Had the area been left untouched, Waikiki would today be swampland without beautiful beaches, just as it was hundreds of years ago. In 1794 when King Kamehameha’s armies landed in Waikiki, on their way to conquering Oahu, things changed. His victory resulted in Waikiki becoming one of the new Kingdom’s primary royal retreats, not only for Kamehameha, but also his successors on the throne. The beautiful beaches and waters of Waikiki became a preferred hideaway for every ruler up to the last Queen, Liliuokalani.
Today, Waikiki – covering just 1.5 square miles of land – is the most popular tourist destination in the State of Hawaii, packed with hotels, condos, restaurants, shops and much more. Its beach – Waikiki Beach – is one of the most well-known and spectacular beaches in the world, stretching for ~1.5 miles along Oahu’s south shore (check out this awesome historical analysis from the University of Hawaii). Actually, the stretch of Waikiki’s beach is considered 9 distinct beaches – each with their own name and character. Here is a video showing all 9 beaches:
Understanding Waikiki’s Beaches
Between Kuhio Beach and Kapiolani Beach is a pier called Kapahulu Groin or – as the local surfers call it – “Walls” (derived from the name of the surf spot in front of the pier). Anything west of Kapahulu Groin (where Kuhio Beach begins) is the “real” Waikiki with hotels, shops, restaurant etc. The beaches east of Kapahulu Groin (where Kapiolani Beach is located) runs along Kapiolani Park, which isn’t part of Waikiki, as visitors know it. Adding to the confusion, the last 2 beaches, furthest east – Kaimana & Outrigger Canoe Club Beach – are located in front of some older condos and a hotel, which we refer to as the Gold Coast. The real estate on the Gold Coast is considered part of the Diamond Head neighborhood, though many still consider the beaches as Waikiki’s beaches.
Waikiki’s 9 beaches (east to west)
1) Outrigger Canoe Club Beach: Also known as Colony Surf Beach, located in front of the Colony Surf condo). This is a tiny beach with access point between the Colony Surf and Colony Beach condos or from the Outrigger Canoe Club (for those who are members of this exclusive club). Popular spot for families with kids .
2) Kaimana Beach: Also known as Sans Souci Beach is located in front of the Sans Souci condo and New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. The beach can get very busy (typically weekends and on state / national holidays), but nothing like most other beaches in Waikiki. Popular beach for swimmers.
3) Queens Beach: Located immidiately west of Kapahulu Groin. Popular beach volley spot and for those who just want to sun bath or go for a peaceful swim away from the crowds.
4) Kapiolani Beach: One of the widest sections of Waikiki Beach, with space for 2 – 3 beach volley courts, surf rentals and still ample space for sun bathers and enthusiastic water sport fans alike.
5) Kuhio Beach: Very busy beach by the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. Lots of options for surfboard rentals.
6) Royal Moana Beach: Also known as Royal Hawaiian Beach, located by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Moana Surfrider Hotel, which is one of the most busy sections of Waikiki beach. Popular for those who want to take a catamaran, a surf lesson or simply play in the ocean among lots of people.
7) Gray’s Beach: Also known as Halekulani Beach, given its located by the Halekulani Hotel). Not much beach left, due to erosion. Great place to go for a swim or stand-up paddle if you want to avoid crowds.
8) Fort Derussy Beach: Located in front of Fort Derussy Beach Park. Inviting park setting with beach volley court, racket ball courts and various water sport rentals available. Less crowded than beaches in central parts of Waikiki.
9) Kahanamoku Beach: Located in front of (by Hilton Hawaiian Village). Popular among families, since the beach has shallow waters, due to a protective outer reef.
Here is a list of random pictures from Waikiki’s beaches – enjoy!