The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Waikīkī, Our Bustling Urban Neighborhood

We flipped back 20 years to see what the city was buzzing about in June 2003.


Waikiki blurred girl with surfboard

Photo: HONOLULU Magazine


HONOLULU Magazine emerged from Paradise of the Pacific, a publication commissioned by King Kalākaua that began in 1888, making it the oldest continuously published magazine west of the Mississippi. Each month, we take advantage of its enviable archive with a nostalgic dive into the past. For this issue, we flipped back 20 years to see what the city was buzzing about in June 2003.


Waikīkī, our bustling urban neighborhood and beach

In 2003, we celebrated Waikīkī, “where thousands of us live, work and play.” According to the article, the year prior, more than 8.3 million people visited the neighborhood. The total number of visitors to the Islands peaked at 10.4 million in 2019; while COVID-19 caused a drastic dip in tourism, an estimated 9.8 million visitors are expected to return to the Islands in 2023. A multipage centerfold highlighted multiple businesses, their owners and the workers who made Waikīkī a must-visit for many people.


June 2003 waikiki spread

Photo: HONOLULU Magazine


“There’s a lot of energy here, a lot of people and a lot of activity. You’re always making friends, from everywhere,” says Didi Delania in the original story. She sold tours at Ocean Resort Hotel Waikīkī, now Hyatt Place Waikīkī Beach. Many places mentioned in the article still exist, such as Waikīkī Health Center and St. Augustine Church, both of which are neighborhood staples with active community outreach programs. Others have unfortunately disappeared, like the iconic Wailana Coffee House, which closed its doors in October 2018 after a 48-year run, and Wave Waikīkī, a popular nightclub featuring “predominantly local” revelers that closed in 2006.


FAST FACT: Queen Kapi‘olani died in her Waikīkī home on June 24, 1899.


June 2003 cover

Photo: HONOLULU Magazine

Waikīkī, for our people

The month’s cover and a picture inside captured local Lindsey Austin holding her surfboard, ready to hit the waves in front of Waikīkī’s Royal Hawaiian hotel. She’s one of the many locals who visited Waikīkī’s shore daily to take advantage of the renowned surf break.







Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at