We stayed at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel. The appeal of this somewhat divey abode on the eastern border of Waikiki is its location: across from lush green Kapiolani Park and only a block from the beach. Our room was tired but clean and had an incredible view of the surf. And we got a great deal; two nights plus tax came to $160.
A nicer (and a bit pricier) alternative is the Park Shore Hotel Waikiki, next door. There are plenty of other budget hotels in Waikiki (prices bottom out in the $60-$70 range), but the appeal of locations varies.
After checking in, we made the quick walk to Queen's Surf Beach, the eastern extension of Waikiki Beach. Refreshed by the blue rollers, we took a five-minute stroll east down Kalakaua Avenue to the Waikiki Aquarium ($7 each), which arguably has the world's best live coral exhibits, with stunning reef environments.
Heading west across Kapiolani Park, we happened on the free Friday Bandstand Concert at the park's new copper-roofed stage. Local singer Keahi Conjugacion was crooning oldies like "Little Grass Shack."
Kalakaua Avenue is Waikiki's main drag, and something is always going on there. Ambling down the sidewalk looking for a place to eat, my wife was drawn to the sounds of a young Tongan choir belting out nightingale-sweet gospel tunes in perfect harmony. Midway down Kalakaua we pulled up a couple of rocking chairs on the peaceful veranda of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider. The oldest hotel in Waikiki, this alabaster-pillared gem has the mellowest interior courtyard in the islands, complete with a spreading Banyan tree and moonlit hula dancers.
Hungry, we staggered into the spare confines of Yabusoba, austere but comfy in the way of a classic Japanese noodle house. We ordered chilled somen noodles with crispy tempura and hot udon in pleasantly salty fish broth ($27.44); both were excellent.DAY'S BUDGET
$330 in pocket
Two nights at Queen Kapiolani Hotel: $160
Sun, stroll, and swim at Queen's Surf Beach: FREE
Watch reefs at the Waikiki Aquarium: $14
Catch local music talent in Kapiolani Park: FREE
Kick back on the Sheraton Moana veranda: FREE
Window-shop Kalakaua Ave.: FREE Somen and udon at Yabusova: $27($129 remaining)