Honolulu is a city on the island of Oahu Hawaii, capital of the state of Hawaii. Among its many museums and cultural offerings, Honolulu has the only royal palace in the United States. It’s also a gastronomic paradise with everything from cheap noodles to high Pacific fusion cuisine. Stroll along Wakiki Beach, relax on the sand, play with the waves, listen to Hawaiian music and watch the hula dancers move as they greet the sunrise.
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North of downtown Honolulu is Chinatown, an intriguing neighborhood that is predisposed to discovery. Come on an empty stomach: there’s plenty to eat in the pan-Asian markets and coffee shops, between strolls among castles, modern art galleries, and herbalist shops.
In the heart of downtown Honolulu, this historic place where the monarchy fell offers visitors an insight into late 19th-century Hawaiian history. Call for hours of operation (Tel: 808-538-1471, tour reservations 808-522-0832/0823; www.iolanipaiace.org; 364 S King St; adult/children 5-12 years $13/6; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon-Sat) .
Considered the finest Polynesian anthropological museum, featuring outstanding cultural specimens, including the Royal Hawaiian Hall. The Science and Adventure Center offers kids a chance to be in the middle of an erupting volcano. Call ahead for Planetarium schedules (Tel: 808-847-3511; www.bishopmuseum.org; 1525 Bernice St; adult/children 4-12 years $18/15; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed-Pn) .
Honolulu Academy of Art.
A collection of Asian, European and Pacific Islander art is on display and a must-see. Call to book a tour ($25) of the former Doris Duke Shangri-Le Mansion, a gem of Islamic art (tour reservations 866-385-3849; http://honolulumuseum.org/; 900 S Beretania St; adults/children under 12 $10/free; 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sat-Sat, 1-5 p.m. Sat) .
Hawaii State Museum of Art.
Exhibits traditional and contemporary works by multicultural island artists (www.hawaii.gov/sfca; 2nd f1,250 S Hotel St; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues-Saturday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. 1st Mon of the month) .
Lyon Tree Nursery.
Nature Trails and Hawaiian Ethno-Botanical Garden (www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum; 3860 Manoa Rd; admission by donation; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat) .
Fantastic educational exhibits and huge aquariums you can touch (www.waquarium.org; 2777 Kalakaua Ave; adult/children 5-12 years/youth 13-17 years $9/2/4; 9 a.m.-5 p.m., admission open until 4:30 p.m.) .
The main one is, of course, the long line of Waikiki beaches (a suburb of Honolulu) . Catamarans and outriggers offer boat rides right along the shore, almost on the sand, while surfboards, kayaks and windsurfing gear can be rented at special points, and you can sign up for a lesson. For a swim away from the tourist bustle, you can head west of Waikiki, where Ala Moana Beach Park (1201 Ala Moana Blvd) is located about 1.5 km away .
Several hiking trails offer breathtaking views of the city, such as the Upper Manoa Green and the Makiki Valley above downtown and the University of Hawaii. Several trails cannot be reached by bus, including the mile-long route to Manoa Fole. You can check the Na Ala Hele company page (www.hawaiitrails.org) for addresses and schedules.
Waikiki is the most bustling part of the state, and Kakakaua Ave, the main beach line, has many hotels, but for the best deals you should look in the central part of the island. Parking for the night will cost about $20 or more. Cheap independent hostels for partygoers and hikers are located on Lemon Road.
The 14 most popular tourist attractions in Honolulu
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and the main entry point for most visitors to the state. Easily accessible by direct flights from North America, Asia and destinations in the South Pacific, Hawaii is a major tourist destination, with visitors from around the world coming here to enjoy the beaches and tropical climate. The city of Honolulu falls into roughly three neighborhoods, including Waikiki, Downtown and Pearl Harbor. The main attraction is Waikiki, a peninsula covering nearly half a square mile with a beautiful stretch of soft sand beach. This small area is one of the most densely populated in the entire United States, with more hotels, restaurants, and stores than the rest of Hawaii. Downtown, downtown and historic Honolulu is full of sights and attractions, with museums, historic buildings, and famous statues.
See also: Where to Stay in Honolulu
1 Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Memorial with the submarine USS Bowfin
Pearl Harbor is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, named for the many pearls that were once collected from its depths. Although it is still an active naval base, it is also a National Historic Landmark with several landmarks that are part of World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument , including memoranda for the USS Arizona , USS Oklahoma , and USS Utah , as well as the battleship and also Ford Island , the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, operated by the National Park Service, is free and open to the public. Here tourists can learn about the tragic 1941 attack as well as other aspects of the harbor’s military and natural history. It is also the starting point for tours of the USS Arizona , as well as the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. This fascinating museum includes a video presentation, historical photographs, two hangars with various World War II aircraft, and flight simulators that allow visitors to experience takeoff and landing on an aircraft carrier. Those with busy schedules may want to take the Pearl Harbor tour from Honolulu, which covers the highlights of Pearl Harbor in just 4.5 hours, including the USS Arizona plus driving in downtown Honolulu.
