As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii, Honolulu offers a diverse range of attractions and activities that cater to all interests. Whether you're a nature lover, history buff, beach enthusiast, or adventure seeker, this vibrant city has something for everyone. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you on a journey through the top things to do in Honolulu, uncovering the hidden gems of O'ahu Island.
Things To Do In Honolulu
1. Waikiki Beach: The Iconic Paradise
No trip to Honolulu is complete without a visit to the world-famous Waikiki Beach. This stunning stretch of sandy shoreline has captivated visitors for centuries, from Hawaiian royalty to modern-day tourists. Its soft, honey-colored sand and crystal-clear waters make it the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing.
2. Pearl Harbor National Memorial: A Historic Journey
Located less than 10 miles northwest of downtown Honolulu, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. This memorial pays tribute to the more than 900 sailors and marines who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. The USS Arizona Memorial, built above the sunken battleship, offers a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during World War II.
3. Diamond Head State Monument: A Natural Wonder
Rising majestically from the island's skyline, Diamond Head State Monument is a must-see for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. This tuff cone crater offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking trail with panoramic views of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean from the summit. Remember to bring plenty of water, as there are no water fountains available on the trail.
4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: Snorkeling Paradise
For an enchanting underwater adventure, head to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, located about 10 miles east of Waikiki. This family-friendly beach park is a protected marine life conservation area and offers some of the best snorkeling on O'ahu. Explore the coral reefs and swim alongside colorful fish in the crystal-clear waters of this volcanic cone.
5. Battleship Missouri Memorial: A Journey through History
Step aboard the USS Missouri, also known as the "Mighty Mo," and delve into the history of World War II. This battleship, which hosted the meeting that led to Japan's surrender, is now a memorial docked in Pearl Harbor. Explore its war artifacts and exhibits, and gain a deeper understanding of the events that shaped the course of history.
6. Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail: A Scenic Hike
Less than 6 miles northeast of the Koko Crater Trail lies the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. This 2-mile round-trip hike offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is an ideal spot for birdwatching and whalewatching between November and May. The trail is paved and features ample benches, making it accessible for travelers of all ages.
7. Koko Crater Trail: A Stairway to Adventure
Embark on a challenging adventure by hiking the Koko Crater Trail, which features over 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad ties. This 1.6-mile round-trip hike offers panoramic vistas of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Diamond Head State Monument from the summit. Arriving early in the morning is recommended to beat the heat and enjoy the sunrise at the top.
8. Lanikai Beach: Tranquility and Beauty
Escape the crowds and unwind at Lanikai Beach, located about 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu. This tranquil beach offers calm waters and soft sand, providing the perfect setting for relaxation. With the picturesque Mokulua Islands in view, Lanikai Beach is also a popular spot for kayaking.
9. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: A Place of Remembrance
Visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, to pay your respects to the men and women who served in the U.S. military. This serene memorial stretches across the Puowaina Crater and contains several moving tributes, including the Honolulu Memorial dedicated to those who fought in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
10. Bishop Museum: Exploring Hawaiian Culture
Immerse yourself in Hawaiian history and culture at the Bishop Museum. Founded in 1889, this museum showcases more than 25 million historical, cultural, and natural artifacts about Hawaii and the Pacific. From Hawaiian gods to key events in Hawaiian history, the exhibits at the three-story Hawaiian Hall offer a fascinating insight into the rich heritage of the islands.
11. Ala Moana Beach Park
This expansive public park boasts a golden-white sand beach and offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors of all ages. With its shady trees, picnic tables, tennis courts, and concession stands, Ala Moana Beach Park is a perfect spot for a family outing or a relaxing day by the sea.
Located on the south shore of Oahu island, Ala Moana Beach Park is a favorite local hangout and a popular destination for tourists. You can swim in the crystal-clear waters, build sandcastles, or simply unwind on the beach while enjoying the breathtaking ocean views. For a change of pace, take a stroll across the street to the open-air Ala Moana Mall, where you can indulge in some retail therapy and savor delicious local cuisine.
Address: 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814 Hours: 4am – 10pm daily Cost: Free
Visiting Ala Moana Beach Park is a fantastic way to start your Honolulu journey and experience the beauty of Hawaii's pristine coastline.
12. Downtown Honolulu
Immerse yourself in the rich history of Honolulu by exploring the historic landmarks of downtown. This bustling district is home to impressive skyscrapers, iconic buildings, and significant cultural sites that showcase the city's heritage.
