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Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

When planning our trip to Oahu we wanted to avoid Waikiki Beach as much as possible. So we only booked three nights here, and we were right to do so. It’s not a bad place but it is so crowded and built-up that it feels like a mix of Miami, New Orleans, and Manhattan. It doesn’t feel like the Hawaii we are used to, probably because we usually seek out the quiet spots, and Waikiki is a traffic-bound tourist trap.


Even the beach isn’t that great. It’s busy, and in some places the towering hotels are right up against the ocean with only a tiny strip of sand for the hordes to occupy. Strange, because just a short drive away by car (or bus ride) are some truly spectacular beaches.

But if you like to shop, Waikiki is great. The main drag is dominated by malls and knick-knack shops. On the Ewa side are all those hoity-toity brands for people who have more money than they know what to do with, and for the average Joe there’s an ABC Store on every block extending for a mile toward Diamond Head. If you can’t find an ATM, a McDonald’s, an ABC Store, or a sushi place in Waikiki Beach, you’re not looking.

There are so many restaurants catering to Japanese tourists here that it feels like we are in Japan at times. Hawaii has had a significant Japanese population since before it was a state, and today it is like an outpost of Japan. Our hotel is Japanese-owned, and all the staff are Japanese. Signs everywhere are bilingual. Our dinners have been udon noodle soups and Bento boxes. It’s fun — we like the food and I like imagining I’m in Japan. Someday we hope to go there for real.

Since the weather today was too cloudy for good snorkeling and occasionally too rainy for sightseeing, we spent the day on foot exploring Waikiki Beach and buying a few Christmas gifts for family. But enough of that. We have had too much of the tourist machine already.

At one point we hopped a free shuttle bus and found ourselves on a one-way trip to Hilo Hattie’s “flagship store” on the other side of downtown Honolulu. Not only could we not escape, but we spent an hour in purgatory on the bus, trapped in dense Friday afternoon traffic (to go six miles). Once we arrived at Hilo Hattie’s there was just enough time for Eleanor to buy the particular brand of Kona coffee she likes, and hop back on the bus again to fight our way back to Waikiki.

There was one bright spot to that adventure. The driver, desperate to avoid the traffic, invented a highly creative route to get us back. This involved driving through a shopping mall parking garage, and at one point, turning down a narrow alley marked “Construction Traffic Only.” As we passed the construction machines in the early evening darkness, an announcement came over the buses P.A. system: “OK … We didn’t go here, and you didn’t see this.” Nope, we didn’t — and we don’t plan to see it again, either.

1,004 Responses to “Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii”

  1. Larry (San Diego) Says:

    Hilo Hattie’s store in San Diego’s Gas Lamp District is where Bill purchased his “flamingo/palm tree” sunglasses. You are so fortunate to be able to feast on a variety of Asian cuisine brought to Hawaii by the Asian-indentured servants working the plantations of long ago. Hawaiian pineapple, often found in Chinese-American sweet and sour sauce, was introduced to the mainland from Hawaii in the 1950-60s.