The Best 3 Days In Waikiki
Waikiki, the beach town known the world-over is synonymous with breathtaking Hawaiian sunsets, the postcard-perfect Diamond Head, waterfall hikes, hula, bikini babes, surfing studs and hotels galore. With more than four million visitors that make the pilgrimage here every year, it’s no wonder Waikiki is Hawaii’s welcoming beacon to tourists from all walks of life. Beyond the sun, surf and hula, there’s more to Waikiki than meets the eye.
Kaka’ako, a nine-block urban neighborhood these millions of visitors rarely think twice about, is actually a lovely little place nestled between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. It doesn’t look like much, but for travelers in the know, Kaka’ako is slowly becoming one of the island’s ‘coolest’ ‘hoods. You’ll want to have lunch at one of the food trucks and dinner at Honolulu Beerworks, an up-and-coming small craft brewery. The neighborhood plays host to a wide array of festivals and musical events - the Pow Wow Festival in February is a street art celebration featuring artists from all over the globe. You get to see these artists perfect their talent as they paint murals on city walls. If you can’t make it here in February, check out the weekly Farmer’s market and the monthly night market.
If you’ve only heard of Diamond Head and want to know more, here’s the rub. Diamond Head is a 760-foot tuff crater, also known by the name, Leahi. This Hawaiian name translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name “Diamond Head” came from British sailors who believed they had found diamonds on the slopes of the crater. In reality, they were calcite crystals, shiny yes - diamonds, no. Today, the natural landmark represents all that is Hawaii - posing by beautiful sunsets for stunningly picture-perfect photos.
Waikiki is the perfect place to take a surfing lesson or two and there are plenty of surf schools to choose from. The Hans Hedemann Surf School is one of them. This local boy is a home-grown Hawaiian and a professional surfer. He offers lessons for all levels and his school is known as the premier surf school of Hawaii. Big Wave Dave Surf School, also located in Waikiki, offers private and semi-private surf lessons to children ages 4 and older as well as adults.
For a little hula on Waikiki, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a weekend hula show complete with a fireworks display. The Kuhio Beach Torch lighting and Hula Show opens with the call of the conch and a sacred torch lighting ceremony. This show is located across from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and is free to the public. Weather permitting, the shows are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6-7pm November through January and from 6:30-7:30 the remaining months of the year.
Hotels are plentiful, so how do you choose? If you’re looking for a true classic, the Moana Surfrider was Waikiki’s first hotel to open its doors to blissed out beach lovers. The old-world ambiance of the place was born in 1901. It’s now part of the Westin hotel chain but lies on one of the nicest stretches of beach in Waikiki. For a more modern experience, check into the Vive, Waikiki’s latest boutique hotel. Guests receive free Wi-Fi in rooms, public spaces and even on the Oahu shuttle. Other amenities include the use of beach gear and a continental breakfast of local fruits, pastries, cereals, juices, steaming coffee and morning newspapers. The Vive Hotel is located on Kuhio Avenue - just a hop, skip and jump away from the beach.
Just around the corner from the Vive, you’ll find korean barbecue on a budget at Me B-B-Q, which serves up gigantic plates of Korean-style barbecue meats with all the fixins’ - rice, eggs, cabbage, spicy sauces - the menu is extensive. Take your lunch to-go or dine outside in a casual setting on Uluniu Avenue.
The Diamond Head Bed and Breakfast offers a quieter oasis away from the crowds. The sprawling home used to house a family of seven. Nowadays it’s home to Hawaiian antiques, contemporary art and airy rooms with 4-poster beds and shaded lanais. This home is so lovely, you’ll probably not want to return to yours. That’s okay. Return visits are much welcomed and highly encouraged.
Kalakaua Avenue is Waikiki’s luxury shopping hub, where Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany and Co., Coach, St. Laurent, and all the rest stand side-by-side to fulfill all your material desires. In fact, this spot is known as Luxury Row and is famous the world over for its many international shopping pleasures. If you’re pockets aren’t large enough for Tiffany’s, the streets of Waikiki are filled with Hawaiian handicrafts and the typical souvenirs to please any humble soul back on the mainland. Check out the DFS Galleria, the Royal Hawaiian Center and the Waikiki Beach Walk for unique or traditional memento.
Thankfully, Waikiki is no longer just a playground for Hawaiian royalty. The world’s many faces are welcome here to melt further into an already established melting pot of a town on America’s most popular stretch of beach.
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