Waikīkī Beach is a globally recognized icon of Hawai‘i and is the state’s largest tourist destination. Waikīkī generates approximately 42% of the state’s visitor industry revenue and is responsible for 8% ($5 billion) of the Gross State Product.

Beaches are a primary attraction for visitors to Waikīkī

It has been estimated that Waikīkī Beach accounts for over $2 billion in annual income for the local economy. However, a 2008 survey found that 12% of visitors would not return to Waikīkī due, in part, to limited beach area and resulting overcrowding. Waikīkī Beach also has tremendous cultural significance as a former playground of Hawaiian royalty and the birthplace of the sport and culture of surfing. The beaches and myriad of world-renowned surf breaks and reef ecosystem located offshore are valuable natural resources that support the culture and lifestyle of Hawai‘i, and the idyllic image of Waikīkī.

Waikīkī Beach is a highly engineered urban shoreline with the modern configuration largely the result of past management efforts (e.g., groins, seawall, and sand fill) intended to widen the beach. Many sections of Waikīkī Beach are substantially narrowed or completely lost due to chronic beach erosion, lack of coordinated management, and insufficient capital investment.

Beach loss results in a variety of negative economic, social, cultural, and environmental impacts. Therefore, it is important to fully understand the cumulative effects of shoreline development, recreational activities, and coastal processes (natural and human-induced) that control the movement of sand within the littoral system.

Historical stream patterns in Waikīkī