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Top 10 Must-Dos in Honolulu

  • Post category:Hawaii

Honolulu, the vibrant capital of Hawaii, is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural richness, and thrilling adventures. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a history buff, or someone looking to unwind, Honolulu has something for everyone. From iconic beaches to historical landmarks, this tropical paradise promises an unforgettable experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Honolulu offers a diverse range of activities from surfing at Waikiki Beach to exploring historical landmarks like Pearl Harbor and Iolani Palace.
  • Diamond Head Crater provides a rewarding hike with panoramic views of the island.
  • The Bishop Museum and Honolulu Museum of Art offer deep dives into Hawaiian culture and art.
  • Ala Moana Center is a must-visit for food enthusiasts looking to indulge in local Hawaiian cuisine.
  • Hanauma Bay and Lanikai Beach are perfect spots for relaxation and enjoying the natural beauty of Hawaii.

1. Surfing at Waikiki Beach

Dive head first into the quintessential Hawaiian experience by catching some waves at Waikiki Beach. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-timer, the gentle waves here offer a perfect surfing environment. Lessons are available for beginners, allowing you to embrace the thrill of riding the ocean’s rhythm. Waikiki offers diverse dive sites for all skill levels, including wrecks, coral reefs, and marine life encounters. The two-mile stretch of sand is a popular tourist destination due to its convenient location and beautiful scenery. It’s an ideal place to swim, snorkel, canoe, surf, or just soak up the sun on the sand.

2. Hike Up Diamond Head Crater

Embark on a hike up the iconic Diamond Head Crater for awe-inspiring panoramic views of Honolulu. The moderate trail leads you through fascinating tunnels and old military bunkers before rewarding you with a breathtaking vista of the city skyline and the Pacific Ocean.

Diamond Head is only a short drive from Waikiki, but the hike up the mountain is considered moderately difficult for hikers not in tip-top shape. Be assured, however, that the Diamond Head Hike is well worth it! Start out as early in the morning as possible, and bring water, sunscreen, and sneakers for this half-hour climb. Truly among the most beautiful and best of Oahu sights.

It’s officially called Mt. Leahi, but is better known as Diamond Head. This mountain is one of the most famous volcanic craters in the world. At the top of the 760-foot summit, you’ll behold breath-taking panoramic views of Waikiki and the rest of the South Shore. You won’t want to leave your camera at home for this one!

3. Explore Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial

Delve into the historical significance of Pearl Harbor, where a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial pays homage to the lives lost during the infamous attack. Gain insight into a pivotal moment in American history through exhibits, documentaries, and a solemn tour of the memorial. The Arizona Memorial and the Missouri Battleship monuments have a powerful presence that will leave you in awe and full of emotion.

Visiting Pearl Harbor is a great half to full day excursion – one that you should plan accordingly and start very early in the morning. It’s the most visited site amongst other Honolulu Attractions. Pearl Harbor is an amazing lesson in history for the entire family.

A top landmark in the U.S. according to a recent TripAdvisor poll, the USS Arizona Memorial is a must-visit attraction in Oahu. Take the award-winning audio tour that tells the story of the lives lost in Pearl Harbor and across the world on December 7, 1941. A must for fans of military history.

4. Discover Hawaiian Culture at Bishop Museum

Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and traditions of Hawaii at the Bishop Museum. With extensive exhibits showcasing Polynesian artifacts, royal regalia, and interactive displays, this museum provides a deeper understanding of the islands’ history and culture. Built in the late 1800s, the Bishop Museum has an amazing collection and preservation of the Hawaiian Islands and the Polynesian culture. The newly renovated great hall is an interactive experience with an active erupting volcano, an ancient cave to explore, an impressive collection of shark skeletons, hula demonstrations, and fun workshops. One of the best natural history museums in the region, the Bishop Museum is a great family destination in Oahu. The museum provides a more scientific survey of Hawaii’s history, from its Polynesian culture to native plant and animal life to an "active" volcano exhibit and more. This fascinating museum features collections across five major buildings, with everything from seashells to royal artifacts.

5. Indulge in Local Cuisine at Ala Moana Center

shallow focus photography of woman outdoor during day

Treat your taste buds to a delectable array of Hawaiian cuisine at Ala Moana Center, one of the largest open-air malls in the world. From traditional plate lunches to fresh seafood and tropical delights, this culinary adventure promises a gastronomic delight. Explore Honolulu’s vibrant nightlife with top venues like Blue Note Hawaii and Hawaiian Brian’s. Enjoy live music, unique activities, and relaxing bars. Ala Moana Center, Kalakaua Avenue, and Waikiki Beach Walk offer diverse shopping experiences.

