30 Best Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii (From a Local)

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Downtown Honolulu Skyline, best things to do in Honolulu

Looking for the most amazing Honolulu, Hawaii, tourist attractions? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Honolulu, Hawaii is located on the island of Oahu and spans most of the island’s south shore – from Pearl Harbor to Hanauma Bay. It is the capital of the Hawaiian islands and home to some of the most popular attractions in the state.

Some top things to do in Honolulu include visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, hiking the Diamond Head State Monument, and visiting the only royal palace in the United States, ‘Iolani Palace.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, learn about Native Hawaiian history, or dig into some ‘ono grindz (delicious food), we’ve got you covered. As a born and raised Hawaiian, I’ll provide some hidden gems, staples, and local favorites in this full list of the best things to do in Honolulu during your Hawaiian vacation.

TL;DR

Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii

1. Waikiki Beach

Aerial view of Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Let’s start with one of the most famous beaches in the world, Waikiki Beach! Waikiki Beach is known for its soft golden sands, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees. You’ll find many luxury hotels and high-end boutiques along its shores.

If you want a unique experience, I recommend trying outrigger canoe surfing. Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and this sport combines surfing with outrigger canoeing, another traditional Hawaiian practice. Other fun activities on Waikiki Beach include swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, and shopping.

If you get hungry after your fun in the sun, check out Duke’s Waikiki, located on the beachside of the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. The poke tacos are a must – my mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you want something healthier, check out Sunrise Shack, which is also in the Outrigger.

My favorite Waikiki hotel is The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort. Fondly nicknamed “The Pink Palace,” The Royal Hawaiian is the second oldest hotel in Waikiki and certainly one of the most iconic. Pop over next door to RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki for incredible views and cocktails.

2. USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
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Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818

The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is one of the most popular places to visit in Honolulu, both for Americans and foreign visitors alike. The Pearl Harbor attack changed the course of American history and brought the country into World War II.

Start your time at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial by first stopping by the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. At the visitor center, you’ll be able to view a map of the memorial, along with any events and exhibits that are currently happening.

The USS Arizona Memorial is accessible by a short boat ride. The memorial is located right on top of the USS Arizona, which is still underwater today. It’s a somber experience when you can pay your respects to the brave sailors who died that day.

At Pearl Harbor, you can also take a tour of the USS Missouri, a battleship that was built in 1944. Though it is a museum today, the USS Missouri served the US during World War II, the Korean War, and the Gulf War.

See Related: Is Hawaii Worth Visiting?

3. Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Address: 319 Lexington Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96818

You’ll find the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, formerly known as the Pacific Aviation Museum, near the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The museum is located on Ford Island, and there is a free shuttle between the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and Ford Island.

The museum has 50 unique aircraft, including a Blue Angel and a Warhawk fighter jet. The aircraft is displayed throughout two former plane hangars. One of them, Hangar 37, focuses primarily on aircraft and artifacts relating to World War II, specifically the Pearl Harbor attack.

Hangar 79 offers visitors a broader collection of aircraft and related artifacts. Most items in this hangar showcase the rise of the United State’s air power throughout the Pacific after Pearl Harbor.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it would be like to be in the pilot’s seat of a fighter jet, this is your chance! The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum features a Flight Ace 360 Flight Simulator, which allows visitors to experience flying a powerful aircraft through the skies.

4. Honolulu Museum of Art

Front of the Honolulu Museum of Art
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Address: 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814

Art lovers won’t want to miss the gorgeous Honolulu Museum of Art. The museum features over 5,000 works of art from around the world and also focuses on art made by local Hawaiian artists as well as those from around Polynesia.

The museum features several Asian Art collections highlighting works from all across the region. You can also find a few of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Maui landscapes, including stunning paintings of Iao Valley and many, many beautiful flowers.

I highly recommend visiting the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art as well if you have time. The foundation is housed at the socialite’s former home, Shangri La. The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design is where you’ll find stunning works primarily from the Middle East.

