While walking in their carefully manicured Shalimar gardens, the Mughal emperors would often be moved to say, “If there be paradise on earth, this is it.”If you were to walk along the beaches of Hawaii, you might be moved to make the same statement. Of the many beaches in the islands, the most prominent is the Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Unlike most other beaches, Waikiki is not just a beach. It is a gathering place for people from around the globe. Perhaps that was its destiny, since the island on which it’s located is called Oahu, which means “gathering place” in the Hawaiian language.Hawaii gets 9.3 million tourists a year and they account for a fifth of its economic activity. Half of the tourists come to Oahu and most of them make it to Waikiki. Some are surprised to see the Union Jack in the state flag of Hawaii. The reason is that the islands were named by Captain Cook after the Earl of Sandwich and for a long time they were called the Sandwich Isles.You can saunter along the beach or dip your toes in the warm water. Of course, you can swim in the water and if you are truly adventurous, you can surf on the waves. If you want to savor the views of the Honolulu skyline, you can venture out into the sea on one of the many catamarans that regularly leave from the beach. When are done with the beach, you can walk or jog on the sidewalk that runs along the beach. And, should you so desire, you can climb to the top of a mountain called Diamond Head. That is a moderately steep climb until you get to the end when it becomes pretty arduous.One time I saw a platoon of the Australian army jogging up to the top and wondered if the purpose was to impress the rest of us who were a bit out of breath or simply a way of shaping up for combat. Should you become bored with everything else, check out the zoo which lies along the way to Diamond Head.A whole slew of restaurants runs alongside the beach. There is something for every budget and for every taste. Other than Americans and Canadians, the most numerous visitors come from Japan. In recent years, the number of visitors from China and Korea has been going up. Thus, you will find many Japanese and Chinese and Korean restaurants in Waikiki, along with Thai, European and American restaurants. One day we ate a Thai restaurant, Noi, which was amazing. The next day we enjoyed standard American fare at the California Pizza Kitchen. There are plenty of shopping opportunities alongside the beach. And even less than two miles away is the Ala Moana Shopping Mall, a pleasant walk from the beach. We did the walk on a torpid summer day. Not recommended. Best to take the bus.But that mall is worth a visit, even if you don’t want to shop. There is plenty of window shopping there along with some nice restaurants. And since the architecture of the mall is open, you can feel those heavenly tropical breezes every time you step out of a store.Ultimately, you will succumb to the Hawaiian fashions that are on display and open your wallet. And so we did. The Hawaiian T-shirts sold at the mall are made of a strong fabric and feature muted Hawaiian patterns. They are the dress de rigueur for men at work and go nicely with plain cotton slacks.But if you want to wear them to work, buy the top end brands and not the touristy brands with shiny loud patterns that are sold at the omnipresent ABC stores that can be found just about anywhere on Honolulu.Hanauma Bay is a snorkeler’s paradise and worth checking out just for the views. Another iconic spot is the beach where the movie, From Here to Eternity, was filmed. Its location is unmarked to prevent hordes of tourists from descending on it.Surprisingly, Honolulu has a wonderful Islamic museum, Shangri La, featuring collections from a number of countries. Unfortunately, we were not able to see it since it is booked days in advance.At the harbor, you can take the sunset cruise. In the daytime, you can ride in a partially submerged vessel with a glass bottom that can give non-swimmers the very same views that are only available to snorkelers.And then there is Pearl Harbor, rich in history and exhibits, including the battleship USS Missouri on which General MacArthur accepted the surrender of the Japanese in Tokyo Bay. The battleship is anchored nearby the USS Arizona which was sunk on the 7th of December, 1941 in one of the most daring air raids in history.Towards the north end of the island there is the ever-popular Polynesian Cultural Center. It features traditional Hawaiian meals at the Luau followed by a variety of cultural shows.Many movies have capitalised on Hawaii’s photogenic location, including Blue Hawaii, South Pacific and Jurassic Park. Well known TV shows such as Hawaii 50 and Magnum PI have also been located there.There are many hotels alongside Waikiki Beach, including chain hotels and boutique hotels. Our favorite is a classic hotel, the Moana Surfrider. It opened in 1901. In the patio which overlooks the beach there is a humongous Banyan tree that was brought over from India. You can have your meals under the shade of the tree and look at waves. Or you can just hear the sound of the waves crashing on the sands or count them as they come in. You can also relax on the classic rocking chairs on the balcony facing the street.One evening we heard the sound of jazz music and a man’s melodious voice near the lobby. We sat down to listen. At some point the piano player looked at the audience and asked if there was a particular song we wanted him to play. But he said that it had to be one of the five songs that he knew.So I requested the song, “As time goes by.” Fortunately, it was one of the “five” songs that he knew. For the next several minutes we were serenaded to the classic notes from Casablanca and transported to another time and place.The next day it was time to go home. Packing the bags for the flight had never felt so difficult. No one wants to leave paradise.Published in Daily Times, August 26th 2018.