Located on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, in the city of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach is definitely a world famous family vacation spot. Waikiki is actually a district of the city of Honolulu and this popular tourist spot attracts more than 4 million visitors every year.
Average flight time from the west coast of the U.S. is approximately 5 hours. Honolulu airport (HNL) is a major hub airport here. Many tourists initially fly into HNL and stay on Oahu for a few days before flying off to explore some of the other Hawaiian Islands. Waikiki Beach is about 12 miles from HNL airport but because you're in the heart of the city, there is traffic...and lots of it. Chances are it will take about 1/2 hour drive time at least to reach your Waikiki Hotel.
Expectations - Waikiki is a bustling metropolis. Think Las Vegas with a beach. There is one high rise hotel located next to another. Because it is such a mecca of tourism, the streets are crowded with visitors from all over the world. Waikiki is definitely the vacation choice for families who enjoy non stop action. That said, everything here is very family oriented and kid friendly but there is 24/7 hustle and bustle. Waikiki may be a bit over stimulating for some young children who are not used to urban environments.
Many families use Waikiki as a home base while sightseeing around the island. It is definitely recommended that those visitors staying in Waikiki, do venture out and explore the beautiful of Oahu that lies just outside the city limits. Touring other parts of the island of Oahu will certainly give you a different perspective of Hawaiian life compared to just visiting the tourist area of Waikiki.
If you are the type of family looking for a more laid back vacation experience, then consider staying in a quieter resort and doing a day trip or two into Waikiki.
Getting Your Bearings - The tourist area of Waikiki Beach is about 2 miles long. It is separated from the city on the north and east by the Ala Wai Canal. Its boundary to the south is the towering Diamond Head Crater. To the north is Ewa beach or the Ala Moana shopping center. Of course Pacific Ocean runs along the west shore of Waikiki.
It is easy to navigate your way through Waikiki on foot. All of the city intersections are stroller friendly but you may find a child carrier more convenient for babies due to the crowds. Just about anything your heart desires can be found along this 2 mile stretch from exclusive stores like Tiffanys or Gucci to bargain basement souvenir shops. City buses run continually and charge $2.50 per adult and $1 per child. In addition there are sightseeing trolleys and hop on & off tours. With the congested traffic hassles, parking fees and cost of gas, you may want to reconsider renting a car if you plan to stay a few days just in Waikiki.
Accommodations - Waikiki is all about location. Families can expect to pay more for one of the handful of properties located right ON the beach. These properties generally offer the most ammenities and services too. Many of the major Waikiki hotels sit just across Kalakaua Avenue from Waikiki Beach. The farther away from the beach and the closer to the canal your hotel is located, the lower the price tag. Most properties in Waikiki consider "kids" to be under the age of 17. Often there is no charge for kids staying in the same room with their parents.
Basically there are three styles of accommodations that families heading to Waikiki can choose from...
- City style hotels - These properties may or may not have a pool and offer few ammenities other than a comfortable and convenient place to sleep. Although family friendly, these would generally be considered business traveler hotels in another city.
- Resort style properties-like the Hilton Hawaiian Village which offers 23 acres onto itself directly on the beach. Here families can expect full service features like kids club babysitting, pools and restaurants right on site.
- Condo style accommodations - offer more space with multiple bedroom options, kitchen facilities and some include washer & dryers right in their units.
Each of these accommodations offers families a different type of vacation experience. Choosing the right property for your family's specific needs and budget is an important decision that influences your overall vacation enjoyment so consider it carefully. Most travel companies offer more than 50 hotel choices within this 2 mile stretch of Waikiki. Working with an experienced travel agent can certainly save you a great deal of time sorting thru all these choices.
Food & Restaurants- Because Waikiki is a tourist mecca located on an island, it costs more to import food here. This price difference will definitely be felt in your wallet. Every conceivable chain restuarant from back home is represented here but prices will be more than what you are used to paying. If you are planning on eating 3 meals per day in restaurants, an average food budget would be close to $100 per adult. Feeding kids would certainly depend on the child. A finicky toddler could nibble off an adult plate. Feeding a teen age boy might cost a small fortune. Travelers to Waikiki can easily blow this entire daily food budget on one meal at a fancier restaurant meal or a splurge on a luau.
This is why condo style accommodations are popular with so many families who don't mind cooking while on vacation. The local supermarket here is The Food Pantry located at 2370 Kuhio Ave. Expect to spend at double or triple your family's weekly food shopping budget for the same amount of groceries. There is also a local farmers market on Saturday mornings each week. Much of the produce here is local and organically grown.
Some hotels offer free breakfast which certainly helps offset the food budget. Most rooms do come with mini refrigerators for keeping cold drinks and snacks at hand. In Waikiki you will find an ABC store on just about every single corner. These are like your local mini mart back home but they also have alcohol and souvenirs. Still they are a convenient and not too costly option for drinks, snacks and some breakfast and lunchables.
Entertainment - Waikiki offers tons of entertainment options for families. It all depends on the ages of your children, your family's likes and interests and of course, sightseeing budget. Of course there are plenty of sightseeing options on Oahu itself like Pearl Harbour, the surfing beaches of the North Shore, Dole Pineapple Planatation and Sea life Park to name just a few. Here are a few options located right in Waikiki itself...
- Atlantis Submarine - Enjoy the novelty of an educational submarine tour 100 feet below the Pacific ocean to view marine fishes, coral reefs and turtles. Children must be 36 inches in height. cost is approximately $100 per adult and $50 per child.
- Honolulu Zoo - Open daily from 9am -4:30pm. Admission is $14 for adults over 13 and $6 for kids ages 3-12. Easy to get to by bus or walking from most Waikiki hotels. 42 acres of family fun including a petting zoo. Specially guided twilight tours are offered for an additional fee every Friday and Saturday evening.
- Waikiki Aquarium - Is located just two blocks beyond the zoo and is also open daily from 9am - 4:30pm. Prices are $9 per adult, $4 for juniors ages 13-17, $2 for kids 5-12 and ages 4 and under are free. A visit here is definitely interesting, entertaining and educational. The aquarium also posts a handy online jellyfish calendar alerting swimmers at Waikiki beach to visiting jellyfish.
- Surfing Lessons - Surfing is part of the Island lifestyle here on Waikiki. and definitely on the "to do" list of tweens and teens who vacation here. Most of the hotels can set this up for you or you can visit a kiosk on the beach. Expect to pay $35 -50 per hour lesson on average. After getting some instruction, you can rent a board to practice for about $7 per hour.
- Royal Hawaiian Luau -Every Monday Night at 6pm at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel located at 2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu. The Royal Hawaiian was the first hotel built on Waikiki and this is the only beach side Luau in Waikiki. This 3 hour dinner and show celebrates the aloha traditions. Costs are $175 per adult, $97 for children ages 5-12 and $20 for children under 5. Reservations are required.