13 Best Things to do in Honolulu
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and sits on the South shore of Oahu. Popular tourist neighborhood, Waikiki, is part of Honolulu along with some of the most scenic sites on the island. From Chinatown to Makapu’u Lookout, these are the best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Visit Google Maps to see all of our top things to do in Waikiki
Best Things to Do In Downtown Honolulu (and Nearby)
Kaka’ako Brewery Tour
Honolulu is home to nine breweries and four are in Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is an up and coming neighborhood with a growing creative community. Murals mark many of their walls and restaurants and shops have an eclectic vibe.
Kaka’ako is also home to four of Oahu’s local breweries: Honolulu Beerworks, Aloha Beer Company, Hana Koa Brewing Co., and Waikiki Brewing.
Take a stroll through the colorful neighborhood and sample all the local craft beers Kaka’ako has to offer.
Waikiki is a popular tourist neighborhood in the heart of Honolulu. Waikiki beach is nestled against Diamond Head crater and offers idyllic sand, sea, and views.
Do everything on our list of the best things to do in Waikiki.
Walk South King Street in Chinatown to see historical buildings, local markets, and try fabulous foods.
Stop at The Pig & The Lady for killer Vietnamese. Don’t miss the Pho French Dip.
Check out downtown Honolulu after dark. Beachside bars, dancing, live music and even karaoke make for late night fun downtown.
Catch a Show
An authentic luau is a must on any trip to Hawaii. Eat authentic Hawaiian food and watch traditional performances. Performances are hosted across the island including in Waikiki in Honolulu.
Oahu has 5 botanical gardens which have some of the most iconic views in Oahu. Foster Botanical Gardens in downtown Honolulu is a nice stroll after visiting Chinatown. You’ll see some of the islands tropical plants and colorful birds without leaving the city.
Also within Honolulu, but outside of bustling downtown, Koko Crater Botanical Gardens is a desertous garden growing inside of Koko Crater. See curious, bulbous, and other-worldly cacti on your walk through the park. It also makes for a great insta backdrop for all of those fabulous Hawaii pictures.
As a bustling city in the middle of paradise, Honolulu offers a taste of all of the quintessential Hawaiian bites.
Royal Hawaiian History
Three important sites in Honolulu give visitors a look into royal Hawaiian history.
- Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu is the royal residence of the last reigning monarchs of Hawaii. See how the former royals lived, walk through towering banyan trees and learn about Hawaiian history at this must-see site in the heart of Honolulu.
- Ali’iolani Hale – Make a quick stop by Ali’iolani Hale across the street from Iolani Palace to see a larger than life gold statue of Kamehameha the Great and the current home to Hawaii’s Supreme Court.
- Queen Emma’s Summer Palace – Outside of downtown, but just three miles down the road, is Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. The summer home to Queen Emma of Hawai’i, the preserved palace gives visitors a look at how the royals lived in the late 1800s.
Delve into Pacific and Island cultures, modern art and even Islamic art at Honolulu’s museums.
- The Bishop Museum is Hawaii’s museum of cultural and natural history. It features Hawaiian and Pacific island cultures.
- Honolulu Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the US.
- Shangri-La is a museum for learning about global cultures of Islamic art and was the former home of Doris Duke.
Some of Oahu’s most beautiful attractions are in Honolulu outside of the bustling city. Steep green cliffs, deep blue ocean and some of Oahu’s best snorkeling are all on Oahu’s southeast shore in Honolulu.
Hanauma Bay is a well-known snorkeling destination in Honolulu. Its shallow water, calm bay, and considerable fish population make it a super popular stop. Hanauma Bay is by no means a secret, be ready for crowds and be prepared to pay a $12/pp entry free when you visit.
Some of Oahu’s most popular hikes are within Honolulu! Check out:
- Diamond Head Hike – Just outside of Waikiki, Diamond Head State Monument is a short hike that ends in views of downtown Waikiki and the beautiful Waikiki Bay.
- Koko Crater Railway Trail – This hike is 1000 steps up an abandoned railway that ends in panoramic views.
- Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail – With ocean views throughout the hike, the trail ends at the Makapu’u Lighthouse and may offer whale watching opportunities from the hike, if you’re lucky!
Drive along the East coast of Oahu for stunning coastal views. Within Honolulu are two famous overlooks from the road.
The China Walls is a beautiful lava-formed natural site in Honolulu. When the conditions are good and the ocean is flat, this is a popular spot for cliff jumping. Be aware of waves if you choose to visit, when the surf is big it can be dangerous to visit here.
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Oahu breweries are concentrated in Kaka’ako. The area was once home to production of Hawaii’s Primo beer, launched in 1901 and popular for decades after.
It doesn’t take special skills to spot whales in Hawaii, you just need to know where to look…and a little luck.