Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu is probably one of the most famous and recognizable beaches in the world. Funny enough though, as a kid growing up here, I hardly went there. Possibly because my parents didn’t want to deal with difficult parking or maybe it was too far from where we lived in Central Oahu? In any case, it wasn’t until I was in high school (and could drive) that I started going to Waikiki Beach regularly with my friends. In fact, it became one of our go-to beach spots throughout our high school and college years. Later, when I would visit my family from the mainland, Waikiki again became a great beach because it’s a great spot for kids! We would often go to the Honolulu Zoo first, and then walk over the beach afterward. Our kids loved doing this because it usually meant a full day of fun for them, including ice cream or shave ice at the end!
Now, true confessions, I didn’t realize that Waikiki Beach ran the entire length of, er, Waikiki, until after we moved back here. In fact, I was Googling for parking options when I realized, “Oh, what? Waikiki Beach is really big!” LOL. I seriously didn’t know Waikiki Beach ran from Duke Kahanamoku Beach all the way down past Queen’s Beach. (OMG, my mom is probably shaking her head at me again.)
Anyhoo, did you know Waikiki Beach is actually divided into eight (!!) sections?!! Kind of? The first six are definitely considered part of the main Waikiki strip, the last two are questionable, but since information out there is all over the place, I included them anyway. Also — heads up — all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public so even if a beach is in a residential area or in front of a hotel, public access should still be available. In those cases, just look for a pathway between buildings or homes that go straight to the beach. Just don’t cross over someone’s yard, yeah?! LOL.
Address: Click on the beach below for more detailed information. I don’t have exact addresses but if you type a beach name into a navigation system, it’ll find it. Also, keep in mind that parking may not be at the actual beach. Waikiki Beach spans 2 miles and has about a dozen different hotels sitting on or near the coast. Each section has a different coastline, different activities on-site, slightly different ocean conditions, and different places to park unless you park in one area and walk between beaches. By the way, this is totally doable. It might feel far, though, if you have a lot of stuff and/or small children in tow.
Here are the sections of Waikiki Beach. Feel free to click on a beach to go directly to that section.
1) Duke Kahanamoku Beach
2) Fort DeRussy Beach Park
3) Gray’s Beach aka Halekulani Beach
4) Waikiki Beach Center
5) Prince Kuhio Beach
6) Queen Kapiolani Beach aka Queen’s Beach
7) San Souci Beach and Kaimana Beach
8) Colony Surf and Outrigger Canoe Club Beach
Hours: Open 24 hours. A lifeguard is on duty from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Are Pets Allowed?: Yes — except for Kuhio Beach and Queen’s Beach — dogs are allowed on a leash. I recommend checking the Hawaiian Humane Society website for the most up-to-date information. Some sections have their own guidelines, so it’s best to check before you go.
Parking: If you are staying in a Waikiki hotel, hopefully, parking is not an issue for you. For those driving into Waikiki, parking can be tricky and in some areas, there is very little parking close to the beach. In the end, it just depends on which section you are going to and/or how far you want to walk.
**NOTE: I’ve seen several sites mention free parking along the Ala Wai Canal. This is true, BUT for me, parking on Ala Wai Boulevard for beach-going purposes isn’t that practical. In fact, with small children, I wouldn’t even consider it. For more details about that click here.
Life Guard on Duty: Yes, from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, 7 days a week. It might be worthwhile to note that these sections have lifeguards: 1) Duke Kahanamoku Beach, 5) Prince Kuhio Beach, 6) Queen’s Beach, and 7) San Souci Beach and Kaimana Beach. However, there are no lifeguards at 2) Fort DeRussy Beach, 3) Gray’s Beach, 4) Waikiki Beach Center, and 8) Colony Surf and Outrigger Canoe Club Beach.
Bathrooms: Yes, approximately every other section of Waikiki Beach has public restrooms and outdoor showers for rinsing. Regardless of which beach you go to, a bathroom and shower area is within walking distance.
Beaches: Beach conditions are typically good for swimming and water activities but there are a few differences between beaches, so check each section for more information.
Additional Amenities: LOL. It’s Waikiki! All joking aside, no matter what section of Waikiki Beach you’re in, there are restaurants, shops, beach equipment rentals, and much more nearby. On the northern side of Waikiki Beach, there’s also Ala Moana Shopping Center while on the southern side there is the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, and Kapiolani Park. Kapiolani Park is a beautiful 200-acre park with soccer fields, tennis courts, and even an outdoor concert hall (Waikiki Shell)!
About the Beaches
1) Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon
Duke Kahanamoku Beach is one of my favorite spots. Located right in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, this beach also has a man-made saltwater lagoon next to it. The whole area is very calm and child-friendly. It’s also the best spot to watch the free Friday Night fireworks show as well. FYI: They launch them right from the sand strip that divides the lagoon and the beach.
