The Best of Waikiki for Families | Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon at the Hilton

A Lagoon is Born

The Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon sparkles a brilliant turquoise blue from the end of Waikiki Beach. It almost glows in aerial photos and leads those in colder climes to sigh at their screens and fantasize about a tropical getaway. The Hilton invested quite a bit of money into revitalizing this former cesspool in 2006. It was once a murky gray and rumored to be full of jellyfish. Today, it’s an elegant five-acre saltwater lagoon with a built in filtration system.

The Best of Waikiki for Families?

Would I recommend the lagoon be included on a best of Waikiki list? It depends. In some ways, it’s idyllic. With sunset views, swaying palm trees and the scent of plumeria wafting through the air, it’s certainly a beautiful setting.

In addition, the lagoon is shallow and immune to big surf so it’s a great beginner beach for families with babies and toddlers. The calm water and adjacent equipment rental makes it easy to trial snorkeling or stand-up paddleboarding.

Despite all that, it’s not a personal favorite. The sand is compact and hard and on crowded summer days, the filtration system can’t keep up. Bandages float in the water and an unsettling green foam accumulates along the edges of the lagoon. I asked my 8 and 10-year-old their opinions. They said, “well, it’s water so it’s fun, but it’s kind of gross and the sand hurts my feet. Not my favorite beach”.

Best Time to Visit

On weekend evenings the crowds die down and you can delight in the contrast of locals and visitors alike frolicking in the lagoon. A scene punctuated by visits from a persistent akuu (night heron) who capitalize on slow-moving fish. It’s a nice spot to people watch as the sky ends the day with shades of pastel.

Bonus if you plan your visit on Friday nights when the Hilton Hawaiian Village hosts a short, but spectacular fireworks show. If you prefer a little distance from the noise and falling debris, you can set out a blanket on Magic Island. If you like to be close to the action, this is a great place to be.

girl looking over waikiki at sunset
kids playing with a beach ball in the hilton lagoon in waikiki
view of the hilton lagoon from the rainbow tower
girl with a beach ball and float
view of diamond head with surfers and a full moon
palm tree and hotel
boy playing the Best of Waikiki beach at the hilton lagoon
view of the hilton lagoon in waikiki
portrait of a boy at sunset in waikiki by little bird photography
sunset in waikiki oahu
girl on the beach at sunset
palm trees in waikiki with the soft pastel light after sunset
girl looking out over waikiki from the hilton lagoon Best of Waikiki

Looking for More Family-friendly Attractions in Waikiki?

Head to the other end of Waikiki Beach for a bit of surf and sun with a different view. Still hungry for more ideas? Sign up for the Little Bird Post below to get your Hawaii fix.


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