Iconic Diamond Head takes center stage in this world-famous Honolulu neighborhood where the legacy of Old Hawai‘i mixes with the best of modern-day shopping, dining and hotel experiences.
PHOTO BY MARVIN PARKS/UNSPLASH
Once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, O‘ahu’s most famous tourism destination is now a playground for visitors and locals alike enjoying its turquoise waters from sunup to sundown. The area is home to the majority of the state’s hotels and resorts, from funky retro stays to ultraluxe accommodations.
The “Grandfather of Surfing,” Duke Kahanamoku, grew up on the waves of Waikīkī. The Olympic gold-medalist swimmer and all-around waterman taught visitors how to surf and shared the aloha spirit and Hawaiian culture with the world. He is memorialized with a bronze statue on the edge of Waikīkī Beach, always adorned with many lei.
Reyn Spooner (2255 Kalākaua Ave., Shop 9, reynspooner.com) has been dressing visitors and locals alike in its aloha attire since 1961. Be sure to pick up one of the shop’s fitted aloha shirts for a modern spin on an island classic. At Ala Moana Center (1450 Ala Moana Blvd., alamoanacenter.com), the largest open-air shopping center in the world, find classic brands and the latest fashion-forward arrivals. It also boasts a quartet of top department stores—Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. At the International Market Place (2330 Kalākaua Ave., shopinternationalmarketplace.com), you’ll discover myriad stores not found elsewhere in the islands—think Christian Louboutin, OndadeMar, Saks Fifth Avenue and so much more. Resortchic boutiques worth visiting include Mahina (226 Lewers St., Ste. 136, shopmahina.com), Letarte Luxe (The Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kalākaua Ave., letarteluxe.com) and Lani Beach by Mireille (International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave.). For uberluxe retail, Luxury Row (2100 Kalākaua Ave., luxuryrow.com) offers Miu Miu, Moncler, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Bottega Veneta and Golden Goose, all just steps from each other.
Tucked inside the retro-cool Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club (412 Lewers St., surfjack.com) is the local favorite sundry and artisan coffee shop Olive & Oliver, with a curated mix of clothing, accessories and home goods from its popular partner boutiques in Kailua—along with a great cup o’ joe.
DON’T-MISS DINING & NIGHTLIFE
Fuel your day with locally roasted espresso by Kona Coffee Purveyors (International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave., Ste. 160, konacoffeepurveyors.com), which pairs perfectly with kouign-amann made on-site by b. patisserie of San Francisco. For the ever-trendy bullet coffee, smoothies and smoothie bowls, as well as other healthful vegan-friendly treats and eats, head to The Sunrise Shack’s (2335 Kalākaua Ave., sunriseshackhawaii.com) second location. Friends and surfers opened the first shack at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of O‘ahu, and now both residents and visitors can enjoy it mere steps from Waikīkī Beach. Forever-favorite Duke’s Waikīkī in the Outrigger Beach Resort (2335 Kalākaua Ave., #116, dukeswaikiki.com) is one of the only places in town to have a drink on the beach with toes in the sand. Take in the tourist and surfer crowd with a tiki cocktail in hand from the kitschy bamboo bar. Enjoy the sunset over micheladas at breezy Mexican bar and resto Búho Cocina y Cantina (2250 Kalākaua Ave., Ste. 525, buhocantina.com). Hit the rooftop lounge at SKY Waikiki (2270 Kalākaua Ave., skywaikiki.com) for moonlight drinks and dancing. At Blue Note Hawaii (2335 Kalākaua Ave., bluenotehawaii.com), you’ll find an eclectic variety of performers nearly every single night. By far the most popular udon place in town, Marugame Udon (2310 Kūhiō Ave.) always has a line around the block. The LGBTQ+- friendly Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar (2424 Koa Ave., wangchungs.com) is always guaranteed to be a good time with killer bar snacks, an eclectic crowd and a mean margarita.
The Laylow, Autograph Collection (2299 Kūhiō Ave., laylowwaikiki.com) is the spot for daytime eats. The trendy midcentury modern hot spot hosts a beautiful crowd and good food at its outdoor patio restaurant, Hideout. Take in the views of Kūhiō Avenue while sipping a mimosa and enjoy the live entertainment in the evenings. The Queen Kapi‘olani Hotel (150 Kapahulu Ave., queenkapiolani.com) has some of the best views of Waikīkī you could ask for—not to mention one of the most popular eateries in town. Its elevated outdoor restaurant DECK. serves handcrafted cocktails, locally brewed beers and American-Pacific cuisine, all under the watchful eye of Diamond Head.
DON’T-MISS BEAUTY & WELLNESS
Those looking to overcome jet lag or boost their immunity should head to Drip Hawaii (2490 Kalākaua Ave., Unit 2, Waikīkī, driphawaii.com) in the ‘Alohilani Resort, Waikiki’s premier IV lounge and wellness center offering customized IV drips and vitamin shots. Guests of the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort (2335 Kalākaua Ave., outriggerwaikikihotel.com) can take stand-up paddleboard yoga classes directly in front of the property with Yoga Floats (yogafloats.com), which also offers classes to nonguests at its Ala Moana Beach Park location. Find your Zen at Ohana Space Hawaii (1888 Kalākaua Ave., #C-307, ohanaspacehawaii.com). This Waikīkī haven has a variety of classes from which to choose. Whether you’re looking for a deep stretch after a long flight, a meditative experience or a fitness or yoga class, Ohana Space Hawaii has you covered.
Waikīkī Beach may get all of the daytime activity, but the pools in Waikīkī are not to be missed. The posh pool deck of the ‘Alohilani Resort (2490 Kalākaua Ave., alohilani.com) is always a crowd-pleaser, while the infinity pool overlooking the Pacific at the Sheraton Waikiki (2255 Kalākaua Ave., marriott.com) is the best in town. The Instagram-worthy pool of White Sands Hotel (431 Nohonani St., whitesandshotel.com) comes complete with a bamboo tiki bar and grotto hot tub. The Modern Honolulu (1775 Ala Moana Blvd., themodernhonolulu.com) boasts two dip options: the teak-framed sleek Sunrise pool, and its circular adults-only pool with sandy lounge area.
Waikīkī’s favorite ultraluxe retreat, Halekulani Hotel (2199 Kalia Road, Waikīkī, halekulani.com), recently underwent a yearlong renovation addressing everything from the physical infrastructure to the decor. Rooms were refreshed with new fabrics and finishings in its signature “seven shades of white” aesthetic, and you can once again enjoy hula and the sunset at the resort’s classic restaurant, House Without a Key. Head to the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach (2490 Kalākaua Ave., alohilani.com) for a modern oasis in the heart of it all. Make your way to the resort’s signature restaurant, Morimoto Asia, for renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto’s blend of Western and traditional Asian ingredients. Momosan by Morimoto, also conceived by the internationally acclaimed Iron Chef, provides a more casual dining experience and an outdoor beer garden. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach (383 Kalaimoku St., ritzcarlton.com/waikiki) blends the conveniences of a hotel and the comfort of a residence, plus the highest infinity pool in Waikīkī.
Locals head to the two grande dames of Waikīkī, The Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort and Spa (2365 Kalākaua Ave., marriott.com) and The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (2259 Kalākaua Ave., royal-hawaii.com) for a taste of Old Hawai‘i in a classy setting. The historic building of the Moana Surfrider dates back to 1901 and is still a sight to behold. The “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” The Royal Hawaiian debuted its rose-colored Moorish architecture in 1927 and has become an icon of the Waikīkī cityscape.