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12 Best Things To Do In Waikiki

The renowned neighbourhood of Waikiki, in the city of Honolulu, sits on the south shore of the island of Oahu, in the US state of Hawaii.

It is probably most well known for being home to one of the most famous beaches in the world – Waikiki Beach. Said to be the birthplace of modern surfing, it attracts more than 4 million visitors every year.

As well as the beautiful beaches with all their activities, there are also has some great hiking opportunities as well as waterfalls and other attractions to discover.

Along with an amazing variety of cuisines and plenty of entertainment, including traditional Luaus, Waikiki has so much to see and do.

Here’s a list of my favourite top 12 best things to do in Waikiki.

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!

Manoa Falls In Oahu Waterfall
Heading into Manoa Falls.
Manoa Falls In Oahu Waterfall
The official photo spot in front of the prohibited 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.

Diamond Head Hike In Oahu Hawaii
Looking over Waikiki from Diamond Head.
Diamond Head Hike In Oahu Hawaii
The final push on the trail to the viewpoint.

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.

Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
An overcast evening on Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
The most famous beach on Oahu.
Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
Strolling 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!

Paddle Boarding Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
Paddle boarders getting ready to hit the ocean.
Paddle boarding Waikiki Things To Do In Waikiki
Off they go.

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 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.

Shave Ice Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Shave Ice in Hawaii.
Shave Ice Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Choosing from all the flavours.

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.

Food Trucks Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Getting involved at food trucks.
Kahuku Food Trucks Things To Do In Waikiki
Happy with my taro dish.
Food Trucks Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Tacos and shrimp from the food trucks.

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!

Acai Bowl Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
I ate an Acai bowl pretty much every morning.
Acai Bowl Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
One of the best things about Hawaii.
Taro Hut Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Trying the Taro and shrimp on Oahu.
Marugame Udon Things To Do In Waikiki
Vegan udon and tempura at Marugame Udon.

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!

Kualoa Ranch Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Exploring Kualoa Ranch.

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!

Oahu Shrimp Truck Things To Do In Waikiki
Stopping at a shrimp food truck on the North Shore.
Kahuku Food Trucks Things To Do In Waikiki
The best kind of setting.

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.

Friday Fireworks Waikiki Things To Do In Waikiki
Enjoying the fireworks from Waikiki Beach.
Friday Fireworks Waikiki Things To Do In Waikiki
This was NYE but they set off every Friday.

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.

Sunset Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
Sunsets on Oahu just hit different.
Sunset Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
Overlooking Waikiki Beach at sunset.
Sunset Waikiki Beach Things To Do In Waikiki
Beautiful moments on Oahu.

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!

Chief's Luau Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
A cultural evening at Chief’s Luau.
Chief's Luau Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Preparing and cooking the hog.
Chief's Luau Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
Big feed at the Luau.
Chief's Luau Oahu Things To Do In Waikiki
An evening to remember in Waikiki.

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.

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use Booking.com to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile.

Book Your Rental Car

Use RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


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Things To Do In Waikiki