The Waikiki Insider: Dec 2012/Jan 2013

December 4, 2012 | By Mona Wood-Sword

MELE KALIKIMAKA is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway. (from Mele Kalikimaka by R. Alex Anderson)

Yes, we may not have a “White Christmas” here in Hawai‘i, but that doesn’t mean we lack for anything when it comes to holiday spirit. Sure, Santa may arrive in a canoe, wearing a red and white aloha shirt, but the decorations, holiday music, gift shopping, and celebrations with loved ones abound in Waikiki as they do around the world this festive time of year.

My family and I love driving from Hilton Hawaiian Village all the way to the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel on the Diamond Head end of Waikiki during the holidays to look at all the hotel decorations. A couple of highlights for me are the Halekulani with its sophisticated, elegant decor and the Westin Moana Surfrider, which adds to its already beautiful, historic entrance with lights, boughs, ribbons and poinsettias for a classic Christmas.

At the end of Kalakaua Avenue, we make the turn at the far corner of Kapi‘olani Park and head back toward the center of Waikiki. We park at Royal Hawaiian Center where we get the first hour of parking free and pay only $1 per hour for the next three hours when we patronize any of their retail or restaurant tenants. Best deal in town!

From there, we head on foot to visit the hotels in the area to check out their lobby displays. Giant, decorated trees, Christmas villages with train sets, gingerbread houses and even sand sculptures can be found on these excursions. Always gets me into the holiday spirit!!

Check Waikiki hotel and shopping center websites, or for a listing of their music events during the holidays. Most venues feature free holiday entertainment in December, open to kama‘aina and malihini alike.

And I think everyone should have at least one Hawaiian Christmas CD in his collection. Some of them may not be available in stores, but you may find them at

My Personal Top 10:

Seasons of Love, Afatia
Caz Christmas, Brothers Cazimero
Christmas in Hawai‘i, Danny Couch
A Hawaiian Christmas, Amy Hanaiali‘i
Christmas in the Islands, The Hongo Family
Willie Kalikimaka, Willie K
Christmas Day in Hawai‘i Nei, Makaha Sons
Hawaiian Holidays, Na Leo
Maluhia, Keali‘i Reichel
Hawai‘i’s Favorite Christmas Songs, Various Artists


You don’t need me to tell you that shopping in Waikiki is limitless—it’s all around you. Whether you’re on a tight budget or have deeper pockets than most of us, you’ll find the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list right here in Waikiki. From designer duds to techie gadgets, from a gift for your best friend to your impossible-to-shop-for boss (two words: gift card), and everyone in-between, Waikiki has thousands of places to shop with seven major shopping centers, hotel arcades, shops along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues, as well as some hidden treasures along many of our side streets.

Last year, I procrastinated and did all my shopping in one day—December 23rd—but, thanks to the fact that Waikiki’s pretty much always “open for business,” I got it all done!


Waikiki, with its multitude of casual to five-star dining choices, is holiday central for our ‘ohana. When I was a young girl, our large extended family had huge potluck picnics at Queen’s Surf, the part of Waikiki Beach across from Honolulu Zoo. I learned to swim and surf there. These days, and especially because my cooking skills leave much to be desired, our new hangouts are the restaurants of Waikiki. It’s impossible for you to navigate your way to all the culinary gifts Waikiki has to offer on your own. As a former concierge at the old Hawaiian Regent Hotel, I highly recommend asking your hotel concierge for recommendations. They are experts at finding the right place for your taste buds and budget. They’ll probably hate me for saying this, but even as a resident, I still call concierges for tips! They are always on top of everything, so trust the professionals.


Ring in 2013 with us in Waikiki! Enjoy the fireworks from your hotel balcony, ocean view restaurant, or find a spot on the beach. If you’re outdoors in Waikiki, you won’t miss it. The Waikiki Improvement Association (WIA) and its generous membership put on this annual show, and as Hawai‘i enjoys the distinction of being the last major global location to welcome in the New Year, watching the fireworks with your toes in the sand is a pretty cool way to celebrate.

If you’re not in Waikiki for the New Year, I found this great site where you can view the fireworks live from Waikiki Beach: