What to expect when you visit the Wai Kai complex on Oahu, Hawaii
The Wai Kai entertainment complex opened on Oahu, Hawaii in early 2023 and it’s new, exciting, and fun destination featuring Hawaii’s first and only high-tech wave pool, called The Lineup. The Wai Kai wave is the world’s largest deep-water standing surf wave — and certainly something to see. It’s an impressive 100-feet wide, uses state-of-the-art technology and has attracted many surfers (from beginner to the pros) since it first opened. If you love to surf, you must check it out!
Scroll down to see of video of me surfing the wave pool!
I visited Wai Kai on Oahu recently — and I was one of the first mainland writers to spend some time at the complex. I was very excited to enjoy a half day at this fabulous new destination. It offers a number of cool and adrenaline-boosting activities and things to do besides the wave pool. I want to share my personal experience visiting, as well as surfing the wave pool!
In addition to the wave pool, Wai Kai also has several restaurants, and an expansive 52-acre recreational lagoon (with stand-up paddleboards, floating couches, kayaks, and other fun toys). There’s also a stylish gift shop with many locally-made items, and a luxurious, spacious locker room with showers and amenities.
What does Wai Kai mean in the Hawaiian language?
What does “Wai Kai” mean? The name Wai Kai has a lovely Hawaiian meaning that signifies the blending of two waters. The word, “wai,” means “water” (the essence of life) and the word kai, in Hawaiian, refers to the ocean. Therefore, Wai Kai is the place where the Pacific Ocean meets the water from the island’s nearby mountains.
Where is Wai Kai located on Oahu?
The Wai Kai entertainment complex is located in Ewa Beach, which is on the western side of the island of Oahu. The area is much less populated than Honolulu. It’s about 25 miles from Waikiki and is about a 45-minute drive from the city, without traffic.
Wai Kai is located 18 miles from the HNL airport (aka, the Daniel K. Inouye International) airport, and it’s about a 20-minute drive from there. For information and details, visit the Wai Kai website.
How to get to Wai Kai on Oahu?
Wai Kai is located about 25 miles from Waikiki, but it can easily take an hour to reach this destination during busy times, as the island is known for its traffic issues.
Ideally, if you live on Oahu or have a rental car, it’s best to drive there, because you can arrive and leave on your own schedule and not have to deal with a taxi or rideshare.
For my visit, we took a Lyft (rideshare) from Waikiki to the Wai Kai complex around 9 a.m. on a weekday in June and the cost was $80 each way. Since Wai Kai is so far from Honolulu and we needed to be back in the city at a certain time, we reserved a Lyft in advance for the return as well – and we were glad we did. There are not a lot of rideshare drivers hanging around this area, as it’s not as busy as Honolulu.
Important to note…the neighborhood where Wai Kai is located is very residential – you’ll drive past many homes as you approach the entrance. Wai Kai is not near any other tourist attractions that are walkable. It’s not walkable to shops or anything else, although plans are in the works for a future hotel.
Fortunately for us, our Lyft driver who picked us up happened to live on the “West side,” which means he lives close to Wai Kai, but keep in mind this area is not as populated as Honolulu and Waikiki, so rides may not be easy to get.
Does Wai Kai have a shuttle? Yes, Wai Kai also offers a shuttle service from Waikiki. However, the times change depending on the season, and you must get your shuttle reservation / ticket in advance. Look at the website for details and be sure to check their shuttle times and schedule or call Wai Kai directly if you are planning to take the shuttle to the complex.
Planning a visit to Waikiki, Oahu? Check out my post about where to stay and the BEST hotels in Waikiki! (PLUS travel tips!)
How to surf the wave pool at Wai Kai (the Line-Up)
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or expert surfer, Wai Kai is a great place to visit!
I had a fun surfing lesson at Wai Kai – with a very helpful instructor — and highly recommend giving it a try. Here is what to expect!
Here’s a video of me surfing the wave pool at Wai Kai in June 2023
This video is not my first attempt, as I had a patient instructor helping me at first. (This video was taken by my husband, who stood on the outdoor terrace / platform at the The Lookout restaurant).
After signing up in advance, I was given a locker in the gorgeous, modern women’s locker room. It’s super clean and really feels like a five-star spa with plenty of amenities, so I highly recommend checking it out! I was also given a specific-colored rash guard, which is how they keep track of the surfers in the pool — and your time limit in the pool. (This means that you don’t need to bring your own rashguard).
Wave pool surfers must watch a short safety video that shows participants how the pool works. The instructor will go over the basics, including very specific instructions on what to do (and what not to do), what happens when you fall off your board (which you will!) and how to get up and back in line after you fall. There are several safety precautions to be aware of, so you will learn all of that before stepping into the pool.
Up close, I found the wave pool is much louder (and much larger) than it appears to be. My instructor guided me onto the pool and held my hands as we floated onto the center of the wave. He was fantastic – and gave me exact, step-by-step instructions on where to look where to place my weight, how to move and how to turn. After a few tries with the instructor, I was able to try it myself!
Is Wai Kai worth it?
Is a visit to Wai Kai worth it? Yes, Wai Kai is worth a visit if you are on Oahu and enjoy water activities! Wai Kai has a sprawling, protected lagoon and is also home to the largest wave pool in the world (where you can take a surfing lesson or just sign up for an “open surf”), so it will certainly be a memorable experience!
You’ll have a great experience at Wai Kai! You can take a number of lessons here, such as surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding — if you book in advance. It’s also an excellent place to learn about water safety and get a feel for basics of these sports before you go out in the ocean or try these activities on your own.
It’s a great spot for a group outing as well, as the Wai Kai facility can help you plan some fun group activities for your family, friends or corporate group.
Wai Kai makes everything convenient because you can also enjoy a lunch or dinner here and you don’t need to drive anywhere to find a meal or a snack.
What if you don’t want to get into the wave pool? No worries! And if you choose not to try the wave pool, you can just watch the surfing action from above from the viewing platform at The Lookout bar and restaurant, while enjoying a snack or beverage. This is also the best place for your friends or family members to take video of you as you surf on the wave pool.
Things to do at Wai Kai
Wai Kai has many fun activities in addition to surfing their famous wave pool. Here’s a quick list of the many things to do at Wai Kai:
- The Wai Kai Lagoon is spectacular (with paddleboards, kayaks, paddlebikes, floating cabanas, lessons and more).
- Wai Kai restaurants: You won’t go hungry at Wai Kai because there are three great restaurants here offering “something for everyone” at several price points. These include the Boardwalk Café, the Lookout (above the wave pool) or the Napa Kitchen / Plaza Grill (the most upscale).
- Awesome gift shop with everything from stylish bathing suits to sunblock
Plenty of shade! If you want to kick back and enjoy the scenery or watch your friends, there’s plenty of seating with shade overlooking the lagoon!
- Events almost every day! Check out the schedule on the Wai Kai website for many events that include farmers markets, women-only nights and more.
Is the Wai Kai Lagoon open to the public?
The Wai Kai lagoon is a beautiful destination with over 52 acres of calm inland water, protected from the ocean. It’s a fun destination with a full staff that offers a selection of water activities. These include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), hydro bikes, outrigger canoe rides, pedal-boarding, Duffy boats, paddle boats and more!
You’ll need to go to The Dock at the LineUp when you arrive for your pre-arranged water activities or ideally, it’s best to visit the Wai Kai website to sign up for the lagoon activities in advance.
You can also sign up for lessons for any of the lagoon activities. Note: children must be accompanied by an adult and there are age restrictions, so be sure to confirm this before your visit.
If you don’t want to get wet, there’s also floating cabanas and a dock with comfortable seating where you can watch lagoon activities, enjoy the stunning waterfront views (and maybe sip a coffee or beverage)!
Deciding between a visit to Maui and The Big Island? Read my ultimate guide to help you decide!
How much does Wai Kai cost?
How much does it cost to visit Wai Kai? Prices at Wai Kai vary, depending upon what you decide to do while you are there! You can visit Wai Kai and just walk around and take a look at the amenities, but here’s a breakdown of prices for possible activities:
Surf the LineUp / Wave Pool: The pricing for Wai Kai changes. Currently on the Wai Kai website, the cost is surf the 100-foot wave for $75 dollars; and the 65-foot wave for $65 dollars (see discount codes)!
First-timers should plan to take a lesson. You can schedule a lesson in advance. It’s $100 for a 45-minute surf lesson. (Be sure to check out special offers and other (non-lesson) surf options on the website.
Lagoon activities: These prices vary and are listed under each activity. It’s $80 for a single kayak.
Locker rentals (recommended) can be arranged in advance and are $5 per visit.
Restaurant prices (these prices vary). You can have a quick coffee or snack at the Boardwalk Café, a lunch at the Lookout (above the wave pool) or an upscale lunch or dinner at the Plaza Grill. We had a delicious seafood lunch outdoors on the terrace overlooking the lagoon at the Plaza Grill.
Check out the Wai Kai restaurants here!
Things to know before you visit Wai Kai on Oahu
Before you plan to visit or spend the day at Wai Kai, there are a few things you should know:
You’ll need to sign a waiver before participating in any activities. Wai Kai requires a signed waiver, and you can do that electronically. Everything here is age-appropriate, so check on the activities available to children if you are traveling here as a family.
Wai Kai is a busy place! It features events throughout the week and month. They have women’s only nights, farmers’ markets, musical events, night-time paddle events, beer and wine festivals — and other special happenings. Be sure to check if there’s a special event on the day (or evening) you plan to visit.
Check to see if their shuttle bus is running from Waikiki. Wai Kai offers a shuttle bus at certain times, which may vary, depending on the day or time of year. Be sure to check on this when you make your plans.
Yes, you can eat at Wai Kai! And there are three separate restaurants with lots of options. You can have a morning coffee or breakfast, lunch and dinner at Wai Kai.
There’s a very cool gift shop at Wai Kai for fun items — and it sells bathing suits, sunblock, hats and other water-related items in case you forget to bring your own!
Plan for traffic! Yes, Oahu has a lot of traffic. Before you visit, know that rush hour in and out of Honolulu is always very busy, so plan for traffic.