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With its stunning beaches, luxury resorts, and vibrant culture, Waikiki is one of the top tourist destinations in Hawaii. If you’re wondering what there is to see and do during your visit, look no further!

We’ll provide the most comprehensive guide on how to make the most out of your Waikiki vacation.

If you don’t have much time, here’s a quick answer: Relax on Waikiki Beach, take a surfing lesson, go shopping on Kalakaua Avenue, learn about Hawaiian history and culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center, enjoy Hawaiian cuisine, check out the nightlife, and take a day trip to see Honolulu highlights like Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head.

In this article, we’ll go into extensive detail on all the best things to do in Waikiki. We’ve organized the content in easy-to-navigate sections like top attractions and activities, best places to shop till you drop,Where to find authentic Hawaiian food, guided day tours worth the money, where to experience the nightlife, best views and scenic outlooks, family-friendly fun, and frequently asked questions.

Top Attractions and Activities in Waikiki

Relax on Iconic Waikiki Beach

No trip to O’ahu is complete without relaxing on the world-famous Waikiki Beach. The 2-mile stretch of pristine white sand and calm blue waters is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and people watching.

Be sure to catch one of Waikiki’s legendary sunsets – the fiery colors reflecting off the ocean is a sight you’ll never forget.

Learn How to Surf

With rolling waves and expert instructors, Waikiki Beach is one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf. Sign up for a beginner surf lesson and you’ll be hanging ten in no time. The friendly instructors will teach you surf etiquette, show you proper paddling and popping techniques, and give you helpful tips.

You’ll also get to meet fellow surfing students from around the globe.

Explore the History and Culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Just a short drive from Waikiki is the famed Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can immerse yourself in Polynesian history, music, food, and more. Marvel at skilled dancers and fire performers from islands like Samoa and Tonga.

Tour recreated villages and see traditional cooking, crafts, and activities. It’s a memorable way to experience the spirit of Polynesia without needing a passport!

See Marine Life on a Snorkeling Tour

The protected bays and coral reefs along the Waikiki coastline make it a top snorkeling destination. Go on an exciting catamaran cruise to spots like Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove where you can spy sea turtles gently swimming by and schools of colorful fish.

Some tours even stop off at secluded islands complete with white sand beaches and palm trees – making you feel like you’re in paradise.

Enjoy the Vibrant Nightlife

When the sun goes down, Waikiki comes alive with restaurants, bars, and clubs packed with both tourists and locals alike. Share tasty pupus (appetizers) over sunset cocktails at beachfront hotels before bar hopping along Kalakaua Ave. The area around Lewers Lounge and RumFire is always buzzing.

And when you need a pick-me-up, stop by the iconic morning-til-midnight Duke’s Canoe Club.

Where to Shop till You Drop in Waikiki

Browse the Luxury Boutiques on Kalakaua Avenue

Kalakaua Avenue is the main strip running through Waikiki that features high-end retailers and luxury boutiques. As you stroll down this famous avenue, you’ll find flagship stores from brands like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bulgari, and more.

Even if the prices are out of reach, window shopping is a must along Kalakaua!

Some highlights to check out include:

  • The Royal Hawaiian Center, an open-air shopping mall with tenants like Coach, Kate Spade, and Hawaii-inspired retailers
  • Chanel boutique – browse their latest handbags and ready-to-wear fashions
  • Gucci’s two-level store featuring exclusive Hawaii capsule collections

Find Hawaiian Souvenirs at the International Market Place

As an open-air shopping center in the heart of Waikiki, the International Market Place is the perfect spot to pick up those quintessential Hawaii souvenirs. You’ll discover over 100 shopping options under one roof.

