Megan McCormick enjoys the beach
Where it's at
Just taro patches and rice fields before it was developed
into the forest of highrise hotels,
nighclubs and shopping malls found there today, Waikiki
Beach is the epicentre of mass Hawai'ian tourism. If you're
going to spend most of your time on Oahu, chances are
you're staying here as literally several hundred hotels are
packed between the beach and the Ala Wai canal ranging
from cinderblock cheapies to glittering marble lobbied giants.
Finding a room with a view
Waikiki is also a convenient place to break up journeys to
and from the outer islands and lots of travellers stay here
to catch early morning international flights. When booking
a package tour to Waikiki it pays to carefully check in advance
the quality and location of your hotel as tour operators here
are notorious for claiming they have ocean view rooms when
in fact all the windows face is a brick wall. That being said
there are bargains to be had in the off season between September
and early December and if you've got a rental car you can
take off for more remote beaches on the northern part of the
island like Waimanalo and the North Shore.
Things to see and do on the beach
With the beach erosion due to hotel construction and heavy
beach traffic Waikiki's beach is nowhere near the best in
the islands but it does have a colourful mix of tourists and
locals, some of whom have lived there all their lives. It's
a short walk from the water to restaurants and food stores
and there are plenty of nightclubs to chose from.
Practically everything is available here and you don't even
need to leave Waikiki to see the rest of Hawai'i as its simply
brought to you. Ranging from hula shows to luau
cookouts on hotel grounds to surfing lessons and
snorkelling trips off the beach, it is of course not
the real Hawai'i but if you name it you can do it in Waikiki.
The sunsets are legendary too and with such stable
weather and cloudfree days these are practically guaranteed.
Learn to surf in Waikiki
Surfing was once a sport reserved just for the Hawai'ian royalty.
Introduced to the world by Duke Kahanamoku, also known
as 'The Duke,' Hawai'ian surfing has exploded in popularity,
becoming a worldwide sports phenomenon enjoyed in Brazil,
South Africa and California among other places.
Since the 1930's surfing lessons have been given at Waikiki
beach, where tourists have been introduced to this ancient
sport. Today, for $35 an hour local beach boys will show you
how to ride the waves like a pro. A statue of 'The Duke' is
found at Waikiki and surfing schools can be found nearby.
Surf shops abound around Waikiki as Oahu is the capital of
the Hawai'ian surfing industry; ask around these shops and
you might be able to get a private lesson arranged.
Many surfing schools guarantee than in an hour you'll at least
stand up, but with the huge boards and small waves at Waikiki
this isnt too hard for most people!
Surf Lesson No. 1
Your lesson will begin on the beach where an appropriate
board is chosen to match your height and weight (the bigger
you are the bigger the board). Then you will be taken through
the steps of standing; this involved lying flat on the board
till the time is right (at the moment the wave is beginning
to gather momentum) at which you must slide your feet up under
your body and in a quick motion plant them in the right place
on the board.
Its essential to have them in the centre and parallel to each
other or the balance will be lost and you'll fall off. Once
you've planted your feet correctly you can manouvre the board
with your feet and body motion but as a beginner you'll be
'stoked' (surfer talk for pleased) just to be able to stand
up! Congratulations, you are now considered a kook, which
is a term for anyone new to the surfing world.
Buying a board
Theres no way a beginner can use one of the smalled shark
shaped boards the experts use as these are for advanced waves
only. Prices vary tremendously and can range from $300 for
a basic surfboard up to $900 for a custom built board shaped
by hand. Surfboards are not that hard to ship home as the
fin is removable. Call your airline about rates which are
currently around $50 for a flight.
For those looking for cheaper surf souvenirs, Local Motion
is one of the better surf suppliers and sell t-shirts, board
shorts and other surfing supplies that make great gifts from
To the east of Waikiki beach is Diamond Head (a landmark
locals use to give directions for travelling east) that has
fantastic views over Oahu, Waikiki and Honolulu. Secluded
beaches can be found at the crater's base and its an extremely
popular place for windsurfing.