20 Things To Do In Waikiki

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Waikiki is a stunning city to the south of Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu. Forming part of the greater Honolulu metro area, Waikiki is where people come to have a great time in Hawaii, with some of the state’s best restaurants, shops and beaches. You’ll most definitely find many exciting things to do in Waikiki, its beach and vibrant streets.

Waikiki’s beaches are world-famous, and the city is a natural wonderland. As the former seat of power of the once mighty Hawaiian monarchy, Waikiki is a cultural and historical beacon of Oahu. From the famous Diamond Head Crater, which looks over Waikiki, to the sprawling Ala Moana Shopping Center, Waikiki has so much to see, do and experience that makes coming back to Waikiki again and again fun every time.

Waikiki, Hawaii

Top 3 Waikiki Tours

things to do in waikiki hawaii Hawaii vacation wellness pool spa woman relaxing in warm water at luxury hotel resort.
Taking time to wind down and relax is one of the top things to do in Waikiki while on vacation.

20 Things To Do In Waikiki

1- Explore Diamond Head Crater

things to do in honolulu waikiki aerial view of Diamond Head, Kapiolani Park, Waikiki.
Two of the best things to do in Waikiki is to explore Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head.

The Diamond Head Crater, or Le’ahi, as it’s known in Hawaiian, is a now dormant volcano and an iconic Oʻahu landmark on the eastern edge of Waikiki.

Named by 19th-century sailors who discovered crystals they thought to be diamonds, the crater is a popular natural attraction famed for its stunning vistas and beauty.

While the Diamond Head Crater is spectacular to observe from afar, it’s at the Diamond Head State Monument where you can fully appreciate the entire crater up close.

Diamond Head Crater is also a fantastic hiking destination, with a historic and scenic nature trail leading from the crater floor to the crater’s summit.

Here are some different ways to explore Diamond Head:

2- Visit Waikiki Aquarium

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Visiting the aquarium is one of the best things to do in Waikiki for kids to learn more about marine life.

Educating generations of visitors about Hawaii’s vibrant marine biodiversity, the Waikiki Aquarium delights guests of all ages with fun and interactive displays and exhibitions.

Specialising in coral reef ecology and the marine animals that inhabit Hawaii’s reefs, the Waikiki Aquarium has several reef exhibits where you can discover the unique relationships between reef animals, reef predators and the living reef ecosystem.

The aquarium is home to two critically endangered monk seals in its Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibit and various other animals only found in that specific biome.

Waikiki Aquarium is a delightful place to visit if you’re travelling with young and curious minds.

Waikiki Aquarium is at 2777 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815. The aquarium is one of 12 stops on the Green Line hop-on, hop-off trolley. Book your tickets online here.

3- Shop At The International Market Place

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Drinking Hawaiian Mai Tai cocktails in a beach bar is one of the things to do in Waikiki Beach.

The vibrant International Market Place is the best spot to shop or people-watch in Waikiki.

It has a long-standing collection of open-air shops and stalls, including world-renowned brands such as Swarovski and Burberry.

Covered under string lights and large banyan trees, the International Market Place is open day and night, rain or shine.

Topped off with beautifully landscaped plants and a large selection of restaurants and places to see, the International Market Place is a free Waikiki attraction worth visiting.

The International Market Place is at 2330 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.

4- Go On a Glass Bottom Boat Cruise

cheap things to do in waikiki Aerial drone view of the sea front on Waikiki with Honolulu in the background.
Looking for things to do in Waikiki? Here are our top 20.

Glass-bottom boat cruises are all the rage worldwide, and Hawaii and Waikiki are no exception.

They allow passengers to enjoy the spectacular beauty of Waikiki beneath the water without getting wet and is an accessible tour for people of all ages and disabilities.

A glass-bottom boat cruise allows those who prefer not to scuba dive or snorkel to be entertained by Hawaii’s stunning coral reefs and marine biodiversity.

Joining a cruise aboard the 50-foot (15 m) Haleiwa Queen, a catamaran yacht providing guided tours with a crystal-clear hull for viewing.

