| July 28th, 2023 | No comments

Planning a vacation to Oahu and wondering what are the best things to do in Waikiki? We’ve got you covered. 

Waikiki is a vibrant neighborhood located on the south shores of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. 

Home to high-rise hotels, pristine beaches, and stunning scenery Waikiki may not be the most secluded spot in Hawaii. However, spending a few days exploring Waikiki is definitely one of the best things to do in Hawaii if you are looking to be social. Whether you’re in the mood for adrenaline-filled watersports or you want to pamper yourself with sun, sea, and sand – Waikiki has something to offer.

Oh, and if you need help budgeting for your Pacific holiday don’t forget to check out our Hawaii price guide

Best Things to Do in Waikiki 

If you’re looking for things to do in Waikiki, we’ve got your back. We just hope you’ve got room in your itinerary! 

Please note – Some of our selections contain affiliate links. These allow us to earn a small percentage every time you make a booking. Using our links enables us to provide all the information found on this site free of charge.

Visit Waikiki Beach

people on the beach in Waikiki

No trip to Hawaii is complete without a visit to the beach. Waikiki Beach is the ideal picture-perfect spot to spend the day swimming in the turquoise water, tanning on the white sands and sipping on piña coladas. 

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also take a surfing lesson, hire a paddle board or head out on a catamaran cruise. There are plenty of bars, shops and restaurants to explore nearby if you need a break from the sun. 

Hike the Diamond Head Summit trail

Diamond Head is a huge crater that was formed over 300,000 years ago. Nowadays, it’s a popular hiking spot that offers panoramic views over Waikiki and the rest of Oahu. 

Just 5 minutes from Waikiki, the Diamond Head Summit trail is a kid-friendly hike that takes around 2 hours to complete. 

You can choose to go it alone or join a guided excursion and learn about the culture and history of the area from an experienced guide. Tours often include lunch as well, and they’re a great way to make new friends if you’re a solo traveler. 

Shop on Kalakaua Avenue

Kalakaua Avenue is in the heart of Waikiki and stretches for 3.5 miles, with one mile parallel to the beach. Hoseveralber of hotels and plenty of spots to shop, dine and drink – Kalakaua Avenue is buzzing with energy all year round. 

Some highlights include Duke’s Waikiki,  a family-friendly restaurant with a tiki vibe, and Mai Tai Bar, a craft cocktail bar offering stunning sunset views of Waikiki Beach. 

Learn to surf

surfboards on a rack on the beach in Waikiki during a sunset

You simply can’t visit Hawaii without at least trying to surf. Luckily, there is a myriad of surf schools to choose from along Waikiki Beach. Most schools will provide you with all the gear you need, including wetsuits, rash guards, and surfboards. 

We recommend joining in on a group lesson like those offered by Surfer Girl Academy. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only one falling off!  

Snorkel with Hawaii’s unique marine life

Snorkeling is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Hawaii. There’s no better way to marvel at the Pacific’s sealife than by immersing yourself in it. Boat tours like the Turtle Canyons Cruise and Snorkel Excursion last around two hours and offer the opportunity to snorkel alongside sea turtles, manta rays, octopus, tropical fish and other marine life. 

If you are staying on Oahu have a look at this list of 22 great places to snorkel in Oahu!

Watch a hula show

No trip to Hawaii is complete without watching a hula show. Hula is a traditional dance that’s unique to the Hawaiian islands. 

There are several places where you can catch a hula dance in Waikiki, but the most popular is the Kuhio Beach Hula Show. The show is free and takes place 3 nights a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. Note that it is weather permitting, so be sure to check the forecast in advance. 

Take a sunset cruise

people watching a sunset on a dock in Waikiki Hawaii

Hopping on a boat and watching the sky turn spectacular shades of red and orange as the sun goes down is one of the best things to do in Hawaii

Whether you fancy a relaxed sunset tour with appetizers and a few drinks or a party boat cruise with a live DJ and dance floor, there’s a tour to suit you. 

