Waikiki is a vibrant neighborhood in Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii. This world-renowned district is situated in a small area of 1.5 square miles, stretching from Ala Wai Canal to Honolulu Zoo. In this article, I will show you many things to do in Waikiki and near the area.

Tourists who only stay in Waikiki often complain that Hawaii is super touristy. I will not sugarcoat it and agree there is some truth in that statement. However, don’t let that discourage you from experiencing Waikiki yourself.

Read on. It should be easy for you to see why Waikiki – once a playground for Hawaiian royalty – became the synonym for Hawaii. I do encourage you to explore the island of Oahu beyond Waikiki Beach, though. That way, you will get all the true colors of the Hawaiian island.

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20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki  - Day & Night | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

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Where to Stay in Waikiki: Moana Surfrider #WaikikiHawaii #Waikikihotel #travelHawaii

Where to Stay in Waikiki

Should you stay near Waikiki Beach? You may be concerned, isn’t the area super touristy?

That is precisely why I recommend you stay here. Because everything is geared towards tourists, Waikiki is a great base to experience the best of Honolulu and Oahu.

The bucket list experiences are easily accessible; many tours and excursions depart from Waikiki. Some even provide a complimentary hotel pick-up service. It also is where you will find the majority of hotels & resorts.

The neighborhood is walkable, which is a huge advantage. Finding parking is very, very challenging. And the fees are stiff!


  • Moana Surfrider [Book hereis an upscale Westin Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach. This particular one stands out among many luxury resorts as the first hotel to open in Hawaii in 1901. Affectionately known as the First Lady of Waikiki, this historical landmark is worth your visit even if you don’t stay overnight.
  • Espacio The Jewel of Waikiki [Book here] is a luxury resort on Waikiki Beach. Entered through a private entrance on each floor, the suite views the emerald ocean. Each suite features a hot tub on a private balcony, an Italian marble bath and a modern full kitchen. You will feel right at home.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel [Book hereis another iconic Waikiki hotel. You can’t miss this all-pink resort from the beach.
  • Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort [Book hereis a 4-star beachfront hotel with a lovely pool. If you don’t need to be right at the beach, consider Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger [Book herejust across the street. It is a little sister hotel with much more vibrant, colorful, modern vibes.
  • The Laylow [Book hereis a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. This island-inspired modern chic hotel features airy rooms with ocean views, a swimming pool and a hip restaurant bar, called The Hideout.
  • Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club [Book hereis a contemporary hotel with an outdoor pool. Young travelers will enjoy this vintage-vibe surf hotel decorated with handcrafted furniture and pop art.
  • Shoreline Hotel Waikiki [Book here] is an upbeat, modern boutique hotel with tropical decor. I enjoyed breakfast at the downstairs restaurant, Heavenly Island Lifestyle.
  • Hotel La Croix [Book here] is a cozy and warm hotel with affordable rooms. Some rooms offer a kitchenette. While the property is a 10-min walk from Waikiki, some rooms with a terrace overlook the beach.

How to Get Around Waikiki

Parking in Waikiki is a nightmare, and it costs an arm and a leg. The best way to navigate Waikiki is by walking. And you won’t be bored as the area is filled with shops and eateries.

Getting a day pass for the Waikiki hop-on, hop-off trolley is another convenient way to explore Waikiki and the surrounding areas such as Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor. You can opt for a 1/4/7-day pass per your itinerary.

Hate walking and sweating? Ride an electric hoverboard and glide past Waikiki and Ala Moana. 

>> Go City Oahu: If you want to find one pass that allows you to conveniently experience the most popular activities and attractions on Oahu, consider getting this pass. It covers many things to do in/near Waikiki listed in this post.

Things to Do in Waikiki Daytime

#1.​ Hit the Waikiki Beach

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #1. Waikiki Beach | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

The crown jewel of Waikiki is Waikiki Beach. It is a gorgeous white sandy beach, just like how you imagined. The moment you hit the beach and breathe in the salty air, you will feel that you have arrived in Hawaii. Feel the soft sand tickle your toes. Fantastic!

You can swim or enjoy activities at Waikiki Beach. In fact, many water activities – such as surfing, snorkeling and diving – take place here or depart from this area. It is super convenient. And shallow water makes it safe and fun for families with children.

But if you are imagining a peaceful beach paradise, you probably don’t want to stay at Waikiki for more than a half day, unless you are participating in activities. This famous beach is always crowded and busy. Remember, there are so many other equally or even more stunning beaches all around Oahu.