- Read more:
- Visiting Pearl Harbor: sights, tips and tours
2 USS Arizona Memorial.
USS Arizona Memorial.
The USS Arizona Memorial is the most visited tourist attraction in Hawaii and one of five Pearl Harbor sites that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument , The memorial floats over the sunken remains of the USS Arizona , which was destroyed along with 1,177 crew members on December 7, 1941. Free tours of the memorial begin at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center with a film about the attack and its historical context, after which visitors board a U.S. Navy boat and are taken to the memorial. Here you can see a massive marble wall engraved with the names of everyone who died when the ship was bombed. Because of the popularity of the tour, visitors should arrive early to get tickets early or reserve a seat.
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
This area on the south shore of Honolulu is known for its upscale resorts, entertainment, stores and restaurants, and gorgeous beaches. It is also known as the home of Olympic gold medalist Duke Kahanamoku, a swim and surf instructor who is considered the “father of modern surfing.” The sport is so revered here that, in addition to the Duke statue, the markers along the Historic Waikiki Trail are actually made of surfboards. The Royal Hawaiian Center as well as the International Market are popular gathering places, and tourists will find most of Waikiki’s restaurants and boutiques along Kuhio and Kalakaua Avenues. Cafes and nightlife are also plentiful on the promenade known as the Waikiki Beach Walk .
- Read more:
- The 10 most popular tourist attractions in Waikiki
4 City Monument.
The most recognizable of Hawaii’s natural landmarks, Diamond Head has a distinctive profile. Located on the eastern shore of Waikiki, this historic peak was once an important part of the island’s coastal defense. Today, visitors can climb a steep trail that climbs 560 feet from the crater floor to the summit at only 0.8 miles. At the summit is a huge lighthouse built in 1917, as well as bunkers and a fire control station that controlled artillery at Fort Ruger and Waikiki. For many hikers, the reward for the challenging hike up the mountain is a stunning panoramic view of the coastline below. Those planning to make the hike should be well prepared with the use of water and sturdy shoes.
Official website: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/oahu/diamond-head-state-monument/
5 Hanauma Bay Preserve
Hanauma Bay Preserve
Hanauma Bay is a unique natural bay formed in the crater of an ancient volcano. It used to be such a popular snorkeling spot that it became polluted and damaged from overuse. Thanks to restoration efforts that began in 1990, today the bay is intact and its ecosystem is thriving, allowing visitors to truly enjoy the reef and its many inhabitants.To combat damage to the fragile ecosystem and preserve the bay for future generations, visitor numbers are limited daily, and all beachgoers must watch an educational video about how they can ensure that they do not damage the reef and the ecosystem they enjoy. To learn more, visitors can also check out the exhibits at the Hanauma Bay Education Center, which contains interactive displays.
Address: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, 7455 Kalanyanole Hwai, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: www.hanaumabaystatepark.com
Doris Duke Mansion, Shangri-La House www.bluewaikiki.com / photo modified
The Shangri-La Museum has the complete Doris Herzog Collection of the Islamic Art Foundation , the result of the benefactor’s love of Islamic design and works of art. The largest part of the collection is her ceramic art, primarily tiles, including medieval Persian examples. Some of the highlights, however, are large architectural works commissioned for the museum in the 1930s by artists in Iran, India, and Morocco. Other works include textiles, wood, glass and decorative objects from Spain, the Middle East, India and Asia. The collection numbers about 2,500 pieces.
Address: 4055 Papu Circle, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: http://www.shangrilahawaii.org/
7 USS Missouri Battleship
Aerial view of the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor
The USS Missouri , affectionately known as the “Mighty Mo,” gained notoriety as the official site of the Japanese surrender, marking the end of World War II. Docked at Pearl Harbor , visitors can choose between two tours. The shorter tour includes a tour of the captain’s quarters and the bridge and gives an overview of the ship’s history as tourists are led along the upper decks. The longer, more in-depth tour includes an examination of the battleship’s inner workings. This extensive tour not only allows visitors to see below deck into the engine room and other important positions, but also provides hands-on experience, such as the opportunity to light one of the ship’s massive boilers or program the old analog computers in the aft print room. Tourists also learn what everyday life is like for crew members while at sea, from the galley and sleeping quarters to recreation.
8 Koko Crater Rail Trail
View from the top of the Koko Crater Rail Trail
Those who are able to conquer the 1,050 steps of the Koko Crater Rail Trail are rewarded with spectacular views of the Honolulu coastline. “The stairs are actually railroad ties that were once used by a military streetcar that transported supplies and personnel to lookouts and bunkers during World War II. Because of this, many of the steps are very high and steep, and the track level only is a bridge that spans a 40-foot drop. First-time visitors should consider hiring a local guide who will provide helpful directions to help prepare for the journey and present a story about the history of the site. If you’re not up for the climb, the Crater Coco Botanical Garden is a great activity, accessible on a two-mile path that winds through sixty acres of endangered and rare plants. A printed map and tour are provided at the gate, and there is no fee to walk through the garden’s desert landscape, which includes arid plants native to Hawaii, Africa and Madagascar.