Some highlights for Hawaiian keepsakes include:

  • Blue Hawaii Lifestyle – Find authentic Hawaiian quilt bedspreads, apparel, and home goods
  • Hula Lehua – Shop for handmade hula skirts, Hawaiian print dresses, floral hair clips, shell lei necklaces, and more island-inspired accessories
  • Ono Pops – Take home gourmet Hawaiian sea salt caramels, chocolate-dipped macadamia nuts, tropically flavored popcorn, and other locally made treats
  • Martin & MacArthur – Browse fine Hawaiian koa wood bowls, carvings, jewelry boxes, ukuleles, and more high-quality crafts

Shop at the Ala Moana Center Nearby

Just a 10-minute drive from Waikiki, the Ala Moana Center is Hawaii’s largest outdoor shopping mall. With over 340 stores and restaurants, it’s one of the top destinations for shopping in Honolulu.

Total Retail Space Over 2.4 million square feet, spanning across 4 levels
Annual Visitors Over 52 million people per year
Notable Tenants Luxury houses like Hermes, Dior & Fendi, also mainstream brands like Zara, Victoria’s Secret, Coach, MAC Cosmetics & Sephora

You can literally find almost any item you want at Ala Moana Center. From designer threads, accessories and beauty products to toys, electronics, homewares and gourmet foods, it’s a shopaholic’s paradise.

Don’t forget to also check out the Centerstage schedule for hula and Polynesian dance performances under the signature banyan tree.

Best Places to Enjoy Authentic Hawaiian Cuisine

Have an Authentic Hawaiian Plate Lunch

A classic Hawaiian plate lunch typically consists of meat, rice, macaroni salad, and sometimes kimchi. Popular proteins are kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, mahi mahi, or loco moco (hamburger patties with eggs on top).

Some top spots for plate lunches in Waikiki include Rainbow Drive-In, Sistah’s Hawaiian Food, and Kahai Street Kitchen.

Rainbow’s is an old-school drive-in open since 1961 serving classic mixed plates and loco moco. According to fans, Rainbow’s is about as authentic as it gets for Hawaiian plate lunches in Waikiki. Sistah’s Hawaiian Food is a small casual spot getting rave reviews for their kalua pork and chicken long rice.

Kahai Street Kitchen is a popular food truck park preparing tasty local favorites like garlic shrimp and huli huli chicken at affordable prices.

Try Traditional Hawaiian Poke Bowls

Hawaiian poke bowls, made from fresh raw seafood like ahi tuna or salmon tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and spices, are iconic Hawaiian cuisine. Top poke shops in Waikiki to sample traditional bowls include Maguro Brothers, Crave Poke, and Ai Love Nako.

At Maguro Brothers, fan favorites are the spicy ahi bowls and coveted Hawaiian Kampachi fish imported from Kona. Crave Poke uses sustainably sourced seafood to create signature bowls like the OMG with salmon, sweet onions, masago, avocado, and special sauce.

Ai Love Nako is a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop crafting Hawaii-style chirashi don bowls overflowing with buttery salmon and tuna poke.

Indulge in Tropical Shave Ice Treats and Desserts

No trip to Hawaii is complete without trying authentic shave ice, the iconic frozen treat made by shaving ice into paper-thin flakes, adding fruit-flavored syrups, and topping with sweetened condensed milk, azuki beans, mochi, or ice cream.

Go-to shave ice shops in Waikiki include Waiola Shave Ice and Liliha Bakery.

Operating since 1940, Waiola Shave Ice serves giant mounds of delectably icy and finely shredded Hawaiian shave ice in over 50 flavors from lychee to red velvet. Their specialty is the rainbow shave ice with three colorful fruit flavors.

Opened in 1950, Liliha Bakery crafts legendary coco puff pastries and signature shave ice like the strawberry lilikoi cream puff shave ice smothered in sweet strawberry syrup, tangy lilikoi curd, and fluffy cream puff chunks.

Guided Tours Worth the Money

Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Tours

Visiting the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial is a must-do while in Oahu. This hugely important historical site commemorates the events of December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces. Taking a guided tour ensures you get the most out of the experience.

Knowledgeable guides will provide context and share stories that really bring the history to life. Tours typically last around 5 hours and include round-trip transportation from Waikiki.

