Last Updated on December 26, 2022 by admin
Honolulu is a dream destination. As the capital city of Hawaii, millions of visitors head to Honolulu each year to experience the beaches and tropical climate. Although you’ll definitely want to head to the beach, Honolulu has so many more things to do! The city is known as the “Manhattan of the Pacific” because of its urban setting. Be sure to set aside enough time in your itinerary to fully explore this gem of a city. In this post, I’m sharing a list of the 53 best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii. This list includes the best beaches, activities, and experiences. I’ve also included a visit guide with recommended restaurants and hotels.
I’ve visited multiple Hawaiian islands over the years, including Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. I hope this post inspires you to be a respectful visitor of the Hawaiian Islands!
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How to Get to Honolulu
The first thing that’s important to know is where Honolulu is in relation to other important locations in the region. The city of Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu, which is one of the 8 major islands of the state of Hawaii. Waikiki is one of the neighborhoods within the city of Honolulu. Waikiki is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit, and there are tons of hotels along Waikiki Beach.
|See our Hawaii itinerary to help plan your trip!|
To reach Honolulu, you’ll first need to fly to the island of Oahu. Hawaii’s main airport is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). Waikiki Beach is about a 9-mile drive from the airport. To reach Waikiki, you can take a shuttle, taxi, ride share, car rental, or public bus.
One option is to use a shared shuttle service roundtrip. When we visited Oahu in 2022, we booked a private car transfer and added the fresh-flower lei greeting. We were happy with our service from Charley’s Taxi and would recommend them to others as well.
Tip: If you’re looking for flights, I recommend checking the SkyScanner website to see the best prices for your dates of travel!
What to Pack for a Trip to Hawaii
When you visit Hawaii, expect to spend a lot of time at the beaches! Here’s a few things I recommend bringing:
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: You have to use reef-safe sunscreen while you’re in Hawaii, because other sunscreens can harm the waters. Make sure you buy yours in advance, as they tend to be more expensive on the islands.
- Portable Charger: We like this cell phone charger because the cord is embedded. (That’s one less thing to search for in your bag!) This charger will let you charge your phone when you’re out exploring. You don’t want to run out of battery while you’re on the go, because you don’t want to miss a photo opportunity.
- Waterproof Phone Case: Protect your belongings with a waterproof phone case.
- Quick Dry Towel: This is perfect for hikes where you wouldn’t want to pack a bulky towel from the hotel. It’s easy to throw into a beach bag.
- Flotation Strap: If you’re going to be snorkeling or surfing, and you want to bring a camera or GoPro, you should make sure you have a flotation strap. That way, if you drop your equipment, it won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean.
- Water Bottle: Stay hydrated while you’re out in the sun! We like this water bottle because it’s insulated and will keep your water cooler for longer.
- Vacation Hat: Protect your face from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat.
- GoPro: A GoPro will let you take amazing underwater footage. We highly recommend getting one if you want excellent underwater photos and videos!
(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information.)
Where to Stay in Honolulu (Best Hotels!)
We recommend staying in Waikiki when you visit Honolulu. You’ll be steps away from the beach, and you’ll have a dazzling array of restaurants and shops within walking distance.
|See our full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort here!|
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: When we visited Waikiki in 2022, we stayed at the Ali’i Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Ali’i Tower is the most luxurious tower on the resort property, and it has its own private pool, lounge, and check-in. The Ali’i Tower has ocean-view and oceanfront rooms, and it’s just steps away from the beach and lagoon. We wrote a full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village here.
- Halekulani Hotel: This luxury 5-star hotel has a beautiful pool overlooking Waikiki with a mosaic floor of 1.2 million pieces of glass tiles. The hotel also offers daily surfing demonstrations.
- The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort: This is another 5-star located right on the beach with two pool options. (Plus poolside cabanas!)
Moderately Priced Hotels
- Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel: This hotel is located within walking distance of the beach, as well as other attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and Kapahulu Avenue.
- Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach: Waikiki Beach is just a 3-minute walk from this hotel. This hotel also offers daily complimentary breakfast.
- Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki Hotel: This hotel is located just a few blocks away from Waikiki Beach. There’s also a small outdoor pool.
- Ilima Hotel: This hotel is just a couple of blocks from the beach, and it has free parking.
