If you’re looking for things to do in the world-famous resort area of Waikiki in Hawaii, here’s a list of my top 12 favourites.
1. Manoa Falls
Located about 11km north of Honolulu, this 45m waterfall is one of the most stunning on the Island of Oahu.
If you fancy a guided tour, Manoa Falls Waterfall Hike with Lunch and Transfers will give you all the info as well as lunch!
Once you get to the start of the Manoa Falls trail, you follow a mostly shaded path up the rainforest valley. It takes about 30/40 minutes of steady climbing to reach the base of the waterfall.
The views are amazing as you climb up through the ‘jungle’ path. You are surrounded by banyan, eucalyptus and guava trees, along with plenty of bamboo and pretty tropical flowers.
The path can be muddy in places and there are some boulders to climb over at the last little bit. Don’t panic though, it’s all very manageable and the reward is definitely worth it!
The flow of water is not massive but it is, nevertheless, a beautiful waterfall that cascades down 45m through lush jungle surroundings, into a pool at its base.
By the way, if you feel like you could be in a Jurassic Park movie, you’re not wrong. Some of the jungle scenes for the iconic 1993 movie were shot in this area!
2. Diamond Head Hike
Sitting prominently on the edge of Waikiki’s coastline, Diamond Head is an extinct volcano. Formerly a military reservation, it’s now a State National Park and tourist hotspot.
The Diamond Head Hike is one of the most well known and popular hikes in Hawaii. This is due to the stunning 360 degree views once you reach the summit.
Although it can be quite challenging, the actual hike is only about 1.3km to the summit at 171m. Taking about 30-60 minutes, depending on your levels of fitness.
With paths, a long tunnel and lots of stairs, this hike has varied terrain with plenty of amazing views along the way. (You will find some benches along the route to catch your breath if needed.)
In addition, the old military installations that are still in place certainly add to the atmosphere of this unique hike.
When you finally reach the viewing deck, the panoramic views are breathtaking. From Waikiki to Waianae, the Pacific Ocean and the Ko’olau Mountains, you can see for miles.
Making this hike is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Waikiki. If you prefer everything arranged for you Diamond Head Hike with Roundtrip Transportation is perfect.
3. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii and the reason most people choose to take a holiday in this tourist hotspot.
Stretching over 3km, the soft honey coloured sand is backed by palm trees and boasts beautiful, turquoise blue water. This is surely as close to paradise as it gets!
In fact, it’s the former playground of Hawaiian royals, where they would come to relax and enjoy surfing on longboards.
Apart from surfing, you can enjoy a variety of water activities including swimming and snorkelling. With lots of colourful fish and magnificent sea turtles to look out for this is the perfect spot.
Of course, plenty of people just enjoy relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sunshine. Sun beds and umbrellas are available to rent for this activity!
As one of the the most famous beaches in Hawaii, it does get pretty busy. However, it has to be on the list of things to do in Waikiki.
4. Paddle Boarding/Surfing
Waikiki is said to be the place where paddle boarding originated back in the 1940’s. So where better to give it a go!
A mixture of surfing and paddling, paddle boarding has, in recent years, gained popularity all over the world.
This may be in some part due to it being introduced at a famous surfing event in Makaha in 2004. After which it received lots of media attention.
Great for surfers and non surfers it gives a good core workout. With surfers also sometimes using this technique to access waves.
Enjoyed by all ages, it’s a fun way to get out on the water, with most people picking up the techniques quite quickly.
Of course, you’ll find plenty of surf/paddle boarding schools in Waikiki to choose from that offer board hire, lessons etc.
So, there’s no excuse not it give it a go and add it to your Oahu itinerary – you might surprise yourself!
5. Try Shave Ice
Shave ice (also known as ice shave) is a popular Hawaiian dessert made with ice shavings, flavoured with sweet ingredients.
Different to the American snow cone dessert, in that the ice is shaved rather than crushed. This makes for a powdery, snow-like texture that allows for the different added flavours to be absorbed.