Some of the top-rated Pearl Harbor tours are:

  • Pearl Harbor Visitors Center VIP Tour – Skip long ticket lines with this small-group tour limited to 14 people. It includes convenient round-trip transportation from Waikiki hotels.
  • Circle Island Tour with USS Arizona Memorial – In addition to the USS Arizona Memorial, this tour circles the entire island of Oahu with stops along the way. It’s a great way to take in the diversity of the island.
  • Premium USS Arizona Memorial Express Tour – Another time-saving option, this 4.5 hour tour transports you quickly to the USS Arizona Memorial from Waikiki while an expert guide shares historical details.

Prices for these tours generally range from $59 to $129 per adult. Advanced booking is highly recommended as tickets do sell out, especially during peak seasons.

Circle Island and Snorkeling Tours

One of the best ways to experience the diversity of Oahu is to embark on a circle island tour. As the name suggests, these tours take you on a loop around the perimeter of the island with stops along the way.

You’ll get to take in gorgeous views of the coastline while learning about Hawaiian history and culture from a guide.

Some circle island tours also combine snorkeling for a real Hawaiian adventure. Top spots to snorkel around Oahu include:

  • Hanauma Bay – A protected marine preserve with calm, clear waters full of tropical fish.
  • Shark’s Cove – A small bay on the North Shore renowned for seeing sea turtles.
  • Electric Beach – Named for the electricity transmitted by an undersea cable, the conditions here make for great snorkeling.

Average prices for circle island and snorkeling combo tours range from $80 to $120 per adult. Some useful sites for booking highly-rated options include Govoyagin, Viator, and Thrillist.

Waikiki Trolley Tours

One of the most flexible and affordable ways to explore Oahu is via the Waikiki Trolley. These bright red trolleys offer hop-on hop-off service between many top attractions around the island. There are over 90 stops across four convenient lines – offering everything from city tours to snorkel tours, cultural attractions, and shopping destinations.

Waikiki Trolley Line Key Stops
Blue Line USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Aloha Stadium
Red Line Diamond Head Crater, Kahala Mall
Green Line Sea Life Park, North Shore Shrimp Trucks
Pink Line Historic Haleiwa Town, Matsumoto Shave Ice

Unlimited ride passes can be purchased for 1, 2, 3, or 4-day durations, with prices ranging from $61 for a 1-day pass up to $195 for a 4-day pass. This flexible “hop on, hop off” transportation makes it super convenient to access Waikiki’s must-see attractions.

Best Views and Scenic Outlooks

Marvel at the View from Diamond Head Lookout

One of the top spots for taking in spectacular 180-degree views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean is from the observation deck at the Diamond Head State Monument ( The 0.8 mile hike to the summit winds through a volcanic crater and World War II-era tunnels before culminating with panoramic vistas stretching from Waikiki out to Koko Head.

On clear days you can even spot landmarks on theWindward side of O’ahu like Kāneʻohe Bay and Mokoliʻi Island.

The observation deck sits 761 feet above sea level, offering unobstructed views in almost every direction. Sunrise and sunset are particularly stunning times to take in the far-reaching views. Pack a snack and watch as the early morning or late afternoon light bathes Waikiki and Diamond Head in a warm glow.

Take in the City Views from Punchbowl Crater

For overhead sights of Honolulu and Waikiki, head to the Punchbowl Crater lookout inside the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific ( The volcanic crater sits 1,000 feet above the city and offers a unique perspective looking down on urban Honolulu and out across the turquoise ocean waters.

Interpretive signs identify the neighborhoods and landmarks visible below. On clear days you can see all the way from Pearl Harbor and the airport on one side to iconic Diamond Head on the other side. Sunset is a particularly striking time as the fading light paints the sky orange and pink hues behind the Waikiki skyline silhouette.

Watch the Sunset at Sandy Beach Park

For unforgettable ocean sunset views, make your way east to Sandy Beach Park on the Halona Blowhole side of O’ahu. The beach park looks back west towards Waikiki, perfectly positioning you to watch the sun sink down into the Pacific.

Outrigger canoes, stand-up paddleboarders, and surfers glide across the water, backdropped by vibrant sunset colors.

Arrive early to stake out a spot – Sandy Beach is a popular gathering place for both locals and visitors. While you take in the sensational sunset, keep an eye out just offshore for spouts of ocean water shooting sky high.

These mini geysers make up Halona Blowhole, one of O’ahu’s famous natural wonders.

Family-Friendly Activities

Explore the Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium is a world-class marine science education and conservation facility right on the shoreline of Waikiki. This aquatic attraction houses over 3,500 organisms and 500 species of Hawaiian and South Pacific marine life.

It’s an excellent family-friendly activity where you can observe colorful reef fish, sea jellies, monk seals, sharks, and more in naturalistic habitats. Don’t miss the outdoor touch pools where kids can get up close with sea stars, urchins, and hermit crabs.

General admission is only $12 for adults and $6 for children 4-12.

The aquarium also offers special events and programs like the Seal Feeding where you can watch trainers feed Hawaiian monk seals, and After Hours Aquarium Adventures where you explore exhibit galleries at night by flashlight. Check their event calendar so you don’t miss out!

Official website:

Visit the Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo in Waikiki is paradise for kids and animal lovers alike. As Hawaii’s only zoo, it is home to over 1,230 animals representing 190 different species. It has everything from African savannah wildlife to tropical birds and reptiles.

Popular exhibits include the African lion pride, the reticulated giraffe tower, the chimpanzee habitat, and the Hawaiian native section with nene geese.

Throughout the year, the zoo hosts special events like Boo at the Zoo for Halloween and seasonal keiki activities. General admission starts at $14 for adults and $6 for children 3-12 years old. I highly recommend paying a little extra for the guided tram tour so you can learn more about the animals from zoo educators while traversing the expansive 42 acre facility.

Official website:

See a Traditional Luau Show

No family trip to Hawaii is complete without experiencing a Polynesian luau feast and show. Waikiki offers several choices for this colorful Hawaiian cultural experience filled with fire dancers, music, and Hula. Top options include:

  • Paradise Cove Luau – Highly rated luau known for the extravagant fire knife finale show over the beach. It includes open bar, Hawaiian games and activities before the show.
  • Germaine’s Luau – Fun, family-friendly luau with audience participation. Takes place beside serene Nu’uanu Stream with prime rib buffet.
  • Waikiki Starlight Luau – Luau show and Hawaiian feast at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Featured on ABC’s The Bachelorette.
Luau Starting Price Age Range
Paradise Cove Luau $99 adult, $79 child All ages
Germaine’s Luau $95 adult, $65 child All ages
Waikiki Starlight Luau $129 adult, $79 child All ages

Play at Kuhio Beach Park

If you’re looking for beach fun with the kids, check out Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki, which has a netted swimming area to keep ocean creatures out. The real treasure here is the free public playground near the Duke Kahanamoku statue, featuring play structures, swings, and shady trees.

Parents can relax under the palms while children climb the nautical themed equipment. There’s also convenient restroom facilities here. After burning off energy, kids can build sandcastles on the beach before grabbing shave ice across the street at Local Boys Shave Ice truck.


With its perfect weather year-round, stunning scenery, and vibrant culture, Waikiki offers endless things to see and do suiting any taste or budget. Use this guide to help you experience the very best of this world-famous beach town during your Hawaiian getaway.

Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to come back year after year!

Whether you want to relax on the beach, learn to surf, explore Hawaiian history, shop, enjoy great food, have an adventurous day trip, party at night, or keep the whole family entertained, Waikiki has it all.

Our comprehensive guide outlined all the must-see attractions, activities, restaurants, tours, scenic views, and family fun. Now it’s time to start planning your itinerary and get ready for an unforgettable vacation!

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