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With its lush tropical landscapes, stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and world-renowned attractions, Hawaii has enchanted visitors from across the globe for decades. If you only have time to see one signature site during your Hawaiian getaway, what should it be?

We’ll give you the inside scoop on the number one attraction that perfectly encapsulates the islands’ magnificence.

Hawaii’s Top Attraction: Waikiki Beach

Iconic Crescent-Shaped White Sand Beach

Stretching for around 3 kilometers along the southern shore of O’ahu, Waikiki Beach boasts world-famous soft white sand and calm turquoise waters, making it one of Hawaii’s most iconic beaches. Formed by extinct volcanic craters and gifted with coral reefs just offshore, Waikiki features a picturesque sandy coastline shaped like a crescent 🌙.

Its postcard-perfect scenery attracts over 4.5 million visitors per year.

Perfect Beach for Swimming, Sunbathing, Surfing

With an average water temperature of 79°F and average air temperature of 85°F year-round, Waikiki Beach offers ideal weather for frolicking in the ocean 🌊. The gentle waves and sandy bottom make Waikiki an excellent spot for swimming, while visitors soak up the sunshine or relax under palm trees on the beach.

For the more adventurous, Waikiki is also a hot spot for learning how to surf – after all, this is where the sport originated!

Heart of the World-Famous Waikiki Neighborhood

Situated on Waikiki’s lively main drag of Kalakaua Avenue, the beach serves as the anchor for the vibrant Waikiki neighborhood. Just steps from the sand and surf, visitors can enjoy 5-star beachfront resorts, boutique shops and high-end restaurants, along with free nightly hula and live music performances.

From art galleries and historical sites to aquariums and botanical gardens, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this dynamic beachside district.

Gateway to Hawaiian Culture and Music

Waikiki Beach offers more than just sun, sand and sights – it also provides a window into native Hawaiian heritage. Twice-weekly Kūhiō Beach Hula shows share stories of Hawaii through traditional dance and music.

And every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening, the beachfront stage at the Waikiki Shell hosts top local musicians playing classic Hawaiian melodies. For visitors hoping to experience true Hawaiian culture, history and artistic tradition, Waikiki Beach hits all the right notes!

What Makes Waikiki Beach Truly Special

Postcard Views of Diamond Head

One of the most iconic sights at Waikiki Beach is the view of the Diamond Head volcanic crater rising in the distance. This dramatic natural landmark frames countless postcards and photographs of Waikiki, with turquoise waves rolling onto golden sand in the foreground.

Diamond Head’s steep cliffs and unique shape make it one of Hawaii’s most distinguishing natural treasures.

Array of Ocean Activities

In addition to relaxing on the beach, Waikiki offers an abundance of ocean activities to enjoy. Snorkelers and scuba divers can explore vibrant coral reefs and sea turtles just offshore. Surfers flock to Waikiki to ride the famous waves, from longboarding to stand-up paddleboarding.

Ocean kayaking, outrigger canoeing, parasailing, and catamaran cruises allow you to marvel at Waikiki’s beauty from offshore vantage points.

Lively Boardwalk Lined with Hotels & Restaurants

Back on land, Waikiki Beach boasts a vibrant boardwalk bustling with people and energy. Historic hotels like the iconic Pink Palace have oceanfront pools, restaurants, and luxury accommodations. The main drag of Kalakaua Avenue offers endless dining, shopping and entertainment options to suit any taste or budget.

The area stays lively from morning through late night with performers, vendors and happy tourists soaking up the tropical atmosphere.

Storied History

Waikiki has a long, storied history of welcoming visitors to its shores. Ancient Hawaiian royalty once lived and surfed along this coastline. In 1901, the Moana Hotel became one of the first resort hotels in Waikiki.

Later, celebrities and royalty like Duke Kahanamoku, Elvis Presley and Princess Kaiulani visited and performed in Waikiki. This heritage lives on through historic hotels, surf culture, Hawaiian music and fabled beachfront sites like the Duke Kahanamoku statue.

Other Noteworthy Attractions in Hawaii

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Hawaii’s most popular natural attractions, drawing over 1 million visitors per year. This marine embayment along the southeast coast of O’ahu features stunning turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and an abundance of tropical fish and sea turtles.

Snorkelers and swimmers can easily view over 400 species of fish in the bay’s protected waters.

According to a 2021 report by the City and County of Honolulu, attendance at Hanauma Bay has steadily risen over the past decade, with daily visitors now capped at 720 to protect the fragile reef ecosystem.

Advance reservations and shuttle bus services are required to manage crowds and environmental impact.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Encompassing over 500 square miles of volcanic wilderness on the Island of Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park highlights the world’s most active volcanoes. Visitors can explore smoking craters, vast lava fields, rare ecosystems, and evidence of the Hawaiian gods Pele and Nāmaka in the park’s dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park recorded over 2.1 million recreation visits in 2021, making it one of the most popular U.S. National Parks for ecotourism. New lava flows and seismic activity also continue to transform the landscape, drawing visitors from around the globe.

Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

Honoring the lives lost in the 1941 attack that thrust America into World War II, the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites offer a poignant history lesson. Visitors can tour the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and other landmarks while learning about the fateful day that still lives in infamy.

Nearly 1.9 million people visited the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites in 2021 to pay their respects and connect with the events that shaped America’s role in modern history. Allow at least 4 hours to take in all these moving memorials and museums.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Immerse yourself in the songs, dances, foods, and customs of Polynesia at the famed Polynesian Cultural Center. This popular attraction on Oahu’s North Shore educates visitors about seven Pacific cultures through hands-on activities, live demonstrations, and authentic villages representing Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

With over 1 million annual visitors, the Polynesian Cultural Center ranks among Hawaii’s top fee-based activities. Thrill to the drama of the Ha: Breath of Life show and sample tasty samples at the various island villages in this 42-acre tropical paradise.


Although Hawaii boasts countless spectacular sights, Waikiki Beach stands in a class of its own as the islands’ quintessential must-see. With its famous crescent shoreline, iconic Diamond Head views, wide range of ocean sports, vibrant boardwalk scene, and rich Hawaiian history, Waikiki encapsulates the islands’ natural beauty, culture, and energy like nowhere else.

Don’t miss out on Hawaii’s number one attraction during your next visit to paradise!

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