Waikiki Beach

Technically, "Waikiki Beach" refers specifically to the section of beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Outrigger Waikiki. But broadly speaking, Waikiki Beach encompasses a one and a half mile stretch of beach front, from Kahanamoku Beach (in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village) to Sans Souci Beach (in front of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel). The surf never gets too rough, making it a very family-friendly beach, and there are numerous vendors offering surf lessons, canoe and catamaran rides, and watercraft rentals. Or simply kick back in your beach chair and relax.

How to get to Waikiki Beach
Most Honolulu visitors are likely already staying in Waikiki, so the beach is just a short stroll away. City buses go down Kuhio Avenue, a few minutes walk from the beach. Parking in Waikiki can be a challenge; street parking can be hard to find, and though there are numerous garages in the area (many associated with a hotel), they aren't cheap.

Best and worst times to go to Waikiki Beach
Off-season is Waikiki is in the fall and spring, when the beaches are less crowded. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon the crowds also tend to diminish, and weekdays are less crowded than weekends. Summer is when tourist season hits its peak, and if there's a festival/parade of any kind on Kalakaua Avenue, the beaches will also be more crowded.

Admission to Waikiki Beach
The beach is free to all visitors.

Must see/do at Waikiki Beach

Get in -- or on -- the water. You can buy air mattresses and inner tubes at the ubiquitous ABC Stores in the area, who will also inflate them for a fee. Kuhio Beach has two enclosed "ponds" with rock walls if you're nervous about swimming in the open ocean; they're especially great for young swimmers as well (and don't miss the free hula show at Kuhio Beach every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Take in the glorious sunsets, either from the beach itself or one of the numerous beachfront bars. Every Friday night, there's a free fireworks show in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village; good viewing can be found on Fort DeRussy Beach.

Other places to visit near Waikiki Beach
The Honolulu Zoo is worth a visit, and the Waikiki Aquarium is also popular. On the weekends, the Art on the Zoo Fence showcases the creations of local artists. The US Army Museum is free, and a great place to duck into during the rain. The Royal Hawaiian Center has a number of free cultural activities such as lei making, and free nightly music. Farmer's markets at the Hyatt Regency Beach Resort and Spa and King's Village offer fresh and prepared foods, crafts, and free samples.

Insider tip for visitors to Waikiki Beach
The beaches may be sandy, but it's best to wear aqua socks or some kind of foot covering when in the water, where there are rocks and reefs.

Author's bio: Gillian G. Gaar is a Seattle-based freelancer who writes about music, entertainment, and travel. She visits Waikiki whenever she can, and loves to sit on the beach gazing at Diamond Head.