6. Sunset at Hanauma Bay

Witness nature’s masterpiece as the sun dips below the horizon at Hanauma Bay. This nature preserve, renowned for its snorkeling and marine life, transforms into a serene haven during sunset, casting a golden glow over the crystalline waters. Breathtaking sunsets at Hanauma Bay are a must-see for any visitor to Honolulu. The bay’s pristine and clear waters, home to a myriad of marine life, offer a perfect backdrop for this daily spectacle. For the best experience, make sure to arrive early to secure a good spot and bring a camera to capture the stunning views.

7. Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art

paint brushes next to drawing book and water color palette

Delight in an extensive collection of art spanning various cultures and periods at the Honolulu Museum of Art. From Asian and Pacific pieces to contemporary works, this museum offers an eclectic mix that art enthusiasts will find captivating. The museum’s design itself, with its Spanish Moorish architecture, is photogenic and considered artwork itself! Explore the many different gallery rooms that have a nice flow and elegantly display the artworks. The museum also features a gift shop, an outdoor café, and a 280-seat theater, making it a perfect destination for a full day of cultural immersion.

8. Stroll through the Foster Botanical Garden

people laughing and talking outside during daytime

Find tranquility amidst the lush beauty of Foster Botanical Garden. Take a leisurely stroll through this tropical oasis adorned with rare plants, impressive trees, and serene pathways, offering a serene escape from the city bustle. Explore Molokai’s top eco-tours: Halawa Valley Cultural Hike, Papohaku Beach Park, Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Immerse in nature and culture, away from crowds.

9. Explore Iolani Palace

a row of metal poles

Step back in time with a visit to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States. Delve into Hawaii’s royal history by touring this architectural masterpiece adorned with opulent furnishings, grandeur, and fascinating stories of the monarchy’s past. This carefully restored building serves as a museum that focuses on the life and times of these last Hawaiian Kingdom rulers, with a particular emphasis on nineteenth-century art & architecture. You can visit indoor and outdoor spaces, so be sure to explore the entire Palace and grounds before you leave. Iolani Palace also often hosts free events, so be sure to consult local event calendars before your visit.

Fun fact: Iolani Palace had electricity years before the White House did.

I recommend taking a guided docent tour, which you can schedule ahead of your visit. The tour is inexpensive and fascinating to listen to, as you walk the Koa wood floors and explore the grand halls and rooms that are full of Hawaiian history.

The Iolani Palace was lovingly and meticulously restored to its former glory so you can enjoy a piece of Hawaii’s royal heritage!

10. Relax at Lanikai Beach

Unwind in paradise at Lanikai Beach, known for its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters. Bask in the serenity, swim in the gentle waves, or simply lay back and appreciate the stunning beauty that defines this slice of Hawaiian heaven. Lanikai Beach is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle, offering a tranquil retreat for those looking to relax and rejuvenate. Whether you’re planning a family outing or a romantic getaway, this beach promises an unforgettable experience.

Experience the serene beauty of Lanikai Beach, a perfect spot to unwind and soak up the sun. Whether you’re looking to relax on the soft sands or take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, Lanikai Beach offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle. Ready to plan your visit? Check out our exclusive travel packages and start your adventure today!


Honolulu, with its fusion of natural wonders and cultural experiences, promises an unforgettable journey for every traveler. Whether you seek adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a tranquil escape, these top 10 activities ensure an enriching and memorable stay in this tropical paradise. Pack your bags, embrace the aloha spirit, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Honolulu, Hawaii!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Honolulu?

The best time to visit Honolulu is during the months of April, May, September, and October when the weather is pleasant and the tourist crowds are fewer.

Do I need a car to get around Honolulu?

While having a car can be convenient, Honolulu has a reliable public transportation system, and many attractions are within walking distance or accessible by bus.

Are there any recommended local dishes to try in Honolulu?

Yes, some must-try local dishes include poke, loco moco, kalua pig, and shave ice. You can find these at local markets, food trucks, and restaurants.

Is it safe to swim at Waikiki Beach?

Yes, Waikiki Beach is generally safe for swimming. However, it is always recommended to check the local weather and surf conditions and swim in designated areas with lifeguards.

How much time should I allocate for visiting Pearl Harbor?

It is recommended to allocate at least half a day to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial to fully experience the historical site and its exhibits.

What should I wear for hiking up Diamond Head Crater?

For hiking up Diamond Head Crater, wear comfortable hiking shoes, light clothing, a hat, and sunscreen. Don’t forget to bring water and a camera to capture the stunning views.