Served in a conical cup, you can choose from a variety of exotic flavoured syrups, including guava, pineapple, passionfruit, lychee, kiwifruit and mango. You might also want to add other toppings such as ice cream or condensed milk.
Available everywhere, shave ice has to one of the most refreshing desserts I have ever tasted. Definitely a must-try when in Waikiki.
6. Visit The Food Trucks
You’ll find an amazing array of different food trucks in and around Waikiki. All serving up delicious cuisine from around the world.
From American classics to Japanese delicacies, you are sure to find something to suit your taste at these bright and welcoming trucks.
For some traditional Hawaiian food try Simply Ono. Their popular dishes include the rack of lamb, lobster roll, and shoyu pork.
If you’re not quite sure what you fancy, Ronnie’s Express Lunch Wagon is a long standing favourite that serves a mix of American and Asian dishes.
Alternatively, if you’re are looking for plant based food I can recommend Blondies Vegan Brand Foods. They specialise in all things vegan, as well as gluten free options.
Offering such an amazing choice of delicious foods, the food trucks had to be on the list of things to do in Waikiki.
7. Eat, Eat, Eat
I love trying out different foods when I visit somewhere new and there is certainly plenty to try in Waikiki. Here are some of my favourites –
Acai Bowls – the main ingredient being pulped and fresh frozen acai berries, pureed with other frozen fruit, then served in a bowl with various toppings of your choice. Including fresh fruit, granola, seeds, honey, nuts etc. I would definitely recommend these tasty bowls, packed full of healthy deliciousness!
Taro – this root vegetable is a staple food in Hawaii and somewhat similar to sweet potato, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. This versatile food is cooked and eaten in many different ways, with the leaves also being steamed and eaten. This is another healthy and delicious food and if you’re looking to eat local, this is one you need to try.
Marugame Udon – this very popular Japanese restaurant is famous for its udon noodle bowls. All the cooking takes place in an open kitchen, allowing you to watch as your food is carefully prepared. You know the food is good when there’s always a queue to get in. Worth the wait though!
8. Day Trip To Kuala Ranch
The popular Kualoa Ranch is a private nature reserve and working cattle ranch. It’s located just over 32km from Waikiki, on the windward coast.
Stretching over 4000 acres, this stunning reserve has secret beaches, secluded gardens, hidden valleys and majestic mountains.
With its dramatic vistas, Kualoa Ranch is probably most famous for being the location for a multitude of films and TV series. Including, Jurassic Park, Lost, Hawaii Five-0 and many more.
There’s a large selection of activities available each day at Kualoa Ranch including, film location tours, farm tours, sailing and horse riding. As well as zip lining, Secret Island Adventures and much more.
In addition, there’s a cafe and market where you can purchase produce grown or raised on the farm. Including beef, pork, tilapia, shrimp, oysters along with 60 different crops, including flowers.
With so many great activities on offer, a visit to Kualoa Ranch is an absolute must if you’re in Waikiki. Just make sure you book your visit in advance!
9. Road Trip To North Shore
Hiring a car and taking a road trip to the amazing Oahu North Shore has to be one of the best things I did whilst in Waikiki. This is the perfect trip to escape the hustle and bustle and relax for a while.
If you prefer everything arranged for you, you can take in the North Shore and other iconic spots with the Full-Day Island Sightseeing Day Trip by Bus
Located approximately 48km from Waikiki, it’s an easy drive up through the centre of the island. With plenty of pretty spots and food stands to stop at along the way.
North Shore encompasses a 27km coastal area. It’s famous for surfing, snorkelling and 51 beaches that stretch over 17km along this stunning coastline.
With its towering 12m waves in the winter months, it’s a firm favourite with professional surfers. With many world class surfing competitions take place here during this season.
During the summer months, when the waters are a lot calmer, it is a great spot for gentle surfing. As well as snorkelling, swimming and relaxing beach days.
Also, this is another location that you might recognise from films such as Lost and TV series Hawaii Five-0 and Baywatch!
