Travel Scene: Waikiki Beach

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“SUNSET CRUISES! Twenty dollars! Suuunset cruises!”

A woman wearing a yellow polo shirt is standing in the sand of Waikiki Beach in front of a rainbow-sailed catamaran, bellowing her pitch out into the sunbathing crowd. Most of them ignore her, turning back to their books or children or game of sand badminton. Some, however, seem interested.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

There are a few boats with colorful sails meandering along just past the beach's break walls. The people on them are perhaps enjoying watching people taking surfing lessons out where the waves break small and gentle.

I'm enjoying watching them, too. People on big surfboards, paddle boards, boogie boards… you name it, they're all out there, halfway between beach and horizon, waiting to catch that perfect wave. When the sun begins to set, their silhouettes stand out against the sea like little buoys bobbing along in the current.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, sunset

Closer to shore, families of all shapes and sizes are splashing in the shallow water. Little kids are wearing floating tubes and cute little swim suits. Some are building sandcastles, or simply using small plastic shovels to slap at the wet sand.

The beach itself is littered with plastic beach chairs, beach towels, and colorful umbrellas during the sunny afternoon. Rows upon rows of surf boards and lounge chairs are up for rental from laid-back men in swim trunks and sun hats, and plenty of people take advantage.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, surf boards

Behind me, once the sand gives way to pavement, a palm tree-lined road is bustling with buses and cars; the sidewalks are bustling with aloha shirt-wearing tourists, smiling and enjoying the tropical weather. Most are undoubtedly staying in the high-rise hotels and timeshare rentals that tower over the beach.

Many hotels offer guests their very own beach-view balconies as well, so I know I'm not alone taking in the scene or the sun at Waikiki as an observer.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

As the afternoon wears on, the beachgoers begin packing up their towels and sunscreen. They put away their sunglasses and rinse off their feet (and their children) in warm water showers dotted here and there along the public beach.

The beach begins to clear, and it begins to get even quieter. The waves lapping at the sand become the loudest sound.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Further down the beach, away from the hotels and closer to Diamond Head, the sand is almost empty. Most people have gone back to their hotels to get ready for dinner, and the stragglers enjoy Hawaii's most popular beach in a different, much less crowded way.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

I like Waikiki Beach at this time of day. It's that quiet, almost sleepy time before sunset when the light is warm on the sand and the colors seem to pop. The palm trees are greener; the water is bluer. It's calm.

As I stroll out onto a stone pier, a dog catches a wave on a bodyboard and rides it in to shore. Yes, in Hawaii, even the dogs go surfing.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Sitting on the pier, I do some people-watching. There are a few lone swimmers and some determined surfers still out in the water. On the pier, older couples walk slowly hand-in-hand, clearly in no rush to go anywhere. Many, like me, are taking photos of Waikiki in the warm pre-sunset light.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

The sun eventually begins to creep closer toward the horizon, bathing the sea and beach in a golden glow. Everyone on the pier comments on how beautiful Hawaii is. And, right now, I have to agree.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, sunset

I wait until it's almost dark. Until the tiki torches along the beach and the street lamps on the street are providing most of the light. Then I get up, and head away from the sand and the sound of the lapping waves. I want to hold this last vision of Waikiki Beach in my mind, knowing that, soon, it will become the spot where the homeless come to make their beds.

Though, to be honest, I can't think of a much better place to fall asleep, either.


Have you been to Waikiki Beach before? If so, did you find it crowded and touristy, or sort of charming like I did?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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14 Comments on “Travel Scene: Waikiki Beach

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  1. […] when it comes to picture-perfect beaches. Whether it’s the crowded yet full-of-character Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, or the more remote surf beaches of North Shore, there’s a beach for all tastes […]

    Wow, beautiful photos. I also love the Gold Coast, the beaches behind the W Honolulu closer to Diamond Head. They’re not as busy, but just as beautiful.

      Hawaii certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to beautiful beaches!!

    That yellow sunset is crazy! How pretty!

    I think I expected it to be crowded and touristy… but when I got there I found it incredibly relaxed, a gorgeous beach and I was perfectly happy to spend plenty of time relaxing there, swimming, or reading a book. I have really good memories in Waikiki.

    Great . I love the one on the pier as well.

      I know! I expected it to be really noisy and crowded. There were a lot of people there in the afternoons, but I still found it a really relaxing atmosphere, perfect for people-watching! My favorite time was in the early evening, when the beach started to clear out a bit.

      Thanks for reading! Glad you liked the photos, too.

    Captivating photos… and equally captivating story! Makes me want to be on the beach right now. 😉

      Thanks, Christy! I wasn’t sure if the story element would work, so I’m glad to hear people enjoyed it! But yeah, the photos are my favorite part. It was difficult to take a bad one!

    What a gorgeous picture you’ve painted in my mind with your words!!! If I hadn’t had been to Honolulu I’d want to go right away now!

      Aww, thanks, Andi! It took me some time to figure out how to best capture Waikiki Beach. But I think I did my best! I wish I could be back there right now, that’s for sure!

    Amanda I love the sunset photo of the pier, beautiful composition.

    I didn’t know you could put a price on sunsets but I guess it’s 20 bucks 🙂

      Thanks, Ayngelina! I really love that photo, too. I’m starting to think that buying a new camera before this trip was totally worth it!

      And, I’m not gonna lie – if I’d had more time, I might just have shelled out the 20 bucks for that sunset cruise!

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