Hawaii Glass Bottom Boats is at 1009 Ala Moana Blvd F21, Honolulu, HI 96814. Find out more details here.

5- Visit The Magic Island Lagoon

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Sunset over Magic Island Lagoon at Ala Moana Beach Park with the Honolulu skyline in the background.

Waikiki’s beaches are world-renowned as a premier vacation destination invoking images of perfect weather, serene beaches, and idyllic water.

While that’s certainly true, few beaches in Waikiki match the natural beauty and tranquillity of the man-made Magic Island Lagoon.

This free-to-visit public beach is quieter and more private than Waikiki’s six other public beaches and provides a fantastic break from the large crowds at Waikiki’s more famous strips of beach.

A perfect beach to visit with kids, thanks to the sea walls which shelter the lagoon from the ocean’s currents and large waves, the Magic Island Lagoon is a fantastic Waikiki attraction worth visiting at least once.

The Magic Island Lagoon is at 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814.

6- Hike Manoa Falls Trail

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A rainbow over the suburbs of Woodlawn and Manoa.

One of Waikiki’s most recognisable attractions or landmarks, the scenic Manoa Falls Trail is a popular outdoor attraction featured in numerous films and TV series, including The Hunger Games and Jurassic Park.

Famous for its stunning waterfall tucked behind thick rainforests and tall mountains, the Manoa Falls Trail encompasses multiple Waikiki landmarks within the trail’s borders, from the Rainbow Valley to the Lyon Arboretum.

The best way to lap up the majesty of Manoa Falls is by hiking the two-mile (3 km) nature trail that winds from the start of the Manoa Falls Trail to the falls deep within the tropical rainforest.

The Manoa Falls Trail is at 3860 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822. You might also like this hiking tour.

7- Eat A Delicious Meal In Chinatown

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For more things to do in Waikiki, read on and enjoy!

Born from the large influx of Chinese immigrants who arrived on Oʻahu during the 19th century to work in the sugar plantations, Chinatown is a vibrant and colourful Waikiki community offering everything from shops to restaurants and everything in between.

Popular for its Chinese-Hawaiian fusion of culture and food, Chinatown is a fantastic Waikiki destination to explore on foot or by visiting one of its many great shops, eateries, or open-air markets.

From its neon signs to its verdant rooftop gardens, there’s much to see and experience in Waikiki’s Chinatown.

Chinatown is at 1199 Dillingham Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96817.

8- Go Snorkelling Or Diving At Turtle Canyon

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Going on a snorkelling cruise is one of the best things to do in Waikiki for nature lovers.

Off the Oahu coast, Turtle Canyon is a popular natural reef home to a large collection of marine life, such as green sea turtles, fish and colourful coral.

Less than an hour by boat from Waikiki, Turtle Canyon provides scuba divers and snorkellers with the best underwater sightseeing opportunity in Hawaii.

It’s accessible to beginner divers due to the reef’s shallow depth, just 20 feet (6 m) underwater. Join a snorkelling or diving tour here.

Turtle Canyon is at 1651 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815. Check out this popular snorkel cruise.

9- Step Back In History At Iolani Palace

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Visiting Iolani Palace is one of the things to do near Waikiki for history lovers.

The former home of the only monarch in United States history, the Iolani Palace was where Hawaii’s royal family ruled over the islands as recently as the late 1800s before being overthrown and stripped of their power.

A popular landmark hosting regular tours throughout the opulent rooms, cosy lanais, exterior grounds and museum rooms of the palace, Iolani Palace is an iconic Hawaiian landmark.

It retells the history of this fascinating part of the world and is well worth stopping by during your trip to Waikiki.

Iolani Palace is the only palace in the United States.

It offers a fascinating peek into the lives of the former rulers of this proud Pacific state.

The Iolani Palace is at 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813.

10- Learn About Hawaiian Culture At The Bishop Museum

things to do in waikiki beach Portrait of surfer woman running surfing with surfboard having fun on Waikiki Beach
Learning to surf is one of the fun things to do in Waikiki Beach.

The Bishop Museum, or the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History as its officially known, is a cultural and historical beacon of great importance in Waikiki and her people.