Be a respectful guest when visiting the Hawaiian islands. Follow Leave No Trace guidelines when you are out exploring and at the beaches. Stay on marked trails, don’t feed wildlife, and don’t litter. It’s illegal to touch or feed the turtles. Try to leave the area exactly as you found it.
If you are not a Native Hawaiian, I recommend that you learn about the island’s history, indigenous people, and impact of colonization ahead of your trip.
Tip: Take a look at the Go City Oahu all-inclusive pass. You’ll be able to save money by bundling multiple attractions on the island!
53 Best Things to Do in Honolulu
I created this map (below) so you can easily see all of the activities I mention in this list.
1. Waikiki Beach
The first is probably the most obvious, but you should definitely visit the beach! Waikiki Beach is two miles long and is absolutely breathtaking. Take a walk along the golden sands and play in the sparkling water. The beach is conveniently located near many of the hotels and attractions of Honolulu. Be prepared for crowds, because this is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii. You can see our full list of things to do at Waikiki Beach here.
2. Duke Kahanamoku Statue
“Duke Kahanamoku Statue at Waikiki” by Castles, Capes & Clones is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Located on Kuhio Beach (part of Waikiki), the Duke Kahanamoku Statue pays homage to the Father of Modern Surfing. He taught many visitors how to surf, and we was elected to the Surfing Hall of Fame.
3. Go to a Luau
There are several venues in Honolulu that offer luaus. Most luaus will include a traditional Hawaiian dinner as well as a show. The luau at Paradise Cove includes hula dancers, fire twirlers, and musicians. You can also choose to have transportation included from select Waikiki hotels.
Head over the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, to experience an authentic luau. You’ll get to feast upon traditional Hawaiian food while you watch hula dancers and learn about the island’s history. The luau takes place every Monday and Thursday night. You can read all about our experience at the Royal Hawaiian’s luau here. The Royal Hawaiian is also known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific.”
4. Outrigger Canoe Surfing
Try your hand at outrigger canoe surfing! This is one of the safest ocean vessels. As long as you and everyone in your party is 5-years-old and older, you can book this experience. At the time of this writing, a 30-minute experience only costs $35 per person. You can find more information linked here.
5. Sunset Cruise
A sunset cruise is the perfect way to cap off a day at Waikiki Beach. There are many companies that offer sunset cruises or ‘booze cruises’, one of which is Manu Kai. The sunset cruise is offered daily at 5:30pm and lasts 1.5 hours. Adults and children are allowed to book. Adults 21 years and older will receive up to three complimentary mai tai cocktails. If you’re lucky, you might even see the famed green flash at sunset. The green flash is a phenomenon in which the sunset glows green due to how the earth’s atmosphere bends the light.
Another sunset cruise option is the Star Casual Sunset Dinner & Show cruise. The cruise is 2 hours long (3 hours on Fridays), and includes dinner and a show while you cruise on the boat. At the time of this writing, an adult ticket was $115. Children are also welcome to attend.
6. International Market Place
“International Market Place Sign” by daryl_mitchell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The International Market Place is a great place to go shopping. There are over 80 unique stores and restaurants. We visited the International Market Place when I was 16 years old, and I still have fond memories of exploring the shops. During our most recent visit, there was an active farmers market and lots of souvenir shops.
7. Kalakaua Avenue
Kalakaua Avenue is the main street in Waikiki. This street follows the beach and is filled with lots of shops and restaurants. The street is named after the last monarch, King Kalakaua. You can view his statue at 2050 Kalakaua Avenue.
8. Waikiki Aquarium
“Waikiki Aquarium–Gilded Triggerfish” by Makuahine Pa’i Ki’i is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Waikiki Aquarium has over a dozen exhibits showcasing local marine life. The aquarium is open from 9am to 4:30pm daily. At the time of this writing, tickets were $12 for general adult admission.
9. Royal Hawaiian Center
“Royal Hawaiian Center” by nagerw is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
The Royal Hawaiian Center hosts many cultural events focused on indigenous Hawaiians’ history and customs. The Royal Grove is in the center of the Royal Hawaiian Center and is filled with coconut trees. There are over 100 stores and restaurants at the Royal Hawaiian Center.
