As one of Honolulu’s busiest commercial centers, Waikiki is a shopping and dining paradise. Squeezed into a strip only a mile and a half long are hundreds of stores—including unique Island and Japanese-style boutiques, familiar chains from the U.S. mainland and international luxury brands. Eateries likewise run the gamut from the classic local “plate lunch” takeout to five-diamond French dining on the oceanfront, plus everything in between.
Many shops throughout the neighborhood stay open as late as 11 p.m., and 24-hour restaurants are available.
The most prominent shopping and dining stretch is Kalakaua Ave.—and throughout the day and well after dinner, meandering and browsing is the thing to do. Shops open right onto the street or are housed in several shopping centers, including Waikiki Plaza, Waikiki Beach Walk, and the luxury-brand T Galleria and Royal Hawaiian Center.
Gucci, Cartier, Kate Spade, Apple, Ferrari, Macy’s, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, Coach and Tiffany—they’re all here, along with surf favorites such as Billabong, Honolua Surf Co. and Quiksilver, plus artistic local boutiques Martin & MacArthur, Nohea Gallery, Noa Noa and Hawaiian Quilt Collection. International Market Place, an open-air souvenir market on mid-Kalakaua and dating to the 1950s, is slated for teardown and by 2016 will become a three-story upscale center anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue.
If you’re looking for that easy-going, affordable family dining experience in Waikiki, it’s not hard to find at popular mainland chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Hard Rock Café, Yardhouse, PF Chang’s and IHOP. But beyond the familiar, plenty of creative one-of-a-kind eateries abound that Waikiki residents cherish, such as MAC 24/7, Hula Grill, the Cream Pot, Taormino and Keo’s Thai Cuisine.
On the high end, award-winning dining is on every corner, from dinner at the exclusive Hy’s Steakhouse, nestled in an almost Sherlock Holmes library setting, to the seafood infused Sunday Brunch at the open-air, oceanfront Orchids. Pau hana—or happy hour—runs late into the evening in Waikiki as well, and lounges and bars are plentiful and extremely diverse.
Rainy days in Waikiki can still prove interesting, even after shopping and dining are done. Several historic hotels, such as The Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider, have great collections of memorabilia showcasing the early days of Waikiki, including of the celebrities that frequented these shores. Most hotels also have activities such as lei making or hula classes, although these are generally reserved for guests.
The free Hawaii Army Museum on the west end of Waikiki is well worth visiting; housed in a vintage bunker, inside you’ll find impeccably displayed World War II and Native Hawaiian artifacts.
For something a little different, Waikiki has several “gun clubs” that offer indoor-range shooting. In the evenings, a variety of stage productions take place around the neighborhood, from large-scale illusionist performances to rock concerts at the Waikiki Shell amphitheater.
Photos: Stacy Pope