Established to preserve, protect and recount the tales and stories of Hawaii’s first inhabitants and the ruling Hawaiian monarchy who built Hawaii into the formidable Pacific force it used to be.

While the Bishop Museum’s main area of focus is on ancient Hawaiian history, the museum also dedicates itself to the zoology, biology, and other natural science fields of Hawaii and beyond, making it an all-encompassing museum that’s delightful to tour.

Bishop Museum is at 1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817.

11- Shop Til You Drop In Waikiki

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Going shopping in one of the malls is a fun thing to do in Waikiki.

Waikiki is the shopping mecca of Hawaii, with many malls, markets and small corner shops dotted throughout the area.

One of the city’s most iconic shopping venues is the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, a 310,000 square foot (28,800 m2) shopping centre home to international chain stores and local Hawaiian shops, selling everything from clothing to Hawaiian artworks.

While the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is, without a doubt, Waikiki’s most famous shopping venue, the spacious open-air Ala Moana Center is the largest shopping centre on Oahu and the largest open-air shopping centre in the world.

Opened in 1959, the Ala Moana Center is considerably more upscale than other Waikiki shopping districts and stocks all the familiar luxury brands found in other high-end shopping venues worldwide.

Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is at 2201 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815. Ala Moana Center is at 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814. If you’d rather go outlet shopping, book this shuttle.

12- Visit The Pearl Harbor National Memorial

A short drive north from Waikiki in the greater Honolulu area, the famous Pearl Harbor National Memorial commemorates the infamous Pearl Harbor attack, which occurred here on December 7th, 1941, propelling the United States into WWII.

Suspended atop the wreckage of the USS Arizona, which suffered the most significant damage, the memorial is considered one of Hawaii’s most sacred monuments.

Worth a visit to learn about the events of that fateful day or to pay your respects to those who lost their lives, visiting the Pearl Harbor National Museum is one of the unforgettable things to do near Waikiki.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is at 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818. This tour will take you to Pearl Harbor and other sites.

13- Explore The US Army Museum of Hawaii

top things to do in waikiki
US Light Tank, M24 on Display at the Army Museum in Waikiki, Hawaii. The M24 was used for scouting and reconnaissance in the late days of WWII. It mounted a 75mm main gun and three machine guns behind 1′ of armour. Two Cadillac V-8 engines Drove the 19-ton tank and its crew of four at speeds of up to 35 mph.

The US Army Museum of Hawaii, although not as popular as the more famous Pearl Harbor National Memorial, is an impressive museum detailing the role the US Army played in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and WWII, among others.

With exhibits dating as far back as the 18th-century weapons used during the Hawaiian wars, the US Army Museum of Hawaii has a wide collection of artefacts and displays for the museum’s modest size.

Located in a 1909 structure used to defend Pearl Harbor from the attacks of December 7th, the US Army Museum can easily be paired with a stop at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial for a day-trip excursion from nearby Waikiki.

The US Army Museum of Hawaii is at 2131 Kālia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815.

Things To Do In Waikiki At Night

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Enjoying a beautiful sunrise is one of the tranquil things to do in Waikiki.

14- Attend Queens Waikiki Luau

Watching a Luau performance is one of the quintessential things to do in Waikiki and there are few places better to see one than at Queens Waikiki Luau.

Queen’s takes Luau performances to the next level by pairing this entertaining dance routine steeped in Polynesian culture and history with live music and an authentic Hawaiian buffet.

Queens Waikiki Luau is a must-visit destination to experience a truly authentic Luau.

Hosting big and small events, including hula lessons and demonstrations, is one of Waikiki’s top attractions.

Queens Waikiki Luau is at 2330 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815. Skip the line and book your tickets here.

15- Experience The Moana Surfrider

The Moana Surfrider is a unique, uber-luxurious Vegas-style hotel and resort that forms part of the global Westin Resort and Spa chain.

Designed to resemble a Polynesian palace, complete with lanais and sizeable balconies, the Moana Surfrider is one of Waikiki’s most spectacular landmarks.

While most of the hotel’s interior is only accessible to guests, its beautiful façade is free to be admired by everyone.

