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A vacation in Hawaii with sunburned skin is summed up in one word: ouch! It hurts to be in the sun even for a few minutes and all you want to do is walk under that tree and just feel a cool breeze on your skin.
You can avoid getting sunburned with some precaution, but what happens when you’ve spent one too many days under Hawaii’s sun?
I hope these ideas will help your tender skin to heal!
Local Tip: If you really want to avoid a sunburn, slather sunscreen on about 30 minutes before you get in the water so it can have time to “soak” in your skin. Then reapply every hour – that’s my personal sunscreen regime. Consider getting some coral-friendly sunscreen to help Hawaii’s reefs or even better, a rashguard to block that sun directly!
1. Swim Waikiki Beach At Sundown
If your skin is burned, but you still want to squeeze in a few more precious hours in the ocean, a nighttime swim at Waikiki Beach is the way to go. There’s no sun to make your skin feel worse and believe it or not, the cool water feels amazing.
Plus, you don’t have to wait until night falls. Once the sun sets, it gets significantly cooler and the sunlight stops hitting you directly. So it’s entirely possible to have a cool swim when the sky is still lit. Keep in mind that there won’t be any lifeguards on duty though, so don’t do anything too crazy since there will be less people in the water.
Local Tip: If you happen to be in Waikiki on a Friday, the Hilton Hawaiian Village shoots out fireworks every night. You can see the fireworks from almost anywhere on Waikiki Beach. But if you want to be closer, walk in the opposite direction of Diamond Head to get to Hilton Hawaiian Village.
2. Study Hawaiian History At The Bishop Museum
For history buffs and anyone interested in seeing some really cool Hawaiian artifacts (they have a ton!), then I highly recommend visiting Bishop Museum. You can easily spend at least half a day here exploring their many exhibits.
Bishop Museum has quite a few attractions for kids, too. Check out their lava demonstration, constellation shows and other events like their ukulele sessions. If you’re extra lucky, Bishop Museum will be running their periodic kid exhibits like Dinosaurs!
Local Tip: Except for when you travel from building to building, The Bishop Museum is an excellent choice
3. Be Royal At Iolani Palace
Spending the day indoors in tropical Hawaii can be fun, too. At Iolani Palace, you can get to know what life was like for Hawaiian royalty at an intimate level.
The Palace is right on the edge of downtown Honolulu and a quick ride on The Bus or your favorite rideshare company from Waikiki. You can even take a Biki Bike from Waikiki to Iolani Palace as well.
Local Tip: Right across the street from Iolani Palace is the statue of Kamehameha I. Be very careful crossing the street – I suggest walking to the corner crosswalk where there’s a proper traffic light. Cars like to zip past too fast here.
4. Get Artsy At The Doris Duke Shangri-La Museum
One of Hawaii’s most unique art museums can be found right in Waikiki. The Doris Duke Shangri-La museum doesn’t get advertised as much as Diamond Head or surfing lessons, but despite the lack of advertising they’ve got a passionate fanbase of art lovers.
The home of Doris Duke isn’t just a gallery of Islamic art. The whole construction of the property is an ensemble of Islamic art, history and culture. The entire tour is done well and it’s neat to see detailed art displayed on the walls, entrances and decor.
Local Tip: Book your tickets at the Shangri-La Museum as early as possible because reservations run out quick. A couple of months in advance is not “overdoing it”.
5. Spend Money At Ala Moana Shopping Center
It’s always fun to fit shopping into your itinerary especially if you make Ala Moana Shopping Center your shopping playground. Ala Moana is a huge outdoor mall and I can easily spend a whole day here perusing the goods.
You’ll find a lot of top brands at Ala Moana. Every year there seems to be more and more stores, so it’s a great chance to indulge yourself. The neat thing is that many stores feature a Hawaii-only product. It’s a neat way to find that special souvenir that’s both memorable and high quality.
Read More: Ala Moana Center Is A Shopper’s Paradise
Local Tip: Some place I think you should really check out: The food court when hunger hits you (it’s huge!), Centerstage for their daily performances of hula and visiting performance groups, Shirokiya for Japanese food, drink and a neat eating experience and Foodland for a more local atmosphere and to eat samples.
6. Drive Around Oahu (Circle Island Tour)
You don’t need to force yourself to stay indoors if you have a sunburn or want a day out of direct sunlight. Viewing Hawaii from a comfortable car is entirely possible. It’s relaxing and a great way to explore the whole island in one go. Plus, there are several stops along the way that will let you stretch your legs.
