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Things To Do In Honolulu. This Year’s Activity Guide.

by Pankaj Upreti
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Things To Do In Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu
Downtown Honolulu | Photo Credit – John Fowler

You will find many things to do while in Honolulu. The capital of Hawaii has a wealth of attractions on offer and you can spend days if not weeks taking in the serene beauty of this city and the Hawaiian islands.

The city has a plethora of lush beaches and cocktail shacks to refresh you. Sunbathe, surf, swim and relax at the beaches of Honolulu, and make your vacation to Hawaii a memorable one. Here is our list of the best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Have Some fun at Waikiki Beach

Waikiki beach | Photo Credit – Bernard Spragg. NZ

Waikiki beach is a world famous location, and its tale of fame is not just a signifier of the modern era. The kings and queens of Hawaii were known to frequent this place. The Waikiki beach is so beautiful that it was the royalty’s choice of spot to hang out at. Find the memorial of Duke Kahanamoku amid the palm tree groves of Waikiki beach. This place is absolutely the best to surf.

Make your way to the yellow sand of Waikiki Beach while you are here at Honolulu, Hawaii. The turquoise waters of the pacific ocean tide beside a line of hotels and skyscrapers, and were among the first places the Hawaiians surfed at. Your vacation to Hawaii is absolutely incomplete without visiting Waikiki Beach.

Spend Some Time At Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, Honolulu
Pearl Harbor, Honolulu | Photo Credit – Robert Linsdell

Delve into the history of second world war by reaching at the USS Arizona memorial visitor center. The museum here is boat accessible and brings you close to the sunken USS Arizona naval fleet that was the target of Japanese bombers in December 1941 at Pearl Harbor. There are three sectional divisions inside the USS Arizona Memorial museum.

The assembly room is known to provide bird eye views of the submerged deck. Another part, the Shrine, is dedicated to the casualties and survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack. A visit to the USS Arizona memorial and Pearl Harbor is a must see location and one you must take time to visit while you are in Honolulu.

Enjoy the View of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay | Photo Credit – Eric Tessmer

This place is wonderful and beautiful ecosystem lying the depths of an extinct volcanic crater. The great Ko’olau Mountain Range is a nearby landmark in this southern part of the Oahu island. Just a walk away from Honolulu city, the Hanauma Bay preserve is a location that you must visit.

The underwater coral gardens of this place are the most beautiful sights you will ever come across. Find coconut and palm trees here amid the sandy beach which is one of the most popular locations for tourists to visit. Teeming with marine life and other species dependent on this environment, the Hanauma Bay preserve is filled sea turtles and parrot fishes among more.

The Koko Crater Trail

The Koko Crater Trail | Photo Credit – Leonard S Jacobs

This beautiful trek can be undertaken from the southern end of Honolulu, and goes through the foothills of the Ko’olau Mountains with the Hanauma Bay in between. A tad bit away from city life, the Koko crater trail will let you explore the Hawaiian country on sun baked paths and trails built on train tracks in use earlier.

These tracks traverse ridges and rocks, and eventually open up to stunning views of the Oahu coast and the cliffs of Molokai island on a clear day.  Be sure to take in the Koko Crater trail while you are at Honolulu, it is one of the famed walks Hawaii has to offer!

Shangri La

Shangri La, Honolulu
Shangri La, Honolulu | Photo Credit – Johnny Silvercloud

Built on the orders of American philanthropist Doris Duke, the mansion of Shangri La is located at Diamond Head, Honolulu. This place is on the bucket list of every visit to Honolulu. A top attraction, many tourists flock to Shangri La to take in the fusion architecture of Iran and Egypt.

There are carved domes as well as calligraphies of Isfahan to wonder at here. There are a number of waterways and gardens inspired by Mughal gardens of India. Doris Duke commissioned this place and since its construction, it has been a major tourist hotspot welcome for all to see. Nearby lies the famous Diamond Head monument of Honolulu

Explore USS Bowfin Submarine Museum

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum | Photo Credit – Mike

This museum offers a glimpse of life for US naval officers in the second world war. Located at Pearl Harbor, the USS Bowfin Submarine museum is one of the top attractions for tourists to come visit. You get to walk through mess rooms, living quarters and control rooms, guided by a recorded audio.

There is a beautiful collection of marine weapons that you must lay your eyes on while you are here. Pay your respects to the lives and submarines lost during WWII at the memorial area. The Bowfin Submarine Museum is a must visit and a top location for your time spent in Hawaii and Honolulu.

Enjoy Stunning View from Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head Honolulu
Diamond Head Honolulu | Photo Credit – Eric Tessmer

Some 200000 years ago, a cone spewed volcanic magma and created the landscape of the Diamond Head State Monument. A great place to take in the great sights surrounding Honolulu including its beaches and skyline. The trail is pretty well travelled and will take you from the edge of the mountain into tunnels and areas that will let you take in stunning views of the Pacific ocean.

The ridges and craters dotting the Diamond Head State Monument are a great way to spend your time while in Honolulu. There are scaled staircases that form the rugged paths of the Diamond Head. The natural beauty surrounding this place is absolutely breathtaking. A visit to the Diamond Head State Monument will be one of the best things to do in Honolulu.

Explore the history at Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace in Honolulu
Iolani Palace in Honolulu | Photo Credit – Edmund Garman

This is a 19th century style palace boasting Baroque architecture and European influences. Many tourists make it a point to see the Iolani Palace, which has been the ancestral home of the Kalakaua dynasty. Located in Downtown Honolulu, it was built by the Hawaiian monarch David Kalakaua.

He drew his inspirations from his travels across the world, and gathered all of it in the melting pot now known as the Iolani Palace. This place is also a testament to United States history, as it was the location of rising the first US flag to signal the integration of Hawaii into the US. There are many things to do while you are here at Iolani Palace.

There are exhibitions featuring the personal effects of the monarchs as well as artifacts concerning the military. A great destination for any tourist in Hawaii, the palace makes Downtown Honolulu the place to be during a trip to Hawaii.

Chinatown

Chinatown, Honolulu | Photo Credit – www.bluewaikiki.com

One of the things that Honolulu is pretty famous for is its Chinatown. It is one of the largest communities of its kind in all of the United States. A visit to this marketplace is one of the best things to do in Honolulu during the day. The Maunakea marketplace features many wares such as fresh tropical fruits and meats to die for.

The landmark of this area is a great red clock tower with Shan gables. The Oahu market is another great point of interest here. Also find temples here, one example of which is the Japanese Shinto shrine of Izumo Taishakyo. There are places to eat delicious food and while you are here, be sure to try the pecking duck. Chinatown in Oahu Hi is clearly a great place to visit and spend time at!

Enjoy Surfing in Hawaii

Surfing at Honolulu
Surfing at Honolulu | Photo Credit – Prayitno / Thank you for

Surfing is such an important activity of Hawaiian tourism that it deserves a special mention on its own. There are many beaches in the Hawaiian Oahu island, most of which are the best places to surf in all the world. Waikiki beach has already been mentioned on this list and another great place to surf is the Ala Moana.

There is also a beach park right next to Ala Moana and it is one of the top local and visitor surfing hotspots in Honolulu. If you’re lucky, you might just spot sea turtles here as well. There are a number of other places to surf while you are here and you can always find a beach park to your liking.

Beaches at Honolulu

As mentioned many times above, there are a number of beaches in Honolulu that you can visit and relax at. Waikiki and Moana have already been mentioned. You can visit Sunset Park, a little distance away from the city. Take the Sunset Cruise if you feel like it. Other places and beaches to visit are at Ewa and Lanikai.

Filled with corals, reefs and teeming with marine life, beaches are one of the best things to do in Honolulu. Snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing are just many of the things you can do apart from swimming and surfing at the beaches here.

Swimming with Sharks

Okay, this is one of the things that might be too scary for some. But if you got the mettle for it, then swimming with sharks in Honolulu is going to be an experience that you will take with you forever. Trips to the north shore are known for their shark dives. By lowering a steel cage with you in it into the water, you can have the experience of a lifetime by watching all the sharks swimming around you.

From Grey Reef sharks to hammerheads, there are even Galapagos and Sandbar sharks swimming about. Take your waterproof camera and capture this experience of a lifetime. Make your way to the North Shore and swim with the sharks, clearly on of the top things to do in Honolulu.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Makapu'u Lighthouse in Honolulu
Makapu’u Lighthouse in Honolulu | Photo Credit – Eric Tessmer

This easy trek lies around 6 miles northeast of the Koko Crater. This trail overlooks the pacific ocean and is a great and famous location for day time bird watching. One of the best things to do in Honolulu, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail is really great during the months of November to May.

The path of the trail leads to the Makapu’u lighthouse built in 1909. The trail is paved with benches and takes around 2 hours to complete. A great day waits for you under the sun at this trail.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu | Photo Credit – Ken Lund

A great way to spend your day at Honolulu is going to the Bishop Museum. Filled with exhibits depicting the history of Hawaii, it has been named after the last descendent of the Kamehameha family.

Their collection of artifacts is absolutely huge, an unbelievable 24 million. There is a three story Hawaiian hall filled with exhibits about the Hawaiian gods. While you are here, be sure to pay a visit to the planetarium.

Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls, Honolulu | Photo Credit – Ken Lund

A 100 feet waterfall and a hiking trail to go by it. Teeming with rainforest scenery, this is the place where the famous movie Jurassic park was filmed. While you are here, please be sure to wear proper footwear as the mud on the paths can be very slippery. This trail is exceptionally good for new comers to hiking.

The place can be hiked at from sunrise to sunset and is free except for a $5 parking charge. You can also reach the Ala Moana Center from here. Along with breathtaking views of natural beauty, find a visitor center here filled with gift shops, restrooms etc.

