When you go on holiday, you factor in a certain amount of downtime. Unless you go away with the express intention of laying on a beach all day, this will usually be in the evening. You go for dinner, have a few drinks, maybe get an early night if you’ve had a long day. Or are getting up early for some adventure. But when it is hot out there in the day, you might want to mix it up a little. Rest in the day, and find some fun things to do at night! And when it comes to Hawaii, it can get pretty hot out there. This is why we have compiled a list of the top 9 best things you could possibly do in Waikiki at night, without stepping a foot inside a nightclub.
Vanilla holiday snaps are a thing of the past with our guide to the beaches, food, culture and wildlife of Honolulu’s coastal jewel. Imagine basking in the dusky ambiance, soaking up the cool nighttime air, and indulging in the changing atmosphere. And just because there aren’t any clubs in this list, doesn’t mean you wont get in any dancing. Perhaps even some of the al fresco kind! Allow us to indulge your senses…
Top 9 Best Things to do in Waikiki at Night
Everyone has their personal idea of what a dream holiday is like. Whether that be all ‘adventure, adventure, adventure’, plenty of beach time, or getting lost in local culture. What kind of things do you want to do in Waikiki at night? No matter what, there is sure to be a few delicious treats for you to sample in our top list of activities under cover of darkness.
Romantic Walks on the Beach
Waikiki was the preferred hideaway destination for the kings and queens of Hawaii. Whilst today the Beachfront can get pretty busy with guests from bars and hotels, there are still plenty of lovely spots you can take a stroll with your beau. Take a picnic and enjoy the serene shore against the backdrop of the ocean front shops and bars. you can find secluded spots if you’d prefer a more private romantic moment. Queens beach is generally considered to be a quieter spot in the day for a swim and a sunbathe. As night falls and the crowds flock to the centre of Waikiki beach to for dinner and drinks, this could be the best bet! Take a moonlit swim and enjoy the cool air.
Either way, there are plenty of spots for a moonlit stroll, and every day is different. Find your own adventure and bask in the cool of the nighttime with a beverage, some snacks and that special someone.
Were it not for King Kamehameha’s vision for Waikiki, today it would be a swampland with no beaches and very little to draw the crowds here. So, if you are wandering the beaches at this time, why not give a little thanks to the first king of Hawaii. He had a vision for this place and saw it through to its beautiful end!
Segway Tour up to Diamond Head
Diamond Head is the volcanic cone-shaped crater that sits behind and affluent neighbourhood to the east, a fair way past what is termed the Waikiki proper. The ‘real’ Waikiki, incidentally, is anything west of the Kapahulu groin. This spot is an interesting place to visit, not least because it is a 300,000 year old spectacle of volcanic rock! It also has stunning views over Waikiki and the surrounding areas.
By day the site is hot, humid and busy, filled with tourists taking snaps of the bay against clear blue skies. But, to do things like this in Waikiki at night, there are fewer people, and a slower pace. Albeit with a faster ride than your feet. Tours begin in Waikiki at sunset. Takes a whistle stop tour of some interesting spots with your guide, before gliding up to the top of the cone. All on your trusty Segway.
You will pass by some stunning multi-million dollar houses on your way to the summit. Once at the top, you will see the beautiful Diamond Head lighthouse, and stop for photos at the Amelia Earhart lookout. Prepare for amazing views of the bay as night sets in!
If you would like to see the view in the daytime, you can always use this as a little reconnaissance mission, and hike up there in the day another time.
Fun fact! Locals refer to Diamond Head as Lēʻahi (brow of the tuna), as its ridge of the volcanic cone resembles a dorsal fin. It’s new name derived from soldiers coming from Britain in the 20th century. They saw the calcite around the rim, sparkling in the daylight, and thought it was laced with diamonds!
Walk Kalakaua Avenue
The street that runs parallel to the beaches of this are of Honolulu is the iconic Kalakaua Avenue. This is one of the main things to do at night in Waikiki, as it is full of bustling life and interesting spots. It is a peculiar mix of tall buildings, golden beach and people dressed to the nines, or bikinis and board-shorts heading to get some surf.
By day, you will find retail outlets and malls that vastly outstrip big city names like Rodeo Drive! Seriously, this is world class shopping to a tropical tune. Now, you could spend your hard-earned cash here of course. Alternatively, you could browse the upscale shops and watch the rich and famous spend theirs!
But by night, things begin to liven up. You will find the upmarket shops in places like the International Market stay open til around 7pm, but its on the streets you will find the hustle and bustle. Live music by various street artists is cast in the hoary glow of the torches lit especially each night. The whole scene takes on an otherworldly glow, as people pass by in their finery, looking for drinks and dinner. Performers here are no stranger to the Ukulele, and it is a wonderful sound to hear as you taste the sweet scented tropical air.
The avenue of resorts, shops and restaurants become a marvellous cacophony of life as the darkness descends. It is truly a spectacle, and one not to miss. Once you tire of walking, reward yourself with a cool cocktail. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a great go to, and wonderfully decorated with views of the beach. Perfectly located just at the end of the the avenue, with extensive dining options, and a dedicated Mai Tai bar!
Take a Cocktail Cruise
Taking a serene cruise across the bay is an awesome way to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki at night. Plus, there are a host of options to choose from. From luxury catamaran cruises with dinner drinks, and entertainment, to sunset cruises with cocktails and buffet dining. Whatever your style and budget, there will be options for you. Even a five-star option with a 7-course menu and live Jazz throughout!
The Oahu sunset cocktail cruise is a great option for almost everyone as you get beautiful views of the sun setting over Waikiki beach! The 1.5 hour trip takes off just before sunset, and you can enjoy a buffet dinner and unlimited cocktails while you sail peacefully.
You could even pick a Friday night cruise and watch the weekly fireworks as they explode over the bay. But we will save the details to see below…
Watch the Fireworks From, Wherever!
Yes, that is right. Weekly fireworks happen in Waikiki, and can be seen over the bay as they light the skies from Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This really is one of the things to do in Waikiki at night from anywhere!
Proceedings start at 7:45pm, and last around 10 minutes. Best views are apt to be on Waikiki beach, and you can partake in a little stargazing before and after. Maybe with that picnic packed perhaps! Fireworks are of course free to watch, though if you are staying in the Hilton Hotel, guests do get the special addition of a screening by the pool, which has a lovely intimate feel to it, and it is a great final goodbye to the town if you are heading home over the weekend!
Take Part in a Luau
The luau is as much a part of the local culture and tradition as the hibiscus flower. You will often find free events put on around Waikiki beach and also Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. Here, the warm air melts into the soft lilting music, imbuing the graceful movements of the hula dancers.
Aha’aina Royal Luau takes place on a Monday at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and is a lovely event put on with music and a lovely buffet. You can also experience and interactive Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village, where the Waikiki Starlight Luau takes place each day except Fridays and Saturdays. You will get a lot of bang for your buck here, with a rooftop buffet and acrobatic fire dancers accompanying the traditional Luau experience.
When taking part in a Luau you are likely to receive a Lei, or floral garland you will no-doubt associate with Hawaiian islands. This is a symbol of affection from one person to another. If you receive a Lei, it is kind to observe a couple of unspoken traditional rules. Always accept a lei if offered, and make sure to not remove it in view of the offerer. This is time-honoured etiquette, but if you must take it off, do so privately. If you want to fit in with the locals, the traditional way to wear the lei is to loosely drape over the shoulders, equally draped over front and back of the chest.
Honolulu Zoo by Night!
This may technically be on the outskirts of Waikiki, but it is so worth doing! How often would you get to do things like this at night, especially in somewhere as exotic as Waikiki!
The Twilight tour of Honolulu Zoo is a guided ramble that lasts two hours, but with very few rest stops. Taking place every Friday and Saturday night, it is a great way to escape the crowds and get a better look at some of the more nocturnal animals! On this tour you will learn about biology and habitat of these animals, as well as some conservation information and facts. Guides are knowledgeable members of the Honolulu Zoo team, and you will end the tour with refreshments in the ‘classroom’, where you can learn further details and ‘biofacts’ about animals you can see at the Zoo.
This is a lovely tour, but does involve a fair bit of walking. To stay comfortable on this tour you will need comfortable shoes, bug repellent, and of course a camera will come in handy. You might also want to consider a hat or raincoat if the weather demands it. The tour is well worth your money, and a really intimate look at the wildlife, both local and more exotic to the Hawaiian islands. Spot amphibians, birds, and many varieties of wild mammals, including some of the big cat family, and the sleep sloth!
