In the heart of downtown Honolulu, just across the street and two blocks west of Hawaii’s largest mall, is the small boat harbor of Kawalo Basin and the starting point for a number of popular Honolulu water-based adventures. Deep sea charter fishing vessels moor alongside snorkel and scuba charters, parasailing vessels, winter whale watch pontoons, underwater submersible tours and even an 83-foot pirate galleon complete with water-firing cannons for daytime family fun or evening debauchery. If you’re looking to get beyond the beaches of Waikiki and out into the big blue, a stroll along its street-side dock will, at the very least, display your varied options.
Though there is no beach access here, a gentle but ridable wave that breaks left of the harbor channel is a popular surf spot with local groms (kids in surf speak). In addition to hosting the Rip Curl GromSearch competition, the break is a training ground for the Kamehameha High School surf team.
On land, the adjacent hipster enclave of Kakaako, and shopping strips in the Ward area, afford plenty of options for hungry (or thirsty) sailors and surfers.
Kawalo Basin is a private harbor where individual tour companies and boat operators dock; it’s about a mile west along the coast from Waikiki and serviced by a number of local buses. Bookings are made with the individual tour operators, though some—particularly whale watch tours in season—have harbor-side information booths and ticket sales for their regularly departing trips. If it’s the surf break you’re interested in, the best way to access it is via a jump off the jetty and a paddle out to the lineup, but you’ll have to bring your board—there are no rental spots here.