This beach also has some free and metered parking — if you come in from Ala Moana Boulevard, turn down Hobron Lane, then onto Holomoana Street, there will be parking around Ala Wai Boat Harbor and closer to the lagoon and beach. I wouldn’t say it’s a big lot, but usually, if we wait it out for a little bit, something will open up. There’s also parking at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Hotel but you’ll be subject to their current hourly rates. There are bathrooms by the boat harbor and also in the Hilton Hawaiian Village complex; shower facilities are available next door at Fort DeRussy Beach. Being so close to the hotel also means there are quite a few places to eat or grab snacks, including one of our favorite stops, Lappert’s Ice Cream shop!
2) Fort DeRussy Beach Park
So, I’m not as familiar with this beach. Fort DeRussy and San Souci are probably the beaches that I am least familiar with. in this case, growing up I just thought of Fort DeRussy Beach as the “military beach” due to its name and its proximity to Hale Koa Hotel, the military hotel. That being said, I have checked out the beach whenever I attended an event at the Hale Koa Hotel and I’ve walked through the park on several occasions, and…it’s nice! Bonus: there are equipment rentals available too.
The downside is parking options aren’t great — basically, a paid lot across the street from the beach. However, I also think it’s close enough to Duke Kahanamoku Beach to park there and then haul your things over to Fort DeRussy Beach without too much difficulty. There are showers and bathrooms available and although the closest hotel is reserved for the military, you’re still close to Hilton Hawaiian Village if you want to grab some food. There are also more options for food the closer you get to Kalakaua Avenue, the main road that runs through Waikiki. Fort DeRussy Park has a lot of walking paths, a playground for small children, tables, grills, tennis courts, and volleyball courts.
3) Gray’s Beach aka Halekulani Beach
This not-quite-a-beach beach is nestled between Halekulani Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki. Unfortunately due to heavy erosion, most of the sand is gone, in fact, during high tide, the water will butt up against the sea walls on both the Halekulani and Sheraton Waikiki sides of the beach, leaving just a small patch of beach in the middle. Apparently, there have been multiple attempts by the City of Honolulu to re-sand this beach but the sand keeps getting washed out. Even so, both hotels have boardwalks so pedestrians can walk through and access the rest of Waikiki Beach. In addition, due to the size of the beach, it’s often less crowded, and sometimes, small boats can pull up right to the shore.
In terms of parking, I believe the only options are street parking (very limited) or one of the hotel parking structures, which tends to be pricy. There are no bathroom facilities – although there are bathrooms and showers at Fort DeRussy Beach and Royal Hawaiian-Moana Beach on either side of Gray’s. There are restaurants attached to the hotels in the vicinity but if you’re looking for something more casual, I’d recommend walking toward Kalakaua Avenue.
Gray’s Beach is named after Gray’s By the Sea Lodge, an early 1900s hotel or boarding house.
4) Waikiki Beach Center aka Royal Hawaiian Beach
Close to two famous historic hotels surrounding this section of Waikiki Beach – The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider – the Waikiki Beach Center is literally, the center beach of Waikiki. This beach is also often recognized by the well-photographed Duke Kahanamoku statue greeting everyone as they enter. Unlike Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Kuhio Beach, this area does not have walls blocking the waves. I wouldn’t say the waves are huge, but they’re big enough to jump, take surfing lessons, and just have fun in the water.
With soft sand, a variety of beach equipment rentals, bathrooms, and outdoor showers, and easy access to a variety of food options, this area has everything…except parking. Unfortunately, being in the heart of Waikiki makes parking options limited to public lots and hotel parking structures. Your best bet would be to park at either end of Waikiki Beach – either near Duke Kahanamoku Beach or by Queen’s Beach — where there are more options for cheaper metered parking or free parking and walk-in.
5) Prince Kuhio Beach
Okay, for small children or anyone who may be intimidated by the ocean, Prince Kuhio Beach and Duke Kahanamoku Beach are by far the beaches for you! I personally like Kuhio Beach a little more because it’s right on the main Waikiki strip so there are lots of food options just across the street. In addition, it’s very close to the Honolulu Zoo and Kapiolani Park which makes finding cheaper metered parking or free parking a lot easier. The only downside is bathrooms are not available directly in this section; you’ll have to either go to the Waikiki Beach Center or Queen’s Beach…and it’s only far if you have a toddler who suddenly declares that he has to poop, like right now, but I digress.
This part of Waikiki Beach is walled in like Kahanamoku Beach so there aren’t a lot of waves and on the southern end, there’s also a walkway creating a physical divide between Kuhio Beach and Queen’s Beach. It’s a nice place to take a quick walk and great for watching the waves rolling in on the other side of the walls and at Queen’s Beach.
