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13 Top Waikiki Beach Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

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Waikiki Beach attracts over 4 million visitors a year to its sands. Here’s Hawaii travel tips to keep your Waikiki Beach escapades stress-free amidst crowds.

13 Top Waikiki Beach Tips for Stress-Free Vacation

1. Touching a Hawaiian green sea turtle.

Nooooo don’t do it. Not unless you want to go to jail or have a local yell at you.

It is a federal and state crime to touch or harass a Hawaiian green seat turtle. Hawaiian green sea turtles are an endangered species and you can get slapped with a fine and go to jail. Many Hawaiian families have turtles as their family ‘aumakua and if they catch you touching a turtle, they may give you a hard slap themselves!

The Hawaiian green sea turtles is a beloved icon of Hawaiian Island culture and you will occasionally spot them swimming the oceans of Waikiki. They are considered an ‘aumakua, a personal family god or an ancestor who is seen as a spirit guardian, that watches over you. Locals view them with reverence; they are more than just creatures to islanders. Treat it with respect and never touch or play with them.

Read about the Hawaii endangered species that can land you in JAIL.

2. Buy your snorkel set and floaties when you arrive.

From beach towels to floaties and snorkel sets, Hawaii has it all and you can easily buy them around town.  In Waikiki:: ABC Stores, Ross For Less, Longs Drugs. Outside Waikiki: Target, WalMart, Costco, Don Quijote.

Reef booties are optional as some parts of the Waikiki Beach have gritty or rocky sands when entering the ocean.

Surf board and boogie board rentals are available at certain beaches like Sunset Beach, Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Fort DeRussy.

Check out my Hawaii Packing List 

3. Rent or buy beach chairs

Renting a chair on the beach is not cheap if you are doing it through your hotel.

Although beachfront hotels in Waikiki have lounge beach chairs set up in prime spots fronting the hotel,  beach rentals cost approximately $60/day. For the more budget minded, your hotel store may carry a cheap fold out or you can visit Longs Drugs and ABC Stores.

4. Finding parking in Waikiki

Finding parking in Waikiki can occasionally be a nightmare, as hotel parking is expensive. Even locals want to know where are the best places to park in Waikiki. If you don’t want the hassle of driving around, hire an Uber or Lyft.

If you don’t mind paying or walking, continue to read below:

Best places to park in Waikiki

Street parking : Ala Wai Canal (except weekdays 8:30AM to 11:30AM), Kapiolani Park, Ala Moana Beach Park
Metered parking: Honolulu Zoo, Kapiolani Park
Almost free: Ross For Less parking lot (one hour free with a purchase)
Paid (under $35/day): Sheraton Waikiki Hotel Garage, Fort DeRussy Garage, Ala Wai Boat Harbor (metered)

5. Always read beach signs.

We have warning signs for things such as high tides, strong currents, strong undertow, man-o-war warnings, etc… Locals pay attention to them, so you should too. They are warnings because the likelihood of accident or injury is high.

Read Best Waikiki Beaches (coming soon!)

6. Man-o-war warnings

Portuguese man-o-war warnings are the most unpleasant of beach signs. They are similar to jellyfishes and are a transparent blue bubble with stingers. After a storm they can be found floating on the surface of the water or washed ashore on the sands.  While it is not a deadly creature, the sting is painful and may last for hours. There are two ways to alleviate the pain– meat tenderizer and urinating on the stung area. If you see this sign, it’s best to avoid the beach altogether.

7. Swim when there is an on-duty lifeguard.

Waikiki Beach is a fairly safe beach with tame waters and little undertow currents. Still, always make sure you swim where there is a lifeguard.

See Recommended Hotels in Hawaii

8. Sun protection.

Due to global warming, the Hawaiian sun is hotter than it has ever been. Even locals feels its gotten hotter; this is only further validated by the quick tan you get just hanging your arm out the car window when sitting in traffic. So it is not uncommon to be driving Waikiki and see a lobster red tourist walking tenderly, unable to put their hands down to their sides. A burn is not a tan, people. Most Waikiki shops sell sunscreen— buy and use it. I am not kidding. Even shaded areas and clouded days require a little sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

I like Bare Republic 50SPF sunscreen facial stick (for my face) and Hawaiian Tropic SPF 50 Antioxident with green tea extract to help protect the skin against drying and aging. Even SPF 50 will allow you to get a tan.  Reapply every two hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating. If you do get a burn, ABC stores sell after burn lotion to soothe and inject moisture back into sunburnt skin.

Some folks wear SPF 50 rash guards to protect their arms while swimming.

Rashguard for Men :

Kanu Surf Men’s Cb Rashguard UPF 50+ Swim Shirts 

Rash Guard Women :

HISKYWIN Women’s Long Sleeve UV Sun Protection Rash Guard ,
Body Glove Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard with UPF 50+,
ATTRACO Women’s Rashguard Swimsuit Zip Front UPF 50+

9. Only Reef Safe Sunscreen Allowed

Only Reef Safe Sunscreen is allowed and sold in Hawaii. In January 2021, the Hawaii Sunscreen Ban 2021 went into effect changing the Hawaiian Islands’ tolerance towards sunscreen which harms our ocean, marine life and coral.

Reef Safe sunscreen

Check out our Hawaii Reef-Safe Sunscreen Guide

10. The Homeless.

Unfortunately, one thing that has been growing in Hawaii are the homeless population. You will see them in central Waikiki near the beach, either panhandling in the well-trafficked areas or crashed out near Kuhio Beach. Some are youthful beg-packers who made their squat on the islands and  others can look disheveled and nutty. Ignore them and they won’t bother you. Most are just looking for a restful spot to laze around. At night, stick to well lit spots where you see other tourists.

11. Keep valuables dry

Get a Waterproof Mobile Phone Pouch to keep your mobile phone and dollar bills dry. Waterproof mobile pouches allow you to take your camera phone in the water. Most allow you to submerge it in shallow waters like for snorkeling. It is not for deep dives. Test yours first by placing a tissue in it and submerging it in your hotel sink. If the tissue gets wet after you’ve sealed your pouch and submerged it, there is a hole.

12. Travel Insurance

These days, travel insurance is a must. You never know when you’ll need it. Hawaii has a lot of fun outdoor and ocean activities and if you are not careful, you may find yourself in the hospital.  Hawaii does not have as many health insurance carriers as the mainland U.S. – its two main insurance carriers are HMSA and Kaiser Permanente. If you do not possess either, you may want your trip to be insured.  If you are an unvaccinated traveler to Hawaii , you want to opt for Travel Insurance with COVID-19 & quarantine coverage.  If you are planning to do a lot of ocean sport activities, you may want insurance to cover your adventurous spirit.

13. Do not litter

Please be respectful of the beach and keep it clean. Do not litter and always remove the trash you bring with you, from plastic water bottles, plastics, soda cans to sick masks, cigarette butts and tissues, etc…   As lovely as our beaches are, they can have a lot of micro plastics due to negligent and irresponsible people. Debris in our oceans and beaches kills and injures wild and marine life. If you see litter, please pick it up and toss it in the nearest trash receptacle. Trash cans are something many of Hawaii’s beach parks have., so please use them.

Tip: Want to volunteer to help Hawaii cleanups of beaches, parks and hiking trails? Join 808 cleanups on Facebook or visit their site at Download their app to start logging the trash you help clean.

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