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Planning a trip to Waikiki but are nervous about dealing with large crowds? Luckily there are lots of fun and affordable things to do in Waikiki to escape the crowds.
Visiting Waikiki is on many a bucket list of things to do in Oahu. This is why escaping the crowds in Waikiki is easier said than done. It is definitely one of the most tourist-filled places I have ever been to.
After visiting the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui, I much prefer the quieter corners of the Hawaiian Islands – my favorite spot is the chilled-out North Shore of Oahu – but it can be fun to explore the craziness of Waikiki too.
The beach is undoubtedly beautiful and the shopping and dining scene is huge and varied. You can definitely see why a visit to Waikiki is one of the top things to do in Oahu.
It’s just a shame about the hoards of people.
Whenever I visit Waikiki I do like to delve into the tourist side of this resort neighborhood. I swim at Waikiki Beach, I browse the shops, I eat at popular tourist restaurants like Duke’s – but there is only so much I can take.
What I have found after multiple visits to Waikiki is that the tourists tend to congregate in large numbers in certain areas: primarily the main shopping streets and Waikiki Beach fronting the big resorts.
If you venture out of these areas you can avoid the crush and discover a quieter side to Waikiki.
And the good news is that a lot of the quieter but fun things to do in Waikiki, and Oahu as a whole, are free or cheap.
So definitely make sure to add Waikiki to your Oahu itinerary, even if you aren’t a fan of crowds – because it is possible to escape the crowds in Waikiki, just follow these tips.
I recommend doing a dinner cruise in Oahu too during your time there – it’s a great way to see more of the coastline and catch the sunset.
Fun Things To Do in Waikiki Away From the Crowds
There are soooo many dining options in Waikiki but it is always the chain restaurants that seem to have the longest lines. I don’t get that. Why visit them when you can try somewhere local with fewer people?
One of my favorite things to do in Waikiki is to eat at local spots, and during my many visits to Waikiki, I always try to eat at a couple of different places that are tourist hot spots.
For killer garlic shrimp, make sure you check out the friendly hole-in-the-wall spot that does them the best – Sam’s Kitchen. It is tucked away back towards the canal but is worth leaving the beach for.
Head to Teddy’s Bigger Burgers for creative and affordable burgers – I love the classic Hawaiian burger with teriyaki sauce and pineapple.
Don’t miss Leonard’s Bakery for their famous malasadas: Portuguese donuts. It is a 30-minute trek inland from the beachfront but it is so worth it. Leonard’s has been a local institution since it opened in 1952 and there is always a line but it moves fast. I love the haupia (coconut) and macadamia nut custard-filled malasadas.
Some other affordable and popular local options in Waikiki are Marugame Udon, and Rainbow Drive-In.
Make sure you check out the offerings at Waikiki Food Hall Co in the Royal Hawaiian Center in downtown Waikiki including garlic shrimp, onigiri, and burgers, and the food trucks at the Food Truck Park on the corner of Kalākaua Avenue and Niu Street.
If you are willing to travel a bit further to visit a local area near Waikiki – I highly recommend the Mccully Molili area by the University of Hawaii. The restaurants here are cheaper than in Waikiki and I highly recommend eating at Pho Nina for excellent vermicelli noodle bowls, Betty’s Burgers for a wide range of delicious burgers, and Da Spot Health Food and Juices for excellent smoothies, juices, and Mediterranean fare.
Make sure you try some Hawaiian comfort food and traditional pupu while you are in Waikiki too, you can pick up spam musubi at most ABC Stores, there are a number of places that do poke – I have heard Maguro Brothers is really good and Foodland supermarket is consistently excellent and affordable with a wide range of options. Try loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In.
Drink Some Local Beer
If you are a beer lover like me, don’t miss trying some local beer while you are in Waikiki – I think it is definitely one of the best things to do in Waikiki!
My favorite place for local beer in Waikiki is actually in the non-touristy area by the University of Hawaii. The Beer Lab is a fun and bustling brewery that has some excellent beer including inventive IPAs, Stouts, Saisons, and more.
