With its imported sand, "high-rise concrete jungle," polluted water, and "superficial touristic representation" of indigenous Hawaiian culture, Waikiki certainly differs markedly from Kauai's pristine Na Pali coast, the only other Hawaiian destination included in this year's survey. "But considering the incredible visitor numbers this coastline has had to deal with over many years, it is in remarkably good state."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Still scenic but terribly overexposed and densely developed. Has lost much of its aesthetic appeal as it has become overcrowded and over-familiar. Built environment is modern tourism kitsch. Most local residents depend on tourism for income."
"The high-rise hotels block out the sun, and even the beach is absent along parts of the shoreline. There are some nice hotels within and along the edges of Waikiki, but overall it is packed, and Hawaiian culture is packaged and served up to the tourists. An upper limit on tourism probably should have been set years ago. On the other hand, concentrating tourists here preserves the rest of the island so much more."
"The environment in Waikiki is crowded, noisy, and heavily commercialized, with shopping geared toward high-end goods. The only historic structures left are a very few bungalows, two grand historic hotels and Battery Randolph at Fort DeRussy. Interesting archaeology, but this is never conveyed to the tourists. The few historic markers serve as a sad reminder of what a fabulous beach this once was."
"Mass tourism, of course. A disaster if you compare with untouched islands. A moderate success if you think of it as a thriving Asia-Pacific city."
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
Browse all the submissions and check back for the winning images.