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Saturday, February 09, 2013

BEACH-GOER: DON'T MISS HONOLULU'S WAIKIKI BEACH


Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is a slender crescent beach.
Diamondhead crater looms high above the far end.
 Hawaii doesn’t bill itself as Paradise without reason.  The beaches and beautiful waters offer more than a cool-off dunking.  Brochures advertise the splendid vistas, the spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving, and, of course, the monstrous waves that make Hawaii the surfer’s dream-come-true.  A lot of that is totally true.  If you’re the tourist here for the beaches, there is no way to sample all Oahu has to offer in one vacation. All beaches in Hawaii are open to the public.  Not all beaches are the same.  Once again, the “know thyself” advice I offered earlier (http://www.thirdagetraveler.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-tourist-in-hawaii.html) comes into play.  What are you really here for?

Beaches in Hawaii have names and personalities.  For instance, you might be luxuriating in the calmest, swimming-friendly section of beach while looking at surfers riding waves just a short distance away. 

You can leave your hotel in Honolulu, head to the ocean, face in either direction, begin walking, and you will pass through beaches with individual names and personalities.  You might not even know it.  That’s not the way to do it.  It's better to know what to look for, and I will give you some hints as I talk about the beaches.

In Honolulu if you really want to, you can walk from the Hilton Hawaiian Village at one end of Waikiki (as a neighborhood) all the way to Kapiolani Park at the other end. There are very few places where you have to leave the sand and then only for short distances.   Granted that is a long walk, but for the avid beachgoer, that may be just what you are looking for.  Though the sand remains fundamentally unbroken, sections of beach have their own names.

Chances are you’ll want to begin with one of the most famous beaches in the world—Waikiki. Every generation has an imaginary link to this beach gleaned from some incredible picture, book, movie, or even by playing with a hula hoop, and no matter what you’re looking for, don’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time on Waikiki beach and swim in the Pacific here.  Even if it’s just to say you’ve done it—DO IT!


Honolulu, Hawaii
in front of the Royal Hawaiian

If you speak with friends who have been to Hawaii over the years, you will hear that Waikiki is not what it used to be.  It used to be much wider; it used to be less crowded, etc. etc.  All well and good, but the “used to be-s” should not distress you.  The crescent that stretches out beneath the looming presence of Diamondhead is still exciting and beautiful, and you can spread out the straw rollup mat you picked up as a freebie gift or in the local market to soak in some of what the sun and surf have to offer. 



Honolulu, Hawaii
the koi pond at the Sheraton
 The hotels that line Waikiki Beach are beautiful and picturesque.  There are public accesses to the beach, but you might as well thread your way through one of the hotels if you’re not already staying there.  On the one hand, this maneuvering is truly annoying; on the other hand, you might as well enjoy the art, the koi ponds, the luxurious stores, and the beachside bars and dining.  Roll with the punches, and don’t carry too much with you. 


Honolulu, Hawaii
Yes, here we're in front of the famous "pink hotel," the Royal Hawaiian

The umbrellas and lounges that border the hotels are, of course, for their guests, but there is plenty of room in front of them, and it’s very nice to be close to the water.  There are also beach walks in front of the hotels, so you can walk on those, rinse your feet in their showers when you leave, and generally not be concerned as you stroll from hotel to hotel.  There is the Spirit of Aloha to remember, and you will fit right into that laid-back state of mind. 


Honolulu, Hawaii
Here is the view from the beach walk in front of the hotels. 
Flowers, palm trees, and alohas from the people we pass.

I was surprised that Waikiki Beach did not fit into the picture my imagination had created, and initially I was a little disappointed.  But there is such a nice feeling on that beach.  The water is exquisite.  The first time we went in the water, Rob and I stayed for about 45 minutes, floating, talking, and observing.  It’s so calm we were able to really swim without fighting waves or currents as we so often do in ocean swimming.

Honolulu, Hawaii
Almost any kind of water fun is available on Waikiki
Everywhere we look, people are enjoying themselves.  Not only are there swimmers but also surfers (although from our hotel balcony we learn that there are certain times of the day and evening when the surf is better and there are many more surfers out there), paddle boarders of all ages, boogie boarders, and wind surfers. Different double-hulled catamarans, smaller Hoby Cats, and other “tourist” vessels like outrigger canoes come to shore boarding or disembarking passengers, joggers trot along the fringe, and there are any variety of other beach activities going on.  All of this activity marks Waikiki Beach as ideal for people watching as well.  It is the hub or Honolulu, and there is always something interesting going on.  It is quite lovely. 

Frankly, although we were only two blocks from the beach, we didn’t enjoy carrying our things and weaving through the hotels with them, and with so many other beaches available, we found more user-friendly ones with no problem at all.  This was the only day we spent on Waikiki Beach, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  And we came back on several evenings for a sunset libation and a very peaceful end of the day.

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