Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beaches: Waikiki Beach

View of the south end of Waikiki Beach / San Souci Beach Park
In old Hawaii, Waikiki was the place where royalty came to relax and surf.  Today, Waikiki is where everyone can relax and surf.  It's busy and crowded, but there are showers and bathrooms on the beach, the bottom is sandy, waves are small, and lifeguards are present.  There are also areas for beach volleyball, surf lessons, canoe lessons, or surf board/boogie board rentals.  Always around the corner or across the street is a restaurant or store to get sunscreen, water, coffee, or food.  Yes, some are tourist traps, but you can't beat the convenience of everything in one place.  

View Larger Map Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is on the south shore of O'ahu located nearby Diamond Head.  Waikiki means "spouting fresh water" and it's named for the multiple streams that fed this former area of wetlands and fish ponds.  Originally a wetland area, the old Hawaiians converted it to aquaculture and royal residence, building fishponds to feed the royal appetite.  Commoners worked the fish ponds while the chiefs engaged in business and surfing.

The surf here is decent, there's a reef break past the sea wall, but it's gentle for most of the year until the summer months.  During the summer when the south swells blow into Waikiki, the waves can get big, sometimes more than 5 feet.  For the rest of the year, you'll need a longboard to catch these waves, since they are gentle, rolling waves that barely get past 1 foot in height.

To the northwest end of Waikiki Beach (left in picture) is the Hilton resort beach and lagoon (which is private), next to the Hilton is Ft. Derussy Beach Park which is reserved for the Hale Koa guests, though the rest of Waikiki is public.  The center of beach around the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  Right next to the Royal Hawaiian is the Waikiki Outrigger Hotel.  Two buildings to the right of the Royal Hawaiian is the original (historic) Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel.  That is the low, boxy, white building near the end of the seawall.  The tall building next to the Moana Surfrider is the new, modern tower of the Surfrider.

The section between the Moana Surfrider and the Kapahulu Groin (Kapahulu Pier) is known as Kuhio Beach Park.  The small, white cylindrical building next to the twin towers is the Ashton Waikiki Circle.  Next to the Ashton is the Pacific Beach Hotel and home to the Oceanarium Restaurant.  I'd recommend dining at the Oceanarium Restaurant for dinner or brunch at least once when you visit.  The Kapahulu Pier isn't in the picture, because I'm right on top of it.  Towards the south of Pier is Sans Souci Beach Park (not shown in picture).  Sans Souci (means "care free" in French) Beach Park is named after one of the first beach resorts.  The man-made sea wall that runs along section of Kuhio Beach.  It's covered with algae, so be careful walking or climbing over the wall.  It's very slippery and the water hides a shallow reef, so the fall can hurt.

View of Kuhio Beach from the Kapahulu Groin.  Most people call it the Kapahulu Pier, though technically a groin because it serves as an extension of a storm drain that runs under Kapahulu Avenue.  That area was where Kuekaunahi Stream flowed into the sea.  The Pier was completed in 1951 as part of the Waikiki Beach Improvement Project.

Looking east towards Sans Souci Beach Park.  The original Sans Souci resort was on the grounds of what is now Kaimana Hotel.  Sans Souci was one of the first beach resorts made famous by George Lycurgus.  He made the resort a popular destination and was probably the forerunner of the tourism business in Hawaii.  The far end is Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District, the War Memorial Natatorium, and Kaimana Beach

The Waikiki Marine Conservation District isn't much of a beach as much as a park.  Here's a picture at low tide.  You can snorkel, swim, or wade here, but no fishing or disturbing the coral reef.  There are several fish here and you might even see the occasional octopus or moray eel.  The building in the background is the Waikiki Aquarium administered by the University of Hawaii.  

Here's the front of the Waikiki Aquarium.  It's small, but conveniently located right on the beach and right by a Waikiki trolley stop.  If you have kids, it's a nice way to spend a few hours.  You can read the blogpost about the Aquarium here.

Walking back along the beach is the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District.  The low concrete slab extending out to the sea is part of the War Memorial Natatorium.  It is the largest salt water pool in the US and is closed until further notice.  That building behind the palm trees is the Kaimana Hotel.

The Natatorium was built as a living memorial to honor the 101 who died and 10,000 who served in World War I that were from Hawaii.  Right next to the Natatorium is the Kaimana Beach Hotel.  

The Kaimana Hotel and Beach.  The hotel is offically called the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.  Kaimana means diamond in Hawaiian and it's a small jewel at the end of Waikiki Beach.  The beach itself is small with rolling sandy floor and sections of reef.  The next big beach is the semi-secluded Diamond Head Beach Park about 15 minutes up the road past the Diamond Head Lighthouse.  You can spend the afternoon here at Kaimana Beach, at Diamond Head Beach Park, or go across the street to Kapiolani Park.  

Kapiolani Park is a huge, 200-acre park across the road from Sans Souci Beach Park.  It is the largest and oldest park in Hawaii.  The park has soccer fields, tennis courts, benches, a few charcoal pits, the Honolulu Zoo, and the Waikiki Shell Ampitheater.  The road around the park is about 2 miles, so it makes for a good early morning jog.  On Saturday and Sunday there is an open air art exhibit from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm by Kapiolani Park along the Honolulu Zoo called Art on the Zoo Fence.

Or if you want, you can go up to Diamond Head Crater Park.  It's a short drive, though the climb to the top and back can take a few hours.  Near the entrance to the crater is Kapiolani Community College (KCC).  On Saturdays, KCC hosts the KCC Farmer's Market from 7:30 am to 11:00 am.  This is one of the biggest farmers' markets and farmers come from all the Hawaiian Islands to sell some of the freshest local ingredients.  You can get Kona or Ka'u coffee, Kona abalone, fried green tomatoes, and much more.  All depends on what you want to do.      

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