Where: Waikiki, Oahu, Hawai’i
When: All year round attraction – Sept. – Dec. is a low season, great time to visit
Happenings: Surfing, snorkelling, hula shows, sunsets & all round commercial entertainment
Remember to Bring: Stamina to shop, surf and party hard
Where it’s at
Just taro patches and rice fields before it was developed into the forest of highrise hotels, nightclubs 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 Waicanal 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 isn’t 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 the islands.
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.
Canoe club site with info on regatta races
Waikiki Travel Portal
All you would ever need to know about Waikiki – book holidays online and shop for merchandise
Waikiki Surf Lessons
Learn to surf with Waikiki Surf Instructors
Cowboy and Jenny
Info on the surf revival and articles on ancient Hawaiian surf
Local Motion Hawai’i
Info on local surfing merchandise
By Dave Lowe