Other breweries to drink some excellent local beer are Waikiki Brew Co, and Maui Brewing Co. – these are both in Waikiki proper and have very affordable happy hours every day.
Visit the Lush Grounds of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Despite being smack bang in the middle of the tourist zone, the tropical grounds of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel are usually deserted. Spending some time in this peaceful spot is definitely one of the best things to do in Waikiki.
It’s the perfect place to admire the glamor of the grand pink hotel buildings and the magnificent banyan trees crisscrossed with vines surrounding them.
There are fish ponds and colorful flowers throughout the stunning grounds and at night the trees are lit up with lanterns making it just as beautiful as in the daytime.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and grounds are the perfect picture of what I imagined Hawaii to be like before coming here, and it retains the class of an earlier time in Hawaii’s history.
Grab a takeaway lunch and sit among the greenery to enjoy the peacefulness in this bubble of tranquility. This is one of my favorite spots in Waikiki and should be on any list of things to do in Oahu.
Watch the Sunset from the Fort DeRussy Rock Pier
OK so this one does get pretty busy but most people tend to congregate on the beach to watch the sunset leaving the rocky pier with plenty of space to sit along.
Pick up a cold Hawaiian craft beer from an ABC Store and sip on it while watching the fishermen along the pier and waiting for the sun to set.
It sets behind the mountains and lights up the whole sky. You can’t beat a Hawaiian sunset; It is pretty damn magical.
Swim Away From the Main Stretch of Beach
One of the most obvious things to do in Waikiki is to swim at the main beach, but as soon as you get sick of the crowds (that won’t take long) there are so many other beaches to swim at that are within easy walking distance from central Waikiki.
One of the easiest to get to is the small beach at the end of the Sheraton boardwalk. It is only minutes away from busy Waikiki Beach but every time I went there were only ever a handful of people.
I also felt a lot more comfortable leaving my stuff on this beach as there are bushes you can tuck it under so it’s out of sight.
Continuing on further west is Fort DeRussy, a large park with a long stretch of beach. It still sees a fair amount of tourists but much less than Waikiki Beach and the beach is bigger so it is more likely you can find a spot to lay your towel.
Ala Moana Recreational Park and Magic Island Lagoon can be reached from Waikiki by walking for 40 minutes or by taking a short bus ride.
Magic Lagoon feels more like a large swimming pool and for those of you that are scared of sharks (like me), this is a great spot for swimming in the calm waters that are protected by a breakwater. A lot of locals head here for beach time.
San Souci Recreational Park southeast of Waikiki Beach is a great spot to see local Hawaiian families barbecuing and picnicking in the park behind the beach and is another great spot to watch the sunset.
With so many options it is easy to escape at least some of the crowds. And beach time is a must-do if you are staying in Waikiki.
Walk Along the Main Beach in the Evening
The best time to visit Waikiki Beach to escape the crowds is once the sun has set. I love walking along the darkened beach past the bright lights of the waterside resorts.
If you time it right, you could catch a hula performance at the Royal Hawaiian. You will only be able to see it from the back when sitting on the beach but it’s free.
Waikiki is a fun and lively holiday destination and if you mix some of these chilled things to do in Waikiki to your visit, you won’t get burnt out by its hectic pace.
Where To Stay in Waikiki
If you are on a tight budget, there are a number of hostels in Waikiki, the best are the centrally located Seaside Hawaiian Hostel and The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel.
For something more luxurious, stay at The Modern Honolulu, a beautiful boutique hotel near the beach, the chic VIVE Hotel close to the beach, Aqua Oasis design hotel, or the classic Royal Hawaiian right on the beach.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Hawaii content:
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- Ultimate 7 Day Maui Itinerary For the Budget Conscious Traveler
- The Ultimate Big Island 7 Day Itinerary
- Incredible Hawaii Tree Houses That You Can Rent!
- One Week in Kauai: Impressions of the Garden Island
- The Best Things To Do on the North Shore Oahu
- The Best Easy Hikes in Kauai
- Hiking the Captain Cook Monument Trail in Hawaii