Hawaii's capital, its largest city and centre of commerce, history and entertainment, is a true metropolis with Polynesian flavour. Although visitors might prefer to laze on the beautiful beaches or to explore the island's natural, a visit to The Big Pineapple should not be passed up, as you do not want to miss the dining options, the student scene, the historical sights or the cultural delights.
Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence in the United States, and the last king of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, ruled the kingdom in the late 1800s. However, when Hawaii became an American territory in 1900, almost 60 years later, it was pronounced the 50th American state.
The two-mile stretch of beach south of central Honolulu is the island's main resort area and, thus, one of the biggest draws for tourists who flock here for laid-back vibes, gentle surf, dining, entertainment, nightlife and shopping. Lying in the shadow of Diamond Head makes not only stunning views but also an easy access to one of Hawaii's most famous landmarks.
The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor was surprised by a Japanese military strike on the morning of December 7, 1941: all eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, more than 2,000 Americans lost their lives, and this very attack led to the American involvement in World War II. Today, a memorial reminds of those who died in the assault, while two museums and outdoor exhibits present the historical happenings and their backgrounds. The visitor centre in general also features exhibits and interpretive programs for other Pacific National Parks: Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the island of Molokai, American Memorial Park in Saipan, and War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam.
Hawaii’s most famous landmark, the Diamond Head, is a volcanic crater with a 360-degree view over the island, and its name comes from English sailors who thought that its calcite crystals were pure diamonds. The scenic hike up to the summit, taking the so-called stairway to heaven, will not be soon forgotten, and so it happens to the views from atop.
The Waikiki Aquarium, located right on the shores and run by the nearby university, attempts to recreate diverse tropical Pacific reef habitats to function as home to a number of aquatic species, including some rare fish species from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and moon jellyfish.
Sample a traditional Hawaiian luau feast and learn about Polynesian island culture at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. The luau has been an opportunity for Hawaiians to celebrate the good things in life with friends and family for generations, so the bright and festive luau clothes turn any frown upside down.
People from all over the world dream of catching waves on the shores of Hawaii, and a trip to the islands would not be complete without this adventure. Once upon a time, surfing was a sport reserved for royalty, but today, thankfully just about anybody can take lessons and, thus, experience the thrill of the ocean up close – try out Hans Hedemann Surf School.
Honolulu Zoo is home to over 900 different animals from the tropics, including Komodo Dragons, orang-utans, elephants, primates, and a variety of African mammals. D istributed on 42 acres of tropical greenery. the aviary is especially charming, as visitors can here admire a variety of native Hawaiian birds, including the nene and 'apapane.
Ring the 5-foot and 3-ton brass bell for good luck, feed droves of eager carp, ducks and swans in the garden's 2-acre pond, or just relax in the ambiance of the Byodo-In Temple. However, make sure to visit the 2-ton carved wooden statue of the Buddha sitting placidly inside the replica Temple, hearkening 11th century Uji, Japan.
The sprawling Cultural Plaza in Chinatown is a shopping square surrounding a courtyard that hosts an incense-enveloped shrine and the Moongate stage for holiday performances most popular features. Near the canal, you will meet local members of the community who play cards and mah-jong.
The days of pineapple plantations were pivotal for the economic success of Hawaii, and visitors are now given the chance to explore this rich history. At Dole Plantation, exhibits will tell you more about this far-reaching market, while a gift shop, a snack concession, educational displays and the world's largest maze will serve your entertainment.
For peace and relaxation away from the bustle of tourist areas, head to the Foster Botanical Gardens and walk among a variety of placating bromeliads, orchids and other tropical plants. Many of the trees are still in residence from 1853, when Queen Kalama leased a portion of her land.
This 2-mile hike at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline Park takes visitors over beautiful hills to the historic Makapuʻu lighthouse, and it always provides places for having a break and for admiring the breath-taking scenery. During the winter months, it is possible to view humpback whales during their long migrations.
This beautiful former home of Doris Duke is now a museum housing the Foundation for Islamic Art, which promotes the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. Do book a guided tour ahead for exploring the five acre complex with the house itself, a playhouse, a pool, courtyards, terraces, gardens, and water feature, as access to Shangri La is by reservation or business appointment only.
On this 7-acre farm, 2,000 arabica coffee trees grow out of green beans from all over the Hawaiian islands. While free samples of at least 5 varieties of coffee are always available in the store, and you can also enjoy a fresh cup at the espresso bar. However, do not forget to go on a self-guided tour to learn more about the production on the farm itself.