The Shangri La Museum is only accessible through a tour operated by the Honolulu Museum of Art, so make sure to inquire with the museum if this is something that interests you. Reservations are required, and each tour will last approximately 75 minutes.

See Related: Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii

5. Honolulu Zoo

Entrance of Honolulu Zoo
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: 151 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

The Honolulu Zoo is the best thing to do in Honolulu, Hawaii, with kids. The Honolulu Zoo is perfect for the whole family to enjoy and is just a few blocks from the world-famous Waikiki Beach.

Over 1,200 individual animals can be seen at the zoo, the only zoo in the United States to be established by a grant from a sovereign monarch. While the zoo has its usual residents of elephants, flamingos, and monkeys, you can also glimpse some animals only found in Hawaii. These native animals include the Hawaiian Short-Eared owl and the Hawaiian hawk.

If your days are jam-packed, consider visiting the Honolulu Zoo in the evening! The zoo offers special twilight tours every Saturday evening, allowing visitors to see some animals wind down while the nocturnal residents are just starting their days.

The zoo is in a quieter part of Waikiki, away from most of the loud bars and restaurants on Kalakaua Avenue. Consider staying at the nearby Twin Fin Hotel if this sounds more like the vibe you’re going for.

6. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Aerial view of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Address: 7455 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96825

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the best place to snorkel among endless tropical fish on the island! This is one of the best Honolulu tourist attractions for nature lovers and those who want to experience the natural beauty of the Honolulu shoreline.

In Hanauma Bay, you can snorkel alongside over 400 species of colorful fish! Some visitors are lucky to see green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. Be sure not to swim too close to these beautiful sea creatures – they are protected and come with heavy fines if you get too close.

The bay is closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday to help the water and pollutants cycle through properly. Some ways you can help with the protection of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve are:

  • Not stepping on or breaking off pieces of coral
  • Wearing only reef-safe sunscreen
  • Not removing any wildlife from the bay

Due to the popularity of Hanauma Bay, it’s best to get there early in the morning. Reservations are required and can be made through the Honolulu Parks & Recreation website.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Oahu

7. Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument in Hawaii
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: Makapuu Ave and 18th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Diamond Head is one of the most well-known vistas of Hawaii. It’s often the first glimpse of Oahu you’ll see from your airplane window as you land at the Honolulu International Airport. But did you know you can hike to the top of it?

The Diamond Head Crater Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Honolulu, and it’s easy to see why. Diamond Head is an icon of Oahu, and the hike is easily accessible from all parts of the Honolulu area. It is fairly easy and usually takes visitors about one hour to complete.

Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes, water, and sunscreen, as shady resting spots on the Diamond Head trail are few and far between. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the mesmerizing Pacific Ocean.

The park is open daily. Due to the hike’s popularity, reservations must be made in advance online with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Exploring Diamond Head is one of my favorite things to do in Honolulu.

See Related: Best Hikes in the World

8. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

Exhibit at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum / Facebook

Address: 1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817

A visit to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is one of the most fun things to do in Honolulu for the entire family. It is designated Hawaii’s State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, offering many exhibits.

The museum was founded by Charles Reed Bishop, the husband of one of the last Hawaiian princesses, Bernice Pauahi Bishop. They both deeply loved and appreciated the Hawaiian people, and the museum’s collection includes many Hawaiian art and artifacts relating to Hawaiian history and Hawaiian culture.

Bishop Museum also offers many interactive exhibits about the ocean, volcanoes, and nature. Young kids will love the museum’s Science Adventure Center. As for me, my favorite part of visiting Bishop Museum has always been the planetarium.

Sports fans can check out the exhibit dedicated to the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, featuring photos, videos, and artifacts detailing Hawaiian sports history from ancient times to today’s athletes.

9. ‘Iolani Palace

Front of ‘Iolani Palace
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

‘Iolani Palace was the royal residence of the Hawaiian monarchy, starting with King Kamehameha III and ending with Queen Lili’uokalani upon overthrowing the Hawaiian Kingdom. The palace we see today was built in 1879 and had the most modern amenities. It even had electricity before the White House!