10. Honolulu Museum of Art
The Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) has a variety of exhibits, galleries, and courtyards. Admission is free for children under 18 years old.
11. Honolulu Zoo
“Cheetah @ Honolulu Zoo” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Honolulu Zoo has a variety of animals, including giraffes, zebras and lions. The zoo even has a twilight tour on Saturday evenings after close. If you book the tour, you’ll have 2-hours with an educator and you’ll learn all about the animals after the other visitors have gone home.
12. Hike Diamond Head (Le’ahi)
The giant crater that you can see from Waikiki Beach is called Le’ahi in native Hawaiian, and is otherwise known as Diamond Head. You can actually hike to the top and be rewarded with excellent views of Waikiki. The trail is 1.6 miles long roundtrip and takes approximately two hours to complete. There’s a total elevation gain of 560 feet, which makes this a moderately difficult hike. (Trail information linked here.) Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the trail and bring lots of water. It might be harder to hike this trail with younger kids if you’re not an experienced hiker. I hiked this trail when I was younger, and I definitely felt the burn for the final set of stairs! As of May 12, 2022, outside visitors need to have a reservation to visit Diamond Head. You can read more here.
13. Foster Botanical Garden
“Orchid @ Foster Botanical Garden” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Foster Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in Honolulu. It’s a beautiful green oasis located right in the center of the city. The garden contains a conservatory, outdoor butterfly garden, palm garden, and more. If you’re interested in tropical plants, it’s the perfect place to visit.
14. Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace was built in 1892 and was the official residence of Hawaiian royalty. Today, it’s a museum that is filled with priceless works of art and items of historical significance.
15. Ala Moana Center
The Ala Moana Center is a large open-air shopping mall in Honolulu. There are over 300 stores at the Ala Moana Center, so take your time shopping!
16. Queen Kapiolani Garden
Head over to Kapiolani Park and visit the Queen Kapiolani Garden. The garden is filled with hibiscus flowers, which are the state flower of Hawaii.
17. Chinatown and the Oahu Market
Honolulu’s Chinatown is filled with excellent restaurants and shops. The Oahu Market takes place there and is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.
18. Waikiki Historic Trail
As you walk through Waikiki, you may notice surfboards with historical information written on them. This is part of the Waikiki Historic Trail. If you walk the full trail, you’ll learn all about the history of Waikiki. You can read more about the trail here.
19. Helicopter Tour
“Waikiki, Honolulu Panorama” by Edmund Garman is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A helicopter tour will give you an aerial view of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the numerous beaches. There’s even some tours that are doors off, in which you have completely unobstructed views of the coast! (The doors off option is great if you want to practice photography without shooting behind a glass window.)
20. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
About 10 miles away from Honolulu is the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. There is a memorial theater, several exhibits, a circle of remembrance, and a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. You can reserve your tickets in advance of your visit here.
Parasailing is one memorable way to view the beach! There are several operators in Honolulu, including Hawaiian Parasail. The rides last about an hour and start at $84 per person. You have to be at least 5 years old to parasail. My brother and I went parasailing in Maui when we were teenagers, and it was a really fun experience!
22. Manoa Falls Trail
This is a hike that is super close to Waikiki. (About 5 miles away.) The trail is 1.7 miles roundtrip with 633 feet of elevation gain. (Full hiking info linked here.) It’s a popular trail, so head out early if you want to beat the crowds. The trail will take you through a lush rainforest and will end at Manoa Falls. A cool fact about this trail is that it was used for filming scenes from Jurassic Park and Lost! The trail is mostly shaded and can be muddy. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes. (No flip flops for this one!) Even if it’s sunny in Waikiki, it could be drizzling on this trail because Manoa Falls is in a rainforest microclimate. Manoa Falls is 100-feet-high and falls down a sheer rock face. There’s no swimming at the pool at the bottom. When you’re finished with the hike, bring an extra pair of shoes for the drive back to town. (That way you can put your muddy shoes in a plastic bag.)
23. US Army Museum of Hawaii
The US Army Museum of Hawaii is filled with exhibits about the military history of Hawaii. You’ll learn about warfare hundreds of years ago, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the struggle of Japanese Americans, and the Vietnam War. Admission is free, with donations greatly accepted. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday.
