A walk along Waikiki Beach is a dream come true. Known as the playground of the Pacific, both the beach and the surrounding resort area are a joy to explore by foot. For the ultimate pleasure, we recommend splitting the walk into two separate days, one devoted to Kuhio Beach and all the sites around Kapiolani Park, the second focused on the area between the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the scenic Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
Since the days when Hawaiian royalty made this their favorite oceanside getaway, Waikiki Beach has always been one of Oahu’s main attractions. It offers calm, shallow waters in which to cool off and surf in the distance—usually fairly tame waves, except during an occasional summer swell, when even experienced surfers need to decide whether they are up to the challenge. For the sporting at heart, surfboards and surfing lessons are available, as well as catamaran sailing and outrigger canoe rides for folks who prefer their sports sitting down.
Years ago, this magnificent beach was nicknamed the Miracle Mile, a lovely strand of white sand that curves all the way from the base of world-famous Diamond Head to the world-class Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, home of the Transpacific Yacht Race, better known as the Transpac.
Where better to acquaint yourself with perhaps the most important part of Waikiki—its ocean—than at the Waikiki Aquarium? Home to 3,500 marine animals and more than 500 species of Pacific aquatic life, the aquarium is located on the shoreline, across from Kapiolani Park and in the shadow of Diamond Head. Admission is charged and it’s money well spent.
If you have the luxury of time, you can stroll over to Sans Souci Beach, a small cove and strip of beach that is popular with residents who live nearby. The beach—nicknamed “Dig Me Beach” because of lithe young bodies that decorate the sands—is located between the historic Waikiki Natatorium and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. It’s tempting to lie out in the sun a bit, take a refreshing dip in the sea and then retire to the hotel’s wonderful Hau Tree Lanai, the perfect seaside spot for lunch. The outdoor restaurant is popular with visitors and locals alike for Sunday brunch and sunset cocktails.
At the Diamond Head end of Kapiolani Park, you have several options: Enthusiastic walkers can stroll along the Kalakaua Avenue edge of the park, then continue up the hill (just follow the trail of joggers) to the Diamond Head Lighthouse and the nearby lookouts, where a constant flow of cars pulls over to enjoy the hillside views of Koko Head, Maunalua Bay and the crowd of surfers and windsurfers who flock to this popular area.
You can also walk up Monsarrat Avenue and into Diamond Head Crater, home of the Diamond Head State Monument, but we recommend saving this adventure for another day, when you can drive into the crater and then begin your hike (admission is charged). Another option is to stroll through Kapiolani Park (a popular gathering spot for sports, picnics and family gatherings) to the Waikiki Bandstand (scene of various musical presentations), to the Honolulu Zoo (admission is charged) and the nearby collection of local artists who display their best works at the Art of the Zoo Fence, a tradition since 1953. Best of all, viewing is free.
You can return to Waikiki Beach via the Ala Wai Canal, a manmade body of water that almost makes an island out of Waikiki (it empties into the ocean at the entrance to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor). From Ala Wai Boulevard, turn left on Kaiulani Avenue, which will take you to Waikiki’s Kuhio Beach, the center of the Miracle Mile’s action. Your walk can be rewarded with a swim, a surfing lesson, a catamaran ride, an outrigger canoe adventure or a cocktail at the historic Moana Surfrider’s Beach Bar or the immensely popular Duke’s Waikiki in the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.
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