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Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

Kapiolani Park, Diamond Head and Kapahulu

Hiking, shopping and eating in paradise

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    This guide contains photos
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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.2 miles / 11.6 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: Long before Waikiki became a tourism mecca, an adjacent 300-acre tract of land at the base of Diamond Head was set aside for a public park because it wasn't considered suitable for anything else. Since it was one of the few places on Oahu where rain almost never fell, Hawaii’s King Kalakaua designated Kapiolani Park as home to a permanent horseracing track in the particularly wet winter of 1876.

Enthusiasts believed that far too many races had been canceled that year because existing tracks were so muddy. Since many alii (royalty) lived in Waikiki, the king selected this flat plain because it was dry, convenient and unoccupied.

The ponies are long gone. But what you’ll find here today is a city park thriving with walkers, runners, soccer matches, softball games, tennis enthusiasts and picnickers. Toss in all the action of the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Kapiolani Bandstand and the Pacific Ocean just across Kalakaua Avenue, and you’ll likely find yourself experiencing Kapiolani Park more than once during your Waikiki stay.


Tips: If you’re into walking, you can tackle much of this itinerary on foot. Or you can find a metered parking space at Kapiolani Park and hike portions of the itinerary, then hop in your car for the Diamond Head hike and Kapahulu Avenue stops. If you opt for this excursion on a Sunday, be sure to check out Art at the Zoo Fence (artonthezoofence.com) and Royal Hawaiian Band (honolulu.gov/rhb/concertcalendar.htm) concerts at the Kapiolani Bandstand.

Points of Interest

Food/Dining
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Hau Tree Lanai at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel

In its unique setting on Sans Souci Beach, the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel long has been celebrated for its superb ambience. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about the site, "If anyone desires such old fashion things as lovely scenery, quiet, pure air, clear sea water, good food and heavenly sunsets hung out before his eyes over the Pacific and the distant hills of Waianae, I recommend him cordially to Sans Souci Beach."

Start your day here at the Hau Tree Lanai, home to what's considered by residents and visitors as Waikiki's most legendary Eggs benedict. Here, you can jump-start the morning watching paddlers, swimmers and beach lovers while you savor such Hau Tree Benedict favorites as salmon florentine, crab or half hashed--all served with breakfast potatoes, naturally.
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The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
2863 Kalakaua Ave.
Phone: (808) 923-1555
Restaurant Phone: 808) 921 - 7066
Hours: Open Daily 7am - 9pm
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Hau Tree Lania
Viewpoint
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Diamond Head Road Lookout

You can work off your breakfast by strolling the two-mile walking path circling Kapiolani Park or tackle the one-mile uphill trek (via car or foot) along Diamond Head Road to the lookout for watching the early morning surf action. The former is a flat track with shade, restrooms and water fountains, while the latter is an uphill climb past the famous Diamond Head Lighthouse along a stretch that's included in both the outbound and return route of the Honolulu Marathon (honolulumarathon.org) each December.
Viewpoint
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Diamond Head State Monument

If you continue toward Koko Head from Diamond Head Lookout and take a left at Triangle Park, you'll find yourself on the backside of "Leahi" Crater on Diamond Head Road. On the left side is the parking lot for Diamond Head State Monument. The 0.8-mile hike from trail head to summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. A concrete walkway built to reduce erosion shifts to a natural tuff (rock) surface about .2 miles up the trail, with many switchbacks traversing the steep slope of the crater interior.

The ascent continues up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel to enter the fire control station completed in 1911. The last .1 mile is all stairs and especially steep. But the postcard view of the shoreline spanning from Koko Head to Waianae is absolutely stunning. And during winter, you may even spot humpback whales. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for your hike, and be sure to wear good walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen. Don't forget to bring water as well.
Food/Dining
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KCC Farmers' Market

On Saturday mornings, Kapiolani Community College campus is all abuzz with what's considered one of Oahu's top farmers' markets. Located just across Diamond Head Road from the lookout's parking lot, this food fest lets you mix and mingle with farmers and food producers who will tell you about their products, how they grow them and how you should prepare them. You'll find everything from fruits, vegetables, flowers, beef, aqua-cultured seafood, fresh-baked breads and hand-made pastas to tropical jams, unique snack foods, honey and specialty seasonings.
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4303 Diamond Head Rd.
808-848-2074
kapiolani.hawaii.edu/object/farmersmarket.html
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Hours
Saturday 7:30-11am
Shopping
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Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts

Busting at the seams with the world's largest selection of aloha shirts (more than 15,000), Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts also shines with a wide selection of Americana and Hawaiiana antiques and collectibles.

Founded in 1980, the novelty emporium is chockfull of lighters (Zippos and Hawaiian), Hawaiian LPs, figurines, jewelry, sheet music, military items, toys, postcards and ephemera. Aloha shirts are divided into used, new, vintage and specialty categories.
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517 Kapahulu Ave.
808-734-7628
alohashirts.com
Food/Dining
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Rainbow Drive-In

Rainbow's "onolicious" heaping mixed plate covers it all with barbecue meat, mahi mahi and boneless chicken--all served with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad for that carbo boost. Daily specials that tend to draw in the locals include roast pork with gravy, shoyu chicken and chicken long rice.
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3308 Kanaina at Kapahulu Avenue
Phone:(808) 737-0177
Hours: Open Daily 7am - 9pm
Other Resources
Rainbow Drive-In
Food/Dining
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Ono Hawaiian Foods

Both ONO and Rainbow Drive-In are easy walks from Bailey's. So no need to move your car from street parking on Kapahulu Avenue. Continuing mauka (toward the mountains) on Kapahulu, you can dive into an enormous Hawaiian-style plate lunch at Ono Hawaiian Foods too.

Both cater mostly to residents since they're off the beaten Waikiki path. But those in the know who want to sample authentic local fare opt for these slices of dining in paradise.

Ono Hawaiian pulls foodies in for its famous lau lau, a traditional dish of pork, fish, beef or chicken that's wrapped in luau leaves that are folded and wrapped in ti leaf.
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726 Kapahulu Ave.
Phone: (808) 737-2275
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11am - 8pm
Food/Dining
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Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice Kapahulu

Chances are you'll be too stuffed from lunch to cap it off with dessert. But if you are jonzing for sweets, you're within walking distance of Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice Kapahulu. Akin to snow cones, these edible island icons run from basic with a flurry of sweet syrup flavors to more advanced with mochi, red azuki beans or ice cream as a base.
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3113 Mokihana and Kapahulu Avenue
Phone:(808) 735-8886
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 11am - 6:30pm; Saturday 7:30am - 6:30pm, Sunday 10am- 6:30pm
Food/Dining
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Leonard's Bakery

You'll need to motor down Kapahulu to Leonard's. Here it's a ritual to order malasadas, a hole-free doughnut of sorts that's fried until the crust is golden brown with a light and fluffy inside.
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933 Kapahulu Ave.
Address: 933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: 808-737-5591
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 5:30am - 9pm; Friday and Saturday 5:30am - 10pm
Other Resources
Leonard's Bakery
Pictures in this guide taken by: argyleist, Photo Caption: The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, Photo Credit: The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, Photo Credt: Oahu Visitors Bureau, Photo Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority, Photo Credit: Oahu Visitors Bureau, Photo Credt: Hawaii Tourism Authority

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About the Author

dawna.robertson
dawna.robertson
4 guides
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Dawna L. Robertson is a freelance travel writer who splits her residential stays between San Diego and...

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