24. Atlantis Submarines
Submerge 100 feet underwater in a submarine and view the marine life up close with Atlantis Adventures! The submarine holds 62 guests and contains viewing portholes. If you have young children, they must be at least 36 inches tall to join and they have to be able to independently go down an 11-step ladder. To access the submarine, you’ll take a small shuttle boat. You’ll spend about 45-50 minutes on the submarine. Allow at least 1.5 hours in total for the experience. At the time of this writing, an adult ticket costs $143.
25. Snorkel Cruise of Turtle Canyon
Take a snorkel cruise from Waikiki and observe the abundant marine life while snorkeling. The snorkel cruise will take you to Turtle Canyon, where you will very likely see Green Sea Turtles among the Hawaiian reefs. The cruise is 2.5 hours long and you’ll get to sail on a 45 foot catamaran. The tour departs from the Outrigger Reef Hotel.
26. Moana Surfrider Hotel
The historic Moana Surfrider Hotel was first opened in 1901 and was the first hotel on Waikiki Beach. It’s known as the “First Lady of Waikiki.” If you stay at this hotel, you’ll be steps away from the beach and have access to a gorgeous pool with views of the ocean. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, it’s worth checking out for its historical significance.
27. Shave Ice
One thing you’ll have to try while you’re in Honolulu is the shave ice. We recommend that you visit Shimazu Shave Ice and Waiola Shave Ice. It’s the perfect way to stay cool on a hot Hawaiian day!
28. Food Tour
One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to go on a food tour. If you book this tour, you’ll ride bikes as you sample some of the city’s best food. (Pricing information linked here.) If you like beer, you can also book a beer lovers tour. If you prefer a sit-down meal, you can also make reservations at the Hard Rock Cafe in Honolulu.
|See our post about our food tour and favorite foods at Pike Place Market.|
29. Mai Tais at Duke’s
Duke’s Waikiki is right on the beach and is one of the most famous places to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset. In addition to sit-down dining, there is also a barefoot bar. Try a classic Hawaiian cocktail (like a Mai Tai), and watch the sunset. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was born in 1890. During his remarkable life, he competed in the Olympics, introduced surfing all over the world, and was Hawaii’s Official Ambassador of Aloha.
30. Observation Deck at Aloha Tower
*Currently closed due to Covid-19. Check the website below for current updates.*
The Aloha Tower’s observation deck is located on the 10th floor and is free to visitors. You can visit anytime between 9:00am and 5pm. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Honolulu. The tower was built in 1926 and definitely has retained its historic feel.
31. Surf Lessons
“Surf Boards” by Edmund Garman is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If you’ve ever wanted to try surfing, Waikiki is the place to learn! Sign up for surf lessons and learn how to ride a wave. The best part about learning to surf in Waikiki is that you’ll be surrounded by other beginners, so don’t feel shy about your ability level and give it a try!
32. Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
The Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is the perfect place to enjoy the water without having big waves. The lagoon is maintained by the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort, but it’s free to the public. It’s very similar to a large saltwater pool. The water is very clear, there are no big waves, and there’s an island in the middle of the lagoon. We enjoyed taking our toddler to the lagoon because the water was more calm for her to more freely play. To see more photos of the lagoon, you can read our full article on it (linked here).
33. Aqua Bike
The Duke Kanahamoku Lagoon has a variety of rentals, including aqua bikes. If you want to try biking over the water, head to the lagoon!
34. Standup Paddleboard Yoga
If you like to do yoga, try doing it at a “floating studio” while you’re on a standup paddleboard. You’ll get to enjoy yoga right on the water! There are several group classes available, one of which is 90 minutes and will teach you how to paddleboard. At the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, you can also rent paddleboards.
35. Aloha Swap Meet
The Aloha Swap Meet takes place at Aloha Stadium. It’s typically open several times a week and is filled with all sorts of treasures. Admission is just $1 per person.
36. Bishop Museum
The Bishop Museum has a variety of exhibits dedicated to Hawaii’s history. You’ll learn about Polynesian wayfinding, Hawaiian gods and legends, and 19th century Hawaiian art. (To name a few things.)
