Close your eyes and imagine a beach boasting the most crystal-clear aquamarine waters and softest honey-coloured sand you’ve ever seen. Imagine juicy burgers and delicious cocktails while overlooking the ocean after a day of surfing and shopping some of the world’s best brands for a fraction of the cost. This is a mere taste of what it’s like to holiday in Waikiki.
Located just a 10-hour flight from Sydney and a short drive from Honolulu Airport, the waterfront neighbourhood of Waikiki welcomes millions of relaxation-seeking tourists each year. And with its glorious beaches, rugged, mountainous backdrop, incredible dining and shopping, it’s not hard to see why.
If you’ve only got a week to spend in this glorious slice of heaven on Earth, it’s important that you do it right. After all, there’s so much to do and see in Waikiki (and throughout the island of Oahu), you don’t want to miss out on the best bits.
So, to make your trip planning a little easier, we’ve put together a guide for the perfect week in Waikiki, from Ala Moana to the North Shore. Shall we?
So you’ve just arrived, Welina! (That’s ‘welcome’ to you and me.) Hopefully, you got some sleep on the flight because we’ve got a big day planned.
First, you’re going to need a hearty, wholesome brekkie to wash away the taste of plane food, and you’ll find just that at Heavenly Island Lifestyle on Seaside Ave (right behind Ross Dress for Less and Nordstrom Rack). Think healthy Hawaiian fare that showcases fresh, organic local ingredients.
Next, you’ll want to get your bearings, so take a couple of hours to wander around and mentally bookmark places you’d like to return to. Waikiki is a big place, and it’s easy to start walking, get distracted by shopping or the beach and end up miles away from your hotel. Thankfully, there’s a great bus service (literally called ‘TheBus’) that’ll take you wherever you need to go on the island – even to the North Shore – for around $5.50 each day.
Once you’ve figured out where your hotel is in relation to the rest of the city, it’s time to relax. Don those cossies, grab a towel, and drench yourself in sunscreen – you don’t want to be one of those fire-engine-red tourists lying on the sand.
As for the best part of the beach, it depends what you’re after. The stretch of sand directly in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue is hugely popular thanks to its flat, calm waters close to shore and gently rolling waves out back – perfect for budding surfers!
Beaches closer to Diamond Head and in the opposite direction to Ala Moana are less busy and a bit further from the hustle and bustle, which can be both a pro and a con. Go for a walk and see which area suits you best.
A word of advice: Don’t bother hiring beach equipment or surfboards on the actual beaches, you can find it much cheaper elsewhere. But we’ll get to that later!
Once you’ve spent a few hours lolling in the ocean and letting your economy class-ravaged body unravel, head back to your hotel, have a shower and get ready for dinner. Tonight, we’ll head to Hula Grill, a waterfront Waikiki institution serving up locally-sourced seafood and produce. Be sure to try the poke tacos – they’re to die for.
Hopefully your hotel has a buffet breakfast because if there’s one thing America knows how to get right, it’s a buffet. It’ll also give you the energy you need to power through each day, while saving you precious USD to use towards better things, like cocktails. But we digress.
Today, you’re going to work off last night’s dinner with a bit of exercise. We know, ‘exercise’ and ‘holiday’ don’t belong in the same sentence, but trust us, it’ll be worth it. Why? You’re going to get to witness one of the most stunning views Oahu has to offer atop the iconic Diamond Head.
Catch TheBus to the stop just before the intersection of Diamond Head Rd and 18th Ave and follow the road that leads up to the crater, or, if you hired a car, drive right on up. From the parking area, it takes about an hour to hike to the top and back again, depending on how busy it is, how often you stop for photos and how fit you are – but don’t worry, the hike is a lot easier than it looks.
Once you reach the summit, you can expect panoramic views of Honolulu and beyond. It’s truly breathtaking, so ensure you take a moment to drink it all in.
Since you’ve worked up a sweat, you deserve a treat. When you’ve returned to the car park, head over to the little food truck and grab yourself a shaved ice. It’s basically a snow cone, only way bigger and way better.
On your way back into central Waikiki, stop off at South Shore Grill on Monsarrat Ave for some of the best (and cheapest!) fish tacos you’ll ever try. If you go on a Tuesday, they’re half-price. Score!
Now you’ve refuelled, it’s time for more exercise – surfing. Don’t worry, it’ll be so much fun you won’t even realise you’re working out. It can be a little daunting if you’ve never tried it before, but fortunately, the area is packed full of places offering lessons and board rental. Big Wave Dave and Moku Hawaii are two great places to get started, with affordable equipment and classes running all day long.
Take it easy tonight, you’ve packed a whole lot into one day! Grab a nice bottle of wine and watch the sunset from your balcony – you’ve earnt it.
