Honolulu is known for its magnificent beaches and outstanding scenery. This seaside paradise is an oasis of exotic flowers, unique wildlife, volcanic peaks and iconic sights.
Located on the beautiful island of Oahu, Honolulu is the largest city in the state of Hawaii. Visitors come for some of the world’s best diving and surfing spots as well as for its laid back ambience.
Don’t be fooled by the relaxed atmosphere – Honolulu is huge and each district has its own distinctive character. Chinatown is one of the most visited parts of the city and the area boasts some of the island’s best restaurants.
Internationally acclaimed museums, galleries, superb shopping malls and entertainment facilities – there is something to appeal to everyone in Honolulu.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Honolulu
There are lots of great reasons to plan a break in Honolulu, whether it's for a short or long stay.
1. Sun, Sea and Sand
You really can’t avoid beautiful white sand beaches in Honolulu. Waikiki Beach is the most famous; a stunning stretch of sand fringed by high rise hotels with Diamond Head in the background, it's also one of the most recognizable.
2. Exciting Landmarks
From Leahi (Diamond Head) to the Iolani Palace, from Pearl Harbor to the Aloha Tower, Honolulu is filled with unique landmarks and monuments that offer exciting opportunities for outings and walks.
3. Outstanding Outdoor Pursuits
Whether you love diving, swimming, or surfing or whether you prefer cycling, running or hiking you'll find it here. Meet up with other joggers who gather at Al Moana Beach Park and Kapiolani Park and stay fit while on holiday.
4. Shop Till you Drop
The city is a favorite destination for retail fans. Pick up everything from local arts and crafts and electronics to the latest designer clothing.
5. Dine in Style
Honolulu is a melting pot of cultures and cookery styles. Indonesian, Polynesian, Chinese, classic American and international fare can all be sampled here. Try quick snacks from roadside vendors or linger over sumptuous meals in luxurious city restaurants.
What to do in Honolulu
Sun-kissed beaches, impressive sunsets, hula dancers and more – Honolulu has it all - but there are some things you really should not miss.
1. Climb to the Top of Diamond Head
The Diamond Head State Monument is the dormant volcano that shelters Waikiki Beach. Hike to the peak for spectacular panoramic views of Waikiki Beach and Downtown Honolulu.
2. Soak Up the Sun and Surf in the Shadow of the Duke
The bronze statue of Olympic medal winner Duke Paoa Kahanamoku welcomes visitors to Waikiki Beach. Follow in the Duke's footsteps and catch some of the best breaks in the world or just top up your tan under his watchful eye.
3. Snorkel in a Magnificent Setting
If surfing isn’t your thing, why not try the gentler sport of snorkeling? The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is Hawaii’s first marine life conservations district. Snorkel in crystal clear waters amid coral reefs that are home to a wonderful array of colorful sea creatures.
4. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial
At 8.06 am on the morning of December 7th, 1941 the USS Arizona was hit by a modified shell during the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. 1,177 crew members lost their lives and the USS Arizona Memorial is a lasting tribute to them and other casualties of World War II.
5. Delve into the past at Iolani Palace
Visit the magnificent Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the US and the former residence of Hawaii's last two monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. The palace was the first home in Hawaii to have electrical lighting, intra-house telephones and flush toilets.
2 travelersFlight to Honolulu1 night at 3-star hotel
Prices are not fixed and may vary with time
No matter when you visit, you will enjoy sunshine and temperatures ranging from 75F to 80F. September to November is generally considered the best time to visit Honolulu. Hotel rates are a little lower than during the peak tourist season (December to March). Peak season is the most popular time for surf enthusiasts and accommodation prices tend to rise with demand. It can be a little humid from May to August but less crowded beaches and lower prices make spring an attractive option.
Honolulu International Airport is the entry point for most visitors. Flights to Honolulu from most major US cities land at the Main terminal and the airport is also served by many international carriers. Travelers can take the Airport Waikiki Express to hotels in Waikiki. The service runs every 30 minutes and costs $16 for a one-way trip and $30 for a round trip.
Some travelers arrive by sea, although generally as part of an ongoing cruise. Pier 10/11 is conveniently located next to the Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor, just 3 miles to Waikiki and 5 miles from the airport.
It’s easy to reach the city center from the airport in a rental car. Drive along Highway-1 east for 2 miles to exit 18A and then follow the Nimitz Highway to Downtown Honolulu where it merges with Ala Moana Boulevard. Alternatively, take H-1 East to Downtown, exit at either Kinau Street (exit 22) or Punahou Street (exit 23) and follow the signs for Waikiki.