37. Lyon Arboretum
“Lyon Arboretum” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0
On the outskirts of Honolulu is the Lyon Arboretum, which is managed by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The arboretum contains a visitor center, themed gardens, memorial gardens, and many acres of lush plant life.
38. Shangri La Museum
The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design is dedicated to displaying and educating about Islamic art. Currently, you can only access this museum by booking a tour through the Honolulu Museum of Art Thursday through Saturday by reservation.
39. Kawaiahaʻo Church
The Kawaiahaʻo Church is a historic church in downtown Honolulu. The church, established in 1820, is now over 200 years old. See this page for a self-guided walking tour of the church and grounds.
40. Hawaii CinemAttractions
Watch a film with fully immersive 4DFX technology. There are a variety of different films you can choose from. At the time of this writing, we recommend checking out Soaring Over Hawaii and Adventure Quest Hawaii. The seats are equipped with special effects for motion, vibration, water, wind, and scent.
41. Ride the Waikiki Trolley
“Waikiki Trolley” by Smart Destinations is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
A fun way to explore the city is to take the Waikiki Trolley tour. You can hop on and off as you like, and you can buy passes for 1, 4, or 7 days.
42. Try a Malasada
Head to Leonard’s Bakery and try a malasada. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts and are extremely popular in Hawaii. The malasadas can be coated with different flavors, and the malasada puffs can be filled with different flavors. Examples include macadamia nut, haupia, and guava. The line can be really long, so I recommend that you visit early on a weekday morning. I got there around 7am on a weekday and there was almost no line. The malasadas are made to order, so there is a bit of a wait after you order. But when you do get your order, they will be fresh and hot! We loved the original malasada and the guava malasada puff. You can read our full post about Leonard’s Bakery here.
43. Go Whale Watching
Humpback whales are most commonly sighted in Honolulu from December until May, when they migrate to warmer waters. When you book a whale-watching tour, you’ll get the opportunity to be out on the water in places the whales commonly visit. Many of the whale-watching tours will offer a free return trip if you don’t see whales during your visit, so you don’t have much to lose by going out and looking!
44. Afternoon Tea at the Veranda Beach House
Head to the Moana Surfrider for afternoon tea at the Veranda Beach House. You’ll be served tea, finger sandwiches, and sweets in the open-air veranda with ocean views. You can also upgrade the experience by ordering sparkling rose to be served with your tea service.
45. Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu
The Hard Rock Cafe has a location in Honolulu. Indulge in a burger, milkshake, and cocktail while you enjoy the music.
46. ABC Stores
There are dozens of ABC Stores in Hawaii, and you will see many of them in Honolulu. ABC Stores are a large, local chain that includes souvenirs and convenience items. Chances are you will visit at least one ABC Store while you’re on the island!
47. Experience the Local Coffee
The Honolulu Coffee Experience Center is open daily from 7am to 3pm. The center roasts coffee beans from Kona (located on the Big Island). The experience center is in a 9,000 square foot building and was established in 2015. Tastings and tours are currently unavailable at the time of this writing, but mobile ordering is open. We hope they offer tours again soon.
48. Diamond Head Theatre
The Diamond Head Theatre, also known as “Broadway of the Pacific,” was built in 1915.
49. Book a Spa Day
The Moana Lani Spa is located within the Moana Surfrider Hotel. Their relaxation lounges have lanais with view of Waikiki Beach.
50. Centennial Park
The new Centennial Park is one of the only large green spaces within walking distance of Waikiki. The expansive lawns are perfect for children to run around.
51. e-Bike Diamond Head
Take the scenic route to Diamond Head by renting an e-Bike for a private tour. The tour I linked here allows for riding around Diamond Head and then hiking to the top.
52. Have a Mermaid Photo Shoot
With this tour, you’ll learn how to snorkel while also being dressed as a mermaid for a photo shoot. They’ll provide you with a mermaid tail and show you the best poses.
53. Drink Out of a Pineapple or a Coconut
There are lots of places in Waikiki that offer cocktails, smoothies, and juices from fresh pineapples and coconuts. We bought the pineapple smoothie pictured here from Bluewater Shrimp & Seafood.
54. Have a Tropical Cocktail
While in Hawaii, if you’re able to drink alcohol, try one of their many tropical drinks. The bars serve Mai Tais, Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaiians, and Daiquiris.
