For many, the thought of Waikiki conjures up images of palm trees blowing in the wind, hawaiian music, aloha shirts, turquoise water, white sand beaches, souvenir shops, and of course the Mai Tai. Waikiki is often the only destination that tourists to the island of Oahu experience. While there is so much more to see on the rest of the island, Waikiki is definitely the premiere tourist hot spot.
The vast majority of hotels are located in Waikiki. There is shopping and restaurants galore. Over the past few years, Waikiki has undergone some dramatic and welcome changes. Sidewalks on the main streets (Kalakaua and Kuhio) have been widened and additional trees have been planted. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, once a concrete fortress, has undergone a massive renovation opening up the shopping area and making it more inviting visually as well as attracting exciting new stores and restaurants. The newly built “Beachwalk” area also added many new shops and restaurants.
The Honolulu Zoo and the Aquarium are also located here. If you are lucky, you will be here when the city of Honolulu hosts the “Sunset on the Beach” program at the “zoo-end” of Waikiki on Queen’s Beach. Movies are shown on a large outdoor screen and food and beverages are offered at nearby stands. It’s usually held on most weekends and is free. Just bring a beach blanket to sit on and enjoy dinner and a movie right on the beach.
On Friday nights, the Hilton Hawaiian hotel sponsors a short fireworks show on Friday nights immediately following their Hawaiian entertainment show featuring hula dancers and fire-eaters.
Truth be told, the actual beach is not that great. It is a relatively narrow strip of sand that is usually crowded. If you are looking for expansive white soft sand beaches, head over to Kailua on the Windward side. But, what Waikiki lacks in good quality beaches, it makes up for in other ways.