When I travel to Hawaii for work, I’m lucky enough to stay right in the heart of Waikiki. While I would definitely recommend exploring other parts of O’ahu, sometimes it’s nice just to stay put in Waikiki and have fun enjoying the tourist hotspot. So if you’ve got a free day and not sure how to spend it, here’s a 1 day itinerary of things to do around Waikiki!
Sleep in and have a lazy morning – you’re on holidays after all! If the hotel breakfast buffet isn’t looking too appetising, have a big breakfast at Eggs ‘n Things – they do great omelettes, pancakes and American breakfasts. The franchise on Kalakaua Avenue has a beautiful view of the beach, which is a perfect way to start your day.
Pop on some sunscreen, pack your swimmers and head out to explore Waikiki. Walking along Kalakaua Avenue, your first stop will be at the famous Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue. The beautiful bronze statue commemorates the Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku, who was an Olympic swimmer, surfer, actor, sheriff and ambassador for the state. Snap some pictures, kick off your shoes and walk along the sand, taking in the beautiful views of southern Waikiki Beach.
Walking along the beach definitely builds up an appetite, so grab a poke bowl for lunch from Poke Bar on Lewers Street. From here, it’s easy to walk back through to the northern end of Waikiki beach and have your lunch on the sand. Nothing could be more quintessentially Hawaiian than poke and the beach!
Lunch is done, now it’s time to hit the water. I’m not suggesting you should forego the “30 minutes between eating and swimming” rule, but it’ll be hard to resist. I know lots of people can’t stand touristy beaches, but I love busyness and people watching, so I find it really soothing to float in the Waikiki water and watch everyone go by. You can easily spend hours here relaxing in the ocean.
Once you’re finished swimming, stroll back along the beach and wander through the beachfront hotels. Most of the resorts backing onto the beach are open and accessible to the public, so it’s easy to stroll through the gardens, pool areas and outdoor restaurants. One of my favourite hotels to visit is the Moana Surfrider Westin Resort, with its beautiful tree and historical charm. Pick up a refreshing shave ice or a snack on the way from any of the many ABC stores dotting Waikiki.
Grab yourself a Mai Tai and listen to the live music at the famous Duke’s Bar. It’s always ridiculously busy, so if you can’t get a table, relax on the beach right in front of the bar and you’ll hear the music just fine.
Time for sunset (check the specific time for sunset so it doesn’t creep up on you), and where better to watch than over the stunning infinity pool at the Sheraton Waikiki. There’s lots beachfront hotels in Waikiki, but this is my favourite vantage point along the shoreline because of its uninterrupted views of Diamond Head. If you’re not a Sheraton guest you won’t be able to sit on the deck chairs or jump in the pool but there’s no need for that – grab a drink at the nearby Edge of Waikiki Bar and you’ll have the exact same view.
You won’t be short of dinner options in Waikiki – there’s fast food chains, luxury restaurants and everything in between along the Waikiki strip. If you’re after something quick and simple, head to Oahu Mexican Grill for a big burrito or tacos. For a big plate of American comfort food, try a greasy burger at Cheeseburger in a Paradise. If you like Japanese food, make your way to Waikiki Yokocho. This underground Japanese food court has plenty of vendors to choose from – ramen, tempura and sushi are all on the menu, served with some some green tea or sake. Whatever you choose, just remember that food bills can add up quite quickly in Hawaii once you add taxes and tips, so keep track of your order to avoid nasty surprises at the end of you meal.
The shops in Waikiki are open late (10pm or 11pm every night of the week), so shopping after dinner is the way to go. There’s lots of shops along Kalakaua Ave, and many more stores in the three big Waikiki shopping malls – Royal Hawaiian Centre, International Marketplace and Waikiki Beach Walk. Don’t forget to pick up some gimmicky souvenirs in Duke’s Marketplace, stock up on cookies (and munch on free samples) at the Honolulu Cookie Company, and get a custom family ornament at the Waikiki Christmas Store. Rummage for some bargains at ROSS, pick up skincare supplies at Sephora and browse the accessories at Urban Outfitters.
Time to finish the night off with some dessert. Since you’ll be shopping in the centre of Waikiki, The Cheesecake Factory is the perfect place for something sweet. You can spend over an hour waiting for a table here at dinner time, so go after the crowds are full and get yourself a big slice of cheesecake for dessert.
On the way back to your hotel, make one last stop at an ABC Store and grab some snacks – just in case you get hungry in the middle of the night. Freshly cut pineapple and a pack of Maui Style potato chips are my picks for any time of the day (or night).
Head back to your room and tuck yourself into bed, knowing you’ve had an awesome day in Waikiki!
If you have more than 1 day, there’s plenty of other things to do around the Waikiki area – you can hike the Diamond Head trail, experience a traditional Luau, visit Ala Moana Shopping Centre and go on a sunset ocean cruise. Enjoy the paradise that is Hawaii!