55. Watch the Sunset
Cap off a day in Waikiki by watching the sunset. We missed the sunset the first few days we were in Waikiki because we weren’t sure where to view it! We asked the front desk at our hotel, and it turns out we had to walk further down the beach near the parking lot by the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to watch the sunset. Of course, the location will vary depending on the season.
13 Nearby Activities on the Island of Oahu
There are also tons of cool things to see outside of Honolulu on the island of Oahu! Here are a few ideas to help you plan your trip. (Many of these can easily be day trips from Honolulu, or you can look at staying in multiple cities.)
1. Polynesian Cultural Center
“Polynesian Cultural Center – Canoe Pageant” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0
At the Polynesian Cultural Center, you will learn all about the people of the Pacific Islands. It’s truly an immersive experience, with lots of live music, dance, and demonstrations. The center has six replicas of villages from the following islands: Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa, and Fiji. The Polynesian Cultural Center also has one of the best luau’s and evening shows that you will find on the island! I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center when I was 16-years-old, and I still have amazing memories of that experience.
2. Dole Pineapple Plantation
The Dole Pineapple Plantation started as a fruit stand in 1950. You can tour the property and learn all about pineapples. With booked tickets, there is a Pineapple Express Train Tour, Plantation Garden Tour, and Pineapple Garden Maze. Don’t leave without trying their world-famous Dole Whip. If you’re a Disney fan like us, then you’ve probably tried it at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. At the Dole Pineapple Plantation, you can try it straight from the source! We wrote all about our visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation here.
3. Go Dolphin Watching
Dolphins also inhabit the waters around Oahu, and there are special tours that will take you out to see them. The Dolphin Star complies with all guidelines for the protection of marine mammals. Their large catamaran
4. Halona Blowhole Lookout
“Halona Blowhole Lookout” by SqueakyMarmot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
This is one of Hawaii’s most famous natural wonders. When waves hit the dried lava tubes, water shoots high up into the air like a blowhole.
5. Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Adventure Tour)
“Kualoa Ranch” by Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If you’re a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies, you have to go to Kualoa Ranch for the Jurassic Adventure Tour. The 1.5 hour tour will take you to iconic locations that were used in the films. You’ll have a bumpy open-air ride as you cruise through the different locations.
6. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden contains over 400 acres of verdant plant life. Admission is free, and you can walk or drive through the garden. Please be aware that there are updated policies that prohibit photos from being taken on the main road. All photography must be taken safely off the road. See our full guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden here.
7. Aulani Resort
Disney has a resort property on the island of Oahu (Aulani Resort) that has beautiful pools and a beach. You’ll need to book reservations to stay there, but it’s definitely a beautiful hotel.
8. Hanauma Bay State Park
Hanauma Bay is a popular snorkeling beach. In 2016, it was voted Best Beach in the United States. At the time of this writing, it costs $25 to enter the park. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. First-time visitors will watch a 9-minute educational video prior to entering the beach, as it’s critically important that all visitors preserve the ecosystem. Under the new Pilot Program, reservations are required. (See more info here.)
9. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
“IMG_0651” by HonoluluDistrict is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
This hike is 2.0 miles roundtrip. You’ll have views of the southeastern side of the island, and you can see the Makapu’u Lighthouse. (The actual lighthouse is off-limits, but it makes for a beautiful photo!)
10. Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
This lookout point is just a 5-mile drive away from Honolulu. The lookout is located along the Pali Highway. You’ll have panoramic views from this mountain point!
11. Swim with Sharks
When you visit the North Shore, you can swim with sharks with Haleiwa Shark Tours. This cage diving tour starts at $95 per person.
12. View the Mokes
“Lanikai Beach” by jparise is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The Mokes (as locals call them) are two small islands located off the coast of Oahu. The islands are named Moku Nui (which means “big island”) and Moku Iki (“little island”). You can view the Mokes from Lanikai Beach, or by taking the famous Lanikai Pillbox hike.
13. Waimea Bay
“Waimea Bay Beach” by jdnx is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If you are into surfing, or just like to watch big waves, you need to visit Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu. Waimea Bay Beach Park has waves up to 30-feet-tall in the winter!
