paddleboarder heads out with his dog at Waikiki
— If you consider yourself a traveler rather than a
tourist, you might tend to avoid Waikiki Beach. It’s too
commercial. Overcrowded. Too much of a South Seas cliche.
if you’ve been there you know there’s lots to love
about the crazy scene: the platoons of newbie surfers
dodging catamarans and outrigger canoes. The beach bars.
The perfect sandy beach, with visitors from around the
world playing beneath windblown palms in the shadow of
distinctive Diamond Head.
fun for young and old. Still need convincing? Here’s a
list of five things to do for millennials and five things
to do for baby boomers at still-wonderful Waikiki.
For the millennial
warm sea and relatively mild surf at Waikiki can provide
the perfect place to try it. I’m a boomer, and I signed
up for an hour lesson along with my daughter’s boyfriend
(a millennial, and fearless snowboarder). Once the
instructor persuaded him to abandon his snowboarding
habits, he got in several good stand-up rides. I got one
long ride on my knees (it was like floating on air) all
the way into the beach, where I was happy to stay and
nurse a bad case of spaghetti arms. (All that paddling
takes it out of you.) $120 for two includes 60 minutes
instruction and an extra 60 minutes with the board, from
Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki, in a booth on the beach.
back with a mai tai and watch all those surfers.
great vantage point: the aptly named, open-air Beach Bar
beneath the 138-year-old banyan tree at the Moana
Surfrider, the first hotel built on Waikiki (circa 1901).
hotel, best mai tai: Cruzan light rum with a touch of
orange Curacao and tropical juices beneath a float of dark
rum ($12). Then get yourself a neon-colored inflatable
ring (less than $4 at the ubiquitous ABC Stores) and do
some blissful floating on the azure waves. 2365 Kalakaua
For the millennial
Diamond Head at sunrise.
the most popular hike on Oahu for good reason (don’t
expect to be alone). Known as Le‘ahi to natives, Diamond
Head was used as a military lookout since before World War
I, and the old bunkers are still there. The
volcanic-crater rim’s high point is reached via a maze
of trails, eerie pedestrian tunnels and steep, long
staircases. The 0.8-mile climb (gaining 560 feet) isn’t
for the faint of heart, but standing at the top is like
being on Pride Rock. And the view as the dawn sun lights
Waikiki is one to remember. Park opens at 6 a.m. daily;
$5/car entry fee. dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/oahu/diamond-head-state-monument/
in a free hula show at sunset.
a beach towel and sit on the grass for the Kuhio Beach
Hula Show, beneath the giant banyan across Kalakaua Avenue
from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. The show features skilled
dance troupes with authentic performances accompanied by
live musicians. There’s a torch lighting and blowing of
a ceremonial conch shell to start. Tuesdays, Thursdays and
Saturdays, weather permitting, 6-7 p.m. November through
January; 6:30-7:30 p.m. the rest of the year;
For the millennial
a ukulele factory.
has several. Family-run KoAloha Ukuleles offers free tours
at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, a short drive from
Waikiki. It’s an authentic small factory, hidden in an
industrial district, with dust and noise, not a tour-bus
stop, which means you might get a private tour to learn
about how koa wood is bent into curvy shapes and why the
internal "unibrace" gives KoAloha ukes a sweeter
sound. If you’re lucky, 72-year-old founder Alvin
"Pops" Okami might sing for you. 744 Kohou St.,
Honolulu. 808-847-4911 or koaloha.com.
Palace, last royal home to Hawaii’s monarchs, is 15
minutes from the beach and, timewise, in another world —
when these islands were self-governed. The residence of
King Kalakaua and, later, Queen Lili`uokalani, the last
monarchs of Hawaii, was built between 1879 and 1882 in an
"American Florentine" style. There’s even a
throne room. Go at noon most Fridays to enjoy a free
concert on the lawn (weather permitting) by the Royal
Hawaiian Band, established by King Kamehameha III in 1836.
Tours $14.75-$21.75. 346 S. King St., iolanipalace.org
For the millennial
at Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club and ride a vintage bike to
of the Aqua-Aston hotel group, the recently renovated and
rebranded Surfjack projects a youthful retro-beach-club
vibe accented by the postcard-y "Wish You Were
Here!" message written in giant script across the
bottom of the pool. Amenities include poolside movie
premieres and bikes for guest use. 412 Lewers St.,
at the classic "Pink Palace of the Pacific," the
Royal Hawaiian hotel, and get a massage.
in 1927 and reminiscent of a magnificent, flamingo-hued
Moorish castle on the beach, here’s the most exotic
lodging at Waikiki. Its Abhasa Spa (the name means
"illusion" in Sanskrit) offers massages in the
peace of the hotel’s tropical garden, hidden away just a
short walk from Waikiki’s busiest shopping district. A
rhythmic, Hawaiian-inspired Lomi Lomi massage starts at
$145. 2259 Kalakaua Ave.; en.abhasa.com; royal-hawaiian.com
For the millennial
for bargain-priced Aloha-wear at Duke’s Marketplace.
find knock-off garish shirts for $12, surfing jams for
$15, or whatever bargain you can strike at the rabbit
warren of discount stands tucked behind high-rises off
Kalakaua Avenue. "Printed T-shirts, 7 for
$19.99," one booth advertises, and there are puka-shell
necklaces galore. Enter through the alley next to the
Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber, 2300 Kalakaua Ave.
go for the retro classics and collectible shirts a few
blocks up Kapahulu Avenue at Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha
Shirts, which claims the world’s largest collection of
Aloha shirts (more than 15,000). For the price-conscious,
used shirts start at $3.99. 517 Kapahulu Ave.;
for high-end crystal and fancy clothes at the new
International Market Place.
is where vendors like those at Duke’s Marketplace
formerly held court, along with tarot-card readers and, in
his early days, entertainer Don Ho. But the long-running
market closed about three years ago and a new incarnation
opened in August. About all that remains the same is the
giant banyan tree at the market’s center, and the name.
Otherwise it’s a very upscale shopping mall, home to
Swarovski, Sunglass Hut, Anthropologie and Hawaii’s
first Saks Fifth Avenue, among many others. Bring your
Chase Sapphire card.
was prepared to hate it. But its creators deserve credit
for providing some pleasant public spaces for visitors to
rest in $4,000 koa-wood rocking chairs, next to waterfalls
and overlooking a children’s area with a water-play
feature and sculpted bronzes of Hawaiian royalty — even
a banyan treehouse dedicated to the memory of
International Market Place founder Donn Beach, who once
lived and worked in such a treehouse in the banyan in the
mid-20th century. 2330 Kalakaua Ave.;
these recommendations are based on shameless profiling.
Some millennials will prefer the ideas for boomers, and
vice versa. Go with that. If you’re a fit and fun-loving
62-year-old, there’s no reason you can’t take a
surfing lesson or climb Diamond Head. And I know plenty of
millennials who will love the Moana Surfrider’s mai tais
or the shopping at Saks.
point is that Waikiki can be fun for all. I like to spend
a couple of days among the crowds there and then beat a
hasty retreat to a quiet cottage on the North Shore.
yourself. Oahu makes it easy.