One of the must-see landmarks in downtown Honolulu is the Iolani Palace. As the only royal palace in the United States, this restored 19th-century residence offers a glimpse into Hawaii's monarchy era. Take a guided tour to learn about the fascinating history of the palace and its royal inhabitants.
Another notable landmark is the statue of King Kamehameha I, Hawaii's first king. This majestic statue stands as a symbol of Hawaiian sovereignty and serves as a tribute to King Kamehameha's leadership and legacy. Nearby, you'll find the Aloha Tower, a historic lighthouse and marketplace that offers panoramic views of the harbor and the city.
Don't miss the opportunity to visit the Kawaiaha'o Church, a coral-built church dating back to 1842. This architectural marvel is a testament to the influence of missionaries in Hawaii and serves as a significant place of worship for locals.
As you explore downtown Honolulu, you'll also come across various museums, gardens, and statues that add to the historical charm of the area. Take your time to wander through the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, where you can appreciate the beauty of exotic plants and enjoy peaceful walking trails.
Address: Downtown Honolulu, HI Hours: Varies by attraction Cost: Varies by attraction
Discovering the historic landmarks of downtown Honolulu is like taking a step back in time and unraveling the captivating stories that have shaped the city.
13. The Honolulu Museum Of Art
For art enthusiasts and history buffs, a visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art is a must. Located in the heart of Honolulu, this cultural institution offers a captivating blend of art, history, and education.
The Honolulu Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of over 50,000 pieces, spanning more than 5,000 years of artistic achievements. From Asian and European art to American and Hawaiian masterpieces, the museum showcases a diverse range of artistic styles and cultural expressions.
Explore the galleries and immerse yourself in the works of renowned artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Vincent van Gogh. Admire the indigenous feather capes and immerse yourself in the vibrant landscapes of Maui through O'Keeffe's paintings. The museum's collection also includes exquisite Asian art, with highlights such as Japanese woodblock prints and Chinese ceramics.
Apart from its permanent collection, the Honolulu Museum of Art hosts temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and film screenings. Participate in a class or workshop to deepen your understanding of Hawaiian culture or attend a film screening to experience the art of storytelling through cinema.
Address: 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814 Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Thursday and Sunday, 10 am – 9 pm Friday and Saturday Cost: $20
A visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art is an enriching experience that allows you to appreciate the beauty and cultural significance of art in Hawaii and beyond.
14. Kuhio Beach Park
Kuhio Beach Park, named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, offers a blend of history and natural beauty. This public park, located near the Pacific Ocean, encompasses a significant historical site and provides a picturesque setting for relaxation and recreation.
The park is home to three famous landmarks: the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the Prince Kuhio Statue, and the Stones of Kapaemahu. The Duke Kahanamoku Statue pays tribute to Duke Kahanamoku, a legendary Hawaiian surfer, master canoer, and Olympic swimmer who introduced surfing to Hawaii and the world. The statue welcomes visitors with open arms and symbolizes the aloha spirit.
The Prince Kuhio Statue commemorates Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who represented Hawaii as a delegate to the U.S. Congress after the islands were annexed as a territory of the United States. The statue serves as a reminder of his significant contributions to Hawaiian politics and the pursuit of Hawaiian rights.
The Stones of Kapaemahu are a set of four stones that represent four legendary healers from Tahiti: Kinohi, Kahaloa, Kapaemahu, and Kapuni. These stones are believed to possess healing powers, and their presence serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii. The stones are fenced in to preserve and protect them, allowing visitors to gain insight into Hawaiian traditions and beliefs.
Address: 2453 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 Hours: 24/7 Cost: Free
Kuhio Beach Park offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, where visitors can learn about Hawaiian history and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings.
15. Honolulu Zoo
Animal lovers and families with children will delight in a visit to the Honolulu Zoo. Located within the lush Queen Kapi'olani Park, this 42-acre zoo is home to over 1,230 animals from around the world.
The Honolulu Zoo was established in 1877 and holds the distinction of being the only zoo in the United States founded by grants made by a sovereign monarch. The zoo's collection includes a diverse range of species, including Komodo dragons, orangutans, elephants, and various big cats.
Stroll through the zoo's well-designed exhibits and observe the animals in their natural habitats. The Keiki Zoo is a popular attraction for children, offering interactive experiences and educational programs. Don't miss the daily animal feedings and scheduled talks, where you can learn more about the zoo's inhabitants and conservation efforts.
