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Waikiki offers fun for young and old(er)

By BRIAN J. CANTWELL | THE SEATTLE TIMES Published: January 19, 2017

If you consider yourself a traveler rather than a tourist, you might tend to avoid Waikiki Beach. It’s too commercial. Overcrowded. Too much of a South Seas cliche.

But if you’ve been there, you know there’s a lot to love about the crazy scene: the platoons of newbie surfers dodging catamarans and outrigger canoes. The beach bars. The perfect sandy beach, with visitors from around the world playing beneath windblown palms in the shadow of distinctive Diamond Head.

It’s fun for young and old. Still need convincing? Here are suggestions for things to do at still-wonderful Waikiki for millennials and baby boomers.

Admittedly, these recommendations are based on shameless profiling. Some millennials will prefer the ideas for boomers, and vice versa. Go with what you prefer. The point is that Waikiki can be fun for all. I like to spend a couple of days among the crowds there and then beat a hasty retreat to a quiet cottage on the North Shore.

Suit yourself. Oahu makes it easy.

 

For the millennial

Learn to ride a board

The warm sea and relatively mild surf at Waikiki can provide the perfect place to try catching a wave. I’m a boomer, and I signed up for an hour surfing lesson along with my daughter’s boyfriend, a millennial, and fearless snowboarder. He got in several good stand-up rides. I got one long ride on my knees (it was like floating on air) all the way into the beach. $120 for two includes 60 minutes instruction and 60 minutes with the board, from Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki, in a booth on the beach. See www.hawaiianoceanswaikiki.com.

 

For the boomer

Kick back with a mai tai and watch all those surfers

A great vantage point: the aptly named, open-air Beach Bar beneath the 138-year-old banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider, the first hotel built on Waikiki (circa 1901). Address: 2365 Kalakaua Ave. See www.moana-surfrider.com/dining/beachbar.

 

 

For the millennial

Climb Diamond Head for spectacular views at sunrise

It’s the most popular hike on Oahu for good reason (don’t expect to be alone). Diamond Head was used as a military lookout since before World War I, and the old bunkers are still there. The volcanic-crater rim’s high point is reached via a maze of trails, eerie pedestrian tunnels and steep, long staircases. The 0.8-mile climb (gaining 560 feet) isn’t for the faint of heart, but standing at the top is like being on Pride Rock in “The Lion King.” And the view as the dawn sun lights Waikiki is one to remember.Park opens at 6 a.m. daily; $5 car entry fee. See www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/oahu/diamond-head-state-monument.

 

For the boomer

Take in a free hula show at sunset

Bring a beach towel and sit on the grass for the Kuhio Beach Hula Show, beneath the giant banyan across Kalakaua Avenue from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. The show features skilled dance troupes with authentic performances accompanied by live musicians. There’s a torch lighting and blowing of a ceremonial conch shell to start. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, weather permitting, 6-7 p.m. November through January; 6:30-7:30 p.m. the rest of the year. See www.waikikiimprovement.com/waikiki-calendar-of-events/kuhio-beach-hula-show.

 

For the millennial

Tour a ukulele factory

Oahu has several. Family-run KoAloha Ukuleles offers free tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, a short drive from Waikiki. It’s an authentic small factory, hidden in an industrial district, with dust and noise, not a tour-bus stop, which means you might get a private tour to learn about how koa wood is bent into curvy shapes and why the internal “unibrace” gives KoAloha ukes a sweeter sound. If you’re lucky, 72-year-old founder Alvin “Pops” Okami might sing for you. 744 Kohou St., Honolulu. Call 808-847-4911 or see www.koaloha.com.

 

For the boomer

Tour Iolani Palace

The last royal home to Hawaii’s monarchs,is 15 minutes from the beach and, timewise, in another world — when these islands were self-governed. The residence of King Kalakaua and, later, Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarchs of Hawaii, was built between 1879 and 1882 in an “American Florentine” style. There’s even a throne room. Go at noon most Fridays to enjoy a free concert on the lawn (weather permitting) by the Royal Hawaiian Band, established by King Kamehameha III in 1836. Tours $14.75-$21.75. Address: 346 S. King St., website: www.iolanipalace.org.

 

For the millennial

Stay at Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club and ride a vintage bike to the beach

Part of the Aqua-Aston hotel group, the recently renovated and rebranded Surfjack projects a youthful retro-beach-club vibe accented by the postcard-y “Wish You Were Here!” message written in giant script across the bottom of the pool. Amenities include poolside movie premieres and bikes for guest use. Address: 412 Lewers St., website: www.surfjack.com.

 

For the boomer

Stay at the classic “Pink Palace of the Pacific”

Built in 1927 the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is the most exotic lodging at Waikiki. Its Abhasa Spa (the name means “illusion” in Sanskrit) offers massages in the peace of the hotel’s tropical garden, hidden away just a short walk from Waikiki’s busiest shopping district. A rhythmic, Hawaiian-inspired Lomi Lomi massage starts at $145. Address: 2259 Kalakaua Ave.; website: www.en.abhasa.com

A paddleboarder heads out with his dog at Waikiki Beach. (Brian J. Cantwell/The Seattle Times/TNS)

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