Playing Tourist: Waikiki

When my friends and family tell me they’re spending a week in O’ahu I’m immediately excited.  What should we explore, what are they going to want to experience, and most importantly, are they going to like spam musubi?! So often when we travel we try to squeeze the most into the least amount of time, a concept that goes completely against Hawaiian style that is so laid back and free flowing.  But I get it, who wouldn’t want to get the most out of their vacation, right?

After 2 years of showing malihini (first-timers) around, I’ve come to gravitate toward certain hotspots around the island, but none thrill me like Waikiki (don’t get me wrong… I don’t believe Waikiki to be “true Hawaii” but I do believe it’s a great place to start falling in love with the islands.)  So this is my homage to Waikiki; a walkthrough of what a day playing tourist would be like.

Mac Daddy Pancakes: pineapple, coconut & macadamia nut

9:00am – Banana, walnut, chocolate chunk  “Mac Daddy” pancakes with friends, (your surfing instructor, the shuttle bus driver that picked you up at the airport, your bartender at Rumfire and the valet guy from the hotel) at Mac 24-7.  There will be leftovers.

10:30am – Power walk back to your hotel to pretend you are burning off some of the calories from the aforementioned breakfast.  Get (un)dressed for surfing, slather SPF 50 everywhere, walk to the beach fronting the Moana Surfrider.  Get distracted and rock in the rocking chairs on their front lanai while people watching.

11:00am – You finally make it to the beach.  Grab a board* and surf Canoes, Queens or Pops.

The Surf Breaks of Waikiki

12:30pm – Carbs and protein should be replenished within 30 minutes of physical activity.  Walk mauka (toward the mountains) from the beach on Uluniu Avenue and relish a heaping plate of kalbi, rice, mac salad and kim chee at Me BBQ.

1:00pm – Afternoon nap by the pool (top choice: Sheraton Waikiki’s Infinity Pool) on the sand or in bed.  (This step is imperative and essential to the full “playing tourist” experience.)

Photo courtesy of Sheraton Waikiki

2:00pm – Wake up refreshed for a jaunt down Lewers Street, otherwise known as Waikiki Beach Walk.  Pick up a dress at Mahina boutique, feast your eyes at Diamond Head Gallery, and catch Pau Hana (happy hour) at Yardhouse.

5:00pm – Dress up (or down) for an evening with limitless possibilities.

6:00pm – Fall asleep in the hammock at The Waikiki Edition Hotel on the ‘Ewa side of Waikiki.  Wake up in time to catch the movie under the stars (we are assuming it is Movie Night Thursday).  Order a signature cocktail from their Private Sunset Beach Bar while enjoying free popcorn and candy.

Movie Night Thursdays at The Waikiki Edition

8:00pm – Resist the temptation of buying everything at the Apple store and head directly to Doraku for a “hip and swanky” sushi spot.  Sitting at the sushi bar is preferred.

10:00pm – Back to the hotel for a soothing bath followed by a blissful night of sleep in billowy softness. **

*While there are many excellent rental places at the beach and by the beach, I recommend renting from Surftech at 945 Queen Street off of Ward Avenue.  If you save your receipt and decide you want to buy a board, they will apply your rental fees to the purchase price.  ($20/day x 7 days x family of 4 = brand new board!)

**If staying out is more your style, don’t miss the dizzyingly discreet Crazy Box at the Waikiki Edition – especially on Fridays. Guests of the hotel are automatically on the guest list.

Katherine Hsia

Known affectionately as "the wandering concierge," Katherine segued a hospitality career in fabulous New York City into a life pursuing her passions of writing, adventure and travel on the spectacular island of O'ahu. She is a freelance writer for publications such as Honolulu Magazine, Hawai'i Parent, Freesurf, and more, while working on her Hawaiian comic and non-fiction book. She enjoys seeing life for its whimsical beauty, great meals with good friends, her love affair with travel, and being overstimulated by new experiences. Want to get in touch with Kat? Add her on facebook or send her a message on her website,, where she's been known to get her blog on.

1 Comment
  1. I’m not a huge fan of Mac24/7. The food is hit or miss, but the pancakes are definitely GOOD! As for Me BBQ, I second that. Doraku is also really good 🙂

    Great post!

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