On the south shores of Oahu stands one of the most vibrant and tropical capital cities in the world – Honolulu. While the description may sound a little dramatic, any traveller who has visited Honolulu would say these words ring true.
While there are a plethora of things and activities to do in Hawaii; we are going to laser focus on Honolulu, to discover all the incredible things you can see and enjoy in this paradise of a city.
Let’s head right in!
Top Places To Visit In Honolulu
1. Honolulu Botanical Gardens
It is not just one garden but five, dispersed across the city of Honolulu, each having something uniquely breathtaking to offer its visitors. If you have time, try to at least visit more than two. There is much to explore and enjoy.
- Foster Botanical Garden (9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
- Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden (9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
- Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden (7:00 am – 5:00 pm)
- Koko Crater Botanical Garden (sunrise-sunset)
- Wahiawā Botanical Garden (9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
2. ʻIolani Palace
This ancient structure is of great historical and cultural significance to Hawaii. Built in 1882 (undergoing reconstruction in 1969) this ʻIolani palace is the former residence of the Hawaiian King. It’s now a museum for the public.
You can learn about the interesting history of the Hawaiian Monarchy through the tours available and audio recordings.
It’ll be like taking a walk through the Royal history of Hawaii and its many political tragedies. Very fascinating.
3. Diamond Head State Monument
You’ll find this crater nestled next to the stunning Waikiki Beach. Overlooking the vibrant cityscapes of Honolulu and the Waikiki Beach coast. The locals call this peculiar yet super alluring place Lë’ahi.
But the British sailors who landed in the 19th century called it the Diamond Head(for obvious reasons). You can go hiking to the top or explore this incredible crater created approximately 300,000 years ago.
4. Manoa Falls Trail
Head to the northeast of Downtown Honolulu if you want to explore the stunning Manoa Valley and catch cascading waterfalls. It’s the place to be. This waterfall is 150-foot-tall, and it’s mesmerising.
You can check it all out by taking the Manoa Falls Trail – one of the top waterfall hikes available in Oahu let alone Honolulu thanks to the panoramic nature views that accompany you from the very start to the end. While entry to the waterfall is free, if you are coming by vehicle there is parking available, and a parking ticket is around 7 USD. (Subject to change)
5. Pearl Harbour National Memorial
The Pearl Habour attack is one of the most infamous historical events to take place in the United States. For those who enjoy exploring historical war sites and memorial tours, this is a must.
Witness the battleships USS Missouri, the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin and more. Learn about each of them and the significant role they played in winning the war. Explore the museums, the historical film backgrounds and so much more. It’s a great place to start your history adventures and tours.
6. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
If you love coastal trails as much as we do, you have to make time for this. It’s a 4-kilometre stretch that will take about 1 hour and a half to complete. Apart from the dry coastal slopes and the cliffs that offer heart-skipping ocean sceneries, a humble-looking lighthouse awaits at the destination end.
The route is rather paved and easy to ascend, but the shade is scarce so bring your hats, shades and water. But the sceneries are unmatched by anything you would ever see on a coastal hike. Some start the journey early in the morning to capture the magical Hawaiian sunrise.
7. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
You don’t get to explore just the Hawaiian historic events here. You can dive right into the myths and legends of Hawaii and even its vibrant culture. Explore the 24 million odd relics, so beautifully exhibited – including the 3rd Largest insect collected in the whole of the US!
So many different adventures await under one roof! The question is do you have the time and energy to explore to your heart’s content? Because we do!
8. Ala Moana Center
Get ready for a shopping spree of a lifetime!
From the bustling crowd noises and the seducing aroma of coffee filling the air, it’s a shopping complex that’s worthy of visiting even without having to shop. We are talking – 350 odd stores each offering anything and everything.
It is perfect for a lovely stroll and grabbing some delicious snacks, and window shopping. The best part is it’s open all seven days (10 a.m. – 8.00 p.m.)
9. Honolulu Zoo
This is where you come to find an animal sanctuary of sorts. From the wild giraffes to the pink flamingos to the Asian elephant, it’s a 42-acre land organized into 3 groups tropical ecological groups, homing 160 bird species, approx..64 reptile species and 38 mammals.
The Zoo is full of shade, while the activities and fun usually begin towards mid-day. With much to learn and much to see, it’s the perfect activity to engage in especially if you are travelling with kids.
*Opens daily from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
10. Lyon Arboretum
This 200-acre botanical paradise is another must-visit. It’s also found along the upper Manoa Valley. Incredibly enough, admission is FOC. But they do appreciate donations (of roughly 10 USD – if possible).
It’s an easy 0.3-mile route. But it consists of artificial lowland tropical rainforest, with lovely small nature trails and water bodies, it’s quaint and stunning, and it’s open to the public from Mondays to Fridays from 9.00 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Keep in mind this 1-2 hour hike can be a little muddy sometimes – but it’s enchanting.
Some Top Rated Beaches In Honolulu
1. Magic Island
This man-made lagoon-like beach is located right next to the famous Waikiki Beach. Thanks to its barrier, it creates a crystal clear and very tranquil salty pool with a sandy shore.
It’s perfectly safe for families to take a dip and have fun! If that’s not enough – there’s a small wooded area on the coast for kids to play.
2. Lanikai Beach
Located next to the small town of Kailua, Lanikai beach is as perfect as a beach can look – simply breathtaking and ideal for a beach day outing.
The atmosphere can be romantic and it is ideal for water sports too, so there’s a choice here for couples and thrill seekers. And for those looking for both.
3. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
We can’t mention the top beaches in Honolulu without mentioning this breathtakingly beautiful bay. You won’t find a more stunning beach anywhere else in Hawaii. The reef sections are magnificent.
Ideal place for snorkelling. The lush green mountain sceneries against the tranquil beach waters of the bay simply spell out paradise.
4. Sandy Beach
While it is sandy, what this beautiful beach is truly famous for is surfing. Constantly serving a variety of waves makes this place famous among seasoned and novice surfers. On top of that, the vibe here is pretty chill, making it the perfect beach to just relax and enjoy.
5. Kahala Beach
While being so close to Honolulu, the beach is often secluded and peaceful. Since the beach area homes some of the most luxurious hotels, it may have contributed greatly to the seclusion of this beach.
Enjoy a tranquil walk with nothing but stunning beach views all around you. The water is just hypnotizing and just right for a dip.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best times to visit Honolulu?
The best time to visit Honolulu is usually from mid-April to early June and between September and mid-December.
Does Honolulu have nightlife?
Oahu, Honolulu is actually famed for having the most fun-filled active nightlife in all of Hawaii. From tiki bars to live music and lounges. It becomes a whole other world of fun as night dawns.
Can I camp in any of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens?
You can go camping in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens – it has sections for campers, which you can reserve during your next camping visit.
Are there Mosquitos in Honolulu?
Yes – just like in most of the Hawaiian islands. So, make sure to bring your mosquito repellents and come prepared.
Is Uber available in Hawaii?
Yes, Uber is available in Honolulu and other islands of Hawaii.
Is Honolulu a safe city?
Yes. Honolulu is a relatively safe city. There aren’t many incidents except for the usual tourist scamming groups that can’t be avoided in any country.
So be mindful and use your common sense when journeying around.