Waikiki was exactly how I pictured it. Palm trees, crowds, bouncy waves, discount shopping and shaved ice. It was the perfect place to get acquainted with Hawaii. Waikiki is located on the island of Oahu. As our Delta flight had us routed from Singapore to Honolulu, Waikiki made sense as a starting point given it is a 15 minute drive from the airport. I wanted to stay on legendary Waikiki Beach and chose the Outrigger Beach Resort. If you are looking for vast expanse of deserted beach with sleek hotels and enormous grounds, you may be disappointed by those on the strip. You’ll find these resorts elsewhere in Hawaii e.g. Maui. However if you are up for mai tai wielding guests, jostling for a spot by the pool or beach all set to a backdrop of live music, you’ll love Waikiki. It really is lots of fun.
We had a minor blip checking in to the Outrigger. Coming off several longhaul flights, we were exhausted and wanted to crawl to bed. Unfortunately the room category I booked, had two double beds that were quite frankly, more like that of single beds. I rarely complain but we were very disappointed. The hotel were understanding and upgraded us to a suite which was fabulous. The hotel is in the best spot on the Waikiki strip with easy access to shopping and restaurants. There is a small pool but you’re there for the beach which was fabulous. Famed Dukes occupies a prime spot next to the pool so you can enjoy live music from afternoon onwards.
On our last night we stayed at the behemoth Hilton Hawaiian Village. This is a sprawling property and I would definitely return to the Outrigger next time as the location is better.
Things To Do In Waikiki
- No better way to shake off the jetlag then with a hike up Diamond Head State Monument. The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. I actually expected the hike to be easier but the trail can be uneven and there are many steep steps towards the end.
The views at the top are sensational. And the pineapples at the bottom delicious. Jetlag & Mayhem (ages 10 and 7) moaned for part of it but I’m attributing that to jetlag… Allow up to 2 hours roundtrip. We hadn’t hired a car at this point so just hopped into a taxi at the bottom.
- Pearl Harbour was the naval base attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. This launched the United States into World War II. The Pearl Harbour National Monument is fascinating and depending on your interest you should allow plenty of time to explore. This is Hawaii’s top tourist attraction and I had anticipated crowds. However on our arrival, around 12pm it seemed pretty manageable (perhaps people show up early).
In order to see the USS Arizona memorial (this includes a boat tour) you need to reserve a free timed ticket. I did this the day before and this meant we could plan our trip around the timed boat trip. Due to security, no bags are allowed. Instead I brought a clear ziplock bag to put my valuables and snacks for the kids (there are lockers available). Bring sunscreen and water as a lot of the center is exposed.
Admission to Pearl Harbour Visitor Center is free. We explored the informative Exhibition galleries, Remembrance Circle and USS Arizona (although at the time the memorial itself was closed). If we’d been without the kids, perhaps we would have bought tickets for the submarine USS Bowfin or USS Missouri.
- Enjoy your time on Waikiki beach. You can rent/buy boogie boards and the surf is so much fun.
- Shopping! I forgot that Hawaii is part of the USA and so many discount brand stores were available. There are many malls and outlets plus ubiquitous Honolulu Cookie Company stores. You’ll find street performers and musicians lining the street at night. You should also pay a visit to the Duke Kahanamoku statue, honouring a local legend aka the father of international surfing.
It goes without saying that Hawaii has an incredible food scene. We were lucky enough to get some great recommendations from locals and I had some of the best food of my life.
- Reserve a table at the Side Street Inn mythically a spot for after work spot for chefs The salt & vinegar chicken is insane.
- Poke is everywhere. If you haven’t experienced the joy of a poke bowl, grab one immediately (we tried Poke Bar).
- Coffee is a huge love of mine and thankfully there are numerous coffee joints aplenty. In the Outrigger there’s an outpost of the Northshore Sunrise Shack, where you can get bullet coffees and acai bowls.
- Prior to our Diamond Head hike, we loaded up on pancakes at the delicious and healthy Bogart’s Cafe.
- For our last night, we dined at Roy’s Waikiki, which did not disappoint.
Overall I enjoyed Waikiki and embraced it for all its crowds and pina coladas. If I had only been visiting Waikiki I would have been disappointed (I can’t tell you how beautiful Hawaii is, you have to get out and explore the islands). However it was the perfect place to start and end our Hawaii adventure. To save money, we picked up the hire car on Day 3 of our trip. This saved in rental fees plus exorbitant hotel valets. For the most part, you can get about on your feet. If you’re adventuring further e.g. Pearl Harbour, use Uber.