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The 20 Best Things to do in Waikiki

Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise

Waikiki is a large beautiful 3.4-mile stretch of land in Honolulu, Hawaii's capital. Historically, Hawaiian locals visited the place for its beauty and ample lounging and surfing opportunities. The area is famous today among tourists for its parks, markets, rich culture, luxury hotels, and white sand beaches. If you are planning to tour it, here are the 20 best Things to do in Waikiki during your holiday.

Aquarium

20. View Sealife at Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium was opened in 1904 and is the second oldest public aquarium in the entire country. It began with 400 marine creatures interspersed in 35 tanks but has since grown to house more than 3,500 creatures. Additionally, the organisms, which include jellyfish, tropical fish, coral farms, and giant clams, are divided into several award-winning colorful displays. The exhibits are organized by themes like South Pacific Marine Communities, Ocean Aquaculture, and Hunters on the Reef. Waikiki Aquarium also hosts special classes, activities, and events to promote marine preservation.

Moana Hotel

19. Enjoy the Architectural Marvels at Moana Hotel

You may be familiar with the word 'Moana' from the 2016 Disney Movie, but Moana Sufrider existed long before the film. In fact, it was built in 1901 and was the first ever hotel to grace Waikiki. Moana Sufrider appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is popularly known as the "First Lady of Waikiki." The architecture is breathtaking, completed in an extravagant Victorian style that screams luxury and class. Consequently, the hotel is a great place to take photos, which you can do during the free guided tours. The middle of the courtyard houses a huge banyan tree that is over a century old.

Duke Kahanamoku Statue

18. Take in History at the Duke Kahanamoku Statue

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku is a Hawaiian hero. Widely considered the father of modern surfing, Kahanamoku broke the world record for the 100-yard freestyle on his first try and won Olympic silver and gold (1912), two gold (1920), and a silver (1924). Later on, he became the first Hawaiian ambassador of goodwill and a military police officer in WWII. In recognition of his impact on Waikiki, where he learned to surf, a bronze statue was erected next to the Waikiki Police Station in his honor. It is one of the most photographed landmarks in Hawaii, and you can visit it on your way from the beach.

Iolani Palace

17. Learn About the Monarchy at Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace was commissioned by David Kalākaua, the Hawaiian monarchy’s last king, in 1879 to serve as his official residence, where he and his Queen held official functions, received dignitaries from around the world, and entertained. It was completed in 1882 and remains the only official royal residence in the US. If you are a history buff, plan a trip to this ornate palace and enjoy stories about the royal family, their guests, and staff.  View royal portraits, their crowns, Hawaiian symbols of rank, original furnishings and reproduced royal garments.  The Palace consists of a throne room, a state dining room, a music room, the King's library (office), two royal bedrooms and more. Tragically, it also houses the imprisonment room where Liliʻuokalani, the last queen, was imprisoned two years after the kingdom was overthrown.

International Market Place

16. Go Shopping at the International Market Place

The International Market Place in Waikiki is not one large market; it is a collection of open-air shops located under large banyan trees and beautiful lights that go on at night. Popular retail shops in the location include international brands like Swarovski, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Additionally, you can shop from local stores for locally famous products like the esteemed Kona Coffee. If you are not in the shopping mood, you can just stroll through the beautiful shop, enjoying the people, tropical plants, and stunning water features. You can also attend the many activities and events hosted at the International Market Place, including Lei-making classes, concerts, and food festivals.

Hawaiian Culture at Royal Hawaiian Center

15. Immerse Yourself in Hawaiian Culture at Royal Hawaiian Center

The Royal Hawaiian Center is situated in the heart of Waikiki and is built around the legendary coconut grove. Housing over 100 restaurants and shops, it is among the largest shopping malls in the state. It also hosts daily cultural programs like weaving, quilting, and hula dancing. The tropical garden in the middle of the mall has been preserved since the 1800s and was a relaxation spot for Hawaiian royals. At the heart of the mall is also the Royal Grove, where you will find a bronze statue of the granddaughter of Hawaii's first king, Princess Bernice Pauahi.

Outrigger Canoe Rides

14. Go on Outrigger Canoe Rides

Outrigger Canoe rides are offered by Ted Bush, the current head of the renowned Waikiki Beachboys. Locals and tourists have been enjoying the rides for decades, and the activity has become an iconic cultural part of Waikiki Beach. During your tour, you learn how to canoe and surf alongside your family, then catch some waves at the surfbreak as you learn about the history of outrigger canoeing.

Wildlife at Honolulu Zoo

13. Experience Wildlife at Honolulu Zoo

Ben Hollinger began the Honolulu Zoo collection with an elephant, a bear, and a monkey as Park Director. In 1947, he received 42.5 acres within Kapi'olani Park from the city and help from several organizations that helped him grow today's Honolulu Zoo. The Zoo is currently home to over 900 animals spread out over different ecological zones, including the Pacific Islands, American Tropical Forest, and African Savanna. The park also hosts many animal encounters and activities.

Diamond Head

12. Catch Some Panoramic Views at Diamond Head

Diamond Head volcano formations were formed over 300,000 years ago when the Ko'olau Volcano underwent a series of eruptions. Natives call the place Lēʻahi, and the Waikiki feature is so historic it has been classified as a US National Natural Monument. When you book a tour, you get to hike up the old rater's tail early in the morning. It should take about 30 minutes to get to the top, where you will be greeted by a stunning panoramic view of Honolulu and the ocean. You can also enjoy the beautiful picnic area at the rim.