If you plan to stay in Waikiki for a couple of days, the Moana Surfrider is an iconic accommodation option that’s an experience in itself, offering a host of activities and excursions, such as golfing, snorkelling, surfing or yacht cruises.

The Moana Surfrider is at 2365 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.

16- Watch The Kūhiō Beach Hula Show

Hosted on Waikiki’s Kūhiō Beach multiple nights a week, the Kūhiō Beach Hula Show is an hour-long traditional Polynesian hula performance that is free to watch and attend.

Situated next to the Waikiki/Honolulu Zoo and the busy Kalakaua Avenue, Kūhiō Beach treats visitors to a real Hawaiian hula dance ceremony complete with a pa hula, conch shells and torches.

One of the most colourful and entertaining attractions on Oahu, the Kūhiō Beach Hula Show is an unmissable spectacle that is bound to be one of the highlights of any trip to Hawaii.

The Kūhiō Beach Hula Show is at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.

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Going on a cruise is one of the fun things to do in Waikiki.

Free Things To Do In Waikiki

17- Go Swimming At Waikiki Beach

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One of the things to do in Waikiki is to go on a helicopter ride for a bird’s-eye view of the famous Waikiki Beach.

The signature beach in Waikiki that’s famous around the world for its incredible beauty, fantastic weather and idyllic paradise feel, Waikiki Beach is perhaps Waikiki’s best and most visited attraction.

Sandwiched neatly between downtown Waikiki and the Pacific, Waikiki Beach is surrounded by restaurants and shops. The popular Kalākaua Avenue is within walking distance.

A collection of smaller beaches that together makes up Waikiki Beach, the main beach area, is where you’ll find the island’s best surfing spots and the statue of three-time Olympic Gold medal swimmer and Hawaii’s king of surfing, Duke Kahanamoku.

Waikiki Beach is at Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.

18- Stroll along Kalākaua Avenue

Waikiki’s most famous street is, without a doubt, Kalākaua Avenue, a one-mile long (1.6 km) avenue that stretches from Kapiolani Park to Beretania Street and borders Waikiki Beach.

The heartbeat of Waikiki, the city’s best shops, restaurants, bars and attractions can be found along or near Kalākaua Avenue, from the famous Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center to the International Market Place.

A fascinating stretch of road to wander around no matter the time of day, you’re guaranteed to find something to attract you on Kalākaua Avenue.

19- Wander Around Kapiolani Park and the Queen Kapiolani Garden

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Kapi’olani Regional park in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background.

King Kalakaua’s gift to the city of Waikiki, Kapiolani Park, is the area’s oldest public park and is named in honour of the King’s former wife, Queen Kapiolani.

The park is home to many of Waikiki and Honolulu’s top attractions and landmarks, including the Waikiki Aquarium, the Waikiki Zoo and the stunning Queen Kapiolani Garden.

Located in Waikiki’s residential area near the Diamond Head Crater, Kapiolani Park is abuzz with joggers, picnickers, cyclists and families throughout the day.

The park is a lush urban oasis enjoyed by many in the area.

Home to a wide assortment of native Hawaiian plants and plants from all over the world, Kapiolani Park and Garden is one of the free things to do in Waikiki.

The Kapiolani Park and the Queen Kapiolani Garden are at 3840 Paki Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.

20- Relax On Duke Kahanamoku Beach

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Statue of famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku on Waikiki Beach.

Situated on Waikiki Beach’s west end, far from the crowded touristy east end, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is wider and more sheltered than the rest of Waikiki Beach.

One of the most picturesque beaches in the United States, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is protected by coral reefs offshore and a man-made pool adjacent to the beach that’s perfect for swimming or wading.

Right in the heart of Downtown Waikiki, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is as accessible as Hawaiian beaches get and convenient for spending an afternoon relaxing on the beach after a day out on the town.

Completely free to visit and open 24/7, Duke Kahanamoku Beach is a fantastic Waikiki attraction that’s impossible to skip when exploring Waikiki and the wider Oʻahu area.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach is at 193 Paoa Pl, Honolulu, HI 96815. 

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.