Known as Hawaii's visitor mecca, Waikiki is the heart if not the soul of the local tourist industry, where a substantial portion of the State's 6,000,000 annual visitors spend their vacation. With about half the accommodations for visitors in the state, Waikiki hosts plane-loads of conventioneers, package tourists, and honeymooners from the U.S. mainland, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.
Waikiki is nine miles east of the Honolulu International Airport which is just about a 15-minute drive. During the day time, the beaches draw most of the tourists, and at night the streets close to the beach come alive as discos, bars, and other evening shows are filled with people. The more exclusive hotels in Waikiki provide gourmet dining, Hawaiian music, hula dancing, and popular music for couples who love to dance. Waikiki has always been a dream destination for people from all over the world. It is here where most of the big and luxurious hotels and restaurants are found. There are about 81 hotels and 52 resort condominiums in this small area known as the Waikiki District.
Activities, sumptous dining and shopping are abundant here. It is also where the tourists and local residents spend the night out - dining, dancing, watching the different shows or just strolling around the streets of Kalakaua Boulevard which is always filled with people even late at night. On weekends especially, Waikiki beach is alive with surf & canoe riders, and swimmers. Waikiki is reputed to be the most famous beach and is said to be "among the most exquisite, lively, and overdeveloped tropical beach in the world."
The beach is one and one-half miles of exquisite white sands and crystal clear blue waters which can be enjoyed by every level of swimmer or surfer. It has been the backdrop for Hollywood movies and the starting place for many a romance. While the beach is a suntanner's paradise, the warm waters are perfect for snorkeling, surfing or just floating on an inflatable raft. Kuhio Beach Park is one of the most frequented part of Waikiki. The park was named after Hawaii's Prince Kuhio. This beach park fronts Kalakaua Avenue in an open expanse of blue water. Here you can dive, snorkel, and surf. Within the park are numerous vendors who offer surfboards for rent, surfing lessons, sodas, and sandwiches. There are city-employed lifeguards on duty, and a protected saltwater wading area for inexperienced swimmers.
Between Kalakaua Avenue and Kuhio Beach Park is the statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, an Olympian who introduced the Hawaiian Crawl to international swimming. Aside from being a swimmer, he was also a surfer, and sheriff of Honolulu for 26 years. The "Duke" won Olympic gold medals in swimming in 1912 and 1920 and became an international celebrity who introduced surfing to the world. The Kahanamoku statue was unveiled in 1990, one hundred years after his birth. Next to Kuhio Beach Park is the Moana-Royal Hawaiian Beach, the heart of Waikiki Beach where the sands are soft and white. The beach is packed almost daily with sun-worshippers, surfers, swimmers, and many others who just enjoy looking at people by the beach. Here you can ride an outrigger canoe, sail on a catamaran, board-surf, snorkel, and swim in clear blue waters that deepen gradually.
At a nearby specially constructed small wharf you can also go for one of the newest attractions offered to tourists - a submarine ride that will take you to about 100 feet below the water surface. A mile offshore is a coral reef that protects Waikiki's beaches from strong tides. This makes a perfect place for the surf rider. The greatest thrill for some visitors is to ride in an outrigger canoe since it is not easy to learn surfing easily. It is paddled out to the breakers, turned around, and steered by beach boys toward the shore. It rides on the breaker at an exciting speed.