A Quick Weekend in World-Famous Waikiki

Advisor - Courtney Berthelsen
Curated By

Courtney Berthelsen

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  • USA

  • Hawai'i

  • Oahu

  • City Travel

  • Beaches

  • Active Travel

aerial view of umbrellas and people dotting a beach
Curator’s statement

One has to experience world-famous Waikiki, in my opinion, at least one in their lifetime. To see the iconic landmarks of Hawai'i — the outrigger canoe, Diamond Head, The Royal Hawaiian, Waikiki Beach (where some say surfing originated!), Pearl Harbor, etc. — will give you a story to tell. Waikiki is a perfect “pass-through” destination, whether you are planning to learn about US history at the National Memorial, planning to head up to Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu or hopping via HawaiianAir to another Hawaiian Island…

Waikiki would be a fun and different add-on that you are not going to experience anywhere else on the islands. This is my list for a quick weekend in Waikiki to soak up the vibrancy of high-rise hotels, fine dining and the ever-popular beach full of sun and surf!

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Where to stay

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki

Iconic pink-walled property on Waikiki Beach with 528 warmly decorated rooms and suites.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach

You’ll be a short walk from the beach at this low-key boutique in the heart of Waikiki.

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Day 1: Arrive in Waikiki

lifeguard shack on a white-sand beach

Head to your hotel and check in. Hopefully you have an ocean-view room (!) and you’re opening up the doors to your balcony just in time for the Friday night fireworks over Waikiki Beach to welcome you!

After enjoying the firework display, it’s time to fill your belly up with dinner. You’re in the city of fine dining, so let’s be sure you’re starting off on the right foot: Doraku Sushi. Run, don’t walk!

Day 2: Hiking, beach & oceanside dining

chic table spread

Rise and shine! First stop: coffee and breakfast. Stroll over to Island Vintage Coffee (they use 100% Kona coffee in their drinks, mmm!) at The Royal Hawaiian Center. Might as well get the "Island Style Plate" since you’re on the island (the papaya alone is to die for!).

Then, it’s hitting the trail for the legendary Diamond Head hike. Hiking shoes in tow, you’ll head out on this 1.8-mile out-and-back trail. It’s heavily populated, but generally an easy route. Plan for about an hour or so (depending on how quickly you walk!). You’ll need a reservation here, so ask your travel advisor to help you with these details.

What’s visiting Hawai'i without a stop at a farmers' market? And hopefully, by now, you’ve worked up your appetite for lunch!! The KCC (Kapiolani Community College) Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday from 7:30-11:00 am. At the base of Diamond Head, Oahu’s best farmers' market will have you oohing and aahing at Hawaiian foods and produce.

Once lunch and your morning adventure is finished, head back to the hotel to hit the beach and immerse fully yourself on island time. Soak up the sunshine, order a Mai Tai and people watch to your heart's content.

For dinner tonight, our recommendation is to either dine ocean-side at the Royal Hawaiian’s (considered one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Hawaiian tourism!) Mai Tai Bar or enjoy RumFire Waikiki Beach at Sheraton Waikiki. You’ll enjoy panoramic views and the best spot for sunset while you dine. Or, if you want to head out again tonight, go to Kona Brewery Co. on the Koko Marina. They have live music on Friday and Saturdays 7-9 pm.

Day 3: History & ocean adventures to round out your three-day Waikiki itinerary

geometric white building over a body of water

Another early morning: so much to explore, so little time! Leonard’s Bakery is another legendary stop and a definite must. You’ll want to order the malasadas (Portuguese donuts). It’s what they are known for. While you’re waiting, brush up on the history!

Your last full day on the island is meant for exploring. For the history lovers, make sure you get in line early to head to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, walk the grounds or visit the museums.

For the water babes, be sure to schedule a surf lesson on the beach. Waikiki is famous for its surfing, after all!

For the families, maybe do that glass-bottom boat ride you’ve always wanted to do! While aboard, you’ll cruise over live tropical reefs and one of Hawaii’s popular shipwrecks. You’ll see the legendary Hawaiian honu (sea turtles), and if you’re there during whale season, (Nov-May), you might get a front-row seat to see some amazing marine life shows!

Wherever you decide to adventure, it’s not a trip to Hawai'i until you dine at the popular Duke’s! They are known for their beachfront location, surf 'n' turf, tiki vibe and umbrella drinks. So cheers and fill up. You’ve had a full day!

Before you leave, whether you’re headed for another island via HawaiianAir, up to Turtle Bay or another part of Oahu, take some time to walk up and down Waikiki. There are street performers, parrots and other fun things to check out. And trust me when I say it’s worth it, as this destination is certainly a unique one!

Need to Know

Want more Hawai'i travel tips? Check out my other guide, The Best of Kauai: Resorts, Food, Activities & More.

Advisor - Courtney Berthelsen

Travel Advisor

Courtney Berthelsen

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Oahu.