Take off your shoes, roll up your pants and wiggle your toes in the warm, golden sand. This is Waikiki Beach, a two-mile stretch of shoreline known throughout the world. Don’t leave Oahu until you’ve walked the length of this strand. Start at the lagoons fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village and continue on down the beach to the Natatorium War Memorial. Or, of course, you can put in at the Natatorium and walk the opposite direction back to the Hilton. No rules here.
From the Hilton end, the beach narrows as you head towards Diamond Head, passing the Reef Hotel and the graceful and prestigious Halekulani Hotel. Here you may need to climb on the seawall, or follow the concrete path in front of the Halekulani. The view of the Royal Hawaiian is great from the beach.
The last beachfront hotel on this end of the beach is the “first lady” of Waikiki, the Moana Hotel. Now known as the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, she was the first luxury hotel built in Waikiki.
Kuhio Beach Park captures a lot of activity. There are vendors selling almost anything you could possibly desire for a day at the beach. With Diamond Head still ahead, keep walking toward the quieter parts of the beach. At Kapi’olani Beach Park, the Queen’s Surf area is terrific for swimming and sunning. Gone for the moment are the hotels. Now the beach is fronted by large lawns and giant trees, and the sprawling Kapi’olani Park is in the background. Ahead is the Waikiki Aquarium, then the beautiful and ghostly Natatorium War Memorial, built in 1927 to honor men and women of Hawaii who fought in World War I.
Time to put your shoes back on and retrace your steps on the concrete. One of your stops should be the Waikiki Beach Walk, a $400 million project of Outrigger Enterprises in the heart of the Waikiki District. This project has transformed an 8-acre area of outdated buildings and busy streets into a pedestrian-friendly place to shop, dine, relax, listen to music and mingle. A distinctive Island-style theme influenced by the Hawaiian outrigger canoe carries from Kalakaua Avenue through the lobby of the Outrigger Reef and out to the beach. The centerpiece of the new development is a shopping and restaurant complex with 30 retail shops, 6 restaurants and bars, and a pedestrian plaza. Five hotel properties have been renovated, upgraded and repositioned. All are being linked to the retail plaza through pedestrian bridges, common lobby areas and connected walkways.
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