Address: 151 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 Hours: 10am – 3pm daily Cost: $19 adults, $11 kids ages 3-12
A visit to the Honolulu Zoo is a fun and educational experience that allows you to connect with wildlife from around the globe and gain a deeper understanding of conservation efforts.
16. Aloha Tower
The Aloha Tower is an iconic landmark in Honolulu and a testament to the city's rich maritime history. Built in 1926, this impressive structure served as a lighthouse, welcoming ships to the harbor, and acted as a symbol of aloha, or love, to those arriving in Hawaii.
At the time of its completion, the Aloha Tower was the tallest building in Hawaii, standing at 184 feet tall. Its clock, one of the largest in the United States, has been a significant timekeeper for the city.
Today, the Aloha Tower is a historic landmark, a bustling port, and a vibrant shopping and dining complex. Take the elevator up to the Observation Deck on the tenth floor for panoramic views of the harbor and the cityscape of Honolulu. While there, enjoy a meal or browse through the shops to find unique souvenirs and locally made products.
Address: Aloha Tower, 155 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96813 Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily Cost: Free
A visit to the Aloha Tower offers a unique perspective on the city's maritime heritage and provides stunning views of Honolulu's skyline and harbor.
17. Ala Moana Center
For those seeking a shopping paradise, the Oasis Ala Moana Center is a must-visit destination. As the largest shopping mall in the United States and the world's largest open-air shopping center, it offers a vast selection of retail stores, dining options, and entertainment.
With over 350 merchants, the Ala Moana Center caters to every shopper's taste and budget. From luxury brands to local boutiques, you'll find a wide range of offerings, including fashion, accessories, electronics, and more. Take a break from shopping and indulge in a meal at one of the many international restaurants or relax with a refreshing beverage at a trendy café.
The Ala Moana Center is not just about shopping; it's also a hub of entertainment and cultural experiences. Catch live performances of hula shows, fashion shows, and concerts at the Ala Moana Center Stage, one of Hawaii's most famous public amphitheaters.
Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814 Hours: 11 am – 7 pm (closes at 8 pm on Fri/Sat and 6 pm on Sundays)
Whether you're a shopaholic or simply looking to enjoy a vibrant atmosphere, the Oasis Ala Moana Center is a must-visit destination in Honolulu.
18. Corsair Wreck Dive Site
For adventure seekers and diving enthusiasts, exploring the Corsair Wreck Dive Site is an unforgettable experience. This World War II plane, located off the coast of Honolulu, now serves as an underwater playground for marine life and advanced scuba divers.
During a routine mission, the engine of the Corsair plane failed, leading to a soft landing and the safe ejection of the pilot. The plane sank intact to a depth of around 115 feet, making it an ideal dive spot for those seeking a thrilling underwater adventure.
Divers can explore the wreckage and encounter a variety of marine species, including garden eels, stingrays, and jacks. However, it's important to note that the Corsair Wreck Dive Site is known for its strong currents, making it suitable for advanced divers with proper training and experience.
If you're an advanced diver seeking a unique and challenging underwater experience, don't miss the opportunity to explore the Corsair Wreck Dive Site in Honolulu.
19. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a true gem among the natural wonders of Honolulu. This protected marine life conservation area and underwater park is a paradise for snorkelers, swimmers, and nature enthusiasts.
Designated as a marine life conservation area in 1967, Hanauma Bay offers visitors the opportunity to observe a diverse range of marine species in their natural habitat. The bay is renowned for its green sea turtles and colorful parrotfish, making it a popular spot for snorkeling and underwater photography.
To ensure the preservation of the delicate ecosystem, visitors are required to watch a short educational video about marine conservation before entering the bay. Snorkeling gear is available for rent, and lifeguards are on duty to ensure the safety of visitors.
Address: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Honolulu, HI Hours: Varies by season, check the official website for current hours Cost: $7.50 per person, free for children under 13
Visiting Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is an incredible opportunity to connect with nature, explore the vibrant underwater world, and contribute to the preservation of Hawaii's marine ecosystem.
With so much to see and do in Honolulu, this guide has only scratched the surface of the incredible experiences that await you in this tropical paradise. From exploring the vibrant history of Pearl Harbor to lounging on the stunning beaches of Waikiki, there's something for everyone in this vibrant city.
Honolulu, with its breathtaking beaches, historic landmarks, and natural wonders, offers an endless array of things to do for every traveler. From exploring the iconic Waikiki Beach to delving into the history of Pearl Harbor, there is never a dull moment in this vibrant city. Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural enrichment, Honolulu is sure to leave a lasting impression on your Hawaiian getaway.