Waikiki Beach

11. Spend a Day in the Sun at Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is a must-visit destination when touring Waikiki. In fact, no trip to Waikiki is complete without visiting this iconic two-mile shoreline. Hawaiian nobles and royals frequented the beach in the 1800s, and its popularity encouraged the establishment of the first hotels in Waikiki. While here, you can enjoy the warm waters, paddleboard, surf, swim, go on outrigger canoe rides, or take catamaran rides.

Chinatown

10. Experience Diversity in Chinatown

During the mid-1800s, a wave of Chinese immigrants came to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. When the work ended, they purchased land along the harbor and opened shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes, which are now part of the diverse Honolulu Chinatown. Here, you will enjoy temples, shrines, herbal shops, trinket shops, tea shops, Asian cuisines, and several vegetable, fruit, and seafood displays.

Kahanamoku Beach

9. Paddleboard at Kahanamoku Beach

Kahanamoku Beach is situated in front of Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort in the westernmost part of Waikiki. Its quiet, tucked-away saltwater lagoon makes it perfect for family picnics and outings, as well as a calm place to paddleboard. Many tourists use it to practice before heading out to the open waters. Additionally, you can enjoy fireworks displays along the shore during your visit. Fans of Hawaii Five-O will notice some familiar scenery as some scenes from the show were filmed on the beach.

Kaimana Beach

8. Have a Slow Beach Day at Kaimana Beach

Waikiki Beach is breathtaking, but it can also be very busy. If you want to enjoy the beach away from the bustle of other tourists, you can head on to Kaimana Beach. It is located about a one-mile walk from Waikiki, which means you do not need to rent a car. The beach itself is sandy and shallow with subdued currents and is protected by a large reef, making it ideal for snorkeling. In fact, Kaimana Beach is considered one of the best snorkeling spots in Waikiki.

SKY Waikiki

7. Get Dinner at SKY Waikiki

Grabbing dinner at SKY Waikiki is the most unique way to enjoy a meal in Waikiki. The restaurant serves delicious tropical cocktails and fresh seafood from the 19th floor of the Waikiki Business Plaza. In addition to the astonishing views of the setting sun, you also get to see the city below come to life with bright lights at night. Try the garlic shrimp and poke nachos for the ultimate experience.

Waikiki Surf Lessons

6. Take the Iconic Waikiki Surf Lessons

Taking the famed Waikiki surf lessons is a rite of passage when touring this area. The lessons are offered on Waikiki Beach and overseen by experienced surf instructors who share both the tips and history of surfing on Waikiki. Moreover, there are many activity kiosks you can enjoy during your breaks. This is a great place to expand your knowledge of Duke Kahanamoku – after visiting the statute – because this is where he started surfing. The bay waters here are also protected, making them ideal for beginners.

Pearl Harbor

5. Honor the Soldiers at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the people of Hawaii were awakened by the terrible sounds of guns and bombs; Japanese planes had attacked the harbor and invaded the US Naval base located just outside Honolulu. The surprise attack culminated in war, and although it has been years, Pearl Harbor remains a rich source of history for the country. During your Waikiki vacation, you can visit Pearl Harbor and pay your respects to the fallen soldiers and civilians. You can also enjoy the in-house memorial program, which lasts 75 minutes, a documentary film, and several exhibits. Tributes are paid at Remembrance Circle.

Tiki's Grill & Bar

4. Enjoy Some Ribs at Tiki's Grill & Bar

Tiki's Grill and Bar is the brainchild of a group of university students. The local hot spot is a rooftop patio that offers popular happy hour specials, award-winning chef creations, and live local dance and music. Even better, guests get to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean. While you are here, try the delicious Mai Tai that is served with Licor 43 passion fruit foam, a Tiki's signature. You can also enjoy some guava-glazed baby back ribs, kalua pig quesadillas, or volcano wings.

Kuhio Beach Hula Show

3. Catch a Kuhio Beach Hula Show

Free hula shows are performed weekly at Kuhio Beach, making for a great night experience. The performance mound is serenely situated between the ocean and the large and majestic Banyan trees. Usually, the evening starts off with torches being lit and a conch horn being blown, followed by enthusiastic performances by local dance troupes. The grass seating is also soothing.

US Army Museum of Hawaii

2. Visit the US Army Museum of Hawaii

The US Army Museum of Hawaii was built as Battery Randolph in 1911. Originally, it provided Honolulu Harbor with a defensive base and has seen many 20th-century wars. The museum boldly features warfare memorabilia from the ancient times of Hawaii to more contemporary times, including a helicopter, tanks, small arms, WWII armor pieces, and ancient native Hawaiian weapons. In addition to the rich military history, you will enjoy the museum's slowed pace. Admission is free.

Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise

1. Go on a Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise

If you don't like to get into the water but still enjoy underwater scenery, you can book a glass-bottom boat cruise. The Waikiki Glass Bottom Boat Cruise excursion takes you on a one-hour ride on a 50-foot catamaran called the Haleiwa Queen. As the name suggests, the floor is clear so you can see the ocean beneath you. You can look forward to seeing a wide range of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and dolphins. The excursion is very accessible, catering to tourists with mobility issues and wheelchair users. The catamaran also includes a shaded area for participants who are sensitive to the sun.

Conclusion

Located in the heart of Honolulu, Waikiki is famous for its stunning white beaches. It has the best choice of hotels in Hawaii. It is a magnificent place to spend your holiday. This is especially true now that you have this list of Things to do in Waikiki to guide you. Remember to look for travel or tour deals when planning to visit these places to see if you can get some discounts.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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