Waikiki Tourist Attractions
Waikiki enjoys endless associations as the world's most famous ideal beach resort - blessed with South Sea magic - as a world of opposites, as Miami with a hint of Japan, as pure pleasure.
It is difficult to characterize this small, flat area of Honolulu where more than 80% of visitors to Hawaii spend their holidays.Waikiki ("bubbling water") is the 2 mile/3.2km-long and about 2626ft/800m-wide heart of Honolulu, if not of the whole of the Hawaiian islands. It is bordered to the west by Ala Moana Park, to the north by Ala Wai Canal and to the east by Diamond Head.Gathered in this small area is the largest choice of hotels. They are to be found either on the beach, on Kalakaua Avenue (which runs parallel to the beach), with views over the sea, only a stone's throw away in Kuhio Avenue (parallel to Kalakaua Avenue) or in the side streets. Accommodation consists mainly of tower blocks which have been developed rapidly over the last 30 years.What is today known as Waikiki was originally marshland and was only completely eradicated at the beginning of the 1920s with the completion of the Ala Wai Canal.The beach, however, was certainly a favorite bathing place for Hawaiians long before Hawaii was declared a kingdom at the beginning of the 19th c. - even if it took making Honolulu into the capital city in order to develop the beach. The kings who succeeded Kamehameha I had bathing houses built on Waikiki Beach and received foreign guests here.Only after 1898 when the territory of Hawaii became part of the United States of America, was the first hotel built on the beach. The oldest hotel, the totally-white Moana Hotel (1901), is now a Westin and has hotel skyscrapers on either side. Only at the end of the 1920s was a second hotel built, the pink-painted Royal Hawaiian, and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.These two quite small hotels were sufficient for those visitors arriving by ocean liner, including the super-rich from the east coast and stars from Hollywood. The great turning point came in the 1960s when Hawaii became accessible from the mainland in only a few hours thanks to the age of the jet plane.Countless hotels were built in rapid succession, each one bigger than the last. The "Manhattanisation" of Waikiki made quick progress. Mass tourism altered the face of Waikiki and some of the sparkle and attraction, which had made the resort so famous, was lost.Only in recent decades have hoteliers concerned themselves with the tradition of Waikiki and invested millions of U.S. dollars in the restoration and renovation of existing hotels as well as building new hotels. Elegant shops opened their doors on Kalakaua Avenue and found themselves surrounded by cheap souvenir shops - a mixture still typical of Waikiki today. Waikiki is, however, not just a beach. It is also a city whose large number of tourists make it one of the world's most densely populated.Waikiki has not simply one beach but a series of beaches, almost all ideal for swimming and all types of water sports. The beaches begin in the west with Kahanamoku Beach named after the famous Olympic swimmer, immediately in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and extend to Sans Souci Beach at Diamond Head in the east. As they so smoothly overlap one another, tourists find them indistinguishable. Kahanamoku Beach is separated from Gray's Beach (originally called Kawekewehe Beach, meaning "opening" as a narrow channel is located here, now called Gray's Channel). This is followed by the Royal Hawaiian Beach (from the hotel of the same name to the Moana Hotel) - without doubt the most famous and crowded part of Waikiki. Next comes Kuhio Beach Park (the western part has a stone wall - Kapahulu Wall - built in front of it and is the only part of the beach unsuitable for swimming), followed by Kapiolani Beach Park and Sans Souci Beach.Further beaches, located outside the true Waikiki, comprise the small Kaluahole Beach, Diamond Head Beach Park, Kuilei Cliffs Beach Park (made somewhat dangerous because of high waves), Kaalawai, Kahala Beach (where the Kahala Hilton Hotel is located) and Wailupe Beach Park on the western side of the artificial peninsula of the same name. For further information about Oahu's beaches see Practical Information section, Beaches.
The Honolulu Zoo is a 42 acre tropical botanical garden featuring 995 animals and over 1,200 tropical plants. Hawaiian animals on exhibit are the Hawaiian Goose, Nene, and the Hawaiian Hawk, 'Io. Native Hawaiian plants can also be seen. The Honolulu Zoo is the only zoo that sits on a royal land grant. Today the Zoo represents three tropical zones: the African Savannah, Tropical Rainforests and Island Ecosystems. The Zoo has a children's zoo, playground, snack bar and gift shop, plus many favorites such as tigers, elephants, monkeys and Komodo dragons.
Waikiki's main street, named after King David Kalakaua, stretches for 1 mile/1.6km from Beretania Avenue (Beretania is the Hawaiian word for Britain) in Downtown Honolulu to the end of Kapiolani Park.Along Kalakaua Avenue - the heart of Waikiki - which runs parallel to the beach, are countless hotels, restaurants and shops. If visitors are looking for a change from the beach, they need never be bored in this always-lively street. Very close by are the Waikiki Shopping Center (on the corner of Seaside Avenue), the International Market Place (between Seaside Street and Kanekapolei Street) and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, which stretches from Lewers Street as far as Seaside Avenue. Many shops can also be found in the hotels, particularly the upper floors of the Hyatt Regency (2424 Kalakaua Avenue).In the last few years redevelopment has taken place in and around Kalakaua Avenue and the area has been planted with more than 100 trees.
Kapiolani Park is the oldest public park in Honolulu, and is home to Waikiki's zoo, aquarium, and the Shell Amphitheater.
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, located in central Waikiki, is a modern shopping complex with over 100 stores. It is situated on the south (seaward) side of Kalakaua Avenue with its main entrance in Lewers Street.It contains clothes shops, boutiques, souvenir shops, jewelers' and restaurants. There is also a currency exchange, a place which will pack parcels, a post office, and other miscellaneous shops.
Hawaii Army Museum
Among the exhibits in this small military museum are weapons from the time of the Hawaiian wars in the 18th c. to the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Also on display are American soldiers' uniforms from the last 200 years as well as enemy uniforms. Most interest is doubtless aroused by the old Hawaiian weapons studded with sharks' teeth - used in battles between former Hawaiian tribes.The museum is located in a 1909 building originally built to defend Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.
Oahu Underwater Cruises
The reefs around Oahu are deep and have suffered damage both through human activities and tropical storms. Some efforts have been made to sink ships and planes as way of giving the reef and the colorful fishes some protective places to grow.Submarines are the only way to see some of the interesting underwater life of the area and such trips are rewarding. On rare occasion whales have examined the submarines which are smaller than these mammals.There are competing companies for such excursions.
Atlantis Submarines are passenger submarines offering visitors the chance to see the world under the sea. They dive to about 100 feet past ship and aircraft wrecks. Helpful guides point out the various sea creatures.
Honolulu Convention Center
The Hawaii Convention Center is a series of diamond-shaped roof sections supported on tall poles create a most attractive modern structure. Highlights of the center include a $2 million Hawaiian art collection, a rooftop tropical garden, glass-encased meeting rooms and outdoor spaces lined with giant palm trees.
Taking a square block, this re-creation of a Monarchy-era Victorian Hawaiian village offers an entertaining maze of craft shops and restaurants. The British feel derives from the closeness of the Kanaka Maoli royalty's to Queen Victoria and the desire to adopt the ways of the country which protected them in the 19th century.
Diamond Head Theatre
Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki
Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki is an oceanfront resort offering spectacular floor-to-ceiling ocean views. Other highlights include Hawaii Prince Golf Club, designed by Arnold Palmer, and authentic Japanese cuisine at the on-site restaurants.
Waikiki Landmark Building
Damien Museum (closed)
More Waikiki Pictures
Map of Waikiki Attractions