Visitors can choose to do a self-guided tour or join a tour led by a docent. Both tours have access to the first and second floors of the palace. Either way, I highly recommend checking out the Throne and Blue Room. Both rooms are filled with beautiful works of art, including the furniture!

I also recommend checking out Ali’iolani Hale, right across the street. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

It’s most well-known for the majestic King Kamehameha statue in front of it, usually adorned with lei (flower garlands). King Kamehameha I was the first Hawaiian chief to unite the islands under one rule.

See Related: Things to Do in Maui, Hawaii

10. Manoa Falls Trail

Travelers hiking to Manoa Falls Trail
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Address: 3860 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822

Manoa Falls is a fantastic option if you’re looking for one of the top free things to do in Honolulu that doesn’t involve the beach. The Manoa Falls trail is one of the most scenic hikes in Honolulu and one of the most popular hiking trails on the island.

The hike is relatively easy – even young kids can do it. Check the weather before you go, as the trail can easily get muddy and slippery after a large downpour. The trail is 1.6 miles round-trip, and at the end of it, you’ll be rewarded with the namesake of the trail, Manoa Falls, a stunning 150-foot waterfall.

The trail is pretty much shaded the entire way, so a hat and sunglasses are optional. However, I would highly recommend bringing some mosquito repellent. Due to the climate of the wet rainforest, mosquitos are everywhere, so it’s best to be prepared.

The trail is open from sunrise to sunset everyday (weather permitting). Entry to the trail is free, but if you plan to park in the lot near the trailhead, there is a fee. If you don’t plan to rent a car, you can take a taxi or opt for a guided tour.

11. Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon

Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in Hawaii
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: 2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

The Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon is located at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. Although it’s on hotel property, it’s free and open to the public, so anyone can enjoy it, not just guests. It’s a lovely spot if you’re not quite ready to swim in the open ocean but still want to enjoy a similar experience.

The lagoon was named in honor of waterman Duke Kahanamoku, one of the most famous native Hawaiian athletes. He popularized surfing and even competed in the 1924 Olympics as a swimmer. He was also a part of the original Waikiki Beach Boys.

Within the lagoon, you can do more than swim. They offer water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding, aqua cycling, and peddle boating. Starting to feel more adventurous? Check out this amazing snorkeling tour just off the coast of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

12. Royal Hawaiian Center

Garden at Royal Hawaiian Center
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Address: 2201 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Centrally located in the heart of Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian Center is the best place in Honolulu to do high-end shopping or just look for souvenirs to remember your time in Hawaii. The shopping center is between The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider.

With its position on the main street of Kalakaua Avenue, it’s hard to miss. Here, you can find brands like Apple, Hermés, Fendi, and Kith, as well as some local brands, including Island Slipper, Lani Beach, and Royal Hawaiian Quilt.

The Royal Hawaiian Center has a great food court and other small cafes and restaurants. My favorite cafe here is Island Vintage Coffee – the banana Kona mocha freeze is to die for! If you love matcha and other teas, check out Junbi, too.

Besides shopping and restaurants, the center offers a wide range of entertainment options on the center lawn. Enjoy everything from free live entertainment to hula or ukulele lessons.

13. Koko Crater Trail

Koko Crater Trail in Hawaii
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Address: 7604 Koko Head Park Rd #7602, Honolulu, HI 96825

More commonly known as Koko Head, the Koko Crater Trail is a difficult hike boasting breathtaking views. The hike is located in the southeastern part of Oahu, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu.

It begins as an unpaved dirt path that is relatively easy. However, the path transforms into an old railway track with a steep incline. Some parts of the track are a few feet above solid ground, so keeping your balance is crucial.

While the hike is physically short, most people spend about 45 minutes to an hour getting to the top due to its difficulty. Once at the top, you are rewarded with some of the best views on the island.