Rise and shine! Today we’re going snorkelling, so give yourself plenty of time to beat the crowds and drive or catch TheBus to Hanauma Bay, a stunning nature preserve boasting pristine waters and an array of colourful ocean critters – if you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle!
You can hire snorkel gear and flippers in Waikiki for less than $20, or if you’re not fussed about flippers, simply head to a nearby ABC Store and buy your own snorkel and goggles for less than $10. Oh, and if you plan on eating at Hanauma, make sure you take a little picnic – there aren’t many options for food here.
After a day of snorkelling fun, you’re due for a little relaxation. You might recall seeing catamarans come in and out of Waikiki Beach, and tonight, you’ll be on one of them. Mai Tai Catamaran and Holokai Catamaran are two of the most popular cruise operators, but be sure to shop around for the best deal. Most have departures all throughout the day, but you’ll want to book a sunset cruise – ideally one with an open bar. We guarantee it’ll be one of the highlights of your trip!
Now you’re back on solid ground, top your day off with a visit to the Cheesecake Factory. Don’t be daunted by the line (which often extends all the way down the road), it usually moves pretty quickly, and even if it doesn’t, it’s well worth the wait. Dinner will be great no matter what you order, but let’s face it, the real reason you’re here is for cheesecake, so make sure you leave some room!
How have we gotten to day four without stepping foot in Ala Moana Center? It’s time to change that. Pop on some comfy shoes and an easy-to-change-out-of outfit, arm yourself with cash and limber up – we’re going shopping.
Ala Moana Center is a massive open-air shopping mall offering all your favourites – Sephora, Forever 21, Lululemon and Victoria’s Secret, plus designers like Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo, Valentino and more.
Next up, it’s time to hit up Walmart – after all, can you really say you visited the US without going there? Located just a five-minute walk from the Ala Moana Center, Walmart is a shopaholic’s dream. When we say they sell everything, we mean everything. Kilo barrels of cheese balls, car parts, tools, engagement rings… you name it, they’ve got it. Kmart, eat your heart out!
Afterwards, make your way to Waikele Premium Outlets for some seriously amazing bargains on your favourite brands – Adidas, Calvin Klein, Furla and Michael Kors, to name just a few.
Once you’ve shopped so much you can practically hear your bank account begging you to stop, head back into Waikiki for a budget-friendly dinner at Marukame Udon. Yep, that Japanese place with the line around the block. Don’t be put off, though – diners don’t take long here, and you’ll find yourself inside in no time. When you reach the front, you’ll be shuffled through a cafeteria-style line. Choose your udon, add your toppings, pick some tasty sides (FYI, their fried chicken beats KFC) and take a seat. One bite and you’ll understand why it’s so popular!
Let’s face it, there’s enough to keep you well and truly occupied in Waikiki alone, but there’s much more to Oahu than this tourist city. Take a break from the bustling beachside streets and explore what is arguably the most beautiful part of this incredible island – the North Shore.
The Surf Bus runs day tours from $98 for children and $124 for adults which take sightseers from Waikiki up to the North Shore’s top attractions. We’re talking Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Haleiwa and Turtle Beach. Your trip also includes equipment rental (surfboards, kayaks, SUPs and more) and lunch.
Now that you’re back in Waikiki and well and truly tuckered out, it’s time to relax with some fine Hawaiian dining by the beach. House Without a Key, located inside Halekulani Hotel, offers sprawling ocean views, live music and spectacular fresh seafood. From locally-caught ahi to Atlantic salmon cooked to perfection, it’s pretty much impossible to have a bad meal here.
Starting to feel a bit homesick? Head to Bills for a Sydney-style brunch and actually decent coffee. Their menu is full of all your Aussie favourites (like schnitty, avo toast and corn fritters) with a uniquely Hawaiian twist.
We hope you’re good with heights, because today is all about soaring to new ones with a parasailing adventure. Waikiki (and surrounding areas) is home to several parasailing operators offering tours from as little as US$48 per person. Whichever you go with, we can guarantee it’ll be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. And don’t get us started on the view!
For your last night in this awe-inspiring part of the world, there’s nowhere better to finish things off than at the iconic Duke’s Waikiki. Located within the Outrigger resort, right on the waterfront, it’s the perfect place to watch the sun set on your final night in Waikiki. You can choose to enjoy a casual bite to eat in the Barefoot Bar, or go for a more luxe experience in the main dining room. Either way, you can’t leave without gorging on a huge slice of hula pie!
You’ve had a big week, so today is all about pure relaxation before you head to the airport and make your way home. Laze around by the beach, do some last-minute shopping and try that lunch place you’ve been eyeing all week. After all, who knows how long it will be until your next visit?
If this post has got you daydreaming about those sandy Waikiki beaches, start thinking about turning those dreams into reality with Scoopon. Check our site regularly and you might just find the perfect Hawaii holiday!
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