Through this article, I will go over 10 of the best things to do in the heart of Oahu: Waikiki!
Everything I share will be what I would recommend to someone coming to Oahu- whether it be for the first time, fifth time, or even if they’ve lived here for their whole life.
So, whether you’re looking for the best place to grab food… what activities to do… what to see… — I’ll go over it all.
Ready? Ok, good. Let’s get started.
Introducing: The 10 Best Things to Do in Waikiki, Hawaii
(in no specific order)
1. Hike Up Diamond Head
Diamond Head is Hawaii’s most famous landmark and you can hike from inside the crater to the top to enjoy the most beautiful view of Waikiki, Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way, you’ll hike up a trail, through man-made tunnels and emerge at the top through an authentic WWII cannon bunker.
2. Visit Iolani Palace
While Downtown Honolulu is well known for places like Aloha Tower Marketplace (itself a historic landmark), the cruise ship docks, Federal buildings and business offices, there’s actually more to see around the area from a historical perspective.
Honolulu is, after all, the city where kings and queens of old lived!
For starters, There’s the Hawaii State Capitol, the official capitol building of the State of Hawaii. The Governor’s office is located here, along with the legislative branch of the State government. This building was commissioned and dedicated by John A. Burns, Hawaii’s second Governor and was opened on March 15th. J
Just behind the State Capitol is ‘Iolani Palace, the only royal palace located in the United States. The name ‘Iolani literally means “royal hawk,” and was named as such by King Kamehameha V after his brother Kamehameha IV’s given names (Alexander Liholiho Keawenui ‘Iolani). King Kalakaua and years later, Queen Lili’uokalani ruled from this palace, and was the official residence of the following monarchs:
- Kamehameha IV
- Kamehameha V
The palace also served as the capitol building for the State of Hawaii until it was replaced by the current Capitol Building located just behind it.
At present, the palace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.
It is open to the public for guided tours since the completion of its restoration in 1978.
For more information, visit ‘Iolani Palace’s website.
3. Visit Waikiki Aquarium
Waikiki Aquarium offers a look into the spectacular aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical waters of the Pacific.
While it is small compared to many modern facilities, many of the exhibits, programs, and research are unique to Hawaii, such as new exhibits like the Northwestern Hawaiian Island exhibit and the Hawaiian green sea turtle exhibit.
The indoor area offers four galleries, starring nautiluses, reef sharks, lionfish, and a wide variety of tropical fishes and living corals.
Visitors can see the 75,000 gallon Edge of Reef habitat, Moi hatchery and the endangered Monk seal pool.
Waikiki has pioneered efforts to farm corals, which visitors can see at the coral farm.
Aquariums from around the world request live corals from Waikiki.
4. Visit The Honolulu Zoo
The Honolulu Zoo features exhibits including African Savanna, Tropical Forest, Pacific Islands and Children’s Petting Zoo The zoo’s inhabitants include gazelles, monkeys, rhinos, cheetahs, porcupines, elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras, hippos, warthogs, exotic birds, vultures, turtles, lizards, snakes, tree frogs and much more.
Honolulu Zoo is located near Kapiolani Park at the corner of Kapahulu and Kalakaua Avenues.
5. Watch The Friday Night Firework’s Show At The Hilton
Every Friday night at 7:45 pm, the Hilton lights up the city with the most beautiful fireworks show that you cannot miss.
The fireworks show last for approximately 15 minutes and every second is filled with excitement and magic in the air!
6. Much On The Island’s Most Delicious Food
- Goofy Cafe & Dine (Cafe, Breakfast & Brunch, Diner) – The cute little picturesque place is the perfect spot to grab an early breakfast to kick off an adventure-packed day! Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Diamond Head Cove Health Bar (Breakfast, Acai Bowls, Smoothies) – The perfect place to visit right after a long hike at Diamond Head, after a nice beach day, or when you want to munch on some healthy food! Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Ono Seafood (Hawaiian, Seafood, Poke) – This place is #5 on Yelp’s top 100 USA eateries! This place is known as one of the best places on the island to grab poke from – and the locals swarm here! Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Helena’s Hawaiian Food (Hawaiian) – If you’re looking for some traditional, local Hawaiian food – from a local business that’s been around since 1946 – then you’ve gotta check this place out! Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Itchy Butt (Korean) – Most popular for their Korean fried chicken – Itchy Butt refers to themselves as a “No-nonsense take-out joint”. They are also quite affordable. Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Rainbow’s Drive-In (Hawaiian) – You’ll be taken back in time with their vibrant neon “Rainbow’s Drive-In”. They are very well known for their vintage-style architecture and ono plate lunches! Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- O’Toole’s Irish Pub (Sports Bar) – Their happy hour ranges from 10:00 am – 8:00 pm. Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Mai Tai Bar – This place is an open-air bar right on top of the Ala Moana Mall that’s very lively and popular with locals. Click here to check them out on Yelp.
- Hula Grill Waikiki (Hawaiian, Seafood, Breakfast & Brunch) – This place is the perfect place — whether you choose to grab a bite to eat during breakfast, lunch, or dinner – you will be making the right choice. I personally love grabbing dinner here because of the magical & special ambiance. Click here to check them out on Yelp.
7. Relax and soak up the sun at Waikiki Beach
What else would you like to do on your vacation?
Laying on a beautiful, peaceful, and Hawaiian beach is my first choice when in paradise.
Waikiki Beach is one of the most vibrant and fun beaches in Honolulu.
After spending the day swimming and soaking up the sun, you can walk right to the dock and jump on a cruise ship for a stunning sunset cruise… This is the definition of paradise!
8. Visit Tantalus Lookout
One of my favorite places to sit and watch the sunset… hands down!
The views of Diamond Head, Honolulu, Waikiki, and Manoa just make’s this place hard to beat…
Not to mention, the drive is so unique, fun, and wild to drive up and down it make’s the whole experience that much better.
Tantalus Lookout is a must-visit when in Honolulu.
9. Visit Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
Known as one of the most fascinating and fun places to snorkel at, Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve is home to some of the most diverse fish and sea creatures in all of Oahu.
It’s also an awesome place to take pictures and get lots of like’s on social media and brag to your friends… Which is a definite plus!
10. Explore Ala Moana
Ala Moana Center is the world’s largest open-air shopping center with 2.4-million-square-feet of retail space. Anchored by Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Macy’s, it is home to more than 340 stores and restaurants, including an extensive selection of international and luxury brands, one-of-a-kind specialty stores and more than 80 dining options.
In addition to its extensive collection of national and luxury brands, the center also features a collection of Hawaii-based stores that offer everything from Hawaiian souvenirs and keepsakes to surf apparel and custom Hawaiian heirloom jewelry. Some of these stores that can only be found in Hawaii include Martin & MacArthur, Hawaiian Quilt Collection, Town & Country Surf Designs, Reyn Spooner, Tori Richard and Philip Rickard Factory Showroom. Ala Moana Center also offers a wide array of free entertainment and events to give shoppers a taste of Hawaii’s diverse cultural traditions and contemporary fashion with an island twist.
…and that concludes the 10 best things to do in Waikiki, Hawaii!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through all ten as much as I had writing them out for you guys.
– Chase Ingalls from E Noa
P.S. If you find any value from this article, please share it with a friend you think could benefit from it.
P.P.S. If you have any questions, just drop a comment down below. I would love to help you out and answer any questions you might have 🙂
Want to get out of Waikiki?
…and would you like to make your time here as effortless and relaxing as possible- while not having to worry about where to go, what to eat, and what to do… and save yourself 3-4 days of driving around the island?
Well, then you might be a perfect fit for our “Majestic Circle Island” tour!
Here at E Noa Tours, we’ve been helping travelers make their vacations special since 1973 – with over 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and 5,554+ raving reviews!
So, here’s what you’ll see during the tour:
🤙 Hanauma Bay Lookout (PS- this is where Elvis was filmed in Blue Hawaii!)
🤙 Dole Pineapple Plantation
🤙 Waimea Valley (you’ll take a short walk through a tropical forest & see a 45’ waterfall where you can swim at)
🤙 Halona Blowhole
🤙 Eternity Beach (the exact place where From Here to Eternity & Pirates of the Caribbean IV were filmed)
🤙 Oahu’s Eastern Shoreline
🤙 Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
🤙 Byodo-In Temple
🤙 North Shore Surfing Beaches & Ko’olauloa Coast
DO NOT BOOK THE TOUR IF:
🤙 You hate fun
🤙 You don’t play nice
🤙 You hate learning incredible things about Oahu & its history
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Interested? Simply click the button below to learn more!