Tourists fly thousands of miles to bask in the sun on Waikiki Beach. With kamaaina specials at many hotels, the beach beckons to locals, too.

The reduction of tourists from Japan
has led to greater availability
of rooms at leading beachfront hotels

Many local residents have driven down Kalakaua or Kuhio Avenues hundreds of times, failing to see the magic that draws thousands of visitors to Waikiki annually, but look beyond the concrete facades and you'll find a lot of adventures await even those who take Waikiki for granted.

While it's true that, for the most part, you can't see the ocean for the high-rises, once you've parked the car and you're in that beachfront hotel, any hassles involved in getting to the destination slip away faster than a blazing August sunset.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is offering kamaaina 55 percent off ocean-view rooms.

Once ensconced in this Oahu playground, there's no need to use your car again because virtually everything in Waikiki -- restaurants, clubs, shops and, of course, the beach -- are all within walking distance.

Besides, a trip to Waikiki is one journey that doesn't include enduring airport security measures and all the stress that usually accompanies off-island travel.

The real trick for the most ardent anti-Waikiki local is to start enjoying the area by renting a beachfront room. It's not as expensive as you might think -- at least for the next few months -- due to a drop in Japanese-visitors numbers, which has led to greater availability of rooms at top hotels such as the Halekulani, Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Moana Surfrider. These hotels are now offering some of their lowest rates in years. For example: The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is offering 55 percent off its ocean-view rooms from a rack rate of $605 a night to $270. The Sheraton Moana Surfrider's Banyan Ocean Room, normally $450, is now $285.

The Halekulani was recently voted among the top five properties in the 2003 Travel & Leisure annual World's Best Awards Readers' Survey, and came in first in the "Top 25 Hawaii." Kamaaina rates for the Halekulani's ocean-view rooms are not as heavily discounted as the other properties, but all guests receive the same amenities. The local rate for a partial ocean-view room is $315, normally $395. A Junior Ocean Suite is $600, down from $750; and the Diamond Head suite is $1,120, discounted more than $600 from $1,725. There is a one category upgrade based on availability.

Amenities for Halekulani guests include complimentary tickets to cultural and performing arts venues like the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Contemporary Museum, Iolani Palace and Bishop Museum. Guests also receive a box of Halekulani chocolates; bottled water and juices; free local calls from guest rooms and public areas; complimentary parking; and a 4 p.m. checkout.

The Halekulani also is 100 percent wireless for those who may want to use laptop computers, and guests have access to a business center, with 30 minutes of free time.

Enjoy all Waikiki has to offer by taking in feeding time at the Pacific Beach Hotel's Oceanarium tank...

...sampling local foods at Brunch on the Beach...

...or watching a hula performance at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

IF YOU WOULD be satisfied with being in an oceanfront hotel but don't want to pay the higher price of ocean view, better discounts are available.

The Sheraton Moana Surfrider kamaaina rate for a city-view room is $99, normally $140. At the Royal Hawaiian, a non-ocean-view room is $150, compared with the usual $380. A Garden View room at the Halekulani is $260, normally $325.

The Sheraton Moana Surfrider also offers monthly "Concerts in the Courtyard" that showcase Hawaii talent.

The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is offering 50 percent discounts on published room rates on a space-available basis: It's $140 a night for a city-view room (normally $275) or $190 for an ocean-view room (from $380).

Waikiki is also host to a lot of free activities beyond simply lying on the beach.

After settling into a room with a view, like this deluxe room in the Ocean Tower at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider...

...celebrate your vacation at home by watching the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Friday night fireworks display.

There's the Saturday and Sunday "Sunset on the Beach" movie events beginning at 4 p.m., Wednesday musical performances at the Honolulu Zoo and free coffee awaits in the morning at Duke's at Waikiki. Some free activities occur daily; some are special events spread throughout the month. Here are a few to get you started. Otherwise, feel free to explore and discover Waikiki on your own.

Look for the "Holoholo" parking sign for discounted parking at $1 per hour with a five-hour maximum at Ohana East, Ohana Maile Sky Court, Ohana Waikiki Village, Ohana Reef Tower, Radisson Waikiki Prince Kuhio, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort, ANA Kalakaua Center and King Kalakaua Plaza.

The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center offers free ukulele and hula lessons every Monday. Megan Pieper and Sydney Schalit, both from Texas, tried to stop laughing long enough to strum a few chords. The shopping center is also the site of free hula and steel drum shows.

Local musicians play, food vendors set up booths and free movies are screened at Queen's Surf Beach for the city's Sunset on the Beach program.


>> 6 p.m.: Torch Lighting Ceremony at Renaissance Ilikai
>> 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.: Changing of the King's Guard and Rifle Drill Exhibition at King's Village
>> 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Torch Lighting & Hula Show at Kuhio Beach Mound

Monday to Saturday

>> Noon: Fish and stingray feeding at the Oceanarium Restaurant in the Pacific Beach Hotel. Repeats at 1, 6:30 and 8:15 p.m.

Thursday to Saturday

>> 6 to 8 p.m.: Kawika and Friends Hula Show at Renaissance Ilikai


>> 10 a.m.: Lau hala weaving, Hilton Hawaiian Village
>> 10 to 11 a.m.: Hula lessons, Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
>> 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Ukulele lessons, RHSC
>> 4 p.m.: Princess Kaiulani Historical Tour, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel
>> 5 to 7 p.m.: Guitarist Winston Tan performs, Outrigger West
>> 7:30 to 9 p.m.: Greg MacDonald's Steel Drums, RHSC


>> 10 to 11:30 a.m.: Polynesian cultural minishow, RHSC
>> 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Coconut weaving, Outrigger Reef


>> 7 to 7:30 p.m.: Aloha Waikiki Hawaiian Hula Show by Tihati, Duty Free Shoppers
>> 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Salsa music, All-Star Hawaii restaurant


>> 7 to 10 p.m.: 3eM Jazz Trio, 226 Lewers St.


>> 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Hawaiian craft fair, Pacific Beach Hotel
>> 6:45 p.m.: King's Jubilee flag ceremony, rifle drill and music, and fireworks; Hilton Hawaiian Village
>> 7 to 10 p.m.: Jazz Under the Stars, All-Star Hawaii
>> 7 to 10 p.m.: The 3eM Jazz Trio, 226 Lewers St.


>> 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Woodcarving, Outrigger Reef Hotel
>> 4 to 9 p.m.: "Sunset on the Beach" at Queen's Surf Beach features entertainment, food booths and movie. Call 523-4811. Repeats Sundays.


>> 7:30 a.m.: Honolulu Marathon clinic, Kapiolani Park

August events

>> Today: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Slack Key Guitar Festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., KPB, and Obon Festival from 4 to 8 p.m. at RHSC
>> Saturday: Psychic Fair, 2 to 7 p.m. at RHSC; and draping of leis on Duke Kahanamoku statue fronting Waikiki Beach, 5 to 7 p.m.
>> Next Sunday: Brunch on the Beach along Kalakaua Avenue, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Na Hula Festival, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kapiolani Park Bandstand; and Royal Hawaiian Band performance 2 to 3 p.m. at Kapiolani Park Bandstand
>> Aug. 26: Queen Liliuokalani Monarchy series display to Sept. 3 at RHSC
>> Aug. 30 and 31: Okinawan Festival 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Kapiolani Park Bandstand

The DFS Galleria has free hula shows Wednesdays. The shopping complex also has a walk-through aquarium tube, free e-postcard kiosks and a slide built into a cement hau tree.


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