Despite the challenging terrain, Koko Crater Trail remains one of Honolulu’s most popular hikes. You’ll want to go either early morning or before sunset, as it can get super hot in the afternoons, and heat stroke is a high risk.

See Related: Islands in the US to Visit

14. Explore Downtown Honolulu

Aloha Tower in Downtown Honolulu
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Hawaii is a melting pot of various cultures, and they all come together in downtown Honolulu. The city isn’t huge, so it is easily walkable, and public transport (the bus…known as “TheBus”) is also very easy to use. Major landmarks include ‘Iolani Palace, the Hawaii State Capitol, the Hawaii State Art Museum, the Aloha Tower (pictured above), and Kawaiaha’o Church.

To the east of downtown, you’ll find the Kaka’ako neighborhood. Formerly a warehouse district, the neighborhood has recently transformed into a place for young professionals to live, work, and play.

My favorite spot in Kaka’ako is Moku Kitchen at SALT at Our Kaka’ako. The food here is incredible, fresh, and made with local ingredients. The mai tai topped with lilikoi honey foam is an absolute must-try!

This downtown food and beer walking tour is a must-do. The tour takes approximately 3.5 hours, during which your local guide will show you the best Honolulu has to offer. It’s one of the great things to do in Honolulu for couples or friends who are craft beer lovers.

15. Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center Building in Hawaii
Ala Moana Center / Facebook

Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

Ala Moana Center is Honolulu’s premier shopping destination and people-watching here is one of my personal favorite things to do in Honolulu. This shopping center is a whopping two million square feet and includes almost 300 shops and 80 dining options. It is the largest open-air mall in the world!

As a kid, coming here with my mom on the weekends felt like Christmas! There’s always something new to do and see at the Ala Moana Center, so it feels more like a destination and less like just a simple mall.

You can spend hours wandering around the multiple floors and wings of the mall. It has everything from high-end shops to convenience stores, cafes, restaurants, pop-up shops, and even a grocery store. At the heart of the mall, you’ll find the center stage, which often hosts live music and entertainment.

Ala Moana Beach Park is the perfect place to chill out and picnic after shopping. Ala Moana Beach Park is located right across the street from the mall. You can hang out in the shaded grassy areas, walk the lovely paths along the beach, or enjoy the sand and waves.

See Related: Cheapest Places to Fly Around the World

16. Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum Honolulu
Lyon Arboretum / Viator

Address: 3860 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822

We already know that Hawaii is just teeming with natural beauty. From the mountains to the ocean and the rainforests, you can find any nature escape you’re looking for right here. But if you want to immerse yourself in a tropical rainforest, the Lyon Arboretum is the perfect place.

The Lyon Arboretum is located in Manoa Valley, a quiet and peaceful neighborhood in Honolulu. The nursery spans over 194 acres and houses more than 5,660 varieties of plants. Due to the 165 inches of rain annually, the valley is a perfect home for tropical plants to flourish.

Stop at the Native Hawaiian Garden to enjoy many plants that can only be found on the islands. The Lyon Arboretum includes seven miles of hiking trails lined with gorgeous plants and a lovely climate. While admission is free, reservations are required, and donations are appreciated.

17. Kapiolani Park

Aerial view of Kapiolani Park and Hawaii
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Address: 3840 Paki Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Kapiolani Park is Hawaii’s oldest and largest public park. The park covers 300 acres and includes many of Honolulu’s landmarks, including the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Shell, and the Kapiolani Bandstand.

The park is located just across from the famous Waikiki Beach. It’s a lovely place that both locals and visitors can enjoy. Just across the street from Kapiolani Park, you’ll find two popular Honolulu beaches, Sans Souci Beach Park and Prince Kuhio Beach Park.

If you’re looking for a uniquely Hawaiian experience, check out this Hawaii Nighttime Ghost Tour, which takes place at Kapiolani Park. Learn about old Hawaiian burials, haunted Hawaiian history, and the legendary Night Marchers – Hawaii’s version of deadly ghosts and spirits.

