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Waikiki is the biggest tourist hub in Oahu and beyond the hotels and beaches it has plenty to offer. Here are the best things to do in Waikiki to help you make the most of your trip!
Aloha with love,
Free Things To Do In Waikiki
- The Royal Hawaiian Center has several free events such as hula shows and lei-making classes! Visit their events page to see what’s happening during your stay.
- The International Marketplace also has similar free events – so it’s worth it to check their event schedule to see which one works with your trip itinerary.
- Waikiki Beach Walk often holds free hula and musical performances on their grassy lawn. Visit their events page to see what’s coming up.
- Waikiki is known for its beaches. Check out my Beach Bum’s Guide To Beaches On Oahu so you go to the right beach.
- See the free Friday night firework show held by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. No view from your hotel? Watch it from the beach!
- Visit the US Army Museum of Hawaii. Admission is free!
- Take a stroll along the Art on the Zoo Fence located in Kapiolani Park. Local art vendors display their artwork and you can purchase them as a souvenir. I love that you can meet the artists in person!
Local Tip: Lots of people enjoy walking along the beach, but you can also walk along the Ala Wai Canal on Ala Wai Boulevard.
Shopping In Waikiki
- There are hundreds of shops in Waikiki. The main strip is Kalakaua Avenue, but it’s also fun walking along Kuhio Avenue and all the side streets.
- Ala Moana Center is the biggest outdoor shopping mall in America. If you love to shop ’til you drop, this is some place to check out. The architecture is lovely and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from when hunger strikes.
- The International Marketplace is smack dab in the middle of Waikiki and is not only super convenient, but fun to walk through. They’ve incorporated the beloved original banyan tree into the architecture.
- Luxury Row is where you want to be if you love your high-end brands such as Dior, Gucci, and Chanel. These stores are centrally located so they’ll most likely be within walking distance from your hotel.
- Collections of Waikiki is the boutique shopping center featuring over 60+ local shops and businesses found in Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotels. The shops are locally run and you can’t find many of them anywhere else in the islands.
- Hilton Hawaiian Village is a very walkable resort with some fun shopping opportunities on their property. The grounds are lovely and well-shaded, too.
- Waikiki Beach Walk on Lewers Street is one of my personal favorites featuring unique boutiques with local flair. If you’re looking for something special from Hawaii, this might be the place to get it.
- ABC Stores are everywhere in Waikiki. They’re a great place for those last-minute grabs like sunscreen, snacks, or even souvenirs.
- Royal Hawaiian Center has over 150+ stores and I enjoy their food courts if I’m looking for something simple to eat.
Local Tip: One of my favorite unique places to shop for souvenirs is at House of Mana Up. This is the storefront of Mana Up Hawaii – a local incubator program that helps entrepreneurs become successful with their business ideas. All the products here support local businesses and it’s hard to find them anywhere else. If you love one-of-a-kind souvenirs, this is a great place to shop!
Things To Do In Waikiki
- The GPS audio walking tour for Waikiki by Shaka Guide is an excellent way to explore the history of Waikiki. You can explore at your own pace and the audio plays based on your GPS location.
- Learning to surf in Waikiki is one of the most popular things to do in Waikiki. The waves are super beginner-friendly and both the locals and tourists take advantage of this.
- An outrigger canoe ride is one of the more unique activities you can do in Waikiki and is a good option for those who want something a little less high intensity. The outrigger setup is extremely stable, but you’ll still have to paddle hard!
- Sunset cruises along Waikiki are a great way to see the island from a different perspective and get away from the city noises. There are various types of cruises offering different themes: cocktail cruises, dinner cruises, whale watching cruises, snorkeling cruises, etc.
- Visit Hawaii Activities for a complete list of all the different tours and activities you can book during your stay.
Things To Do Near Waikiki
These are some of my favorite things to do outside of Waikiki – most are accessible by public transportation or a short drive via car, bike or moped.
- Hike Diamond Head State Monument – Hawaii’s iconic Honolulu hike with an amazing view on top.
- Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial – Visit the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
- Snorkel at Hanauma Bay – Beautiful bay that’s perfect for snorkelers at any experience level.
- Walk Chinatown – Watch fresh flower lei makers on Maunakea Street and grab a meal with locals.
- Hike up the Makapuu lighthouse trail – One of the easiest trails on Oahu with the chance to see whales.
- Explore the Honolulu Zoo – An excellent place to picnic with friends and family.
- Visit the Waikiki Aquarium – A unique gathering of sea life found in Hawaii and around the world.
- Tour Iolani Palace – The only royal palace in the USA.
- Visit the Kapiolani farmers’ market
- See the view at Tantalus – An amazing view of downtown Honolulu.
- Hike up Koko Head – Hike up railroad tracks and stairs to get a good workout and amazing view.
- Explore the Lyon Arboretum – A gorgeous botanical garden that most tourists miss.
- Visit the Bishop Museum – The best place for Hawaiian and Polynesian history and culture.
- Hike to Manoa Falls – Fantastic waterfall hike popular among tourists and locals alike.
- Shop at Aloha Swap Meet – Huge outdoor shopping stalls filled with Hawaii souvenirs and snacks.
- Relax at Foster Botanical Garden – When you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu.
- Take a self-guided Hawaii State Capitol tour – Free tour that will begin your exploration of downtown Honolulu on foot.
Eating And Drinking In Waikiki
What I’m going to eat and drink is so important to me whenever and wherever I travel. My stomach dictates where I’ll go because I want to eat anything and everything that I won’t be able to try when I go back home. I’m sure you’re thinking to do the same! Here are a few of my favorites, suggestions and popular hotspots that should go on your gastronomy list.
Local eats and hidden gems in or near Waikiki
- Cafe Iyasume Musubi – Specializes in a wide variety of Japanese riceballs, a staple that most locals grew up with.
- Rainbow Drive-In – Plate lunch restaurant that got its start in 1961. My Dad remembers lining up for lunch here when he was in college!
- Highway Inn Kakaako – Real Hawaiian food done right.
- Nico’s Pier 38 – Located right next to the Honolulu fish auction, their seafood specialties will fill your stomach.
- The Pig and the Lady – Delicious spot in Chinatown for Vietnamese fusion with several awards backing their reputation.
Popular restaurants in Waikiki
- Duke’s Waikiki – A beachfront restaurant where not only the food is good but also the dessert. Definitely leave some room for the hula pie.
- Hula Grill Waikiki – They really do a good job of keeping it local here from their ingredients to their menu selection.
- Orchids – Located in Halekulani Hotel, but even locals know that their Sunday brunch buffet cannot be beat.
Transportation In And Out Of Waikiki
While Waikiki is very walkable, you’ll have to figure out some kind of other transportation if you plan to explore beyond Waikiki. Here’s how to get from here to there in Waikiki.
How to get around in Waikiki
- Rental car – While a rental car is extremely convenient to have when you explore the rest of the island, keep in mind that parking is tough in Waikiki and your parking bill can go in the roof if you don’t have a designated parking spot in your accommodation.
- The Bus – Extremely convenient and easy. You can get a day pass for $5.50 with unlimited transfers until the last bus of the day. The public bus system runs throughout Oahu island and it’s pretty easy to get around.
- Biki bikes – Honolulu’s rideshare program with bicycles. There’s are local resident (kamaaina) and visitor fares with affordable prices.
- Waikiki Trolley – If you plan to visit all the popular attractions, the Waikiki Trolley might be the way to go. Their lines go straight to the attractions, so it’s much faster than The Bus.
- Rideshare (Uber and Lyft) – Uber and Lyft are quite common these days in Oahu and prices are affordable. This is a great default option especially if you plan to stay mostly in Waikiki and Honolulu.
- Taxi – Taxis mainly stay in the Waikiki and Honolulu area. You rarely see them in residential areas unless they’ve been called in advance.
- On foot – Waikiki is great for walkers (and runners!). There’s constant foot traffic as the sidewalks on the main street are wide and there are so many attractions to discover as you walk Kalakaua Avenue.