Experience Waikiki nightlife

As the sun goes down and the stars come out, Waikiki comes to life. The neighborhood is home to lively bars and clubs and a host of other entertainment options. Sip on some cocktails at Tiki’s Grill & Bar or Arnold’s Beach Bar before busting out some moves at Play Bar, a vibrant nightclub that’s open until the morning. 

See Waikiki and its surroundings from a helicopter

There’s no better way to see Waikiki and the island of Oahu than from a helicopter. Although it’s not the most affordable activity on this list, marveling at the island from above is an experience you’ll never forget. 

Rainbow Helicopters run 45-minute flights over Oahu, allowing you to see the island’s natural beauty in a truly unique way. You’ll see iconic landmarks like Aloha Tower, Diamond Head, Makapu’u Lighthouse, Chinaman’s Hat, Sacred Falls and more. We’d recommend skipping this one if you’re afraid of heights. 

Sample Hawaiian coffee

cup of coffee in waikiki

Hawaii is famous for being the home of Kona coffee, the name given to coffee cultivated in the Kona region on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. There are countless spots in Waikiki where you can sip on a cup of locally-grown coffee. Some favorites among locals include The Sunrise Shack and Ali’i Coffee. 

Visit Iolani Palace, the US’s only royal palace

Built in 1882, Iolani Palace was once the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It’s also the US’s only royal palace, so it’s definitely worth visiting. You can choose to do a guided tour or go on a self-led tour with an audio guide. 

Catch the Waikiki fireworks display 

If you happen to be in Waikiki on a Friday, don’t miss the spectacular fireworks display that takes place at 7:30 pm. Hosted by the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, the display lights up the city for 10 minutes. Join the E SEA DIVER Friday Fireworks Tour that’ll take you on a cruise to watch the fireworks from the ocean while sipping on a refreshing beer or cocktail. 

Go whale watching 

a whale breaches the surface of the Pacific Ocean near Monterey California

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. If you’re in Waikiki, there are a number of tours that’ll take you out into the ocean so you can spot the humpback whales who migrate to the island’s warmer waters during the winter months. 

Hawaii Nautical operates an eco-friendly tour from December-March. If you don’t spot any whales while on board, you can reschedule another outing for free. 

Take a day trip to Pearl Harbour

For those interested in the history of Hawaii, no trip to Waikiki is complete without a visit to Pearl Harbour. Polynesian Adventure runs guided tours that take visitors to Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, and Honolulu’s historic district. 

Hike the Manoa Falls trail

YouTube video

The Manoa Falls Trail is a 1.6 mile route that takes you through lush forest and culminates at Manoa Falls, a 150-foot waterfall. This hike is generally considered to be moderately challenging and takes around an hour to complete. Take a Hike Oahu operates daily tours that leave from Waikiki and last approximately 8 hours. In addition to visiting the waterfall, you’ll also explore Oahu’s east side and the island’s North Shore, stopping at scenic points and pristine beaches along the way. 

Where to stay in Waikiki

With so many options available, choosing a place to stay in Waikiki can be challenging. We’ve chosen our top 3 options for different budgets. 

Best budget accommodation – The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel

The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel is located just 450 yards from Queen’s Surf Beach and other popular points of interest. It offers a range of accommodation options including dormitory and private rooms at affordable prices. 

Best mid-range hotel – Queen Kapiolani Hotel

Just one block from Waikiki Beach, the Queen Kapiolani Hotel offers a range of stylish rooms to suit mid-range budgets. Guests can enjoy beach views, a pool and a sun terrace.

Best luxury hotel – The Royal Hawaiian Hotel

If you want to splash out and sleep in style, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a must. This luxury resort is in the heart of Waikiki. Guests can enjoy two outdoor pools, a rooftop bar and scenic ocean views from the rooms.

Things to Do in Waikiki Wrap-up

So there you have it, 15 fun-filled things to do in Waikiki. Each Hawaiian island offers something unique in terms of culture and landscape, so we recommend visiting as many as you can. Heading to Maui after your trip to Oahu? Don’t forget to check out our list of the best things to do in Maui

As always happy travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Written by Michael Miszczak

Michael has been traveling the world while writing, photographing, and sharing his stories and travel tips since 2010.

He is originally from New York City, and currently lives in Prague.