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, drawing visitors from all over the world to enjoy its beaches and tropical climate. The city of Honolulu roughly falls into three areas, including Waikiki, Downtown, and Pearl Harbor. The main attraction is Waikiki, a half-square-mile peninsula 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 shops than the rest of Hawaii. Downtown, downtown and the historic part of Honolulu, is full of things to do and places of interest,
1 Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is Hawaii’s largest natural harbor, named for the many pearls once harvested from the deep. While still an active naval base, it is also a National Historic Landmark that is home to several attractions that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument , including memorials to the USS Arizona , USS Oklahoma , and USS Utah , just such as Battleship Row and 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 port’s military and natural history. This is also the departure point for tours to the USS Arizona , as is the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. This fascinating museum includes a video presentation, historical photographs, two hangars housing several WWII aircraft, as well as flight simulators that allow visitors to experience takeoff and landing on an aircraft carrier. Those on a tight schedule may want to take the Pearl Harbor Tour from Honolulu, which covers Pearl Harbor highlights in just 4.5 hours, including the USS Arizonaplus a ride through downtown Honolulu.
Official Site: https://www.pearlharborhistoricsites.org/
2 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 monument floats above the submerged remains of the USS Arizona, which was destroyed on December 7, 1941 along with 1,177 crew members. 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 the massive marble wall, which is inscribed with the names of all who died when the ship was bombed. Due to the tour’s popularity, visitors should arrive early to reserve tickets or reserve a spot in advance.
This neighborhood on Honolulu’s southern coast is known for its high-end resorts, entertainment, shopping, and dining, as well as its beautiful beaches. It is also famous as the home of Olympic gold medalist Duke Kahanamoku, a swimmer and surf instructor credited as the “father of modern surfing.” The sport is so revered here that, in addition to a statue of Duke, the markers along the Waikiki Historic Trail are actually made of surfboards. The Royal Hawaiian Center and International Marketplaceare popular gathering spots and tourists will find most of Waikiki’s restaurants and boutiques along Kuhio and KalaKaua avenues. Cafes and nightly entertainment are also plentiful on the boardwalk, known as the Waikiki Beach Walk .
4 Diamond Head State Monument
The most recognizable of Hawaii’s natural landmarks, Diamond Head has a distinctive profile. Located on the eastern side of Waikiki’s shoreline, this historic peak was once an important part of the island’s coastal defenses. Today, visitors can hike the steep trail that ascends from the bottom of the crater to the top in just 0.8 miles. At the top is a huge lighthouse built in 1917, as well as bunkers and the fire control station that controlled artillery at Fort Ruger and Waikiki. For many tourists, the reward for the challenging uphill hike is the amazing panoramic view of the coastline below. Those planning to make the trek should be well prepared with water and sturdy footwear.
Official Site: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/oahu/diamond-head-state-monument/
5 Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
Hanauma Bay is a unique natural bay formed in the crater of an ancient volcano. In the past it was such a popular snorkeling destination that it became polluted and damaged from overuse. Today, thanks to restoration efforts begun in 1990, the bay is pristine and the ecosystem thrives, allowing visitors to truly enjoy the reef and its many inhabitants. To prevent damage to the fragile ecosystem and preserve the bay for future generations , the number of daily visitors is limited and beachgoers must watch an educational video on how to make sure they don’t enjoy the reef and ecosystem they are about. To learn more, visitors can also view the exhibits at the Hanauma Bay Education Center, which contains interactive displays.
Address: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official site: www.hanaumabaystatepark.com
6 Shangri La
The Shangri-La Museum features the complete collection of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art , a result of the benefactor’s love of Islamic design and art. The largest part of the collection is the ceramic art, especially the tile work, including medieval Persian examples. However, some of the most notable examples are the large architectural pieces commissioned by the museum in the 1930s from artists in Iran, India and Morocco. Other works include textiles, wood, glass and decorative objects from Spain, the Middle East, India and Asia, totaling some 2,500 pieces.
Address: 4055 Papu Circle, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official Site: https://www.shangrilahawaii.org/
7 USS Missouri Battleship
The USS Missouri , affectionately known as “Mighty Mo,” gained its fame as the official site of Japanese surrender, marking the end of World War II. Docked at Pearl Harbor, visitors can choose one of two tours. The shorter tour includes a look at the captain’s quarters and bridge and provides an overview of the ship’s history as tourists are guided around the upper decks. The longer, more in-depth tour includes exploration of the battleship’s inner workings. This comprehensive tour not only allows visitors to see the lower deck engine room and other important posts, but also provides hands-on experiences, such as the opportunity to light one of the ship’s massive boilers or the old analogue computers in the aft plane room to be programmed. Tourists also get to see what everyday life was like for the crew members while at sea, from the galley and sleeping cabins to recreation.
Official site: www.ussmissouri.org
8 Koko Crater Railway Trail
Those who are able to conquer the 1,050 steps of the Koko Crater Railway Trail will be handsomely rewarded with breathtaking views of the Honolulu coastline. The ‘steps’ are actually railway links once used by a military tramway that carried supplies and personnel to the lookout and bunkers during World War II. Therefore, many of the steps are very long and steep, and the only stretch on the trail is a bridge that spans a 40-foot drop. First-time visitors should consider hiring a local guide, who will provide helpful pointers to prepare for the trip and provide narration about the history of the site. If you’re not up for the climb, the Koko Crater Botanical Gardenis a great activity, accessed by a two-mile trail that passes through sixty acres of endangered and rare plants. A printed map and guided tour will be provided at the gate, and there’s no additional charge to walk through the garden’s desert landscape that features 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 completed in 1882 for King Kalakaua. Now restored to its former glory, it is the official residence of the monarchy of Hawaii and is a great place to experience Hawaiian history. The palace was the residence of Hawaii’s royalty until they were deposed by American settlers in 1893, then served as the state capital until the modern one was built in 1969. The palace was restored in the 1970s and opened as a museum in 1978 . has elaborately carved wood paneling made from native woods such as Koa and several imported species. The throne room still has the original carved throne and chandelier, and the façade is adorned with stained glass and elaborate decorations. The building resembles medieval battlements with embrasures, which seem somewhat strange in this environment. The palace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Another royal residence 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 site: www.iolanipalace.org
10 Bishop Museum and Planetarium
Bishop Museum, the state museum of Hawaii, contains one of the best collections of Polynesian art and artifacts in the state. The museum’s permanent exhibits include kahilis , a collection of the feathered royal standards that served as flags for the former royalty, as well as Hawaiian feathered capes and helmets. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to Kai Ākea, 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 pursuits such as whaling. Also of note is a large collection of South Pacific artifacts and objects brought by the Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Korean, Portuguese, Germans, and other early settlers. The museum is also home to the J. Watumull Planetarium , featuring a variety of shows that explore the Hawaiian night sky and other celestial subjects, as well as movies about dinosaurs and Polynesian culture.
Address: 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official site: https://www.bishopmuseum.org
11 Honolulu Museum of Art
Nearly half of the 50,000 pieces in the Honolulu Museum of Art are in the Asian art collection, highlighting the extent to which Asian culture has influenced Hawaii. With more than 23,000 objects, this collection is best known for Japanese, Chinese and Korean art. Naturally, Hawaiian art is also a major focus of the museum’s exhibits, with a wide variety of media representing Hawaiian artists from the 1700s through today. The museum also houses approximately 18,000 examples of European and American art, including sculpture and decorative arts. This includes an extensive collection of paintings by influential European artists of the 19th century, including Van Gogh, Cézanne, Rodin and Monet. Although small,
Address: 900 South Britannia, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official Site: https://honolulumuseum.org/
12 USS Bowfin
The USS Bowfin and the USS Bowfin Museum, located in Pearl Harbor, are dedicated to the memory of the 52 American subs and their crews that sank during World War II. Built and commissioned during World War II, the Bowfin destroyed 44 Japanese ships during the war. Visitors can explore the submarine at their leisure, stopping to hear about specific equipment and rooms from knowledgeable volunteers stationed throughout. In addition to watching everyday life on a submarine during both war and peacetime, tourists can experience what it’s like to peek through a periscope. At the USS Bowfin Museum, visitors can learn about the history of submarines through exhibits, models, and artifacts.
Address: 11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official site: https://www.bowfin.org/
13 Lyon Arboretum in Manoa Falls
The Lyon Arboretum is a 30-acre rainforest botanical garden, featuring a collection of more than 5,000 tropical plants from Hawaii and Polynesia. It has one of the largest collection of palms in a botanic garden and has a number of themed gardens. These include an herb garden, bromeliad garden, the Beatrice H. Krauss Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Garden, and many others. The arboretum is also an active research facility, working to preserve the state’s tropical forests. Tourists can take a path at the entrance of the Lyon Arboretum, which leads to the 150-meter-high Manoa Falls, a beautiful natural site where swimming is allowed. Another beautiful garden is the Foster Botanical Garden, which features an Orchid Conservatory, Butterfly Garden, and other notable fauna.
Address: 3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official site: www.manoa.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum
14 Mission Houses Museum
This museum has three historic buildings from the early 19th century. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these restored homes document the lives and living conditions of early missionaries. They are the oldest western style buildings still standing. The properties include the Mission House (1821), the printing house (1841), and the Chamberlain House (1831), built by Levi Chamberlain for himself and his family of eight when they came to Honolulu from Vermont in 1823. books in the Hawaiian language, used by missionaries as a written language, were first printed.
Address: 553 South King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii
Official site: www.missionhouses.org
Where to Stay in Honolulu for Sightseeing
If you’re coming to Honolulu to enjoy the beaches, the best place to stay is Waikiki. This is the famous beachfront suburb of Honolulu and the top tourist destination on the island of Oahu. The hotels closest to the beach tend to be the best resorts, with more affordable accommodation options as you head inland. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations:
- Luxury Hotels: Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk is rated by multiple sources as one of the best hotels in Waikiki. It is a five-star high-rise complex with fantastic views, top facilities, shops, restaurants and a great location just steps away from the hotel. beach. Beautifully located on the beach, the Halekulani Hotel is another famous upscale hotel in Waikiki. It offers a range of rooms and suites with incredible views of the ocean, beach and Diamond Head. The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa is an older property, but with a prime location in the heart of Waikiki and close to the waterfront. All these hotels have beautiful swimming pools.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber is centrally located in Waikiki, close to shops and restaurants and just a short walk from the beach. Some rooms have ocean views and the property has an outdoor pool. Three short blocks from the beach, Vive Hotel Waikiki is a stylish boutique hotel with a free breakfast. For families looking for more space, the Luana Waikiki Hotel and Suites offers a variety of accommodations, including rooms with kitchenettes or fully equipped kitchens. This property is further down the road but still within walking distance of the beach and has a small pool .
- Budget Hotels: Also a walk from the beach, the Waikiki Prince is popular with travelers interested in longer stays and offers basic rooms with kitchenettes. A little further away from the action, yet just a short walk from the beach is the Ewa Hotel. Well set back from the ocean, but with decent rooms and a pool, is the White Sands Hotel.