White sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and outrigger canoes share the lineup at the famous Canoes and Queen’s surfing breaks. Swimmers and sunbathers grace the shoreline for a refreshing dip.

The average daytime high temperature is in the low 80s and water temperature is in the mid-70s. It’s no wonder Waikiki has long been a coveted destination for world travelers seeking the enchantment of a tropical oasis. But make no mistake, while the surf and sun rarely disappoint, you’ll be hard pressed to find peace, solitude, or tranquility on Waikiki’s narrow beaches, busy avenues, or in its packed restaurants.

Famous Waikiki beach with Diamond Head in the distance.

Famous Waikiki beach with Diamond Head in the distance. Photo © Christopher Howey/123rf.

Lined with high-rise hotels, condominiums, and apartment buildings, Waikiki is a complete destination…A scant 2.5 miles of shoreline on the South Shore between Diamond Head and the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, Waikiki pulses year-round with the footsteps of visitors from all over the world marching up and down Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues and sinking their toes in the sand.

Lined with high-rise hotels, condominiums, and apartment buildings, Waikiki is a complete destination, a beachside hamlet with all the amenities of city life within its mesmerizing embrace: shopping, dining, nightlife, health, fitness, spas, and, of course, ocean sports and activities. The Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium are a must for families. Kapi‘olani Park is a runner’s delight, and tai chi and yoga are commonplace under the park’s flowering canopy trees.

As cliché as it might sound, make sure to take a surf lesson or go on a canoe ride with a beachboy to become a part of a Waikiki tradition that harks back a century to the father of modern-day surfing and original ambassador of aloha Duke Kahanamoku. Across Waikiki, pau hana (happy hour) is celebrated every day with food and drink specials and live music to welcome the sunset. Once the sun goes down, Waikiki takes on a whole new tempo. The sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue teem with street performers and swell with curious onlookers, and the clubs and bars welcome patrons till four in the morning.

Waikiki is not without its blemishes, and the town can get rough and rowdy in the cool hours of early morning. Prostitution is illegal, but tolerated on Kuhio Avenue; homelessness is ever-present; theft and muggings occur; and bar fights spill out onto the sidewalks after hours. But if you keep your eyes focused on the surf and sun, it’s easy to find the paradise Waikiki is famous for.

Map of Waikiki (Northwest) Hawaii

Waikiki (Northwest)

Map of Waikiki (Southeast)

Waikiki (Southeast)


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.