Afternoon at Waikiki Beach from Moana Lani Spa in Honolulu.
Waikiki Beach from Moana Lani Spa, Honolulu

After a brief moment in the sand with eyes closed and legs crossed, we step away from the chanting and let the froth wash over our feet. It’s dawn and serene in Waikiki; the perfect environment for a Ho’ala sunrise ceremony. Or, at least it was. As the sun floats up to illuminate Diamond Head, Waikiki again becomes the bustling, selfie-stick wielding destination that attracts more than 9 million visitors annually to the Hawaiian Islands. Of them, and according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority 6 million arrive in Oahu. And since all visitors land or port in Honolulu, Waikiki––Hawaii’s most storied tourist district––is a natural stopover.

This is the Waikiki I’ve always known (though selfie-sticks weren’t yet a thing). I grew up in Kaua’i which lacks the urban density of Honolulu, so a 20-minute flight to Oahu was the closest thing for a taste of city life. At the same time, Waikiki draws huge crowds to its powdery shores. Several underground, freshwater streams flow from the mountains, under some of Waikiki’s most-loved hotels and into the bay. The mix of freshwater with ocean helped create the bay’s sandy bottom, making the area a forgiving place to surf. It’s also a coveted place to sunbathe, jump on a catamaran and people watch.

Ho’ala morning ritual in Waikiki

Where to Get a Massage in Waikiki

And if you’re looking to relax and reset beyond the beach, you’ll find that too. For example, at the Moana Surfrider’s beachfront spa, cool stones from ‘Apuakehau––one of the underground streams that flow into the ocean, are used in a 90-minute massage treatment. It begins with a handful of Hawaiian sea salt and an intention setting ritual. Cupping the craggy pink salt in both palms, my mind is racing with so many goals and dreams that maybe I am overcomplicating things so I ask for tools that will help me remain open-minded: to the treatment, to the rest of my time in Oahu, to life.

Like a game of chess, stones are placed on my back and repositioned based on which part of my body requires healing. Waikiki’s gentle waves lap the shore and carry between the wooden slats of the airy room. I will the stones to lap up anxiety I feel about writing as a long-term career. I ask my stomach (it’s hungry, again.) to quiet so I can be present for the luxurious experience that also involve fragrant oils and full-body massage.

When it is (sadly) over, I shuffle to the relaxation room in a daze and as if I’d been kneaded for over an hour, because I have. Surely my blood is flowing at peak circulation. My mind is fuzzy, but in a good way, like the feeling you get when you’ve overslept. I know we’ve been sleep-deprived these days, but you know what I mean, right? The massage was great, and so are the curvy zero-gravity chairs in the spa’s relaxation room; like being suspended in a cloud. I imagine this is what float therapy––wherein you “float” in a highly-salinated bath pod and it’s supposed to be relaxing––must feel like.

The relaxation room at Moana Lani Spa at the Moana Surfrider, Waikiki

Other Ways to Relax in Waikiki

Elsewhere in Waikiki, wellness seekers can check in to ‘Alohilani Resort with its Plant Your Intention package, complete with astrology reading pre-arrival, a life coach session, an opportunity to plant a native tree on Oahu’s North Shore and––back at the hotel––a half-day cabana rental near the pool, plus a food and beverage credit. According to the hotel’s website, the package is available through December 2019. For the hipster set, regular programming at The Surfjack might mean an intimate surf excursion, a gentle yoga class at their poolside cabanas, or workshops you can attend about community building and goal setting.

Sometimes though, bliss is best served free. While you may not have a kumu to chant away past transgressions at 6am (the Moana Surfrider hosts weekly Ho’ala morning rituals for guests), almost anyone can claim a patch of sand and greet a new day.

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