Hula by Torch Light
Torch lighting happens each night in all of the local spots, and is a great time to witness some cultural echoes of a bygone time. Of course, we have electric lights now, but what a wonderful way to illuminate the streets!
This is also fantastic option if you are into the idea of a Luau, but want the free experience! Head to Kuhio Beach Park. Their sunset torch lighting ceremony with Hula dance show takes place Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound. Its easy to spot, close to the Duke Kahanomoku statue, and the banyan trees.
In time honoured tradition, a conch shell is blown shortly before the torch is lit. This is when the Hula dance begins. A similar traditional ceremony occurs at the Ilikai Hotel, and also at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Centre. Here, you will see 50 lamps lit by a man dressed in traditional garb wielding a stick of fire. It is super atmospheric!
This is family friendly, completely free and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in a little local culture and history, without having to pay a dime!
Night Time, Aquarium Time
If you’re looking for things to do that involve the sea in Waikiki at night, the Aquarium is one for you! Sure, you can try your hand at night surfing to acquaint yourself with the sea find those fishies, but that is very dangerous. The stuff only for advances local surfers!!
This after dark tour will give you what you crave! Complete with flashlights, you get a guided peek around the best tanks in the place, and see the spectacular colour change of certain species. There are 3500 different fish species within, so you will be spoilt for choice. You can even spy a octopus if you look hard enough, not to mention, the glorious vision of those mesmerising, gelatinous jellies! the semi-darkness gives them a spooky air. the Aquarium overlooks the living coral reef of the Waikiki shoreline, so you can take a stroll along the beach before heading in to see what life is like under the waves.
This is a really great family offering, with kids and adults of all ages entertained by the large tanks, fascinating fish and interesting stories. Plus, as it opened in 1902 this is the second largest aquarium in the USA! A very cool part of American history.
Is it Safe to Walk Waikiki at Night?
As a top tourist destination, it is fairly safe to walk the streets at night, but there are obviously the odd incidents. This could scare tourists away, but it is important to remember that there are always the safe spots to walk at night, and if you stay in groups or pairs, you are likely to be more safe.
That being said, both law enforcement hotels and property owners take this very seriously, and are very keen to stamp out crime. But there are some rules to follow. Generally, it is best to stick to the well populated areas at night. Anywhere there are a few groups of people and the area is well lit is best. If you are unsure of the safest neighbourhoods and spots, it is always best to ask a local tourist office, law enforcement or your local hotelier. Most people will be more than happy to steer you right!
Another top tip is to not leave your hotel or apartment with any valuables. This includes keeping valuables in your car. It is always best to store them safely in your room, locked up in a safe if possible.
Whilst Hawaii is a relaxed environment, filled with many wonderful people, it is just like anywhere else. Crime does happen, and tourists are often seen as an easy mark. As long as you practice good safety measures, and stick to well populated areas, your trip should go off without a hitch.
If you’re up for Adventure…
Take a little trip outside of the Waikiki area, further north west to ‘Eat the Street’. Once a month, this feast is held in Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, around 3 miles from Waikiki beach, and it is a celebration of all things edible in Hawaii. The event showcases a wide variety of different food truck companies, offering a vast array of styles. It is a culinary delight, and a real way to mingle with locals and foodies alike! Catch a cab there, and maybe take a walk back. The journey past Kawalo Basin Harbour and through Ala Moana Regional Park onto Waikiki beach is bound to be a lovely dreamlike journey in the moonlight. Plus its a great way to expend some of those extra calories you will no doubt have consumed!
The Best Things in Life (and Waikiki at Night) Are Free, Mostly
Waikiki is a great place to spend some time, and with so much going on you might never have to leave. All the more reason to come back and explore this great collection of American Islands piece by piece!
You can of course dance your little heart out at some of the best bars and nightclubs in Waikiki, or take up some Karaoke singing and wow the locals. You could take in some live music at the Blue Note Hawaii, a world class Jazz club with comfortable seating in a beautiful setting. The staff are wonderful too!
But, if you are up for something a little different, these 9 examples of the best things to do in Waikiki at night are going to maximise the fun factor on your trip! If you happen to know of some other fun or secret spots for some nighttime wandering in Waikiki, comment below. Or share this with your friends so you can start planning your next trip of a lifetime to this tropical and cultural paradise.