One option is to take a custom tour with a local guide. I highly recommend the guides that I locally work with. I’ve chosen them because of the excellent service and experience they give all of their customers. You can find out more on my Book A Tour page.
You can also do the drive yourself. Plan the drive out by choosing where you’ll be eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, which sights you want to see and stores you’d like to visit. If you leave in the morning, you can easily stay out until the evening – it’s difficult to “run out” of things to do, see and eat!
Local Tip: My family and I do our own circle island tour about 2 – 3 times a year. We stop at a convenience store, load up our snacks and coffee, stop at random beaches, get a plate lunch and take it to a beach to enjoy, do some shopping and usually return to the house around 3 or 4 PM – we’re tired!
7. Shop At Waikele Premium Outlets
If Ala Moana Shopping Center sounds like it will be too expensive (and you’re a thriving bargain hunter), definitely make a visit to Waikele Premium Outlets. You won’t regret it.
The prices are heavily discounted and if this sounds like your kind of playground, you’ll spend your whole day here easy. My favorite shops are Ralph Lauren (still rather expensive, but unique!), Banana Republic (I adore their clothes and decent prices), Michael Kors, Famous Footwear, Skechers, Coach and Godiva (not sure if these are outlet prices, but who cares – they chocolate dunked ice cream!).
Local Tip: Don’t worry about lunch. There is a central food court (follow the smells), food trucks on both sides and mainstream restaurants on the “bottom” end of Waikele. There’s also always a long line at the bathrooms. Instead, walk toward Saks 5th Avenue and turn right – this bathroom always has space and any line disappears quickly.
8. Attend A Concert With Amazing Acoustics
The neat thing about Hawaii is that a lot of famous singers and performers come to Hawaii and use the opportunity to do a show. Definitely take advantage if you love your acoustics or want to see your favorite comic strut their stuff.
Keep an eye and an ear out for performers at Blue Note Hawaii, Hawaii Theatre (lots of big name local artists perform here), Blaisdell Concert Hall and Mamiya Theatre (it’s not often you’ll find big names performing at Mamiya Theatre, but it happens once in a while especially for a more private concert – I saw Judy Collins at Mamiya Theatre and she was fabulous!).
Local Tip: It’s also a great opportunity to listen to locally famous singers. They’re always performing at various events and holding concerts. The big names that have been around for a long time (particularly baby boomers) draw crowds because of that easy-listening Hawaiian depth to their songs.
9. Enjoy A Night At Honolulu Zoo
If you’ve got children and need something to do at night in Waikiki, visit the Honolulu Zoo for a fun adventure! Their Twilight Tours are educational and will give you different insight to the animals as you’ll be with a guide for 2 hours.
Plus, more of the animals are usually active around this time of the day. If you’re especially lucky, you may just spot a nocturnal creature just emerging out of its den.
During the summer months on a weekly basis, The Honolulu Zoo hosts their Wildest Show In Town performance. You’ll sit on the zoo’s grassy lawn and enjoy a musical performance by a different artist every show. Most of the local artists are very popular (Kapena and Makaha Sons are my favorite), so it’s a real treat to be able to hear their voices for just $5!
Local Tip: Check The Honolulu Zoo’s website to see updates on The Wildest Show’s schedule.
10. Party At An Evening Luau
Attending a luau is a huge must-do for most Hawaii visitors – especially if it’s your first time to the islands. Generally, most luaus will have the basic Hawaiian food plus hula performance. Some gear towards being family-friendly with hands-on activities, while others are more focused on excellent cocktails and a wild show.
Do your research to find out which luau will suit you and your group. Some luaus are held in hotels (convenient, but you may not have a view) and some require a long drive (you’ll deal with traffic, but that ocean wind will be tousling your beachy curls).
Regardless of which luau you choose, you won’t be spending much time in direct sun. Luaus typically begin in the early evening and last about 4-5 hours, which is fantastic news for your skin! Be prepared to
Local Tip: I’ve recently partnered up with Experience Nutridge – a high-quality luau that is all about giving you an authentic experience. From traditional games to an excellent farm-to-table luau buffet, Experience Nutridge will be one of the highlights of your Hawaii vacation.
11. Watch The Waikiki Fireworks On Friday
Every Friday night, the Hilton Hawaiian Village shoots out a fireworks display – so take advantage of it! The time changes throughout the year depending on the season (or what Hilton Hawaiian Village decrees), so check times in advance and enjoy the Waikiki night view lit up by colorful fireworks.
