Not just Hawaii’s seat of power, Honolulu is also one of the world’s most diverse tourist attractions, offering travelers a gamut of memorable experiences. The bustling city has something for everyone — gorgeous waters and surfing, thanks to the panoramic Waikiki beach; hikes to the top of an extinct volcano (Diamond Head); delicious local cuisine in downtown district’s Chinatown; and stunning architecture, with each historic building as distinct as the local folklore.
Honolulu means “sheltered bay” in Hawaiian. It’s for a reason. It’s another world, the kind we don’t want to leave ever. Here, we list five places you absolutely must visit to make the most of your trip to this dream of a place.
Located along the city’s south shore, Honolulu’s crowning jewel — the Waikiki neighborhood — originally served as a royal playground. Today, it is the city’s beating heart. Besides its picturesque beaches, Waikiki is home to Honolulu’s posh boutiques, hotels, restaurants, resorts, and shops. It also has several other places of interest, including the Royal Hawaiian Center, the Waikiki Beach Walk, and the International Market Place.
Waikiki means “spouting waters” in English. The teeming cultural and economic center is located strategically, within 30 minutes from other notable attractions, such as Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (a marine-life conservation district), and the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.
Leahi (Diamond Head)
An extinct volcano with a 760-foot tuff crater, it is situated southeast of Honolulu. Formed over 100,000 years ago, Leahi means “brow of the tuna” in English. Legend has it that British sailors named it Diamond Head in the 19th century when they first discovered shiny rocks along the volcano’s slopes, calcite crystals they mistook for diamonds. Once an essential military lookout, today, this National Natural Landmark is a popular hiking spot, giving travelers breathtaking views of Waikiki and Oahu’s south shore.
North America’s only royal residence, Iolani Palace was home to the last two kings of Hawaii. The bronze statue of King Kamehameha I stands tall right across it. The monarch is known for unifying the Hawaiian Islands. Arts and culture buffs must also consider visiting the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Kawaiahao Church.
A National Historic Landmark built in 1962, Pearl Harbor is the home to the USS Arizona Memorial. It is the resting place of 1,102 soldiers killed in an attack on the battleship USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, an event that provoked the US’ participation in World War II.
The 10-story Aloha Tower is also a popular site. It was built in 1926 for passenger ships arriving at the Honolulu Harbor. Other attractions in the area include the Aloha Tower Marketplace, a vibrant harbourside market, and the bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku. The Olympian is widely considered the father of international surfing and has had a significant contribution in popularizing the sport in the region.
Though famous for its food and cultural scene, Downtown Honolulu is the seat of the state government. All important buildings, from the Hawaii State Capitol to the Washington Place (the governor’s mansion), and Honolulu Hale (Honolulu’s City Hall), are located here.
Dotted with significant cultural and architectural landmarks, this part of the city deserves to be explored leisurely on foot. It also has Chinatown, a 20-block neighborhood offering all kinds of local mouthwatering delicacies and all-night entertainment, courtesy of its many restaurants and bars.
The best time to visit
The ideal time to visit Honolulu is during the off-season, from mid-April to early June or between September and mid-December. You’ll find the temperature pleasant (around 24 Celsius), fewer crowds, attractive deals, and would be able to celebrate local festivals Hawaii style.