#2.​ Join Waikiki Tours & Activities

Whatever water activities you have on your list, Waikiki has it. Here are some activities you can consider:

>> Surfing Lessons: I recommend 2-hour lessons as one hour is not enough! Private Surf LessonGroup SurfingBeginners GroupPair and Kids Surfing

>> Scuba Diving: Lessons for BeginnersShallow Reef Diving for Certified Divers

>> Submarine Undersea AdventureThis is a fun family activity to meet and learn about the fascinating underwater creatures.

>> Snorkeling: Select turtle canyons snorkel excursion or Private Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling

>> Whale Watching: This eco-friendly tour cruise to spot humpback whales. If no whales, you get another cruise for free.

>> Waikiki Sunset Cruise: Rent a private catamaran cruise to see the Waikiki sunset. Great for honeymooners or bachelor’s parties.

#3. Go Shopping at Kalakaua Avenue

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #2. Shop at Kalakaua Avenue | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

By the way, Saks Fifth Avenue Waikiki has permanently closed down.

Kalakaua Avenue gets busy all the time. But it comes alive at night when tourists return from the beach to the city. You will find restaurants, bars, shopping malls, boutique stores, souvenirs, etc.

When in Hawaii, you can’t miss shopping. Yes, get those cheeky Hawaiian shirts and sport them! Put a Hawaiian flower on your hair. It’s all good here.

If you have been eyeing on luxury bags, snatch one up here as the sales tax is cheaper at 4%. Some luxury stores such as Louis Vuitton even have the “Hawaii price” – the discounted retail price.

  • T Galleria by DFS: A duty-free department store
  • International Market Place: A shopping mall offering daily special events, including free hula shows (Mon/Wed/Fri), Mahiku Farmers’ Market (Thurs), Royal Hawaiian Band (first Thurs), and the ticketed Queens Waikiki Luau Show (Tues/Thur/Sat/Sun).
  • Luxury stores like Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, etc.
  • Thrift stores like Ross Dress for Less and Nordstrom Rack
  • Surf & swimsuit shops
  • ABC Stores: A chain convenience store with Hawaii-themed souvenirs and essentials
  • Honolulu Cookie Company: An iconic pineapple-shaped cookie store for souvenirs. The soft cookies come in various flavors and special packages.

#4.​ Indulge yourself with Kona Coffee

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #4. Kona Coffee | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Hawaii Kona Coffee is one of the top three best coffees in the world. Any java lovers will want to enjoy Kona coffee in Hawaii and bring some more home. Below are a few coffee houses I enjoyed:

  • Kona Coffee Purveyors
  • Kai Coffee Hawaii: Try Kai Latte, a macadamia nut milk latte
  • Island Vintage Coffee: Kona Mocha or Iced Macadamia Nut Kona Coffee 

#5. Walk the Ala Wai Canal

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #5. Walk the Ala Wai Canal Park | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

The Ala Wai Canal is an artificial waterway surrounding the Waikiki district. The canal runs parallel to Ala Wai Boulevard. It is a nice straight path lined with palm trees. Locals and tourists are commonly seen walking or jogging along the bank of the Ala Wai. If you are lucky, you can also witness a dragon boat practice.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Things to Do in Waikiki at Night

#6. Watch a romantic sunset

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #5. Waikiki Sunset | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Do not miss a sunset in Waikiki. During the golden hour, the sky gradually turns its colors from gold to orange to purple, as if it puts a magical painting show.

There are a handful of well-known spots to watch the sunset in Waikiki, such as Ala Moana Beach Park, Diamond Beach Lighthouse, Kuhio Beach, etc. But it really doesn’t matter where you are. Just stop what you are doing and enjoy the Wowza moment.

#7. Take Waikiki Sunset Cruise

If you want something extra special, try a Waikiki sunset cruise. The cruise sails to the coastline at the golden hour. You will enjoy a stunning view of the Waikiki while dining or sipping cocktails. 

>> Waikiki Sunset Cruise: Rent a private catamaran cruise to see the Waikiki sunset. Great for honeymooners or bachelor’s parties.

>> Waikiki Sunset and Cocktail Cruise: Sip a cocktail while enjoying the Waikiki Sunset.

>> Waikiki Glass Bottom Sunset Cruise: Take a close look at the marine life through a glass bottom and look up to appreciate the golden hue over the horizon.

#8. Watch Friday Night Fireworks

If you are there on Friday, Hilton Hawaiian Village showcases fireworks from 7:45 pm to 8 pm. Don’t expect anything as spectacular as the 4th of July fireworks. But it is enough to make the evening more festive.

While you can watch it from many places around Waikiki, Waikiki Beach is the best spot to view the fireworks.

Hours: 7:45 pm, Fridays

Location: Waikiki Beach

>> Hop on a BYOB Friday Fireworks Cruise. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Waikiki night sky come alive with colorful fireworks?

#9. Dine Out at Waikiki Beach

Fancy a romantic wine and dine experience at a beachfront restaurant? Waikiki’s got it…many of them.