One excellent way to see Honolulu and nearby sights on Oahu is to take a guided tour. You won’t have to worry about planning the travel details, and your guide will be knowledgeable about the local spots. Some guided tours you might be especially interested in include:
- Oahu Grand Circle Island Full-Day Tour: This tour will drive you around the island and take you to Diamond Head, Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, the Halona Blowhole, Waimea Valley, the Dole Plantation, and the North Shore. This is a great option if you want to see more of Oahu outside of Waikiki but you don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of a rental car.
- Observe Wild Dolphins and Turtles: This boat will take you to a safe distance to view dolphins and turtles in the wild. You’ll get to snorkle and the boat even has an inflatable slide.
- Historical Tour: This private tour will give you historical background regarding the islands of Hawaii and Polynesia. As part of this tour, you’ll visit the Bishop Museum, Iolani Palace, and more historical sites in Honolulu.
- Paradise Cove Luau: This luau will allow you to customize your options, including your lei, dinner, and souvenirs. You’ll get to enjoy the luau during sunset all while enjoying Hawaiian music, hula dancing, and fire twirlers. There’s even pick-up and drop-off from select hotels.
- Pearl Harbor Tour: This tour will take you to Pearl Harbor from Waikiki. You’ll see the USS Arizona Memorial and take a tour of the USS Missouri Battleship.
- Oeno Winery Tour: Visit the island’s only winery and have a wine tasting!
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Honolulu
How many days do you need in Waikiki?
We recommend that you spend at least 3 days in Waikiki. You’ll want to spend at least one day at the beach, one day seeing the sites around town, and perhaps one more for a day trip excursion. Of course, if you can spend more time in Waikiki, there’s plenty to do!
What are some things to do in Oahu at night?
Oahu is a wonderful place to spend time at night. The warm weather allows for comfortable outdoor activities! Oahu also has a great nightlife scene. Here’s a few ideas for some things to do in Oahu at night: You can take a sunset dinner cruise, you can go to the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian, you can enjoy evening entertainment at Duke’s Waikiki, or you can go for an evening beach walk along Waikiki Beach.
What is Honolulu best known for?
Honolulu is known for being the capital city of Hawaii and is the largest city in the state. It’s famous for its beaches, tropical climate, Pearl Harbor, and resort district of Waikiki.
Why is Honolulu so popular?
Honolulu is the gateway city to visiting the Hawaiian islands. International flights land in Honolulu, and then visitors can take shorter flights to a number of the islands. Honolulu is also home to the famous resort district of Waikiki, famously located on Waikiki Beach.
Is Waikiki too touristy?
Waikiki is definitely touristy, in that there are a lot of visitors. There are a number of tours, hotels, and restaurants that cater to tourists. However, it’s not difficult to escape the crowds and find places on the island that are more quiet.
What is the main strip in Waikiki?
The main strip in Waikiki is Kalakaua Avenue. The street runs directly through Waikiki and is filled with shops and restaurants.
What are the best free activities in Honolulu?
Some free activities that you can do in Honolulu include visiting Waikiki Beach, going to Aloha Tower’s observation deck, climbing up Diamond Head, walking the Waikiki Historic Trail, and hiking to Manoa Falls.
What are the best indoor activities in Honolulu?
Although Honolulu has excellent outdoor opportunities, there are also a lot of fun things you can do indoors. These include taking afternoon tea at the Veranda Beach House, watching a 4D film at Hawaii CinemAttractions, and visiting the Waikiki Aquarium.
What should be included on a first-time Hawaii itinerary?
If you are planning a first-time Hawaii itinerary, we recommend spending some time on the island of Oahu. Even if you have plans to visit other islands, make sure to spend at least 2-3 days in Honolulu. While you’re in Oahu, we recommend visiting Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the Dole Plantation.
Summary: Best Things to Do in Honolulu
I’ve visited Honolulu several times over the years, and it’s a city I genuinely love. During our most recent trip to Honolulu, we really enjoyed spending time together as a family in this magical place. The beaches, restaurants, gardens, attractions, and shops make Honolulu the perfect vacation destination. We hope this article about the best things to do in Honolulu inspires you to visit this beautiful city! We already can’t wait to go back!
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- Full Review of the Royal Hawaiian Luau
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Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.
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