Waikīkī Beach is site of the annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the well-known 2.4-mile open water race held annually on Labor Day every September and numerous other open water swimming competitions and marine sports events.
Local swimmers daily swim at different locations throughout Waikiki Beach, from Kaimana Beach under the shadows of the Diamond Head volcano to the calm waters in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The coral reef lining Waikiki Bay provides endless scenes of marine beauty for swimmers fortunate enough to swim in these warm, clear waters.
Water Temperature and Water Conditions
The waters of Waikiki can be very rough with pounding surf or glassy flat on a windless day. The conditions are always changing and care should be taken, especially under rough water conditions. Currents can be quite strong, especially beyond the coral reef. The depth of the water can be quite shallow around the coral reefs, especially with the ocean swells.
The name Waikīkī means spouting fresh water in the Hawaiian language, for springs and streams that fed wetlands that once separated Waikīkī from the interior.
The neighborhood extends from the Ala Wai Canal (a channel dug to drain former wetlands) on the west and north, to Diamond Head, Hawaii on the east. Waikīkī Beach is noted for its views of the Diamond Head tuff cone, its usually warm and cloud-free climate and its surf break.
The Waikīkī skyline is dotted with an abundance of both high-rises and resort hotels. The beach is actually fairly short, with half of it marked off for surfers. For some distance into the ocean the water is quite shallow, although there are numerous rocks on the bottom. As with most ocean beaches the waves can have some force, particularly on windy days. The surf at Waikīkī is known for its long rolling break, making it ideal for long boarding, tandem surfing and open water swimmers.
A statue of Duke Kahanamoku, a local Hawaiian credited with popularizing the sport of surfing, stands tall at the heart of Waikiki Beach. The area was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s who enjoyed surfing there on early forms of longboards.
A few small hotels opened in the 1880s. In 1893, Greek-American George Lycurgus leased the guest house of Allen Herbert and renamed it the "Sans Souci" (French for "without care") creating one of the first beach resorts. Later that year Robert Louis Stevenson stayed at the resort; subsequently it became a popular destination for tourists from the mainland.
Today, the area is filled with hotels like the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Halekulani Hotel, the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī, the Waikiki Hotel, and historic hotels dating back to the early 20th century (such as the Moana Surfrider Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The beach hosts many events a year, including surf competitions, open water swims, outdoor performances, hula dancing and outrigger canoe races.
Over time, Waikīkī beach has had problems with erosion, leading to the construction of groins and beach replenishment projects. For example, in the 1920s and 1930s sand was imported from Manhattan Beach, California via ship and barge to Waikīkī. Importing stopped in the 1970s. Officials are looking for ways to sustain the existing sand by eliminating loss due to tide flow. Subject to permits, a partial restoration is schedule for early 2011. The proposed project would import sand from nearby shoals and would widen the long beach between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel concrete groin and the Kūhiō Beach crib wall. The project will restore the beach to its 1985 shoreline.
The Honolulu Police Department operates the Waikiki Substation. The Hawaii State Public Library System operates the Waikiki Public Library at 400 Kapahulu Avenue. The City & County of Honolulu operates the Honolulu Zoo.
In Popular Culture
Waikiki and Hawaiian culture are celebrated in the song "Holiday in Waikiki" by The Kinks on their 1966 album Face to Face.