Welcome to Honolulu
Honolulu is the heartbeat of the island of Oahu, and this vibrant city has it all. Visitors can explore everything from historic landmarks to fine dining, beaches and more. Home to most of Oahu’s population, the city stretches across the island’s southeastern shores from Pearl Harbor to Makapuʻu Point. It encompasses the world famous Waikiki Beach as well. This Honolulu Visitors Guide will help you plan the perfect trip and enjoy your time in this Hawaiian paradise!
1. Visit ‘Iolani Palace
Honolulu’s ʻIolani Palace was the official residence of Hawaii’s last two monarchs, King Kalākaua and his successor, Queen Liliʻuokalani. The palace is a beautiful place to explore, thanks to the influence of European architectural styles. This royal residence includes Hawaii’s first electric light system, flush toilets, and telephones. The rich interior features beautiful ornate furniture, a koa staircase, dramatic portraits of Hawaiian royalty, and ornaments from around the world.
You can take a guided or self-guided tour of the ‘Iolani Palace from Tuesday through Saturday. You can tour the palace’s reception, dining room, and throne room. View the private living quarters of the royal family and listen to the tragic story of Liliʻuokalani’s imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom following the overthrow. This is one of Honolulu’s most important historical places, and ʻIolani Palace plays an integral part in understanding the history and culture of Hawaii.
2. Take A Surf Lesson at Waikiki Beach
Located on the south shore of Honolulu is the world-famous Waikiki Beach. If you have always wanted to learn how to surf, the calm waters of Waikiki Beach are perfect for a surfing lesson. While here, visit the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, located right on Waikiki Beach, as it has become an iconic symbol of Waikiki and the surf culture of the island.
There are a variety of options when it comes to surfing lessons at Waikiki Beach.
This group surf lesson in Waikiki is perfect for those looking to learn in groups of 4 or less.
4. Visit the Bishops Museum
The Bishop Museum showcases a variety of cultural and natural history exhibits. It is one of the finest Polynesian anthropological museums in the world. The museum was founded in 1889 to honor Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and it originally only housed Hawaiian and royal artifacts.
However, these days The Bishops Museum honors all of Polynesia and is a can’t miss part of the cultural fabric of Honolulu. This is also the home of Oahu’s only planetarium, which includes a fascinating look at traditional Polynesian methods of wayfaring (navigation).
5. Hike Diamond Head State Monument
The iconic silhouette of Diamond Head State Monument sits along the Honolulu skyline and is one of Oahu’s most famous landmarks. The moderately challenging trail includes two sets of stairs, totaling 175 steps, as well as military bunkers to explore. The gorgeous views that greet you once you reach the top are well worth the effort to get there.
The monument is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with the last hike beginning at 4 pm. Admission for Diamond Head State Monument is $10 (USD) per vehicle and $5 (USD) per pedestrian entry. As of May 2022, reservations are required for out-of-state visitors to hike this trail. You can find out more at the Division of State Parks website.
Diamond Head can be a bit intimidating, but no need to worry there are numerous Diamond Head hiking tours to choose from, including this self-guided Diamond Head Crater Tour.
6. Stroll and Shop at Aloha Tower
Located on the Honolulu Harbor and built in September of 1926, the Aloha Tower is one of the tallest buildings on the islands, and its clock is one of the largest in the United States. Today the tower has been transformed into a revitalized marketplace. It features Hawaii Pacific University student residences, event areas, gathering places, and a variety of phenomenal restaurants.
Enjoy lunch with a beautiful ocean view, listen to live music at night, or explore unique shops. You can also visit the Observation Deck, which is located on the 10th floor of Aloha Tower. Or dance the night away at Nashville Waikiki, all with beautiful views of the harbor and the cityscape of Honolulu.
7. Pay Your Respects at Pearl Harbor
Known around the world as a “date which will live in infamy,” the events of that day in December 1941 changed the course of history. Here in Honolulu, a surprise air attack by the Japanese plunged the United States into World War II and claimed the lives of thousands. Today, five historic sites honor the events that occurred at this National Historic Landmark.
Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Monument is an important stop during your time in Honolulu. Here, you will find the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Oklahoma Memorial, and USS Utah Memorial. You can also pay your respects at the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum.
There are numerous guided tour options to choose from.
This very popular half day tour of Pearl Harbor includes hotel pickup and drop off and a guide.
This full day small group tour also includes visits to both the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri battleship.
8. Wander the Honolulu Museum of Art
As Hawaii’s largest general fine arts museum, the Honolulu Fine Arts Museum features a permanent collection of more than 60,000 pieces. Here you can explore one of the finest collections of Asian art in the world, as well as impressive collections of European, Western, and Polynesian art.
For a bit of a different museum experience, head to the Honolulu Museum of Art on a Friday or Saturday night for “HoMA Nights.” The museum is open until 9 pm and offers live music, drinks, and bites at the café. You can also partake in hands-on art experiences, see the latest exhibitions, or stargaze in the courtyards.
9. Admire the View From Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
Visitors love that the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is paved and features plenty of benches for resting and enjoying the view. The trail is perfect for travelers of all ages to explore. Known for its incredible views, you will want to bring your camera on this hike to the beautiful lighthouse. The hike takes at least two hours to complete.
It’s important to note that this path is mainly exposed to the sun and wind. Make sure to wear sunscreen, dress appropriately, and pack plenty of water. The trail overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for spotting seabirds and whales between November and May. The path also leads to the picturesque Makapu’u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909.
This Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Tour includes park fees and a shuttle to the trailhead.