shopping Shopping in Waikiki
Credit: Shopping in Waikiki by Unsplash

Go Shopping

What Is It? Waikiki is a shopper’s paradise, with a huge variety of stores and boutiques ranging from high-end designer brands to local Hawaiian-made products.

Why Do It? The main shopping district is located along Kalakaua Avenue, where you can find everything from luxury goods to souvenirs of all types. Looking to extend your shopping trip? The Royal Hawaiian Center is also a popular destination for shoppers, with over 110 stores and restaurants to choose from.

Good to Know: If you’re looking for new surf gear or a new bikini, you’ll find an endless array of shops here to wander around and explore.

Feast on Local Dishes on a Hawaii Food Tour Feast upon local dishes on a Hawaii Food Tour
Credit: Feast upon local dishes on a Hawaii Food Tour by Unsplash

Feast on Local Dishes on a Hawaii Food Tour

What Is It? Experience the local food scene and sample a variety of traditional Hawaiian dishes on a Hawaiian food tour around Waikiki.

Why Do It? The tours typically last around three hours and include stops at multiple restaurants and food stalls, giving you a chance to dig into local favorites while learning more about the history and importance of each dish.

Good to Know: Some of the most popular tours include the Hole-in-the-Wall Tour, which explores some of the city’s hidden food gems, and the North Shore Food Tour, which takes you on a scenic drive from Waikiki to sample the best of Oahu’s North Shore restaurants.

Watch a Sunset Watch a sunset
Credit: Watch a sunset by Unsplash

Watch a Sunset

What Is It? It’s practically law that you have to watch at least one sunset before you leave Hawaii.

Why Do It? The sunsets in Waikiki are truly spectacular, with the sun sinking into the Pacific Ocean in a burst of vibrant colors. The best place to watch the sunset is on the beach, where you can see the sun dip below the horizon while feeling the soft sand between your toes and sipping on a freshly-plucked coconut.

Good to Know: Some other popular spots for sunset watching in Waikiki include Kahanamoku Beach, Queen’s Surf Beach, and Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.

Visit the Honolulu Zoo Honolulu Zoo
Credit: Honolulu Zoo by © Mickem | Dreamstime.com

Visit the Honolulu Zoo

What Is It? The Honolulu Zoo covers 42 acres of ground in total and is a fun and educational experience for both adults and children.

Why Do It? Here you’ll find more than 1,200 animals from around the world, including elephants, lions, tigers, and bears. Take a guided tour or watch one of the daily animal shows, where you can learn about the animals and their habitats. Wander around its individual areas, the African Savanna, Asian and American Tropical Forest, and Pacific Islands, to admire animals of all shapes and sizes.

Good to Know: The zoo is also committed to conservation and sustainability, making it an excellent choice for animal lovers.

Visit the Historic Moana Hotel Visit the historic Moana Hotel
Credit: Visit the historic Moana Hotel by marriott.com

Visit the Historic Moana Hotel

What Is It? The Moana Hotel was the first-ever hotel built in Waikiki and has welcomed a variety of famous guests, including presidents, royalty, and celebrities over the years.

Why Do It? While checking in here guarantees a great experience, you can also just book free guided tours on Mondays and Wednesdays. This impressive spot is home to a private beach, a swimming pool, and a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as a fascinating museum that showcases the history of the hotel and the development of Waikiki.

Good to Know: Looking to experience a little extra culture? Check out the ever-changing variety of events here, like hula shows and lei-making classes.

Take a Catamaran Cruise Catamaran near Waikiki
Credit: Catamaran near Waikiki by © Sgoodwin4813 | Dreamstime.com

Take a Catamaran Cruise

What Is It? Hawaii might not be the most budget-friendly vacation spot but if you’re heading over here, you might as well go all out with a fancy boat ride to mark the experience.

Why Do It? You’ll find plenty of catamaran trips dotted around Waikiki with price tags to suit all kinds of travelers. Once you’ve chosen one, relax back on the boat and sail the waters of Waikiki while enjoying the stunning views of the coastline.

Good to Know: You can choose from a variety of cruises, ranging from sunset sails to snorkeling adventures. The catamarans are usually equipped with a bar, so you can enjoy a cool, refreshing drink while basking in the sunshine.

Attend a Hawaiian Luau Dancers Performing at a Luau
Credit: Dancers Performing at a Luau by bigstock.com

Attend a Hawaiian Luau

What Is It? Hawaii isn’t just about beach days and surf trips. Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture by attending a traditional luau while you’re vacationing here to experience a whole new side of Hawaiian history and traditions.

Why Do It? A luau typically features hula dancing, live music, and delicious local food like kalua pig, poi, and haupia. If you’re staying in – or visiting – the Waikiki area, you’ll easily find a variety of luau options to choose from, ranging from small intimate gatherings to large-scale productions with the crowds to match.

Good to Know: Depending on your budget, this may be a little more expensive than your typical excursion. But it’s well worth the cost of the magical experience here!

Explore the Waikiki Aquarium Waikiki Aquarium
Credit: Waikiki Aquarium by Waikiki Aquarium

Explore the Waikiki Aquarium

What Is It? Hawaii’s underwater world is nothing short of spectacular and you’ll find plenty of ways here to experience it up close. But, if you don’t fancy getting your hair wet but still want to see some of these magical creatures, head to the Waikiki Aquarium.

Why Do It? This small but informative aquarium is located on the shores of Waikiki Beach and features a variety of marine life, like Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, and colorful reef fish. The aquarium is also home to a coral farm and a Hawaiian green sea turtle breeding program.

Good to Know: The aquarium hosts special events and activities throughout the year, like behind-the-scenes tours of the aquarium’s going-ons.

Visit the USS Arizona Memorial Visit the USS Arizona Memorial
Credit: Visit the USS Arizona Memorial by Unsplash

Visit the USS Arizona Memorial

What Is It? One of the most-visited spots in Hawaii, this sobering memorial floats in the waters of Honolulu. The USS Arizona Memorial offers a poignant reminder of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sacrifices made by the sailors who lost their lives on December 7th, 1941.

Why Do It? The memorial was built over the sunken remains of the battleship USS Arizona and is a place for quiet reflection and remembrance. Take a boat ride to the memorial, where you can pay your respects and learn about the history of the attack.

Good to Know: The memorial also has an excellent museum and theater, where you can watch a documentary about the events of that day and learn about the brave soldiers who served during World War II.

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