The Harold L. Lyon Arboretum is 200-acre of real nature rather than a cosmetically designed and landscaped garden. On the trails winding through this impressive scenery,you can find some of the most representative Hawaiian plants and trees, such as breadfruit and sugarcane,so do go here for a lovely and relaxing stroll.
Chef Chai is claimed as one of Hawaii’s top Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs, and his menu fuses fresh Hawaii ingredients with flavors from Asia in order to celebrate Oahu's cultural diversity. Chai’s restaurants have been praised and recommended by Bon Appetite, Brides, Sunset, Cooking Light, Travel & Leisure, Gourmet Magazine, and many more, so do have a try and figure its value out yourself.
Veritably unchanged since its opening in 1967, Buzz's has beckoned hungry visitors for decades and up to this very day. While offering a variety of salads and meat dishes, with steask, burgers, teriyaki chicken, and fresh fish, the he mai tai is one of the strongest around.
This 'little house' is a trendy restaurant serving delicious home-cooked Chinese dishes. While its history began way back in the 70s when the owners arrived in Honolulu, straight from China, it still pleasures both regulars and newcomers day by day, with fresh food and great service.
Arancino is an upscale Italian restaurant serving different typical dishes accompanied with great wines. As cheese, meat, and pasta get imported all the way from Italy, all the dishes get that specific taste, and they are as authentic as Italian food far away from its source can possibly be.
Helena's is a renowned Honolulu diner serving home-cooked specialties such as smoked short ribs pipikaula-style and squid luau. While being a local favorite for more than 60 years, the restaurant and its chef Helen Kwock Chock recieved the James Beard Award back in 2000.
A regional "farm-to-table" menu and international flavors is what you can expect from Sheraton's Kai Market, as you will find everything from a prime rib carving station to Chinese-style steamed fish and clams in a ginger-black-bean sauce. Daily open-air luau-style shows take place as well.
This small restaurant started off as a food truck but expanded in order to keep up with its ever-growing band of loyal customers. While serving delicious Thai food – tom kha soup, green curry, and drunken noodles – the owners are friendly, and they love to help customers pick the right dish.
Mixing Vietnamese tradition with island flavours, this restaurant acts as both an unassuming noodle house for the busy lunch crowd by day and a fine dining experience at night. Dishes are daring and flavourful, and they include combinations such as porchetta with pomegranate-arugula salsa verde, and the desserts are equally innovative and delicious.
Hawaii's multicultural heritage does not only include Asian and Polynesian influences, and this Mexican restaurant gives visitors that other side of the Hawaiian melting pot, offering all the fixings you would expect: tacos, fajitas, burritos, enchiladas and much more. Also, the fish tacos are made with the freshest catch, and the margaritas with the juiciest mangoes.
Like a true world city, Honolulu has kept up with the demand for healthy dining options in the recent years, so this raw-food restaurant popped up, serving dishes like the delicious Living Lasagne. While serving proper dishes and also regular wine-tastings, the café area has quick eats ready to go.
Cinnamon's self-proclaimed goal is “good food at reasonable prices, courteously served in a clean, friendly, smoke-free atmosphere." Specialising in breakfast foods, the dishes here strive to be fresh and free from chemicals, preservatives and additives, providing wholesome and balanced meals. Although its name implicates sweet treats, you will also find savoury dishes on their menu.
At this beloved restaurant, Chicago-style hot dogs undergo all kinds of transformations, as local and international sausages and toppings are combined in order to create unique and explosive flavours. Try the wild boar sausage with cran-apple relish or gourmet with the butter-seared lobster sausage topped with garlic-relish aioli.
To Chau will always be the default Vietnamese restaurant of Oahu, as they were the pioneer Vietnamese venue. While you will find legions of loyal customers during the week, it also attracts newcomers each day, so do expect long lines and expert service. However, it is worth its time.
Finnish chef Göran Streng nods to his heritage with a clean and trendy setting in his cafe, where you can enjoy a clever and eclectic cuisine blending Scandinavian and American classics. Featuring fresh, natural, and house-made ingredients, you can savour excellent dishes nearly all day long: for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
As veranda is located at the Moana Surfrider hotel, this cafe is surrounded by elegant Victorian architecture right by the shores of Waikiki. Sit back and enjoy breakfast, lunch of afternoon tea under the shade of an imposing Banyan tree, and your day could not have started (and passed) any better.