See Related: Beaches in the US to Visit

18. Queen Emma Summer Palace

Queen Emma Summer Palace in Hawaii
Daderot. / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 2913 Pali Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817

If you want to learn more about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy while off the beaten path, you have to check out Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. The palace was a summer retreat for Queen Emma of Hawaii, her husband, King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward, from 1857 to 1885.

The palace can be found in Nu’uanu Valley, which is much cooler than downtown Honolulu. It was where Hawaiian royalty could beat the summer heat.

Queen Emma Summer Palace is listed on the National Historic Registry and is now used as a museum. It contains furniture, clothing, antiques, works of art, and other artifacts that once belonged to the royal family.

In addition to this, the palace also hosts several events throughout the week, including quilting lessons, hula lessons, and ukulele lessons. You can take a self-tour of the palace or docent-led tours on the weekend.

19. Enjoy a Traditional Luau

Traditional Luau Dance

Address: 92-1089 Aliinui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707

If there’s one thing you absolutely must do on your first trip to Hawaii, it’s to enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau. A luau is a party filled with food, fun, family, and entertainment and will definitely be a highlight of any trip to Hawaii, no matter how many times you’ve visited the islands.

My favorite luau near Honolulu is the Paradise Cove Luau. The luau is actually in Kapolei, about 30-45 minutes outside Honolulu. This luau ticket package includes the option to add transportation between Waikiki and Paradise Cove, so you won’t have to worry about renting a car or reserving an expensive taxi.

Once you arrive at Paradise Cove Luau, you’ll be greeted with a lei and a welcome mai tai. Before the show begins, you can enjoy traditional Hawaiian games, or an outrigger canoe ride around the lagoon. The buffet is full of authentic Hawaiian cuisine and local dishes that are sure to satisfy.

As you enjoy your delicious meal, performers will amaze you with singing, dancing, fire dancing, and more. It’s a fun way to learn about Hawaiian history, gods, and traditions.

See Related: Caribbean Islands to Visit

20. Leonard’s Bakery

Box of Baked Goods from Leonard’s Bakery
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

When I’m back home, there’s nothing I crave more than a hot, fresh malasada from Leonard’s Bakery. Seriously – I can’t stop thinking about malasadas as I type this sentence. Leonard’s Bakery was founded in 1952 by the grandson of Portuguese immigrants living in Hawaii.

A malasada is a type of fried donut that originated in Portugal. The dough has a crisp outside after being tossed in sugar but is soft and fluffy on the inside. Traditionally, they are covered with lemon zest and cinnamon, but at Leonard’s, most malasadas are filled with a variety of yummy custards.

Malasadas are best served hot, though honestly, I’d eat them cold or at room temperature because they are just that delicious! My absolute favorite filling is chocolate, but coconut is a close second.

The original Leonard’s Bakery location is open daily and located just a few minutes away from Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu Zoo. You can’t miss it with the huge, colorful welcome sign and the old diner-like exterior.

21. Honolulu’s Chinatown

Chinatown in Honolulu
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Honolulu is a melting pot of many different cultures, and Chinatown is the best embodiment of that. This vibrant downtown neighborhood is hallmarked by cool bars, funky cafes, boutique stores, and traditional Chinese restaurants. The most iconic landmark here is the gorgeous Hawaii Theatre.

Chinatown is right on the edge of downtown Honolulu, making it a popular lunch and after-work gathering place for locals. There’s nowhere better for a bite than Lam’s Kitchen. Make sure to get an order of the beef chow fun!

Other great food spots include The Pig and The Lady, O’Kims, and Fête. J. Dolans and The Lei Stand are popular places to grab a cocktail or ice-cold beer.

A local grindz food tour is a great way to explore all the unique flavors of Chinatown. And if you have time, definitely stop by Fighting Eel for the cutest clothes and accessories made by local designers!

