Built on a reclaimed swamp, two miles east of downtown Honolulu, Waikiki is very nearly an island, all but separated from the city between the sea and the Ala Wai canal. The site may be venerable, but these days its raisond’être is rampant commercialism. You could, just about, survive here with very little money, but there would be no point – there’s nothing to see, and the only thing to do apart from surf and sunbathe is to stroll, and shop, along the seafront Kalakaua Avenue.
In places, the parallel Waikiki Beach narrows to just a thin strip of sand, but it’s still a wonderful place to spend a lazy day, and there’s always something going on, from surf lessons to outrigger canoe rides. The pedestrian walkway along its edge, lined with pleasant gardens, makes it a refuge from the frenzy nearby, and usually you only have to walk a little west of the centre to find a more secluded spot.
See our comprehensive first-timers-guide to the Hawaiian islands for overviews of all six freely visited islands, and more on what to see and do around Waikiki.