Besides just standing on the beach or floating in the water to see the fireworks, you can also head over to Magic Island for a very pretty viewpoint. Magic Island isn’t really an island. It’s a manmade park that juts out on the Waikiki-end of Ala Moana Beach Park. There are a few benches, a long rock wall and grassy areas to sit and enjoy an evening picnic.
Local Tip: Two really unique ways to enjoy the Waikiki fireworks is to go on a sunset cruise or stand up paddle boarding. Check out my Book A Tour page to see which companies I highly suggest and to book directly on my site.
12. Honolulu City Lights Helicopter Tour
“Honolulu City Lights” is a term you’ll hear on Oahu. Since Keola Beamer’s hit song in the 70s, the term has stuck and is used often to describe nighttime tours, excellent vantage points and even our Christmas lights that light up downtown during the holidays.
But across the board, one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii by far are helicopter rides. Helicopters will give you a different vantage point and they’ll even take you to waterfalls hidden so deep in the rainforest that even avid hikers haven’t seen them before.
Of course, if you can pair your helicopter ride with a Honolulu City Lights tour – even better! Oahu’s largest icons such as Diamond Head or the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor National Memorial can be seen illuminated by the city’s lights and it’s a rare sight to see as our sunset melts into night.
13. Sail On A Sunset Cruise
Full disclaimer: I used to work on a Waikiki sunset cruise. So I could be biased, but overall, it can be a really magical experience for many. Personally, I’d recommend a sunset cruise only if you’re sure you’re not prone to getting seasick. I’ve seen enough romantic cruises go downhill for those who didn’t realize that seasick was a thing.
Local Tip: I used to work on the Navatek II, which isn’t in use anymore, but the company now uses The Majestic for their sunset and whale watch cruises. I haven’t gone on their sunset cruise, but I have experienced their whale watch cruises. Click the link below to read about it.
But, if you’re completely fine out on the ocean, a sunset cruise can be pretty awesome. Even as a server getting minimum wage, I had some magical sunset cruises, too. Turtles were usually spotted floating around and on the larger vessels you’ll count the seconds as flying fish soar just a few feet above the waves. Curious dolphin pods pass you by and during whale watching season, humpback whales can be seen all along the warm Waikiki shore.
And if you decide to book a Waikiki sunset cruise on a Friday, July 4, or New Year’s Eve – be ready for a neat fireworks display!
Local Tip: Check out my Book A Tour page to see which sunset cruise and Friday firework activities I personally recommend to visitors of Hawaii.
14. Hike Manoa Falls
Many people are surprised when I suggest hiking to avoid sunshine. But it isn’t just any hike – the Manoa Falls hike will take you through a rainforest with plenty of shade so you don’t have to worry about harming your skin even further. In fact, you may run into mud and a drizzle since Manoa is one of those areas known for rainfall.
The hike itself is a pretty one, too. There are plenty of trees, flowers and wildlife to see (birds and jackson chameleons!) and the Manoa waterfall is insta-worthy. It’s a popular hike among locals and tourists though, so I recommend getting there early to avoid the crowd.
Local Tip: Next door is the Lyon Arboretum – definitely a must-visit spot for those into botanical garden adventures. It’s free and a hidden gem!
15. Eat Dole Whip At Dole Plantation
Dole Plantation might have a lot of activities under the sun, but don’t let that scare you off just yet. There is still plenty to do in the shade and in their air-conditioned souvenir shop!
For outdoor activities, you can choose from finding your way through a large maze, the garden tour or the train ride. Stick with the train ride if your skin is feeling sensitive. The train is an open-air ride, but for the most part the roof will keep you covered.
Indoors is where you’ll really have the most fun though. Check out the pineapple and chocolate presentations (free samples!) and get lost with a TON of souvenirs. Most items in this large souvenir shop are related to your favorite fruit of the day, the pineapple. Food can also be purchased indoors so don’t miss the chance to try out their Dole Whip – a pineapple soft serve with an unforgettably delicious taste.
Local Tip: Don’t have the time to drive to Dole Plantation on the North Shore for a taste of their famous Dole Whip? Keep your eyes open for Dole Whip soft serve at other locations such as convenience stores.
