Waikīkī which translates to “spouting waters” in Hawaiian, is home to Ala Wai Harbor, Kapiʻolani Park, Waikiki Yacht Club, Honolulu Zoo, Kahanamoku Lagoon, Kūhiō Beach Park, Fort DeRussy and many other attractions. Waikiki has an interesting history. Naturally Waikiki was marsh wetlands, consisting of many taro fields and fish ponds – fed by streams from the valleys. It was rich for farming and a favorite place for Hawaiian Royalty. Waikiki was the center for government and culture for the Hawaiian people. Old Waikiki was much larger and included the neighboring valleys of Manoa and Palolo. The Ala Wai Canal was planned to allow control of the water flow and draining of the wetlands. Construction was complete in 1928 and the door to the urbanization of Waikiki was wide open. During the Great Depression and WWII there was little outside interest in Hawaii and Waikiki, but in the 1950’s, after Hollywood moved in, Waikiki sprouted a new leaf. Waikiki has now transformed from the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville/Cheeseburger in Paradise ma & pa, once-in-a-life-time crowd, into a high class repeat-visitor destination. Waikiki is Hawaii’s #1 visitor destination, and an annual top ten U.S. visitor destination. The shoreline has become engineered in order to fight the natural flow of mother nature and support one of Hawaii’s main economic engines.
Le’ahi Crater a.k.a. Diamond Head State Monument:
Diamond Head Crater, a volcanic tuff cone, was formed 150,000 to 200,000 years ago as a result of eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano. This 760 foot high crater was named after 19th century British sailors who thought they found diamonds on the crater’s slopes. The “diamonds” were actually shiny calcite crystals that had no value. The Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le’ahi for the brown color and similar shape of the tuna’s dorsal fin. Hundreds of visitors a day hike Diamond Head Summit Trail. The roundtrip 1.6 mile hike takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours and portions of the trail do have steep stairways, but it’s a family-friendly hike. Enjoy great views from various places as you weave your way through the concrete trail. The trail is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily including holidays and the last entrance to the hike is 4:30 pm. Entrance fee is $1 per person on foot or $5 per vehicle including parking. Bikes and dogs are not allowed. The Diamond Head area is typically sunny and dry, so plan accordingly with sunscreen, hats and water.
Kapi’olani Park is the largest park on Oahu and the oldest park in Hawai’i. King David Kalakaua donated the land in 1876 as the first Hawaiian public space, and named the park after his wife Queen Kapi’olani. The park is huge and covers over 300 acres with boundaries covering Diamond Head Theatre, Waikiki Aquarium, the natatorium, Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki shell, a popular outdoor concert venue. The park sets directly behind Kapi’olani Beach Park. The park is very popular for local soccer clubs and also is used for baseball, ultimate Frisbee, cricket, lacrosse and arts & crafts fairs. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the park was very popular for horse racing. Kapi’olani Park also has restrooms, basketball courts, tennis courts and a closed archery range. Kapi’olani Beach Park has restrooms, showers and food concession stands.
Art On The Zoo Fence
Since 1953 a proud group of talented local and international artists has been displaying and selling their art on the Honolulu Zoo fence along Monsarrat Avenue, across from Kapi’olani Park. This gallery is one of the oldest outdoor or indoor art organizations in Hawaii and they include a wide variety of art styles in both original works and prints. You will find a wide variety of mediums including oils, acrylics, watercolors and photography. They display their art Saturday and Sunday year round, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The talent and creativity rivals any you will find in Hawai’i.
Waikiki beach roughly starts at Kapahulu Avenue where the Waikiki sea wall is, and ends at Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. It includes Kuhio Beach, the Sheraton and Halekulani Boardwalks, Gray’s Beach, Fort Derussy Beach and Duke Kahanamoku Beach. Some maps and people consider Queens Beach and San Souci Beach, both on the other side of the Waikiki sea wall, part of Waikiki beach. We don’t really know for sure. Many of the beaches in Waikiki are man-made or man-controlled. Natural costal erosion forces the City & County of Honolulu to pump sand to the beach so that the hotels can keep their footprints, amenities and high rates. When you add the state of Hawaii’s awe-inspiring 14% lodging tax the pocket book gets light quickly. Waikiki Beach hosts many popular surf and ocean sports contests each year including the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, Duke’s Ocean Fest, Town & Country Grom Contest and the John ‘Pops’ Ah Choy Surf Fest. Waikiki beach offers many fun ocean activities including surf lessons, SUP, kayaking, snorkeling, outrigger canoe rides and more.
