10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Waikiki

Waikiki enjoys a reputation for being the world's most famous ideal beach resort, blessed with South Sea magic. This small, flat area of Honolulu is where the majority of visitors to Hawaii spend their holidays. Waikiki is the heart of Honolulu, if not of the whole of the Hawaiian islands. Located in this small area is the state's largest choice of hotels. They can be found either on the beach, on Kalakaua Avenue, which runs parallel to the beach, or in the side streets.

What is today known as Waikiki was originally marshland but was reclaimed 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 century.The kings who succeeded Kamehameha I had bathing houses built on Waikiki Beach where he received foreign guests.

The oldest hotel, the Moana Hotel, was built in 1901. But, 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, and countless hotels were built in rapid succession.

1 Waikiki Beaches

Waikiki Beaches
Waikiki Beaches

The main attraction of Waikiki, by far, is the sand strip along the oceanfront. Waikiki has a series of beaches, almost all ideal for swimming and other 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. They overlap one another so smoothly that tourists find them indistinguishable. Kahanamoku Beach is separated from Gray's Beach by a narrow channel. This is followed by the Royal Hawaiian Beach, without a doubt the most famous and crowded part of Waikiki. Next comes Kuhio Beach Park, with the stone built Kapahulu Wall in front of a portion of it. This is the only part of the beach unsuitable for swimming. Beyond this is Kapiolani Beach Park and Sans Souci Beach.

Further beaches, located outside of Waikiki proper, include 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.

2 Kapiolani Park and Queen Kapiolani Garden

Kapiolani Park and Queen Kapiolani Garden
Kapiolani Park and Queen Kapiolani Garden

This beautiful park, which King Kalakaua gave to the city and now bears the name of his wife, divides Waikiki from the small residential area on the southwest side of Diamond Head. Kapiolani Park is Honolulu's oldest public park and also the best loved. It contains a series of attractions including the Waikiki Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, but perhaps the main highlight is the Queen Kapiolani Garden, with a beautiful collection of flowering plants. The garden contains plants from Hawaii and other parts of the world, including some rare Hawaiian species.

The park is a pleasant recreational area with a large selection of leisure activities available, including Tennis courts, picnic areas, and jogging paths.

The Queen Kapiolani Bandstand is the finishing point of the Honolulu Marathon held each December.

3 Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium
Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium highlights the rich colors of Hawaii's sea life. Displays introduce visitors to coral reefs, shorelines, and a large variety of other aquatic creatures. Of particular note is the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Exhibit. The aquarium was founded in 1904 and is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States.

Address: 2777 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815-4027, United States

4 Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater
Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater, known in Hawaiian as Le'ahi, is the extinct volcano on the east end of Waikiki and is often a symbol of the city. What you see from the beach is only a profile. The best place for viewing the crater is at Diamond Head State Monument, where the crater itself can be visited. A historic hiking trail, leads up from the floor of the crater to the summit, following a rather steep path which eventually turns into stairs and leads to a viewpoint overlooking Waikiki. The road to Diamond Head Crater drives up the eastern side of the rock and then passes through a tunnel cut to connect the inner and outer sides of the rim.

This jut of land or head was named Diamond Head when 19th century sailors thought some of the crystals found here were diamonds.

5 Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo
Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo is a 42 acre zoo featuring hundreds of animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The grounds also include a huge variety of tropical plants, creating a botanical garden setting. Hawaiian animals on exhibit are the Hawaiian Goose, Nene, and the Hawaiian Hawk, 'Io. Native Hawaiian plants can also be seen. Additionally, there are many favorites such as tigers, elephants, monkeys and Komodo dragons.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. There is also a children's zoo and playground.

Address: 151 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815, United States

Official site: http://honoluluzoo.org/
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6 Kalakaua Avenue

Kalakaua Avenue
Kalakaua Avenue pasa47 / photo modified

Waikiki's main street, named after King David Kalakaua, stretches for 1 mile from Beretania Avenue 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.

7 Atlantis Submarines

Atlantis Submarines
Atlantis Submarines

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. Guides point out the various sea creatures. The submarines can be a good options for families who are not interesting in scuba diving but would still like an underwater experience. On rare occasion whales have examined the submarines which are smaller than these mammals.

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.

8 International Market

International Market
International Market Loren Javier / photo modified

The International Market is a long-established collection of open-air shops in Waikiki which take shelter under huge banyan trees strung with twinkly lights at night. A wide-range of clothes, souvenirs and entertainment make the area worth exploring.

Address: 2330 Kalakaua Avenue

9 Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center

Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center coconut wireless / photo modified

The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, located in central Waikiki, is a modern shopping complex with all kinds of stores, from international chains to Hawaii specific names. It is situated on the south (seaward) side of Kalakaua Avenue and contains clothing stores, boutiques, souvenir shops, jewelers' and restaurants.

Address: 2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815, United States

10 US Army Museum of Hawaii

US Army Museum of Hawaii
US Army Museum of Hawaii Loren Javier / photo modified

Among the exhibits in this small military museum are weapons from the time of the Hawaiian wars in the 18th century 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. These were used in battles between former Hawaiian tribes. The museum also features temporary exhibits.

The collection is located in a 1909 building originally built to defend Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.

Where to Stay in Waikiki for Sightseeing

We recommend these wonderful hotels near great shops and restaurants and the famous Waikiki Beach:

  • Halekulani Hotel: Old Hawaii luxury, beachfront, understated elegance, ocean-front pool with orchid motif, gracious staff, Hawaiian live music and hula dancing.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk: mid-range rates, central location, helpful staff, spacious suites with mini-kitchens, free cooked-to-order breakfast.
  • Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head: affordable boutique hotel, quiet location, comfortable beds, free yoga, complimentary use of bikes.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach: budget hotel, opposite the International Marketplace, two blocks from Waikiki beach, rooftop pool, fitness room.

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