Island Vintage Coffee Company carries 100% gourmet Kona coffee, so they only feature the finest coffee beans chosen from volcanic soils of Hawaii. While having a coffee is almost mandatory, trying their tasty poke and acai bowls as well as their sandwiches will also enrich your stay (and day).
Barefoot Beach is a safe bet for breakfast, especially when it comes to thinking of your budget (again) – however, do also head here for lunch and dinner. Located right at the beach, they do not only esrve great menus but also a wonderful atmosphere, hold up by tiki torches after nightfall.
In conjunction with its sister cafe, the veranda at the veachhouse, Surfrider Cafe is Moana Surfrider Resort's trendy morning and early afternoon option. This venue serves healthy dishes at its beachfront location, and you will find a variety of specialty coffees, island fruit bowls, freshly prepared lunch dishes and sandwiches on the menu.
Sugoi Bento is a breakfast-and-lunch diner, and they were among the very first restaurants at Oahu that took the onslaught of healthy menu options. Today, they serve wonderful and tasty alternatives to formerly fattening fare, and their menu somehow includes every flavour and every influence. Although their atmosphere does invite you to stay, do (also) build your own bento (=take-out portion) and you will not be disappointed.
This bar serves features live contemporary Hawaiian music while serving great drinks accomplishing a most chilled atmosphere. As owner Hank Taufaasau describes, he "opened it as an art gallery to showcase my paintings and prints. But I put the bar in to pay the rent. Artists starve!" but here, no one will.
The Polynesian Cultural Centre hosts an amazing luau and buffet six nights a week, and it also offers a show entitled "Ha: Breath of Life." As this luau and the show are widely considered to be one of the most authentic experiences visitors can have of Hawaiian tradition and culture, make sure to not miss it.
The Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Resport has an inspiring happy hour that already won countless awards so do head here for starting into the night (and maybe stay). When night falls, you can enjoy island-style live music while sipping cocktails like Cucumber Melon Crush, Mango Mai Tai, and Mandarin Sweet Tea Cooler.
This lively beachfront bar at Duke's Waikiki – a complex of restaurant and bar –serves in the memory of Duke Kahanamoku who was THE legendary Waikiki surfer, winning Olympic medals in swimming and introducing surfing to Australia and New Zealand. Head here for getting some spirit and for learning more about this legend..
Designed as a cool and laid-back surfers' bar, this venue includes a pool table, dartboards, plenty of large TVs for watching sports, and of course, delicious and refreshing drinks. However, the main attraction here is the live music every Friday and Saturday, and the performers are usually local bands playing rock or reggae.
Illusionist John Hirokawa has created a show unlike anything else on the Hawaiian islands, as this highly entertaining event contains sleight of hand magic and death-defying illusions as well as contemporary hula and Island music acts. Dramatic special effects and mesmerising Polynesian fire knife performances will perfect your experience that you will not forget that fast, or maybe never.
The intimate and candle-lit ambiance at Genius Lounge is sophisticated but laid-back and, as very inviting, regularly attracts locals and tourists alike. The full bar offers anything that might tickle your taste, including home-made sangria, and the Japanese-inspired dishes are very delicious.
Located adjacent to the Honolulu Harbour, this breezy outdoor bar offers the city's best views of the luxury yachts that spend their days bobbing up and down in the harbour. Live jazz, funk and rock can be heard while enjoying one of Gordon Biersch's international style beers. Head also here for enjoying a beer tasting.
Boasting breath-taking sunset views and a sophisticated vibe, the Wai'olu Ocean View Lounge at Trump International Hotel is one of the spiffiest places in town. The drinks are good and there is live music of all sorts, while a special draw is the fact that customers can get absinthe served in the traditional drip.
Luxury Row brings the latest high fashion to Honolulu and Oahu, as offering luxury brands including Chanel, Coach, Tiffany & Co, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Tod's. As the centre is located in the heart of the Waikiki beach resort and urban retail district, you probably do not even have to travel far.
Hilo Hattie at Moana shopping centre is Honolulu's best destination for Hawaiian fashion, gifts, souvenirs, home and beach accessories, beauty products, gourmet foods and stunning island jewelry. In fact, you can here get almost everything, so this is where tourists in the know go to get that Hawaiian shirt that visitors simply have to take back home.
