A Winter Walk in Waikiki

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Who needs to hop on a flight and wing their way across the Pacific for some primo beach adventures when you can do the same thing closer to home, without check-in and TSA hassles? Like walking on Waikiki Beach in December. On the Washington coast.

I kid you not.

Waikiki Beach from Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The beach is juuuust beyond the rocky outcropping on the right-hand cliffs, about mid-picture. See the inlet?

According to Travel Bags:

“Waikiki Beach in Washington was named for a member of the Pacific Fur Company aboard the Tonquin.He was one of eight men who died while attempting to reach shore in a rowboat on tumultuous waters in 1811. He was from the Sandwich Islands, known to you as Hawaii. Therefore, the beach where he was buried was named for his motherland, or so the story goes.”

Nestled in a cove fronting the Columbia River on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, Waikiki Beach is part of Cape Disappointment State Park.  The beach offers a commanding view of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and excellent storm-watching during the winter.

Ringed by craggy cliffs and giant boulders, this tiny slice of beach is also rich in local history. It’s located just below the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. From the beach you can also see the historic Cape Disappointment Lighthouse perched atop rugged cliffs overlooking the Pacific. (Tip: Parking at the center and for the lighthouse is extremely limited. Arrive early or plan to walk a ways.) Several old military bunkers and coastal defense batteries are sprinkled around the area.

Before scrambling around the boulders hugging the Waikiki Beach, our December visit included a hike along the Coastal Forest Loop Trail. The trail head is just across the road from the state park’s campground. We were the only ones in the lot. Also the only ones on the trail.

Dark storm clouds purpled the sky in the distance as we started out, so we laced into our water proof hiking boots and donned rain gear, just in case.

We ran into a light rain as we traversed the first half mile of this gentle loop trail. It’s uphill, but the grade is mild. We zipped up our hooded jackets and continued. The rain stopped a few minutes later.

This easy, 1.5 mile loop trail includes soaring Sitka spruce trees as well as the occasional western hemlock and alder. Also dense thickets of salal, ferns, moss, and a forest dripping with every imaginable shade of green. It’s quiet, peaceful, and uncrowded.

You can take a spur trail out to commanding views of Sand Island, Baker Bay, and the harbor of Ilwaco. The spur trail is soggy and criss-crossed with heavy tanglefoot and tree roots, so watch your step.

The Coastal Forest Loop is a nice leg-stretcher of a trail. We still had plenty of daylight to burn after completing the loop, so we crossed the street and drove over to the park. The sun played hide and seek, dancing off crashing ocean breakers at the beach. A stiff wind kicked up the water, so we picnicked inside the truck. Then we got out and ambled over to Waikiki Beach.

At Waikiki Beach, WA

Coming off the water, the winter had a definite bite. But the rain stopped. The sun came out. It was a pretty anemic sun in terms of warmth. What the sunshine lacked in temperature it made up for in brightness. It shone so fiercely, we had to squint.  

Waikiki Beach itself is small, but there’s plenty of driftwood, tidal pools, and craggy cliffs to explore as you watch the cross-currents collide. Late in the afternoon, the view out to sea was mesmerizing, with froth-flecked waves crashing onto the beach and fleecy thunderheads scudding across the horizon.

Waikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park. See the lighthouse?
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

“As long as we’re here, why don’t we chug on up to the lighthouse?” Snuggle Bunny suggested. “If we time it right, we might catch it close to sunset.”

We did. What a great way to close out a winter walk at Waikiki, Washington-style.

  • Park hours 5 a.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Dogs on leash.
  • $10 day use or Discover Pass
  • Driving directions

Bonus points: If you time it right, you can wrap up your Waikiki adventures with a sunset dinner along the Columbia River at one of our long-time favorites at the Astoria Brewing Company (formerly the Wet Dog Café.). About half an hour’s drive with a looong bridge crossing into Oregon.