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Exploring: Island Tours > Oahu > Waikiki
Waikiki is a strip of high-rise hotels set along one of the most famous beaches in the world. It is a unique experience -- an urban playground for people from all over the world. You can find dozens of activities, attractions, shopping, restaurants, and night life all within walking distance of your hotel room. The area caters to upscale visitors with some of the most luxurious and elegant accommodations on the island, yet it also offers choices for budget conscious travelers.
Historically, Waikiki was the playground of Hawaiian ali'i (the nobility). In ancient times, Waikiki was a wetlands area of fish and duck ponds, taro patches and rice fields. It was bordered by groves of coconut trees and a glistening beach on beautiful Mamala Bay.
By the 1920's, the golden age of luxury liners established Waikiki as a premier destination. This first wave of development gave Waikiki a distinctively Art Deco style. Adventurous travelers from all over the globe began experiencing the Aloha spirit for the first time.
In the 1960's, jumbo jets began landing at Honolulu International Airport, ushering in a new era of tourism. Waikiki became the most famous strip of beach in the world, ringed with high-rise hotels and accessible to middle class travelers.
The Beach: Waikiki Beach is actually a string of beaches stretching two and half miles along the ocean, from the Hilton Hawaiian Village to Diamond Head. Here you will find sparkling sand gently sloping into turquoise waters, elements that make it a world-class beach. The soft sand bottom and safe waters make it an attractive spot for swimmers, surfers, and other water enthusiasts. It's also a great place for people-watching.
On the beach you can rent equipment for watersports of any kind. If you are not staying at one of the hotels, a good area for parking is around Kapiolani Park (toward Diamond Head). The beach areas at this end are quieter. There are showers, restroom facilities and picnic pavilions nearby.
The Waikiki District stretches inland from the beach to the Ala Wai Canal. There are a multitude of hotels, stores, restaurants and sightseeing attractions accessible by foot. The Waikiki Trolleys offer a two-hour tour for $15 for adults and $5 for children. (You can get on and off whenever you want to.) For specific information on dining, shopping, and watersports , see those sections on the Vacation Planner. The following are the other attractions you'll find exploring Waikiki:
Hilton Hawaiian Village: a 20-acre complex featuring a lagoon, gardens, waterfalls, penguin pond, and the Rainbow Bazaar for souvenir shopping.
Tea House of the Urusenke Foundation: a tranquil oasis where you can take part in a Japanese tea ceremony served by kimono-clad ladies.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel: an elegant reminder of old Waikiki, with a gracious lobby and gorgeous gardens.
Hawaii IMAX Theater: a state-of-the-art theater with a 70 ft. wide screen five stories high which presents a variety of exciting films.
Damien Museum: an exhibit which pays tribute to Father Damien for his work at the 19th century leper colony at Kalaupapa, Moloka'i. He was later canonized as a saint.
Waikiki Aquarium: a recently renovated attraction featuring exhibits on reef life, Hawaiian monk seals, sharks, and a mahimahi hatchery.
Honolulu Zoo: a charming environment featuring Indian elephant shows, an African savannah habitat, and animals from around the world. Includes a petting zoo for kids.
Kapiolani Park: a great place for picnicking, swimming, and just about any kind of sport from tennis to soccer to archery. The Royal Hawaiian Band plays on Sundays, and other musical events take place at the Waikiki Shell.
Once you've done Waikiki, you may be ready for exploring Oahu's wide open spaces. We suggest a look at our tours of the five other areas of Oahu - the South East, Windward, North Shore, Central Oahu and the West Side.
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