22. Prince Kuhio Beach Park

People relaxing at Prince Kuhio Beach Park
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: 2453 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Waikiki Beach extends across the whole of Waikiki, from the Hilton Hawaiian Village in the west down to Kapiolani Park in the east. One of my favorite stretches of beach is Prince Kuhio Beach Park, located on the eastern side of the beach, not far from Kapiolani Park.

This is usually where the water is the calmest in Waikiki, so it’s a great spot for young kids or anyone not super comfortable in the water. Snorkeling, boogie boarding, and playing in the small shorebreak are all common activities here.

This beach is easy to spot – right in front of the Prince Kuhio Statue on Kalakaua Avenue! For snacks and provisions, there are several restaurants and an ABC Store (a Waikiki staple) right across the street.

23. Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Woman exploring the Koko Crater Botanical Garden
aquamarine4 / Adobe Stock

Address: 7491 Kokonani St, Honolulu, HI 96825

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is heaven on Earth for anyone who loves flowers and plants. This garden is a great place to cool down after hiking up the gnarly Koko Crater Trail, which is just a few minutes away.

This botanical garden is unique in that it focuses primarily on rare and endangered dryland plants. It highlights Native Hawaiian plants as well as African plants, various species of cacti, dryland palms, and succulents.

My favorite part of the garden is the fragrant plumeria grove. Their delicious smell is hard to miss! The garden features a two-mile loop trail open daily from sunrise to sunset.

24. Take a day trip up to Oahu’s North Shore

Sideways palm tree on Sunset Beach in the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

While Honolulu attractions are plentiful, one place you need to make it out to while visiting Oahu is the island’s famed North Shore. It’s gorgeous and feels like a different world compared to Honolulu.

Public transport is not ideal for going from Honolulu to the North Shore, so it is best to either rent a car (I recommend Rentalcars.com) or book a guided tour. My favorite attractions on the North Shore include the Polynesian Cultural Center, Pipeline, Ke Iki Beach, and Haleiwa Town.

Getting to the North Shore from Honolulu takes just under two hours. You’ll probably want to make many stops along the way, so carve out an entire day for this excursion when planning your Oahu itinerary.

25. Take a day trip to Kualoa Ranch

Tourists visiting the Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch / Facebook

Address: 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744

What do Jurassic Park, Jumanji, and 50 First Dates all share? They were all filmed at the beautiful Kualoa Ranch and many other blockbuster hits.

This private nature reserve is located on the east side of Oahu, about an hour from Waikiki. It’s an awesome, family-friendly excursion and makes for a good break from the Honolulu crowds. Some of the most popular activities at Kualoa include a movie set tour, off-roading around the ranch, a Jurassic adventure tour, ziplining, and horseback riding.

My personal favorite part of Kualoa Ranch is Secret Island. It’s actually not a separate island but rather a secluded beach on Kualoa Ranch. The ranch will provide you with all of the fun stuff, like snorkeling equipment and paddleboards, as well as a delicious picnic-style lunch.

26. USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii
yooranpark / Adobe Stock

Address: 11 Arizona Memorial Dr, Honolulu, HI 96818

There are a lot of US Military attractions in Hawaii. Aside from Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, another interesting place to visit is the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.

The USS Bowfin is a fleet attack submarine that fought in the Pacific during World War II, starting exactly one year after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor. Visitors can go on a self-guided tour of the submarine as well as enjoy many outdoor exhibits relating to World War II.

The Passport to Pearl Harbor includes admission to many of the area’s top attractions, including the Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri, the submarine museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

27. Corsair Wreck Dive Site

Corsair Wreck Dive Site in Oahu, Hawaii
James Kelley / Adobe Stock

Visitors certified for scuba diving, particularly experienced ones, will not want to miss the Corsair Wreck. This site sits off eastern Oahu and is considered one of the best wreck dives in the state, as the US Marine Corps F-4 Corsair aircraft is pretty much intact.

It sits in just over 100 feet of water, making this a relatively deep dive. Plus, currents are strong here, and the seas can be rough.

Inexperienced divers can ask local dive shops about conditions during their stay to see if it’s a suitable day. Those who descend will be treated to unbelievable visibility around the large sand bed where the wreck sits, plus creatures like elusive Hawaiian Garden Eels.

It’s better to check with dive shops in the Hawaii Kai area of Honolulu for trips to this spot, as it’s closer to reach from the marinas there. However, a few based in Waikiki and Honolulu Harbor also make the trip. Look out for swimming sea turtles on the ride out there!

28. KCC Farmers Market

KCC Farmers' Market

Address: 4303 Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816

Honolulu has several different farmers markets, but the best one is the KCC Farmers Market, located at Kapiolani Community College, which is at the foothills of Diamond Head. Hosted by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, this farmers market offers much, from a quick bite to eat to souvenirs to bring back home.

One of my favorite stalls at the KCC Farmers Market is Waimanalo Country Farms. They have the best strawberry lemonade and super sweet corn. For some tasty gifts to bring back for family and friends, check out Akaka Falls Farm, which sells rare tropical fruit jams, various fruit butter, and local honey.

KCC Farmers Market is open every Saturday morning. It’s an amazing stop after the Diamond Head hike for a yummy snack or a refreshing drink.

29. Magic Island

Aerial view of Magic Island in Oahu, Hawaii
Patrick / Adobe Stock

Magic Island is located on the eastern end of Ala Moana Beach Park. It is an almost fully enclosed lagoon ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing. It’s not too far from Ala Moana Center, making it the perfect place to cool off and relax after shopping.

This calm lagoon is surrounded by a grassy area dotted with several picnic tables and bathroom facilities and is much less crowded than Waikiki. Stop at Foodland Farms in Ala Moana Center for provisions like poke bowls, local produce, and yummy desserts, and enjoy a whole day relaxing at this beach.

With its calm and shallow waters, Magic Island is a great place for families with young kids looking for a safe place in the ocean to swim. You can easily reach Magic Island by bus or car from any part of Honolulu and Waikiki.

30. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Aerial view of Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

One of my favorite hikes on the island is Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. It’s located at the edge of east Honolulu, right before you hit Waimanalo town. The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is perfect for everyone of all ages and fitness levels.

The entire trail is wide and paved. The only thing you have to think about is the incline to reach the top of the mountain, but there are many places you stop for breaks that feature breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. In the wintertime, you can often see Humpback whales breaching the surface.

At the trail’s end, you can enjoy stunning, expansive views of Waimanalo and Makapu’u Beach. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of water! There aren’t many shady spots along the trail, so a hat would also come in handy.

FAQs

What is Honolulu, Hawaii, known for?

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and is known for its tropical landscape, fantastic weather, and being a culturally diverse city. It is home to the only royal palace in the United States, as well as several famous landmarks, including Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.

How many days in Honolulu is enough?

If you only plan to spend time in Honolulu, four days are enough to enjoy the most famous beaches, hiking, and several other top Honolulu attractions. One week would be ideal if you’d like to venture out to other parts of the island.

What should I do on my first trip to Hawaii?

Any trip to the Hawaiian Islands would be incomplete without experiencing a Hawaiian luau. Great venues include Paradise Cove and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Other things to add to your list include surfing at Waikiki Beach, seeing the North Shore of Oahu, and enjoying incredible hiking trails.

Do I need travel insurance to visit Hawaii?

While not a requirement, it is certainly a great idea to purchase travel insurance before a trip, especially when traveling far from home. Check out TravelInsurance.com and VisitorsCoverage to find a plan that fits your needs, travel style, budget, and trip duration.

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Brittney Liu
WRITTEN BY

Brittney Liu

Brittney is a lifelong traveler from Oahu, Hawaii. She has visited more than 35 countries and is continually researching new places to explore - even though she hates flying. Her favorite destinations have one thing in common: they're warm. With expertise in French Polynesia, Hawaii, and the Mediterranean, you can follow along as she checks out the cleanest beaches and clearest water on the planet. Brittney has also spent most of her 20s living in the South of France.

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