Today, let’s visit one of Oahu’s largest and oldest parks: Kapiolani Park. This Waikiki treasure sits at the base of Diamond Head, and it’s a great place to check out during your Hawaii Vacation.
The History of Kapiolani Park
In 1877, King David Kalākaua offered 200 acres of greenspace as a park and fairgrounds. He named it after his wife, Queen Kapiolani, a royal and philanthropist.
Upon the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893, the space became a public park under the Honolulu Parks Commission.
In 1992, it earned a spot in the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places.
Kapiolani Regional Park is also home to the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Shell concert venue.
Where to Find Kapiolani Park
Kapiolani Park is on the eastern edge of Waikiki, near Diamond Head. It’s within walking distance to most Waikiki Hotels and is right by the ocean.
Kalakaua Avenue, Monsarrat Avenue, and Paki Avenue surround the park. You’ll find metered and free parking along the street, though it does fill up quickly.
Activities & Entertainment
In the earliest days of Kapiolani Park, King Kalakaua hosted Polo matches here. You won’t find any horse or royalty here today, but there’s still plenty to do at this beautiful place.
Enjoy picnic tables, tennis courts, soccer fields, an archery range, and a walking path. There are also regular events at Kapiolani Park, like Sunday concerts with the Royal Hawaiian Band.
The Honolulu Zoo is on park property, and you’ll be steps away from Waikiki’s shopping, dining, and entertainment.
There is also a beach right at the park and other great Waikiki Beaches in the area.
The Fountain at Kapiolani Park
One of our favorite parts of Kapiolani Park is its fountain on the Diamond Head side of the grounds. The Louise Dillingham Memorial fountain is beautiful and a must-see if you’re in the area.
It can also be quite festive; one Halloween, I saw it spewing orange, and during one Christmas season, the waters blended in with the surrounding greenery. I have even recalled seeing soap bubbles gurgling over the fountain walls. Of course, that was most likely some prankster’s doing, because, on any other day, the fountain’s waters flow clear.
And this isn’t just any fountain. It has made numerous cameos on movies and television shows, like the original Hawaii Five-0. Local comedian Bu Laia even daringly snorkeled for coins here in one of his television show episodes. These appearances all boast the world-famous image of Diamond Head shining in the background.
In the 1960s, the city constructed the fountain in honor of Louise Dillingham, who served many years as a City Parks Board member. Her husband Walter is known for the vast changes he made to Honolulu’s landscape, including draining Waikiki’s wetlands and creating the Ala Wai Canal.
Today, the fountain at Kapiolani has become a popular resting spot for joggers and the perfect backdrop for photos. As a kid, I remember my parents taking me to the fountain so that I could toss a coin into its shallow waters and make a wish, which makes me wonder how much money has been collected over the decades.
I guess, much like the memories made here, the coins make up the fabric of Kapiolani Park.