Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oahu: Why Kiki

One of the last things we did before leaving Honolulu was to visit world-famous Waikiki beach. For decades this name has conjured up images of tropical beach perfection: a broad expanse of clean white sand dominated by the commanding presence of Diamond Head to the south. In reality, it is quite different.

The view of Diamond Head is obscured by the massive high-rise hotels crowding Kalakaua Avenue. To see it, you have to walk to the northernmost part of the beach, or you have to wade out into the water and risk getting your head smashed by tourists learning to surf.


The beach itself is narrow, crowded and noisy. Here’s the view looking north on what I assume was a typical Saturday afternoon:


However, I will say two positive things about Waikiki beach. First, it is girl-watching paradise. Sorry, I was with my wife, so no pictures. It’s like the world’s greatest parade. For reasons known only to them, they walk up and down the beach, a constant moving display of youth and beauty in skimpy bathing suits. If you are so inclined, you can enjoy hours of this entertainment for the cost of a beach chair, a refreshing beverage and a pair of Ray-Bans while you swab yourself with SPF 50.

Later in this ongoing narrative, I will describe our visit to a nude beach for the purposes of comparison.

The other positive thing about Waikiki is Kalakaua Avenue. If you get bored with the beach, you can walk for miles, enjoying hundreds of upscale shopping and dining opportunities, as long as you don’t mind crowds of Japanese tourists doing the same thing.

Midway down the beach is this statue of Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming and widely regarded as the father of modern surfing (sorry about the crappy picture). Surfers hang garlands of leis from his outstretched arms.


Surfing is a huge industry in Hawaii, and vehicles with boards strapped to them can be seen on every road at every time of day. Duke Kahanamoku died in 1968, just at the explosive start of the surfing craze. One weekday when we were on Maui, I drove my wife to a SCUBA diving trip at 6:30 in the morning. At every beach we passed, the parking lot was filled with cars, and the water was packed with surfers. On my way back at 8:30, the parking lots were emptying out as the surfers raced home to get ready for work.

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