Address: 7604 Koko Head Park Road, Honolulu, Hawaii
9 Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is an impressive neoclassical building that was completed in 1882 for the King of Kalakaua. Now restored to its former glory, it is the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy and is a great place to study Hawaiian history. The palace was the seat of Hawaiian royalty until they were overthrown by American settlers in 1893 and then served as the state capitol until the modern one was built in 1969. The palace was restored in the 1970s and opened as a museum in 1978. The interior has carefully carved wooden panels of natural wood such as Coa and several imported species. The throne room still has the original carved throne and chandelier, and the façade is decorated with stained glass windows and exquisite decorations. The building is reminiscent of medieval cogs with embrasures, which seem somewhat odd in these surroundings. The palace is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Another royal abode is the Queen Emma Summer Palace, which served as the summer home for King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. The house has been a museum since 1913 and is managed by the Daughters of Hawaii.
Address: 364 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: www.iolanipalace.org
10 Bishop’s Museum and Planetarium
Ken Lund’s Bishop Museum and Planetarium / photo modified
The Bishop Museum, Hawaii’s state museum, contains one of the finest collections of Polynesian art and artifacts in the state. The museum’s permanent exhibits include: kahilis , a collection of feathered royal standards that served as flags for past royalty, as well as Hawaiian feathered capes and helmets. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to Kai Akea , the world of Hawaiian legend where the ancient gods exist. Other areas of the museum focus on the natural history of the region, including traditional occupations such as whaling. Also of note is a large collection of artifacts from the South Pacific and objects brought in by Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, German and other early settlers. The museum also features the Vatumulla J. Planetarium. , which features various shows that explore the Hawaiian night sky and other celestial themes, as well as films about dinosaurs and Polynesian culture.
Address: 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: http://www.bishopmuseum.org
11 Honolulu Museum of Art.
Macrophotograph of the Nandi eye at the Honolulu Museum of Art Thad Zaidovich / photo modified
Nearly half of the 50,000 objects in the Honolulu Museum of Art are in the Asian art collection, highlighting how Asian culture has influenced Hawaii. With more than 23,000 objects, this collection is best known for its depiction of Japanese, Chinese and Korean art. Naturally, Hawaiian art is also a major focus of the museum’s exhibits, with a wide range of media representing Hawaiian artists from the 1700s to the present day. The museum also features some 18,000 examples of European and American art, including sculpture and decorative arts. This includes an extensive collection of paintings by influential 19th-century European artists, including Van Gogh, Cézanne, Rodin and Monet. Despite its small size, the museum’s antiquities collection includes some remarkable examples of ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artifacts that are more than 5,000 years old.
Address: 900 South Bretania, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: https://honolulumuseum.org/
12 USS Bowfin.
The USS Bowfin and the USS Bowfin Museum, located at Pearl Harbor, are dedicated to the memory of the 52 U.S. submarines and their crews that were sunk during World War II. The Bowfin, which was built and commissioned during World War II, destroyed 44 Japanese vessels during the war. Visitors can explore the submarine at their leisure, stopping to learn about specific equipment and rooms from well-informed volunteers posted throughout. In addition to getting a glimpse of daily life on a submarine during war and peacetime, tourists can experience what it means to peek through the periscope. At the USS Bowfin Museum, visitors can learn about submarine history through exhibits, models and artifacts.
Address: 11 Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: http://www.bowfin.org/
13 Lyon Arboretum and Manoa Falls
Lyon Arboretum and Manoa Falls
The Lyon Arboretum is a 194-acre botanical garden in the rainforest with over 5,000 tropical plants from Hawaii and Polynesia. It has one of the largest palm collections found in a botanical garden and supports many themed gardens. These include an herb and spice garden, a bromeliad garden, the Beatrice H. Hawaii Ethnobotanical Garden. Krauss and many others. The arboretum is also an active research center that works to preserve the state’s rainforests. Tourists can follow a trail from the entrance to the Lyon Arboretum that leads to the 150-foot Manoa Falls, a beautiful natural area where swimming is allowed. Another beautiful garden is the Foster Botanical Gardens, which has an Orchid Conservatory, Butterfly Garden and other famous fauna.
Address: 3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official website: www.manoa.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum
14 Mission Houses Museum
Mission Houses museum cliff1066 (TM) / photo modified
This museum preserves three historic sites from the early 19th century. These restored houses, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, document the life and living conditions of early missionaries. They are the oldest Western-style buildings still standing. Among the sites are the Mission House (1821), the Printing House (1841) and the Chamberlain House (1831), built by Levi Chamberlain for himself and his seven of eight men when they arrived in Honolulu from Vermont in 1823. books in Hawaiian, used by missionaries as a written language, were first printed.
Address: 553 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Read more:
- Missions Museum, Honolulu
Where to stay in Honolulu for sightseeing
If you’re coming to Honolulu to enjoy the beaches, it’s best to stay in Waikiki. This is a famous coastal suburb of Honolulu and the main tourist attraction on the island of Oahu. The hotels closest to the beach are usually upscale resorts that offer more affordable accommodations when you go inland. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations: