The whole world dreams about coming to Waikiki and why shouldn’t they? Waikiki is a tropical paradise on earth. Waikiki boasts perfect sun, sand, surf, amazing water and air temperatures year-round, and beautiful people on it no matter what time of day. There is probably no tropical beach destination in the world that is more famous than Waikiki - this tiny suburb of Honolulu on the tiny island of Oahu in the tiny U.S. State of Hawaii. And yet, when people come here - the first thing they notice is that it doesn’t feel like it’s a part of the USA.
Modern day Waikiki is part American, part Japanese, part Australian, part Filipino, and increasingly becoming part Chinese. Waikiki is not just the beach but also the neighborhood around it. It extends all the way from Diamond Head to the Hawaii Convention Center - not quite to the world famous Ala Moana Shopping Center. It is squeezed between the Ala Wai Canal and the Pacific Ocean - and actually, if it weren’t for the Ala Wai Canal - Waikiki would still be a swamp.
A beautiful swamp, but still a vast wetland of ponds and streams. It is rumored that the famous sand of Waikiki has been brought from California, Fiji, the North Shore of Oahu, and Maui. Waikiki is actually made up of seven different beaches - Queens, Kuhio, Kaimana, Gray’s, Fort DeRussey, and Dukes. Dukes is the one that has the statue of Duke Kahanamoku in front of it. Queens is down across from the Honolulu Zoo. Back in the pre-contact days, before the canal was built - Waikiki was a wetland agricultural spot for the ancient Hawaiians. The name means spouting fresh water. If you were to go back in time, you wouldn’t find a place to work on your tan or watch bikini clad girls - instead you would find farmers growing fish, seaweed, and kalo.
Granted there were still little pockets of beach but they were reserved mostly for the Hawaiian royalty. There were no guest houses in Waikiki until well into the 1800s. The first hotel appeared at Kaimana Beach and of course more followed. With the dredging of the canal and the filling in of the swamplands, many more houses and resorts were built. The Moana Surf Rider Hotel was built in 1901 by Walter Peacock and later both it and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel were operated by the Matson shipping company from the early 1930s to the 1960s. At that time, what is now the Hilton Hawaiian Village was born as the first full resort experience hotel.
Today, Waikiki is famous for nightly hula shows, surf competitions, and plenty of high end shopping. There is plenty going on in Waikiki and for most people, it’s a great place to get introduced to Hawaii - but - make sure you get out of Waikiki while you are on Oahu. Some of the best tourist attractions on Oahu are off the beaten path and out of Waikiki and Honolulu. Private Tours Hawaii will be glad to share these sites with you!