Non Touristy Things to do in Honolulu

There are a number of non touristy things to do in Honolulu as well. Oahu in Hawaii is a really great place and one can find so much to do and see here all day long. Here are some of them:

Parasailing

What a way to spend your day at Hawaii literally away from all the tourists. High above the ground, Honolulu Parasailing provides you with two height choices, 500 and 700 feet. The boat you will follow will take you along the Maunalua Bay.

Safari Jeep Tour

This seven hour tour is a great way to explore Hawaii Oahu. Build your own itinerary and travel to waterfalls, beaches, parks and even hidden locations.

Waikiki Fishing Tour

Travel aboard a 50 feet fishing boat and catch fish which you can either grill on the boat or even take home. Great for all, the tours allow solo as well as group fishing.

Submarine Scooter Adventure

Travel the seas with a self propelled scooter and witness schools of fish with you as you go. An experience of a lifetime, the Submarine Scooter Adventure is a guided tour and will let you get close to corals, reefs and fishes of all kinds.

Waikiki Banana Boat Ride

The Maunalua Bay can be enjoyed by getting on the Banana Boat. The guide will take you over to places never seen before and you will get lost in the natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands.

Things to do in Honolulu at Night

While there are a number of things you can do at Oahu during the day, it is not the only time with rights reserved for adventure. Nightlife at Honolulu is as mesmerizing and myriad as the day time, and this section of the article will explore the best things to do in Honolulu at night.

Honolulu Zoo

Cheetah at Honolulu Zoo
Cheetah at Honolulu Zoo | Photo Credit – Daniel Ramirez

With greats sights to see, this is a famous attraction in the city. The zoo takes up the initiative to provide night time experiences all year, and one of the most famous ones is the twilight tour. Held on Friday and Saturday nights.

You can even camp within the zoo during the night. If you’re here during the summer, you can take up stargazing on Friday nights.

Fireworks

Taking place every Friday, Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village lights up the sky with fireworks. Free to watch from the beach and if you’re a visitor to Hilton, take all of this in from their pool.

Luau

Luau | Photo Credit – tara hunt

Parties at the island have a distinct Hawaiian feel to them. Fire dancers and food to die for, you must experience the Luaus at Honolulu while you are here. Go to the beaches and see for yourself the great parties of Hawaii.

Blue Note Hawaii

This lovely place features ambient music and is great to enjoy music with your family. Check their website to see what artists are on display for tonight. The Blue Note is located in a number of places around the world and their Hawaii cafe is truly one of the best. Make your way to the Outrigger Resorts to find Blue Note.

Wang Chung’s

Located at the Stay Hotel at Waikiki, the Wang Chung’s is a karaoke bar that is pretty famous. All in all a great place to be, Wang Chung’s has delicious food and drinks to go along with your singing. The place is LGBTQ+ friendly as well.

Nextdoor

Concert at Next Door in Honolulu
Concert at Next Door in Honolulu | Photo Credit – Kyle Nishioka

A great place to lounge. Enjoy ambient setting along with dance and music at the Nextdoor lounge. The days to visit are Friday and Saturday. Gather up your friends and come here for a night of partying Hawaiian style.

Maui Brewing Company

A great way to spend the night in this city is to grab a mug of beer and chill. Find delicious home brewed beer at Maui along with live music, sports screenings, and more.

The brews are worthy of your time and will make you want to come back for more. Order their pizzas, they are absolutely delightful.

Bar Leather Apron

This place offers out of the box and unique drinks that will pique your interest. One of the most rated places in Honolulu, the bar you might find a little expensive but trust us, it is really worth it. Try their signature cocktails and drinks and you will automatically recommend this place to your people.

Ginza Night Club

The Ginza Night club boasts a great music selection and dancing all night long. Located at Ala Moana Downtown, open from 12 to 4 AM. Gear up with your dancing shoes and party here with many others like you.

Is Honolulu Expensive?

Honolulu can really burn a great hole in your pocket. The city just has so many inviting activities and things to do that you will literally want to do them all. The bars and lounges here can be a bit expensive, and while many outdoor treks and activities are free, others are not.

You can have simple beach surfing holiday at Hawaii with a low budget, but you can really get into the best this place has to offer by having a slightly larger budget. Start saving early and plan your trip beforehand is our recommendation. Average daily cost in the city can be upwards of $200 and weekly costs can reach $1400. Travelling with a group on tours and rides might prove a little more manageable.

We hope you enjoyed this article featuring the top things to do while in Honolulu. This Hawaiian paradise has been the top choice for tourists for a long time and for good reason. Beaches, sand, and surf, coupled with great food and scenic locations, this city will not disappoint you in any way.

With so much to see and do, Honolulu is a visit worthy location like no other. The surrounding islands also make for really great places to visit and you must scour them for hidden locations and beautiful beaches. Stay safe in your travels and be sure to comment below in case you feel like we have missed anything or even if you would like to share your experience travelling

Please also read about Top Things to do in Sacramento.


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