16. Experience A Lomi Lomi Massage
One thing that I love to do when traveling is to get a massage. There’s just something wonderful about being able to completely relax during a trip and a massage is what really does it for me. While you’re in Hawaii, take advantage of the abundance of lomi lomi and book yourself a massage.
Fundamentally, a lomi lomi massage is a really great massage for working out those knots and kinks you’ve been nurturing (lomi lomi means to knead or rub in Hawaiian). Plus, the experience itself is a unique one since authentic lomi lomi massages involve a Hawaiian prayer and a frame of mind that is heavily embedded with Hawaiian culture.
Local Tip: If your knots are mostly from work due to hunching over and staring at a screen all day every day, then you’d probably enjoy a lomi lomi massage. However, if you prefer strong massages that work out the knots that come from a tough workout regime or sports, you may be better off with a deep tissue massage.
17. Stargaze Late At Night
Stargazing at night is one of the neatest things you can do in Hawaii. It’s free, romantic and the sun is nowhere in sight so it’s a perfect activity for someone who absolutely cannot take another blast of sunshine on their tender, red skin. You will have to get away from Waikiki and the downtown area though. So it’s worth it to plan out your stargazing spot in advance.
If you happen to be staying a few nights on the North Shore, you’ll be in a great spot for some prime stargazing real estate. You’ll want to get away from Haleiwa, but once you’re outside of this surf town, it’s easy to find secluded beaches, beach parks and bright skies.
There are also several potential sightseeing spots in the Windward area. For those staying in the Kailua, Kaneohe or Waikiki area, this will be the closer and more convenient stargazing choice. Again, keep away from the cities, towns and bright lights and you’ll be set.
Local Tip: One of my favorite stargazing spots is called Spitting Caves. Tucked behind a few residential homes, it’s got a great view both during the day and night. I recommend getting there in daylight since a small trek and some fancy footwork is required. Bring a flashlight to find your footing when you come back!
18. See The Art On The Zoo Fence
If you’re into local art when you travel, definitely make a stop at the Art on the Zoo Fence in Waikiki. Every Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM, local artists hang and display their artwork for all to see. The art is usually photography, drawings and paintings, but each artist’s talents are unique.
It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists and buy a memorable souvenir of Hawaii. The artworks come in different sizes so if you don’t have much space in your suitcase, a small painting as a keepsake is entirely possible. Or, if you’d rather ship something a bit larger to your house, ask the artists and they’ll be happy to give you a few shipping tips.
Art on the Zoo Fence is a good way to spend an hour (or two if you’re an avid art buyer) in Waikiki out of the sun. The gallery itself is small (maybe 10 – 20 artists), but it’s all under the shade of large trees so your skin will be thanking you as you stroll along.
Local Tip: Art on the Zoo Fence is held on the outside perimeter of The Honolulu Zoo fence, Diamond Head side, closer to the ocean. Directions: Start at the main entrance to The Honolulu Zoo, turn right and follow the fence for about 5 minutes. The artwork will be on your left.
19. Enjoy The Evening Festivities On The Waikiki Strip
This is pretty obvious if you’ve already been in Waikiki for a few days, but it’s worth saying again: the nightlife in Waikiki is great! There are plenty of restaurants, shows, bars and nightclubs to visit, but even just a stroll along the strip can be a lot of fun!
I always enjoy street performers when I travel and my home state in Waikiki is no different. On any given night, there are talented dancers, singers, musicians, living statues and even the odd student band giving it their all for one night of fame. There are also not-so-talented performers as well – just putting it out there. While they may not be as eye-catching as other performers, they still add just as much color to the Waikiki evenings.
And don’t forget about the shopping. Waikiki is in a state of constant renovation. New hip stores and attractions pop up into existence all the time and your stay in Waikiki will never be the same as your last vacation in Oahu, Hawaii. It’s true that most stores are big and expensive brands, but even the budget shoppers like me will find great deals, clearance items and cheaper stores.
20. Take A Free Hawaiiana Class At The Royal Hawaiian
This is a great option for those with kids (you don’t need kids though – if you’re interested, sign up for these classes!). The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki has several free classes that are free and fun to learn and explore the Hawaiian culture. Make a fresh flower lei, learn to weave a bracelet, dance hula or learn to play the ukulele are just a few of their more popular classes.
Some classes require you to sign up for in advance, such as the ukulele class, which provides free ukuleles for you to use. But most are free and you can just show up when class starts. Read the fine print for each class so you’ll get to participate without worry.
Read More: Free Waikiki Classes That Are Hands On