Waikiki Beaches with Kids

Of course the main attraction is the beach and the ocean. The "beach" in this case is actually a string of connected beaches fronting all of Waikiki. Despite the initial look (Yep, some sand, lotta water), different sections offer different experiences. We'll work our way from east to west.

Waikiki beach map

  • The beach in front of the zoo and further east is broad and flat with reasonable waves. Many local people come here to be outside the mainstream of Waikiki. There is also a section of the beach here that attracts male gay travelers. Neither area is ever too crowded but there are no restaurants or other services nearby (Number 1 on the map above).
  • A bit further west, closer to Kapiolani park and near Kapahulu Avenue, you'll see a long pier with a roofed little hut-like pavilion at its end. The east side of this pier offers excellent snorkeling if you swim out about 20-40 yards past the end of the pier. Try early morning or late afternoon and you should see puffer fish (fugu), angel fish and all sorts of colorful tropical stuff.
  • Closer to shore, the waves can get rough for little kids but will be exciting of older ones. The beach here is broad and usually not very crowded. In the evenings local high school kids show up with the tide to dare each other to dive into the surf off the pier. Watching is fun but I wouldn't want to try it myself. There is a stand that rents snorkel gear, but they close up in the late afternoon. Excellent boogie boarding when the tide is coming in; check the newspaper for tidal charts (Number 2 on the map above).
  • For little kids, start with the section of beach at the end of Uluniu Avenue. There is a fairly robust breakwall there, forming an essentially-wave free giant pool. The water is warm and shallow with a sandy bottom. This will likely be the best place for infants to enjoy the water. Good sand for sand castle building as well. The breakwall controls the tide to a certain extent and so it is less likely your castle will get wiped out before you finish it (Number 3 on the map above).
  • The area in front of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider has a very nice stretch of beach. For part of the day the hotel itself shades the beach, giving you a break from the sun. The sand here is also the best we found for making sand castles"€moist, fine grain sand that sticks together. This area is usually crowded in the late morning and early afternoon, but thins out closer to dinner. The water nearby has nicely active waves, but the bottom drops a few yards from shore and turns rocky, so it may not be best for younger kids (Number 4 on the map above).

In the later afternoon and towards sunset, watch for sea turtles to pop their heads up about 20-30 yards off shore, especially near the breakwall that shoots out from the western end of this section of beach.

  • You can't miss the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which is remarkably pink colored in all ways. The beach in front is usually very crowded and the hotel staff behave in a snooty, very non-aloha way in staking out parts of the beach with umbrellas for their own guests. The water at this point, however, is pretty nice and you have a sandy bottom out for some 50-70 yards. Go out further and you can get some nice waves, but the bottom is rockier (Number 5 on the map above).
  • The best ground-level sunset watching place we found on Waikiki is the beach and breakwater in front of the Outrigger Reef. You can walk out on the breakwater easily (some rocky parts so little kids will do better with shoes than slip on sandals) and just soak it all up. You can sometimes see crabs and little fish caught in tidepools near the breakwater. Around sunset time this area has a couple of old guys who will take your picture posing with one of their trained parrots. It costs money so move quickly past them if you don't want to spend cash and/or have a "I want it Mommy!" episode tantrum risk. The parrot guys ambushed us once, plopping a parrot on our youngest before we could say no, sort of trying to entrap us into buying a picture (Number 6 on the map above).
  • Further west along Waikiki's beach you'll pass Fort DeRussy, a U.S. Army installation (with a free museum). It is all military hardware, including a Cobra helicopter and captured WWII Japanese tank). The beach from here on west is very flat with very little surf. This may be just right for some small kids and just boring for some other kids. The U.S. military has a recreation facility near here and you can sometimes see some awesome two-on-two beach volleyball games on/near the beach (Number 7 on the map above).

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