Ahhh – the age-old debate of whether or not a particular destination is overrated. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all got places on our hit lists that we don’t believe live up to the hype others give them.
I’m not going to lie – I hesitated when I first started booking our recent trip to Hawaii. We were headed to the tropical island chain in the northern Pacific for a family wedding, and we needed somewhere to stay on Oahu for a couple of nights before flying to Maui for the big day.
Most people tend to spend a few nights in Waikiki when they arrive in Honolulu, but at first, I was a bit sceptical. You see, I’m not a massive fan of super busy, touristy places. Yes, I know that this makes me sound like a bit of a tosser but hear me out…
When I first started mentioning my trip to Hawaii to people, they all said the same thing:
“Oh, are you going to Waikiki Beach? You’ll love it!”
Trying to be polite, I smiled and nodded as they told me their stories from the iconic beach and suggested places to eat, drink and shop. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good beach on a tropical island, but I’d also heard plenty of stories from people from the other perspective…
“Oh, Waikiki is like the Gold Coast on steroids, it’s completely overrated.”
“Waikiki is the original Gold Coast!”
“The esplanade on Waikiki reminds me SO much of Cavill Avenue!”
Did I mention that I am not a huge fan of the Gold Coast?
So there I was, trying to decide where to spend my first couple of nights in Hawaii and coming up completely blank. Did I book somewhere in Waikiki and risk hating it, or did I stay somewhere else and miss out completely on an iconic destination?
Spoiler alert – I stayed in Waikiki.
It was everything I’d imagined and feared – it was busy and touristy and absolutely chaotic. That being said though, it was also kind of fascinating.
We stayed at the Vive Hotel Waikiki, a boutique hotel just a few blocks back from the famous beach. Comfortable and centrally located, Vive was the perfect base for our short stay in Waikiki. If we ever got sick of the action, we were only a few minutes’ walk back to the comfort of our hotel room.
Waikiki Beach itself was absolutely underwhelming. It is really small, and extremely crowded. On our first night, we wandered up to the beach to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful evening, with a balmy breeze in the air and a sky that was drenched in pink, purple and orange tones as the sun slowly sank below the horizon. It was actually the perfect place to spend the first night of our month-long US trip, just myself, Scott and about a thousand other people with their phones in the air trying to capture the magic in the sky.
Stunned by the number of people on the beach, we decided to head up to a bar to grab a cocktail only to find ourselves again surrounded by hordes of people. Miraculously, we managed to grab a table at Dukes Waikiki and promptly ordered a drink. After sitting down and taking a big sip, we laughed at the craziness of the place and agreed on one thing – Waikiki Beach sure knew how to put on a sunset!
Although I expected Waikiki to be a busy place, I was blown away at the real popularity of it. You couldn’t walk down the streets without almost bumping into someone, and the crowds didn’t let up the entire time we were there. In fact, the only time I saw Waikiki Beach almost empty was when we walked down at sunrise to get a coffee. Even then, there were far more people out and about than I expected to see.
Despite being famous for a good old beach holiday, Waikiki is hardly relaxing. With hundreds of beachgoers crammed into a small stretch of sand, it’s pretty hard to chill out and enjoy the sunshine when there’s a constant stream of people walking past your towel and flicking sand all over you.
Waikiki is also super expensive. From your hotel room to your meals and drinks, you’ll be coughing up cash left, right and centre. I’m not just talking about the five-star resorts; even the cheaper looking restaurants and bars charge a fortune for a basic meal or cocktail. I guess that is what happens when a place becomes an overtly touristy destination though.
I’d also like to touch on the whole ‘Instagram versus reality’ notion for a moment.
I’m not going to lie – for a long time, I wanted to be an ‘Instagrammer’. I wanted to spend my time travelling to exotic places, getting paid to take photos and share my stories. I would look at others on Instagram and admire their stunning photography and put places on my travel list because of how beautiful they seemed on the ‘Gram.
Nowadays, I have changed my tune quite a bit (but that is mainly a story for another time). What I’m trying to get at is that a lot of places are highly exaggerated on social media, especially on Instagram. When I first saw photos of Waikiki Beach, I was blown away at how gorgeous it looked. Bright greens, sparkling blues, white sand – it looked like the picture-perfect paradise I expected it to be.
Until I got there, that is.
Busy, overrun and definitely not as colourful as I expected it, the real Waikiki Beach was a massive let down for me.
I guess that is relevant for a lot of places online, and that’s why I don’t edit my photos as much as I used to. When people look to me for travel or lifestyle inspiration, I want them to see the truth in the world, not a sparkly, desirable, alternate version of reality that can only exist in a photograph. I want you to feel what I feel and see what I see. Again, this will likely be the subject of another blog post so let’s get back on track…
Waikiki Beach on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Waikiki Beach in reality:
So, to sum it all up, is Waikiki is overrated?
My answer is yes.
However, I also think that Waikiki is an iconic place worth visiting, even just for a night or two. I couldn’t imagine myself ever staying in the hustle and bustle for longer than a couple of days, but I can see why people enjoy it. That being said, I also can’t see how people can spend all their time in Waikiki and think they’ve ‘seen Oahu or Hawaii’. There is SO much more to the beautiful island than an overpopulated, expensive tourist hotspot.