Waikiki Beach

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The picture of Hawaii doesn’t get any more iconic than Waikiki Beach. Technically the name of the entire neighborhood in Honolulu that makes up the Island’s most famous beach as well as a beach walk and dozens of shops, hotels, and restaurant, a true Hawaiian experience without Waikiki is just incomplete.

Waikiki Beach History

In Hawaiian, Waikiki means “sprouting waters.” This area on the south shore of Oahu gets that name because of the many springs and streams that existed there and separated it from the interior lands of Oahu. Waikiki has a long history of being used recreationally first by Hawaiian royalty who maintained beach houses on the shore and now the tourists and hotels that make up the area. The journey to making Waikiki a true tourist destination was a bit difficult, however, as the wetlands were often subject to flooding in the heavy Hawaii rain. It was not until the building of the Ala Wai Canal in 1928, which subsequently drained the wetlands and allowed for the peninsula to be filled, that the area was regularly used for tourist and recreational purposes.

Today, the Waikiki tourist district extends from the Ala Wai Canal in the north and west to the ocean front that makes Waikiki Beach in the south and Diamond Head crater (Leahi) in the east. The beach itself is approximately two miles long, though it is technically divided into nine sub-beaches starting with the Outrigger Canoe Club Beach at the foot of Diamond Head in the east and ending with Kahanamoku Beach near the Hilton Hawaiian Village in the west. The beach is divided among surfers and swimmers, allowing everyone equal opportunity to enjoy the waters.

At its widest point, Waikiki Beach is one half mile wide, though other parts are much narrower because of erosion. As a result, sand has been added at several spots, some imported by barge all the way from Manhattan Beach, CA, and steps were taken in the spring 2012 to extend the beach further. Currently, thanks to the efforts in 2012, Waikiki Beach is back to its 1980s levels.

Waikiki Beach: The Main Attraction

Because of its immense popularity (Waikiki Beach is one of the most filmed beaches in the world) tourists and locals alike universally flock to the beach at Waikiki for sun, swim, and surf. This makes for very crowded shores and generally means that visitors should come early for prime seating.

There is a lot to do at Waikiki Beach both day and night, starting with surfing. Legendary Hawaiian surfer and Olympic athlete Duke Kahahamoku, known as “the father of modern surfing,” actually learned to surf in the waves off of Waikiki. This is because the surf is pretty gentle, with waves rarely capping at more than three feet. Surfing lessons at Waikiki have been around since the 1930s, making this a popular destination for beginners looking to experience the best of Hawaii’s favorite sport.

Those looking for additional entertainment will find it both on and off Waikiki Beach at the Waikiki Beach Walk. Considered the areas of Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues, the walk includes everything from five star hotels and beach resorts to high-end designer retailers, surf shops, and restaurants. At night the area in and around Waikiki Beach continues to pulse with the heart of the tourist attractions including dance clubs, bars, and luaus.

In addition to the dozens of famous hotels, Waikiki is also a great central location for other major Hawaiian attractions. This includes the Waikiki Aquarium, the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Historical Trail, and the Royal Hawaiian Center.

Why It’s a Must-See

Aside from the obvious clichés, going to Waikiki Beach is a way to really experience Hawaiian tourist life at its best. Between the opportunities to learn to surf, the beauty of the Hawaiian sun and Pacific Ocean, and the many great nearby attractions to enjoy, a visit to Waikiki Beach is a true treasure and a highlight of any Hawaiian vacation.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Waikiki Trolley is available on Honolulu Power Pass.