Waikiki: The Playground of the Pacific
Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the world-famous neighborhood of Waikiki was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Translated in Hawaiian, Waikiki means “sprouting waters,” named for the springs and streams that separated Waikiki from inner Oahu. In fact Waikiki consisted of wetlands until the 1920s when the government began construction on what would become the Ala Wai Canal. This project drained the wetlands and paved the way for future development.
While a few small hotels opened in Waikiki in the 1800s, the area was officially introduced to the world when its first hotel, the Moana Surfrider, was built on its shores in 1901. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area and a vibrant gathering place for visitors from around the world. Waikiki is most famous for its beaches and every room is just two or three blocks away from the ocean. There is plenty of room on this two-mile stretch to lay out your towel and soak up the sun.
But there’s more to Waikiki than just the beach. Take a stroll in the area and you will find exciting attractions like the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium, both offer fun for the whole family. You can also learn about the history of Waikiki by reading the surfboard markers along the Waikiki Historical Trail. Check out the fantastic shopping and dining found all along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues and at gathering places like the Royal Hawaiian Center and the Waikiki Beach Walk. The fun keeps going long after the sun sets in Waikiki with nightlife and live music.
The area’s main thoroughfare is Kalakaua Avenue, named after the popular monarch King Kalakaua, while its sister street which runs parallel, Kuhio Avenue is named after Prince Kuhio, who was prince of the Hawaiian kingdom until it was overthrown in 1893.
Photo of Magic of Polynesia
We’ve splashed out and come up with some of our favorite Waikiki activities:
- Magic of Polynesia: Looking for the best thing to do in Waikiki in the night? Be captivated by Merlin Award-Winning illusionist, local boy John Hirokawa in the heart of Waikiki. Weaved with entrancing polynesian entertainment including elegant hula dancing and heart-pounding fire knife dancing. Choose from our scrumptious dinner options to complete the night!
- Sunset on the Beach: Catch a free flick on the shores of Waikiki. This Waikiki tradition showcases feature-length films projected onto a 30-foot screen as the sun sets. Perfect for the entire family to enjoy, you’ll want to grab a few extra towels and a picnic dinner to enjoy at Queen’s surf break.
- Surf’s Up with the Waikiki Beach Boys: With Leahi (Diamond Head) as your backdrop, the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for a surfing lesson. Legendary Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki. The Olympic swimming gold medalist once taught visitors how to surf at the turn of the century and was later known as “the father of modern surfing.” Today, the Waikiki Beach Boys perpetuate Kahanamoku’s legacy by teaching visitors how to surf and canoe in the gentle, playful waves of Waikiki.
- Waikiki Ocean Thriller: Spend the day soaking up the sun on this floating playground. Make waves in the Pacific on a jet ski, peel through on a bouncy banana boat, parasail high into the clouds, or snorkel with your new tropical fish friends.
- Waikiki Aquarium: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the oldest aquariums in the United States. Wade on over to check out their display of hundreds of species of marine life such as sharks, jellyfish, coral and Hawaiian monk seals. Admission is $9 for adults and children under five are free.
- U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii: Hunkering down on the grounds of Fort DeRussy, the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii is a great place for history buffs to march back in time to experience history from early Hawaiian warfare all the way through the Vietnam War. Be sure to explore the museum’s Gallery of Heroes, which celebrates local soldiers like General Eric K. Shinseki.
- Fairs, Festivals and Block Parties: Throughout the year Waikiki is a destination for many of the island’s most popular events – like Spam Jam, Honolulu Festival, Ukulele Festival and many more. While some of the events are hosted at Kapiolani Park others shut down entire thoroughfares, creating a one-of-a-kind experience highlighting the tastes, sights, sounds and smells of the islands.