As a quick heads up: You are not supposed to jump off the walls near this area. Here’s why.
6) Queen Kapiolani Beach aka Queen’s Beach
Queen’s Beach always felt like the fun party beach whenever we went to Waikiki: there’s the gorgeous soft sand, the beach volleyball court, lots of people surfing or taking lessons, body boarding, snorkeling, stand-up paddling boarding, not to mention the giant screen set up for the Sunset on the Beach free movie events or the Barefoot Beach Café. Queen’s Beach always seems to have this energetic buzz that makes the whole area feel like a scene from a movie…or maybe that’s just me. LOL.
Just like with Kuhio Beach, I love this side of Waikiki Beach because it’s close to so many things: the Honolulu Zoo, Kapiolani Park, and the Waikiki Aquarium. In addition, there are bathroom and shower facilities on-site, it’s close enough to the Waikiki strip to make food and shopping very convenient, and there is free and metered parking all around the area.
As mentioned above, a lot of people like to jump off Waikiki Walkway (aka. Kapahulu Groin) between Queens Beach and Kuhio Beach – it is technically not allowed but people do it all the time anyway. I have seen kids as young as mine jumping off from time to time, but with its history of serious injuries and frequency of lifeguard rescues, we don’t recommend it. Just play smart and we hope you have a great Hawaii vacation!
7) San Souci Beach and Kaimana Beach
I’ve heard of San Souci Beach but didn’t realize this was San Souci Beach. Ha. I’ve always just considered this beach a part of Kapiolani Park or “the area next to the dilapidated Natatorium.” It turns out that this area is very calm and great for snorkeling and fishing! San Souci also has nice grassy areas, a bathroom, and a shower facility, and, due to its proximity to Kapiolani Park, there’s metered and free parking in the area, including at the old World War I Memorial Natatorium.
Kaimana Beach has a nice sandy shoreline and is often the go-to family beach for local residents. This beach is very calm so it’s a great place for snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. This area is still close to the larger main Waikiki strip however, you can feel the area move away from the main Waikiki strip, transitioning to residential condos, smaller boutique hotels, and a couple of fine dining restaurants.
The old World War I Memorial Natatorium in between these beaches is not open to the public but is being considered for renovations (fingers-crossed because it looks like it could be beautiful!). It was built in 1927 as a saltwater swimming pool and as a memorial to the soldiers killed during World War I. During the opening ceremonies for the Natatorium in August 1927, local Olympic gold medalist Duke Kahanamoku was the first to swim in the open salt-water pool.
8) Colony Surf and Outrigger Canoe Club Beach
Right where the War Memorial Natatorium and Kaimana Beach begin, Waikiki turns into what local residents refer to as the Gold Coast, a segment of coastline from Waikiki to Diamond Head with luxury condos, historic residences, and boutique hotels. It’s a beautiful (and somewhat expensive) area surrounded by Waikiki, Kapiolani Park, Diamond Head, and the gorgeous Oahu shoreline. This area often feels a little exclusive, due to its location in front of the Colony Surf condominiums and the private Outrigger Canoe Club, but since all beaches are public in Hawaii, there is public access to this area and everyone can swim here.
I’m not sure if this beach was originally included as part of the Waikiki Beaches, but recently this area has become locally famous due to a few special guests who have decided to make this beach their home. In 2017, this beach became popular when an endangered monk seal decided to give birth on these shores. Although this was not a regular occurrence, since then, there have been monk seals born near this beach in 2017, 2021, and 2022. I happened to be in the area in 2017 and saw both mom and pup from afar – there was fencing set up around them to protect mother and pup. Please remember that if you ever come across Hawaiian sea turtles and monk seals, these animals are classified as endangered species and are not allowed to be disturbed, touched, fed, or approached by humans. It is still amazing and beautiful to see them though!
This area is great for kayaking and snorkeling and has a pretty and calm, although small, beach. There aren’t really any restroom facilities here, the closest ones being the facilities at San Souci and Kaimana Beaches. Also, except for a little bit of street parking, your best bet for parking would be closer to San Souci Beach and Kapiolani Park.
Why we think you shouldn’t jump off Waikiki Walls and Kapahulu Groin
As I mentioned above, you’ll probably see people (kids and adults) jumping off of the wall divider at Kuhio Beach or the Waikiki Walkway – these are commonly known as Waikiki Walls and Kapahulu Groin. There are signs in the area stating not to jump and dive but it’s nearly impossible to pass by without seeing someone hurling themselves off the concrete walls. Even so, due to the high rate of rescues and serious injuries that occur, we don’t recommend jumping.