Friday Night Fireworks at Hilton Hawaiian Village:
Every Friday at 7:30 or 7:45 pm the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a firework show over Kahanamoku Beach and the Hilton Lagoon. The fireworks celebrate the end of the Hilton’s luau held each Friday night. The show lasts about 7 minutes, and the fireworks can be seen from various points throughout Waikiki and Ala Moana. The best close-up vantage point to view the show is at the Hilton Lagoon or from the concrete pier in front of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach. Parking in the area can fill up, so get there early to get a spot and avoid traffic. If you get close enough, you can get tagged in the face with small pieces of shrapnel. Best to go on foot. Try surprise an unknowing visitor by walking the beach at the right time.
Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium it is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States, second only to the Woods Hole Science Aquarium in Massachusetts. The aquarium has exhibits, programs, and research that focus on the aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. They have over 3,500 marine animals in our exhibits represent more than 500 species of aquatic animals and plants. Some of the highlights of the Aquarium are the Hawaiian Monk Seal and the living Coral Farm exhibits. Visitors get a chance to see and discover the Hawaiian Monk Seal, one of the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The Aquarium was also one of the first aquariums in the world to display living South Pacific corals. Furthermore, this is the first aquarium in the world to maintain the chambered nautilus and the first to breed them. The Aquarium is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and are closed for most major holidays. 2777 Kalakaua Avenue. 808-923-9741.
The Honolulu Zoo is located in Kapi’olani Park and has an emphasizes on Pacific Tropical ecosystems and traditional values of malama (caring) and ho’okipa (hospitality). The zoo houses over 1200 animals, including many endangered species. The Zoo also has many plants throughout the grounds that are native to Hawaii or have a long history of specialized importance to the Polynesian cultures. The Zoo is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. The Honolulu Zoo offers ongoing educational programs and events for children and families like Camping in the Zoo and Stargazing at the Zoo. 151 Kapahulu Avenue. 808-971-7171.
Waikiki Beach Boys
The “glory days” of the beach boys were during the 1920s to the 1930s on the famous stretch of beach from the Moana Hotel (now known as the Moana Surfrider) to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The beach boys gave the gift of Hawaii to the rest of the world and helped preserve a piece of Hawaiian culture, thus creating what is now today’s surf culture. The beach boys, consisting mostly of strong watermen from the Outrigger Canoe Club and the rival Hui Nalu, on any given day would be surfing, outrigger canoe paddling, playing music, singing, fishing, coconut climbing, weaving hats, and talking story. They made their livelihood teaching tourists how to surf and taking them out on outrigger canoes. The original Waikiki beach boys were very unique men mostly Hawaiian or part Hawaiian with equally unique nicknames like Chick, Steamboat, and Rabbit. The beach boys became famous for their spirit of aloha, the spirit of “unconditional giving.” Nowadays the new generation of beach boys still cherish the old timers’ spirit and what Duke Kahanamoku represents, the true spirit of Aloha.
“The King of Waikiki Beach” and “the father of modern surfing” was born in 1890 and raised in Waikiki. Duke was a true waterman, surfer, canoe paddler, record breaking swimmer, and the “first truly famous beach boy.” Duke was one of the founders of the beach boy club Hui Nalu and later became Hawaii’s unofficial ambassador. Credited with introducing surfing and Hawaii to the rest of the world, Duke was a world traveler and the first man to surf on both the east and west coasts of the United States and to take surfing to Australia. Throughout Duke’s life he had an Olympic swimming career, was in 28 Hollywood movies, and worked various odd jobs, but always returned to the ocean. In his later years, he and his brand became a iconic figure that will forever embody the true spirit of Aloha.