Azure at the Royal Hawaiian [Open Google Map] is an upscale restaurant with cabanas and is famous for seafood dishes. Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider [Open Google Map] is an elegant fine dining restaurant on an oceanview terrace.

During the peak season (June – August), getting a table at these restaurants is competitive. If the restaurant allows reservations, make it as early as possible and request a table overlooking Waikiki Beach.

The ones you have to line up, such as Duke’s Waikiki [Open Google Map], put your name down as soon as you get there, hang out at the beach nearby and return when the table is ready.

Insider’s Tip: Waikiki restaurants, especially the ones directly on the beach, are upscale and pricy. If you want the experience without breaking the bank, you may want to go for cocktails instead of a full meal.

#10. Sip Cocktails

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #10. Sip Cocktails | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Although you might be tempted to go for a drink or two at Waikiki Beach, you are better off visiting restaurants or bars. Luckily, it is easy to find bars right off Waikiki Beach. Grab a seat at the oceanfront bar with tropical drinks, and you will be right at the tropical paradise you’ve been dreaming of. 

Rumfire [Open Google Map] has a great cocktail bar turning into a nightclub on weekends. Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian Hotel [Open Google Map] features a panoramic view of Waikiki Beach. House Without a Key [Open Google Map] is a vibrant bar featuring live Hawaiian music and dancing. The Edge of Waikiki [Open Google Map] has a pool bar with a view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Insider’s Tip for international travelers: In the United States, open container laws prohibit the consumption or possession of open containers of alcohol in public spaces. Oahu is not an exception. And you should never drink alcohol at the beach or in parks.

#11. Enjoy Music at Blue Note Hawaii

Blue Note Hawaii is an international live music venue with a restaurant and bar inside Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Many people recommended this place when I asked around for things to do in Waikiki. If you are looking for entertainment other than hula dance in Hawaii, Blue Note often hosts jazz and other Hawaiian music shows. Check the event calendar

Location: [Open Google Map]

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#12. Free Hula Show at Kuhio Beach

Waikiki hosts a free hula show at Kuhio Beach. Kick off by blowing a conch shell, the hula dancers perform over authentic Hawaiian music.

Unfortunately, we missed this show! We wasted too much time trying to find a parking spot and finding the location. Get there early and grab a seat on the outdoor mound before the show starts!

Hours: Wed/Fri/Sat 6:30-7:30 pm (6-7 pm Nov. – Jan.) Check the schedule.

Location: Kuhio Beach Hula Mound [Open Google Map]

#13. Have a Luau Dinner Show

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #13. Luau Experience | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Image Credit: Anvesh from Unsplash

A free hula show is great. But if you want to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture, Oahu offers quite a few Luau dinner shows. Lu’au refers to an evening of Hawaiian feast with entertainment, and it is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii.

International Market Place hosts Queens Waikiki Luau Show on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 5 pm. During the 2.5-hour show, you can get hula lessons, eat Hawaiian food and watch an authentic Polynesian show.

Ka Moana Luau is another Polynesian dinner show experience featuring an island-inspired buffet at Aloha Tower. Enjoy the award-winning performance and various pre-show cultural activities, such as lei making, temporary tattoos, a hula lesson, coconut headband weaving and a ukulele lesson. Sunday through Friday.

#14. Stroll the Boardwalk to Kaimana Beach

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #14. Stroll boardwalk | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

As the sky gets dark, enjoy the dazzling skyline. 

One way to appreciate the golden hour in Waikiki is to stroll along the coastal line. There is a long boardwalk connecting from Waikiki Beach through Queens Beach all the way to Kaimana Beach. 

When dusk sets in, get some fresh air and have a relaxed walk. Walk through the beach and let the soft sand tickle your feet. Or, you may choose to hear the sound of waves from the paved path. 

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #14. Stroll boardwalk | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

You will see performers in the evening.

#15. Swing by Barefoot Beach Cafe

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #15. Hang at the Beach Cafe | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Barefoot Beach Cafe is located right at Queen’s Surf Beach. This quaint terrace cafe will surely catch your eyes as you stroll from Waikiki Beach to Kaimana Beach. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner; however, the best time to chill here, in my opinion, is in the early evening. 

Hours: 8 am – 8:30 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

#16. Have a Classic Dining Experience

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #16. Classic Dinner at Michel’s at the Colony Surf | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

It is not the best quality photo, and you can’t see the sandy beach beyond the terrace. But imagine the classic white-table dining with the sound of waves.

Slightly away from Waikiki Beach on Kalakaua Avenue is a semi-private beach. (It is not a truly private area; however, it is far less crowded due to upscale dining and a private club nearby.) I find the dining experience here more classy and elegant than the ones off Waikiki Beach, although Waikiki is touristy to a certain degree no matter where you are.