Local services on the aptly named ‘The Bus’, are also available from Honolulu International Airport. Routes 19 and 20 stop at the airport at 30-minute intervals and go to Downtown and Waikiki. Catch buses outside level two of the Inter-Island (stop number 913) or Main terminal (914 and 915). Tickets cost $2.50 (adult), or $1.25 (child/ senior citizen) and passengers need to have the exact fare. City buses only allow luggage that either fits under the seat or on your lap. If you have large items, you may prefer to take a taxi or rent a car.
You’ll find everything from boutique and luxurious spa hotels to bed and breakfasts and holiday apartments in Honolulu. Check out the high rise mid-range and luxury hotels that make up Waikiki’s iconic skyline or look for affordable accommodation further afield like Plumeria Hostel or Manoa Inn in Manoa-Makiki.
Popular Neighborhoods in Honolulu
Waikiki – shares its name with the city’s most famous beach. The district is also known for its upmarket shopping, glamorous nightlife and high-rise architecture. Bask on the sun-drenched white sand or visit Honolulu Zoo or Waikiki Aquarium.
Downtown and Chinatown – the island’s main business district and home to notable landmarks and attractions. Visit the Aloha Tower, the Kawaiahao Church, the Iolani Palace or King Kamehameha I statue. Chinatown's historic buildings are a bustling warren of shops, restaurants and bars. See the Kuan Yin Temple and the Izumo Taishakyo Shrine, haggle with vendors at Oahu or Maunakea Market or buy an exotic floral garland from a lei maker.
Manoa-Makiki – this peaceful district is where you’ll find the Punchbowl Crater, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Although largely residential, good budget accommodation can also be found here.
Honolulu is a large, spread out area, so it’s worth thinking about how you’ll get from A to B. There is a good public transport system, and the city’s roads are easy to navigate.
The city is well served by bus thanks to local company, "The Bus". As well as routes in Honolulu, it provides services to other parts of the island. Pick up a Monthly bus pass from a local supermarkets or 7-Eleven. Passes cost $60 per month and can be used on as many buses as you wish. However, they are issued for the calendar month rather than a 30-day period – although they’re not available after the 20th of each month. A 4-day Discovery Pass costs $35 from ABC stores and you simply scratch off the day and month of your first journey. There are also several trolley bus services for tourists including the Waikiki Trolley - Green trolleys run at 35-minute intervals from Diamond Head/Leahi to Kahala Mall. See cultural and historic landmarks from the Red trolley which goes to Chinatown and Hilo Hattie every 40 minutes or take the Pink shopping and dining trolleys which run to Ala Moana Mall every 10 minutes.
Honolulu taxis are regulated so prices don’t vary from company to company. A trip from Waikiki to the airport is $30 to $40, and it’s customary to tip. Some taxi services also offer tours of Oahu.
Although traffic in Honolulu can be heavy, a rental car allows you to easily explore the rest of Oahu. In the city, main roads tend to run from Ewa to Leahi (Diamond Head) or from east to west. Two major highways serve the city - Nimitz Highway (Hawaii 92) runs from Pearl Harbor to Waikiki, passing the airport and Downtown district, while the H-1 Interstate (Queen Liliuokalani Freeway) goes all the way along Oahu’s south shore mountain-ward or ‘mauku’ of Downtown. Parking facilities are easy to find and some of the most central include Chinatown Municipal Parking, Pro Park and Diamond Parking. On-street metered parking is also readily available.
Honolulu is a paradise for shoppers. Each district has its own attractions, and you’ll find everything from local markets to luxury shopping malls and designer stores. Although the city is considered to beone of the most expensive in the US, it’s still cheaper than New York.
Honolulu’s hottest shopping streets
Treat yourself to a little retail therapy at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center or DFS Galleria or wander amid banyan trees at the International Market Place in Waikiki. Head to Downtown to look for exotic delicacies and the famous hundred-year egg at Oahu and Maunaukea markets. Koko Marina Center and the Kahala Mall in Eastern Honolulu are less expensive than Waikiki malls, and the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Western Honolulu (Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday) is a great place to find local arts and crafts at reasonable prices.
Groceries and Other Necessities
Pick up food for your holiday apartment or shop for necessities in supermarkets. Some of the best include Safeway on Beretania St. and Kapahulu Avenue, Don Quijote, Costco, Foodland and Times.
Hawaii’s diverse cultural mix has influenced the city’s cuisine. The Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement advocates the use of locally produced ingredients. Restaurants include Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room in the Ala Moana Center, Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s Hawaii Kai and Roy’s Waikiki, and George Mavrothalassitis’ Chef Mavro.
The Zippy’s restaurant chain is incredibly popular in Honolulu and their signature chili is served in lots of original ways. Genki Sushi is another local favorite – be prepared for shouts of "Irrashaimase!" (welcome in Japanese) as you enter. Every visitor to Honolulu should try shaved ice; Waiola Shave at 2135 Waiola St is the oldest, and reputedly the best, shaved ice shop in the city – President Obama is a regular customer.