Of course, ultimately, it’s up to you. Of course, lots of people jump off the walls every day, not to mention all the YouTube videos I’ve found too. Before you go, I would offer these thoughts: 1) It is sometimes hard to determine the depth of the water or the strength of the waves, and 2) There have been at least 7 serious spinal injuries in the last decade due to jumping off the walls, not including the many other rescues required due to misjudging the waves and currents. It is worth saying that some of these spinal injuries have made healthy, able-bodied individuals wheelchair-bound for life.
More Information on parking near the Ala Wai Canal
Lots of sites mention free parking at Ala Wai Canal – this is true and we have parked here on occasion but not to go to the beach. In my opinion, Ala Wai Boulevard is NOWHERE NEAR Waikiki Beach and that, combined with the fact that it’s not the easiest place to find a parking spot, makes it difficult for me to recommend this as an option for the beach.
However, if you want to give it a try, here are a few things I’ve learned:
• It will often take more than one try to get a spot. If possible, look on a map PRIOR to going so you know which streets to turn into on the left AND which street to turn on in order to circle back around. Just assume you’ll have to circle back around a few times. Many of the streets are one-way but not necessarily alternating and I’ve often cut over too late or turned back onto Ala Wai Boulevard too early. Good luck!
• If you get stuck on the right side, try not to turn right to circle around. When you go over the bridge to the other side of the canal it will practically take you on a mini-tour of urban Honolulu. You’ll be going ALL the way around – passing by condos, several schools, a golf course, a whole strip of restaurants – before, finally(!!) you get back to Ala Wai Boulevard. (Meanwhile, some other guy is grabbing your spot!!! J/K…sort of.)
• Watch out for traffic behind you, when drivers realize that you are trying to find a parking spot, they’ll try to go around you, but buses and vehicles taking a right turn can’t so just be careful to avoid being rear-ended.
• Watch out for the bike lane – you’ll need to cross over it to pull into a spot and sometimes they are in a blind spot or don’t care that you’re trying to parallel park on a busy road.
• Check to see how far along Ala Wai Boulevard you’ve gone. I’ve literally finally found a spot, pulled into it without holding up traffic too much, and avoided hitting cyclists only to victory cheer for a minute before I realize I am really, really far from where I need to be. Honestly, that time I just stayed put. It’s so darn hard to get a spot, I wasn’t about to give it up. LOL.
Other activities to do around the area
*These activities assume you have minimal things to carry or you have a vehicle/hotel room/etc. to store them. I don’t believe there are many locker facilities in and around these locations.
1. Walk around Waikiki. One of the reasons Waikiki Beach is so fun is because Waikiki itself is so lively. With younger children, we would often only stay at the beach for a couple of hours – this was to keep our sanity as well as protect them from the strong Hawaii UV rays. LOL. Afterward, we’d walk around the area, window-shopping, walking through International Market Place or the Royal Hawaiian Center, and grabbing ice cream at one of the many places we passed by while exploring.
2. Visit Ala Moana Shopping Center. If you’re on the southern end of Waikiki Beach (Zoo side), this would probably require a bus, car, or trolley ride, but for those visiting the Duke Kahanamoku end of Waikiki Beach, this is pretty close (if you have small children, you may still want to consider a bus, car, or trolley, but it is absolutely walkable.)
Ala Moana Shopping Center is right across another popular beach, Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island so although you probably should rinse off the sand and put on some footwear before you go, it’s perfectly normal to see people in covered-up swimwear whenever we visited Ala Moana Shopping Center. Besides shopping, there are actually a lot of other things to do as well. If you have small children, there are a few play areas throughout the center. Our favorite thing to do is swing by Ala Moana Shopping Center for a quick bite to eat, take care of any shopping errands, and use their bathrooms (much cleaner than beach bathrooms!).
Ala Moana Shopping Center has over 350 shops and 160 dining options but some of these are temporary pop-up stores or simply aren’t able to stay very long. Often the quirky, hot-item snack shops and stores change out quickly, so check the Ala Moana Center website for a quick run-down of current eateries and retail stores.
3. Go to the Honolulu Zoo. This works a little better if you’re at one of the beaches close to the zoo, like Kuhio Beach, Queen’s Beach, or San Souci. But if you’re closer to the Hilton Hawaiian Village side, it would just be a quick bus, trolley, or drive down Kalakaua to the other end of Waikiki Beach (I suppose you could walk to it, but I’ve never tried it.) The Honolulu Zoo is open 7 days a week from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It is 42 acres with 900+ live animals and has lots of big, shady trees and places for kids to run around; it also has a petting zoo, snack bar, and decent-sized playground structure. We were members while we lived on Oahu – this was because we visited the zoo often and due to the size of our family, it was quite cost-effective. In addition, as members, you have updates on the Zoo’s many additional programs and events.