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There are beaches that are more beautiful, there are beaches that are more secluded, but there are no stretches of sand as iconic of Hawaii as Waikiki beach. The 1.5 mile coastline is the postcard image of tourism in the 50th state.

Some may criticize Waikiki for being too touristy, too built-up, and too crowded. Others see it as an upbeat and conveniently placed paradise. “This is the real Hawaii,” people would claim, virtually anywhere other than the famous resort area. But you simply can’t leave Oahu without seeing Waikiki for yourself.

Waikiki Beach

Personally, I loved it. I was staying in the residential area of Hawaii Kai and was lucky enough to see almost every corner of Oahu, but Heather and I still found ourselves at Waikiki fairly often. I don’t think it’s hard to see why.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

I’m all for the quiet, abandoned beach experience sometimes — it’s lovely to feel you’ve stumbled upon a private Eden. But it’s also nice to lounge in a hotel pool just steps from the sea water, or buy a shaved ice to eat on the sand, or rent a surfboard and join the masses at the breaks. Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl at heart, but something I enjoy the fun and camaraderie of a crowded beach. Especially when it looks like Waikiki.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Oahu is considered the “big city island” in Hawaii, but it’s still a tropical island at heart. The following photo is a juxtaposition that screams Oahu to me — high rises, palm trees and rainbows.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset. After-work surfers paddle out into the darkening waves as the sky turns orange and the hotels light up behind it.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

It’s also a great place to take a series of failed self-portrait jump shots.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki BeachPhoto via Heather

But there’s more to Waikiki than sand and waves. The Waikiki Aquarium is the third oldest in the country, is partnered with the University of Hawaii, and focuses on marine wildlife specific to Hawaii and the Pacific. Being the aqua-addict that I am, Wim knew she had to take me here.

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

I loved this little aquarium — it was educational, it took only an hour to go through, and it had an informative audio guide that came totally free! Entrance is very reasonably priced at $9, $6 for residents/military/students/seniors, $4 for teens, $2 f0r children, free for those under the age of 5.

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

The aquarium’s main claim to fame is that it was the first in the world to breed the chambered nautilus in captivity. I would love to come eye to eye with one of these guys underwater diving, but until then I’m happy to see them through a bit of glass.

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

The aquarium is part indoors, part outdoors. Out in the sun lies the famous Hawaiian monk seal, an anti-social little mammal that happens to be one of the most critically endangered seal species in the world.

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki has much to offer after the sun sets as well. The bars are pretty touristy and overpriced, but one alternative we loved was a sunset booze cruise. Lasting 90 minutes with an open bar the whole time, the $30 per person admission is actually somewhat reasonable. As Wim, Heather and I have quite the history with tropical booze cruises we knew we had to hit up this one.

Waikiki Cruise

Waikiki Cruise

The catamaran goes along the beach, curves around Diamond Head mountain and heads back in towards the bright lights of the city. Along the way we passed surfers, practicing longboat teams, and happy pods of dolphins. We also drank copious amounts of rum.

Waikiki Cruise

Waikiki Cruise

Waikiki Cruise

Of course there is much more to Hawaii, and to Oahu, than Waikiki Beach — and its a shame so many people don’t get to see that. But I love this little postcard perfect part of Hawaii, a little taste of urban paradise.

In my next post I’ll be trading the sights and sounds of the busy beach for the quiet peace of the underwater world.

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21 Comments...
  • Julie
    November 14 2012

    Stunning! I really like the picture of the boombox shell on the beach – made me giggle.
    Julie recently posted..Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee!

    • Alex
      November 15 2012

      That’s one of my favorite photos from the entire trip!

  • Shaun
    November 15 2012

    It doesn’t seem too crowded and I love how close the water comes in.

    Was it expensive?

    • Alex
      November 15 2012

      Hawaii on the whole is pretty pricey, but I was lucky to be staying with friends and family the vast majority of the time! In Oahu I stayed with friends in the Hawaii Kai suburb.

  • Chrystal McKay
    November 15 2012

    I don’t think anywhere on Hawaii could be “bad” in any way. Sorry but its an island state – its winning for sure. I the photo of the broken stereo case thats my favourite. And the failed jumping shots because I gave up long ago on those since I can’t jump more than 30cm. haha
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Quirky Dia de los Muertos

    • Alex
      November 15 2012

      Jumping shots are pretty hard to begin with — but two people jumping in sync? Impossible!

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    November 15 2012

    So pretty! I sometimes am in the mood for a crowded beach – the energy is a lot different. Love the nautilus….I hope I see one diving too, that would be amazing!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Renovating the cubicle.

    • Alex
      November 15 2012

      Agreed, sometimes I’m feeling social! Other times I want the whole beach to myself to do the whole deserted island thing.

  • Dad
    November 15 2012

    Great photos and a well balanced piece of writing. Love Dad

    • Alex
      November 18 2012

      Thanks Dad! These are some of my favorite Hawaii pictures.

  • Uncle Gare
    November 16 2012

    Hi, I’m planning a trip to Oahu in February and found your blog. Thank you for taking the time to post these great pictures!

    • Alex
      November 18 2012

      You’re welcome! Hawaii is amazing… you have a lot too lot forward to.

  • Kristen Noelle
    August 15 2014

    Gahh – I’m sooo ready!
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..The Coolest City in America | A Dedication to the District (Part 2)

    • Alex
      August 19 2014

      🙂 I definitely wouldn’t mind returning to this beach…

  • Banana Joe
    October 12 2014

    Great pics of Waikiki. I love the place and go there each year. Can’t get enough of Waikiki and the rest of O’ahu. Been travelling there now for 3 decades. Aloha

    • Alex
      October 13 2014

      Aloha indeed! I love O’ahu — and the rest of Hawaii — and hope that someday I can say the same.

  • Eddie Keliinohomoku
    July 21 2016

    Hey i love your photos especially the one of that old boombox thing with diamond head in the backround! next time your here jump on our trikke tours for free! you can find some info at http://www.alohatrikke.com

    • Alex
      July 25 2016

      Hey Eddie, thanks for the offer! I love Oahu!

  • Matt
    September 7 2016

    Nice write up and photos! Many people consider Waikiki as one beach and don’t realize it is 11 separate beaches. We list them here if you’re interested: https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/48622/beaches-of-waikiki-information-oahu-hi

    • Alex
      September 9 2016

      Thanks Matt! Always great to hear from a fellow Hawaii fan!

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