10. Friday Fireworks
If you happen to be in Waikiki on a Friday, don’t miss the free, spectacular Friday night fireworks.
Starting at 8pm every Friday, the 5 minute display launches from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
However, it can be seen and enjoyed from a variety of locations throughout Waikiki. With lots of people gathering on Waikiki Beach to enjoy the show.
Starting in 1988, the Friday fireworks have become a tradition loved by locals as well as tourists. They are also a great way to kick-off the weekend.
One way of making sure to get the best views is the Waikiki Friday Fireworks Cruise with Pickup and Drop-off.
11. Catch A Sunset
One of my very favourite things to do is watch a sunset. In this paradise location you know you are not going to be disappointed.
With Waikiki being on the west side of the island of Oahu, it’s never too difficult to catch a beauty.
Waikiki Beach is particularly popular with tourists gathering there to try and catch, not only a beautiful sunset, but also the famous ‘green flash’. (An optical phenomenon due to the dispersion of sunlight as the sun dips below the horizon.)
So get there early to get a good spot. You could even take a picnic and make an evening of it. Whatever you do, catching a sunset in Waikiki is a must.
In addition, if you fancy something really special and literally want to ‘push the boat out’, the Waikiki Sunset and Cocktail Cruise will tick all the boxes.
12. Visit A Luau
For an authentic Hawaiian experience, one of the best things to do in Waikiki is visit a Luau. A Hawaiian celebration dating back hundreds of years.
These traditional parties or feasts are held daily throughout the islands as a way to bring both visitors and residents together to enjoy true Hawaiian hospitality.
They usually set up next to the beach around sunset and generally go on for about 3-4 hours. Daytime Luaus are also available if preferred.
You will be served a delicious buffet selection of local dishes such as kalua pork, poi, laulau, lomilomi salmon and haupia. As well as a variety of tropical cocktails to enjoy.
In addition to the the delicious food, there will also be some traditional Hawaiian entertainment usually in the form of story telling, hula dancing, lei making or Samoan fire knife dancing. As well as live music.
There are a variety of Luaus to choose from like Waikiki Sunset Luau. So have a look and get your ticket booked!
Where To Stay In Oahu
Luxury: Sheraton Waikiki
Just 4 miles from the Diamond Head Crater Park, the Sheraton Waikiki features two oceanfront pools, an adult-only infinity pool and Helumoa Playground featuring two fresh water swimming pools, and a 70 foot long water slide
Modern rooms feature a flat-screen TV and video games at Sheraton Waikiki. Rooms come with a private balcony, some with mountain or ocean views. In-room coffee and a work desk are also provided.
The Sheraton offers 4 on-site dining options, including Pacific Rim inspired RumFire, the Edge of Waikiki bar situated just above the ocean, a breakfast and dinner buffet featuring Hawaii’s locally grown products at Kai Market and Hapa’s Pizza.
Mid-Budget: Best Western The Plaza Hotel
Featuring an outdoor pool, free WiFi and all guest rooms include a refrigerator.
Guest rooms include a microwave, a TV with cable channels and pay-per-view movies, and air-conditioning.
An on-site restaurant is available at the Best Western The Plaza Hotel.
The hotel also provides a 24-hour front desk and a business center and is completely non-smoking.
The Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial and the Missouri Center are 3.7 miles away from this hotel. Downtown Honolulu is 9.9 miles from the Best Western The Plaza Hotel.
Budget: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club
Located on the southern coast of Honolulu Island, this hostel is one block from Kuhio Beach and the Honolulu Zoo. The Polynesian Hostel offers comfortable accommodations.
Polynesian Hostel Beach Club offers dormitory rooms where guests can meet other travelers. Private studios feature en suite bathrooms and kitchens.
The common room at Polynesian Beach Club provides a TV for entertainment. The hostel has Wi-Fi, barbecue equipment and laundry facilities.
Kapiolani Park, which provides tennis courts and soccer fields, is less than one mile from the Polynesian Hostel. Waikiki Aquarium is a 5-minute drive from the hostel.
For more places to stay in Oahu, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.