Michel’s at the Colony Surf [Open Google Map] is an elegant French restaurant by the beach. The food, service, and view are all excellent. This would be a perfect choice if you picture yourself arriving in fashion and being served a well-plated French course meal without being rushed. (We had our anniversary dinner here.)

Elks Lodge [Open Google Map] is a private clubhouse; you will need to go with club members. But if you have an opportunity, it is well worth the visit. The restaurant has a pool and direct access to the beach. The sunset view here is priceless!

#17. Night Diving Tour 

Night diving is one of the unique things to do in Oahu. The guided tour takes you to see the nightlife in the underwater world. Apparently, many marine creatures come out after dark. 

Only certified divers are allowed to join this guided tour. Thank god the twilight diving tours have this safety protocol in place because I would be scared to plunge into the dark water!

#18. Twilight Tours at Honolulu Zoo

Are you looking for family activities away from the party crowds? The Honolulu zoo offers the Twilight Tours each Saturday evening. This guided tour invites you to see how the animals are tucked into sleep while nocturnal animals wake up.

Admission: $30 | Age 13 and under: $25 | Under 2 Free

Hours: Daytime 10 am – 3 pm | Twilight 4:30-6:30 pm (Oct.-March), 5:30-7:30 pm (April – Sept.)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: Parking at the zoo is more affordable than in the rest of the Waikiki area. Even if you are not interested in the zoo, you could park here and walk north along the boardwalk to Waikiki.

Things to Do Near Waikiki 

While the following sites are technically not in Waikiki, most visitors associate these as the top sites in Waikiki. So I will include them on the list. 

#19. Hike Diamond Head

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #19. Hike the Diamond Head | #DiamondHead #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Hiking Diamond Head is one of the unmissable things to do in Oahu. Diamond Head is a crater created by a volcano eruption about 300,000 years ago. The island’s most famous hiking trail is easy to walk and boasts a stunning coastal view.

Reservation required. Check out my Oahu Itinerary for details.

Admission: $5 per person, Free: Age 3 and under or Hawaii residents

Parking: $10 per vehicle, Free with Hawaii ID

Hours: 6 am – 4 pm (Gates close at 6 pm)

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> I encourage you to hike up there. But if hiking is not for you, I will share another way to enjoy Diamond Head. Cruise onboard a sailing catamaran and see it glittering along the breathtaking Waikiki coastline, just as the sailors had witnessed hundreds of years ago. For sure, you will understand how the name came about.

#20. Pay a Visit to Pearl Harbor

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #20. Pearl Harbor | #PearlHarbor #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Image Credit: Robert L from Unsplash

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a historic site commemorating Japan’s 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. Visit the iconic USS Arizona Memorial, tour the battleships, and learn about the history at the museum and galleries.

I recommend joining the Pearl Harbor tours to hear interesting stories and learn about history. If you can’t make it to tours, at least get the audio guide.

It is quite an expansive site. Free shuttles are offered inside the complex to take you from one location to another. Please note that the site no longer accepts walk-ins. So plan ahead and book your appointment.

Admission: Free ($1 booking fee). | Audio Guide: $7.99

Hours: 7 am – 5 pm (Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Pearl Harbor Tours

>> Pearl Harbor Round-Trip Shuttle: Just want a ride? Schedule a hotel pickup and visit Pearl Harbor at your own pace.

>> Salute to Pearl Harbor: This guided tour provides a ride to Pearl Harbor. Once there, you will ride the Navy to the USS Arizona Memorial, and learn history from films and stories by a certified guide.

>> Pearl Harbor & City Tour: As part of a 5-hour city tour, visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as the USS Missouri and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to honor those who served the country.

>> Oahu Historic Tour with Pearl Harbor: Relive the island’s historic moments. This tour brings you to historical landmarks, from Iolani Palace to Pearl Harbor.

>> Pearl Harbor Premium Tour: For a history buff, this full-day tour explores historic sites on Oahu. Explore the USS Missouri battleship on a docent-lead tour, board a Navy vessel to the USS Arizona Memorial, visit the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific, and drive through downtown, passing sites like Kamehameha Statue and Kawaiahao Church.

Where to Go Next in Hawaii

>> Hawaii Packing List: Include a FREE PRINTABLE checklist

>> 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen for Hawaii & Beach Vacations

>> 7 Best Beaches in Oahu for Snorkeling from beginners to experts

>> 20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: Who says Waikiki is overrated?

>> Oahu Food Guide: What to Eat in Oahu & Where to Find the Best

>> Oahu 5-Day ItinerarySee how to spend fabulous 5 days on your vacation  

Bon Voyage!


20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki - Day & Night | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii