- Jonathan Chum
Honolulu is a city that's as diverse in its offerings as it is in its population. You can find just about every type of activity imaginable here---from hiking through the mountains to surfing at Waikiki Beach. And while Honolulu may be the most touristy of Hawaiian cities, it still maintains its local charm with plenty of opportunities for exploring culture and history. Here are our top picks for things to do in Honolulu:
Lanikai Beach is a great place to go snorkeling, swimming, and surfing. The water can get pretty rough at times so it's not ideal for novice swimmers or those with weak arms. But if you know your way around the water then you'll have no problem enjoying this beautiful beach!
Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The crater, also known as Le'ahi, lies within Diamond Head State Monument and enjoys official status as both a National Historic Landmark and State Monument. It was formed about 500,000 years ago by an explosive eruption that sent ash and rock into the air. The crater has since become a popular tourist attraction due to its scenic views and historical significance.
'Iolani Palace State Monument
This is the only royal palace in the United States, and it was built in 1882. The building served as the official residence of Hawaiian monarchs until 1893 when it became a museum following annexation by the United States. In 1972, it was restored to its original form using photos from that period. It's open to visitors during the day - just make sure to check out their website before you go to see what hours they're open!
Waikiki is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii. It's a busy beachfront neighborhood on Oahu, especially since Waikiki Beach is a popular tourist destination for sunbathing, swimming, and other water sports.
Waikiki Beach has been nicknamed "the playground of the Pacific", an area where visitors can enjoy jet skiing, parasailing, and surfing among other activities.
Pearl Harbor is a deep natural harbor located in Honolulu County, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Pearl Harbor was the main United States Navy base during World War II; midget submarines were also moored there until late 1945. It currently serves as a recreation center for the Hawaiian islands and was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
The harbor is open to the commercial shipping, but its entrance has been narrowed by dredging (from 7 feet (2 m) to 9 feet (3 m)). For example, if you can visit it before or after your cruise through Hawaii's islands!
It is named for Pearl City which had been founded near its entrance in 1928; that town merged into Honolulu on April 1, 1932.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a marine life conservation district and popular tourist attraction. The bay is located at the east end of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu's windward coast in Hawaii.
The area was formed by volcanic activity and has been preserved as a natural preserve for over 30 years. It contains coral reefs, a marine life conservation district, tide pools, and caves that are only accessible during low tide. If you want to experience this beautiful spot first hand then you can book yourself onto one of their snorkeling tours where there are trained staff on hand at all times should you need any help getting into or out of your gear!
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as Punchbowl Cemetery, is a military cemetery containing the remains of many important figures in Hawaiian history. There are over 46,000 people buried at this site---including governors and other politicians, veterans from many wars like World War I and II and Vietnam to more recent conflicts like Desert Storm---and it was established in 1949 by President Harry S Truman. The cemetery itself is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm for families who want to visit their loved ones' graves or those who just want to walk around its beautiful grounds.
Visitors should note that there are multiple entrances to Punchbowl Cemetery; however, only one main entrance is used for public access: Punchbowl St., Honolulu 96813 (Map). Visitors can park along streets surrounding this area or take public transit as well.
The Honolulu Zoo at Kapiolani Park
The Honolulu Zoo at Kapiolani Park is a great option for families looking for some outdoor fun. The zoo opened in 1974, and it's one of the only zoos in the world with a Komodo dragon---the world's largest lizard!
The zoo also has a collection of Hawaiian birds and other animals like lemurs, monkeys, and sloths (among many others). Admission to this family-friendly attraction is free!
U.S. Army Museum of Hawai'i
Located in Waikiki on the grounds of Fort DeRussy, this museum is home to a vast collection of military artifacts from the Pacific Theater.
The U.S. Army Museum of Hawai'i is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (closed on all federal holidays).
Waimea Valley Adventure Park
Waimea Valley is a botanical garden that offers visitors the chance to explore the valley's many trails and waterfalls or take advantage of its adventure park. The 45-acre Waimea Valley Adventure Park offers a variety of activities, including zip lining, ATV tours, and kayaking. If you're looking for something more low-key, there are also guided nature hikes through the valley's lush vegetation.
Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu's Public Aquarium
The Waikiki Aquarium is located on the corner of Kalakaua Avenue and Kalia Road, just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach. The aquarium is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm (closed for lunch from 12:45 pm-1:15 pm), with the last admission at 3:30 pm. Prices are 13/child aged 2--12 years old.
The best way to get there is by driving or taking the bus; you can take bus route 19 which stops right in front of the aquarium. There is also a paid street parking lot just across from the museum, but it fills up quickly on weekends!
Waikiki is home to many beautiful beaches and parks, whereas central Honolulu has a variety of museums and monuments. There are also plenty of outdoor activities like hiking trails that can be enjoyed on Oahu's western side. So take some time off from work or school and explore all the amazing attractions that Hawai'i has to offer!