A First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Waikiki

Waikiki offers a unique blend of natural beauty, culture, and a lively atmosphere. In this enchanting place, you’ll find surfers riding the waves, the sounds of local music, and the scent of delicious food wafting through the air. If you’re thinking of planning your first trip to Waikiki, we hope this guide will help. Let’s dive into the can’t-miss food and essential places to visit on your first trip to Waikiki, put together by the Waikiki locals that own and operate Novation Realty. 

Grab a Bite to Eat

Dining in Waikiki is a culinary adventure that combines diverse flavors with breathtaking views. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood, traditional HawaiianTables outside the Barefoot Beach Cafe in Waikiki dishes, or international cuisine, Waikiki offers a ton of different options. Here are a few of our recommendations for where to eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and more in Waikiki!

Breakfast. Try Cinnamon’s at the Ilikai for their famous tropical pancakes and syrups. The Liliha Bakery at Macy’s Ala Moana Center offers hearty local fare and an incredible bakery. For a mid-morning boost, stop by Honolulu Coffee Company or Kai Coffee for excellent local coffee.

Lunch. Take a walk to Kuhio Ave., where you can find beloved local burrito spot Kono’s or savor delicious tempura and ramen at great prices at Marugame Udon (it’s worth the wait!). 

Snacks. Check out the unique frozen desserts at Banan, a farm-to-table banana ice cream shop right on the water by Beachwalk and Fort DeRussy. Island Vintage Shave Ice in Royal Hawaiian Center is also highly recommended for a classic local treat.

Pau Hana (Happy Hour). For casual beachfront drinks with a tiki flair, head over to Duke’s Waikiki. Hit up Doraku Sushi in Royal Hawaiian Center for great food and craft cocktails. 

Dinner. The laid-back Barefoot Beach Café features delicious local food, from pineapple smoothies to fresh fish to veggie burgers and vegan options. This waterfront restaurant is easily accessible from the beach path, with live music most nights and great views of Diamond Head. Another great option is Lulu’s Waikiki, with mouthwatering local fare and relaxing ocean views. 

Take in the Views

Views from the Diamond Head hike on Oahu

The natural environment and spectacular scenery is one of the most enticing parts of visiting Waikiki. Walking on Kalakaua Ave along the water is a simple pleasure that allows visitors to soak up the lively atmosphere and stunning views. Head towards Diamond Head to reach the secluded part of Waikiki Beach, which is never crowded and great for swimming and snorkeling.

For amazing views of the ocean and coastline, head to nearby Diamond Head for an energizing hike that takes 1-2 hours. It is recommended to wear sturdy hiking shoes, and go early or late to avoid crowds and heat. There are many hikes near Waikiki that will leave you in awe.

For visitors with a car, taking a drive along the east side of Oahu can be a special experience. The sea cliffs create a dramatic backdrop, with lots of lookouts and beaches to stop at along the way.

Go Shopping

All first-time visitors should take a stroll through the newly rebuilt International Marketplace. This open-air shopping center has incredible shops, food and drinks in a beautiful outdoor setting, with walkways wrapping around historic banyan trees, framed by koi ponds and lush greenery. The Royal Hawaiian Center is a three-story outdoor mall in the heart of Waikiki, with shops, restaurants, and plenty of spots to relax in the shade. There are also cultural events and live entertainment throughout the week, with a focus on Hawaiian culture and music. 

Book Your StayWaikiki vacation rentals

Staying in a vacation rental in the heart of vibrant Waikiki offers a convenient home base for first time visitors to experience everything the area has to offer. Novation Realty offers a variety of studio and 1 bedroom Waikiki vacation rentals and monthly rentals for extended stays. Step out of your front door and immerse yourself in the aloha spirit in this tropical paradise!