Ala Moana is the world's largest open-air shopping mall, hosting over 240 stores and 60 restaurants in the 50-acre complex and, thus, an impressive blend of international, national, and local boutiques. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Armani are some of the brands located on site but you can also experience many more.
Tin Can Mailman is a vintage shop in Chinatown, full of Hawaiiana and memorabilia, from postcards, books and pinup girls to clothes and jewellery. Browsing through the huge selection of items is like turning back time to see a Hawaii from long ago that indeed knows how to compete with the current one.
At this beloved boutique, the eclectic selection of apparel and handcrafted one-of-a-kind jewellery, fashion, gifts and accessories from around the globe regularly changes and, thus, always stays exciting. The family-run business supports local designers and manufacturer, as well as green businesses and it therefore become a real local's favourite.
Fashioned in the monarchy era of Honolulu, the King's Village shopping centre even has a changing-of-the-guard ceremony every evening at 6:15pm. If you are only here for shopping, look to The Jade Tree Jewelry, Honolulu Surf & Sport, and Solid Stone but, anyways, enjoy this special atmosphere.
This independent neighbourhood bookstore has a quaint and familiar feel to it. As all the walls are lined with both new and used books, and the large children's section invites families to come and linger for a good while, browsing through the extensive selection is always a great experience here.
North Shore is an open-air plaza housing art galleries, clothing stores, and a surf museum. Moreover, Jungle Gems is located here, with its precious and semiprecious gemstone jewelry that you do not want to miss out. The Silver Moon Emporium, however, is another favorite.
On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the parking lot of the Aloha Stadium becomes a huge marketplace, where vendors push everything from Hawaii themed clothes, accessories and souvenirs to ethnic food, silk flowers and other decorations. If you're patient and search thoroughly you can come across really unique find.
The products for sale at Lanikai comprise everything for health, hygiene and beauty: from creams, lotions and soaps to bath slats and scrubs. All products are made in Hawaii, using natural ingredients and extracts from all sorts of natural sources, including fruits, nuts and weeds.
Citizens of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Kingdom of Brunei can visit the United States for up to 90 days without applying for a visa (as well as citizens of Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco and San Marino). Citizens of these countries must obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before traveling. All other travelers must obtain a visa before visiting the United States. International travelers need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of their intended trip in order to enter the country.
Oahu has great weather all year round and is thus considered to be one of Hawaii's best islands. However, the winter from November until March can be more rainy, especially on the island's east coast, so this season can be considered as a less popular one with visitors. While the winter offers best chances for whale watching, the period between May and September is the warmest, and thus tourists' favourite. Do consider travelling in off-season periods, as prices will be lower and both sights and streets less crowded.
Honolulu International Airport is located approximately 2 miles (3 km) from Downtown Honolulu. Bus numbers 19 and 20 run from the airport to Downtown Honolulu and then on to Waikiki from 5am-11:45pm. Robert’s Hawaii (tel: +1 808 954 8652) operates a shuttle bus from the airport to any hotel in Waikiki, and another option is Oahu Airport Shuttle (tel: +1 808 664 3630): www.oahuairportshuttle.com. There are also a number of taxi services waiting outside the terminal.
Waikiki Trolley, the local transport service, has 40 drop off points between Downtown Honolulu, Waikiki, and Hanauma Bay, and they run regularly. You can buy single tickets as well as 1, 4 or 7 day passes, and they will allow you to take every bus and even a ride at Double Deckers.
Ohau offers a huge variety of pharmacies located across the whole town, and a central one in Honolulu is at Bishop Street. However, they spread over the island so they can be found in every bigger town. Mind their differing opening hours. CVS Pharmacy 345 Hahani Street, Kailua +1 808 489 932 0 Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm. Sat 10am-5pm Walgreens Pharmacy 94-223 Farrington Hwy, Waipahu +1 808 676 223 0 Opening hours: daily 8am-9pm
The United States Postal Service (UPSP) mainly operates around Honolulu island, and the main office is at Ala Moana Boulevard. However, there are several more and you recognize them by their blue logo. here, you can get any service from buying stamps to sending packages. 3600 Aoele Street, Honolulu +1 800 275 877 7 Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-8pm 438 Hobron Lane, Honolulu +1 800 275 877 7 Mon-Fri 10am-1pm and 1:30pm-4:30pm. Sat 9am-10:30pm