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8 New Reasons to Visit Waikiki

Discover waterfront hotels, unique eateries and a 52-acre lagoon in Honolulu’s famous neighborhood

spinner image view from an ocean facing room in the twin fin hotel waikiki hawaii
Guests enjoy beautiful views of the water at The Twin Fin hotel.
Courtesy The Twin Fin / Christine Gatti/Dragonfly Image Partners

Hawaii has nearly fully recovered from the pandemic plunge in tourism, with nearly 800,000 visitors arriving in January 2023 alone, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. And its most-visited island, Oahu, is bustling.

“Car rental rates have declined and staffing has improved since the islands reopened, so it’s a much calmer time to visit,” says Randy Diamond, area managing director for Highgate, a hotel management company that runs several resorts in Hawaii and elsewhere.

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Having recovered the spirit of aloha, Honolulu is back on its feet with new hotels, restaurants and attractions, mostly in the tourist-centric neighborhood Waikiki. Here’s the latest.​

New hotels

The Twin Fin opened in November 2022 on the eastern end of the beach, near the Honolulu Zoo. The surf-themed hotel greets guests with a large-scale sculpture of a wave in the lobby made from recycled plastic found in the ocean. Guests can choose between rooms decorated in shades of sky and sea that overlook the ocean or Diamond Head, and borrow three items daily — including beach chairs, umbrellas and bodyboards — from Beach Candy, the on-site surf rental shop. Guided stargazing programs take place weekly on the 21st floor. Note: The property is ADA compliant. However, not all rooms have accessible features, so check with the hotel before you book. Rates start around $195.

spinner image a guest room in the wayfinder waikiki hotel hawaii
Rooms at the stylish Wayfinder Waikiki feature playful patterns and tropical accents.
Courtesy Read McKendree / Wayfinder Waikiki

About five blocks from the beach, near the Ala Wai Canal, the new Wayfinder Waikiki features lush foliage, bright colors and tropical patterns. Its culinary appeal stems from B-Side Coffee Bar and, coming soon, Redfish Poke Bar, which will highlight Hawaii’s popular raw seafood salad. Guests can rent a Moke ($125 per hour; $475 per day), an “all-electric, open-top vehicle, perfect for cruising Waikiki and Honolulu sights,” says Adrian Perez, manager of the hotel. Although the property is ADA compliant, not all rooms are accessible, so check with the hotel before you book. Rates start around $200.

spinner image dusk over waikiki at the coconut club at the hotel twin fin
The Coconut Club at the new Twin Fin hotel is just one of the new dining options around Waikiki.
Courtesy The Twin Fin / Christine Gatti

Where to dine

Beyond Hawaiian fare, Waikiki’s culinary character nurtures a strong Asian streak as captured by Stix AsiaThe new pan-Asian food hall revives the pre-pandemic hit Waikiki Yokocho. A few favorites are returning, including Nana’s Green Tea, known for matcha soft-serve ice cream, and Baikohken, known for bowls of ramen and bold flavors. New entries include a Taiwanese noodle stand, a Korean street food specialist and Hawaiian bagels in rainbow colors.

The Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort is on schedule to open a branch of the popular Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, from acclaimed island chef Peter Merriman, in June 2023. The restaurant will serve three dozen craft beers alongside pizza and fish dishes and offer live music daily.

Waikiki’s only grocery, Waikiki Market, recently opened, offering fresh poke bowls and prepared food to take on picnics, including farm-to-pizza flatbreads and Hawaiian plate lunches. The ground-floor restaurant Piko kitchen + bar serves stuffed ginger chicken bao buns, noodle dishes and rice bowls. A second restaurant, ‘Olili Waikīkī, is set to open this spring with a menu that offers a modern twist on traditional Hawaiian cuisine.

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spinner image a view of hanauma bay in oahu hawaii
To enter Hanauma Bay State Park, visitors must make a reservation.
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Ways to play

If you haven’t been to the island lately, you’ll find that a few things have changed. Reservations are required to visit Diamond Head ($10 for nonresidents) and Hanauma Bay State Park ($25), in an effort to ease overcrowding.

“I recommend to all clients that they make reservations for these two natural attractions and all restaurants as soon as their travel schedule and trip itinerary have been confirmed,” says Lisa Harris Boyd, a travel adviser based in Birmingham, Alabama. “Many restaurants and some of the top experiences, like luaus, book up months in advance.”

For visitors who don’t want to rent a car, E Noa Tours recently introduced a new tour to Oahu’s North Shore that includes stops at the bohemian town of Haleiwa, the North Shore’s famed surfing beaches and the Dole Plantation ($98).

In West Oahu, The LineUp at Wai Kai water park opens March 25 and includes a 52-acre protected lagoon and private beach so you can perfect your stand-up paddleboard skills and rent hydro bikes, kayaks and other nonmotorized vessels (admission starts at $45 an hour). For more ocean and less lagoon, continue west to the Waianae Boat Harbor. There you can join a six-passenger excursion with Wild Side Specialty Tours to look for humpbacks in the area during breeding season (through April) or swim with wild dolphins ($205). 

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