28 Best Things to Do in Honolulu: Experience the Magic of Oahu

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Explore the top 28 best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii, and immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of Oahu. From pristine beaches to historic landmarks, this comprehensive guide will help you plan the perfect island adventure.

Introduction: Embrace the Aloha Spirit in Honolulu

Welcome to Honolulu, the heart and soul of Oahu, Hawaii! Renowned for its warm Aloha spirit, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture, Honolulu offers an unforgettable experience for travelers of all ages. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or a beach lover, this tropical paradise has something special for everyone.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the 28 best things to do in Honolulu. From iconic attractions to hidden gems, you’ll discover the essence of Oahu and create cherished memories to last a lifetime. So, let’s dive in and explore the magic of Honolulu together!

1. Waikiki Beach: Bask in the Sun and Surf

Waikiki Beach is an iconic destination that epitomizes the beauty of Honolulu. Nestled along the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean, this world-famous beach offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement. Bask in the golden sun, surf the gentle waves, or take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline – the choice is yours.

Located in the heart of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach is a vibrant and bustling hub where you can experience the city’s lively atmosphere while enjoying the serenity of the ocean. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, Waikiki’s consistent waves and warm waters make it an ideal spot for surfing. If you prefer to stay on land, the beach’s soft sands invite you to lay back, soak up the sun, and revel in the beauty of the surrounding Diamond Head Crater and the majestic Pacific horizon.

2. Diamond Head State Monument: Hike to Spectacular Views

Embark on an exhilarating hike to the top of Diamond Head, a volcanic crater that offers breathtaking panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. This moderate hike takes you through tunnels and up staircases, rewarding you with a mesmerizing vista that will leave you in awe.

Diamond Head State Monument is a must-visit attraction for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The hike to the summit takes about 1.5 to 2 hours roundtrip, and as you ascend, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of Waikiki Beach and the sprawling cityscape below. At the summit, you’ll find the historic Fire Control Station, which dates back to World War II and provides a glimpse into Hawaii’s military history.

3. Pearl Harbor National Memorial: Honor History

Pay your respects at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, a site that commemorates the events of December 7, 1941. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial to learn about the history and bravery of those who served during World War II.

Pearl Harbor holds significant historical importance, and a visit to the memorial is a solemn and educational experience. The USS Arizona Memorial stands above the sunken battleship, resting on the harbor’s floor as a tribute to the 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The museum and exhibits provide a deeper understanding of the attack and its impact on American history.

4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: Snorkel in Paradise

Indulge in a mesmerizing underwater world at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. With its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life, this snorkeler’s paradise offers an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts.

Hanauma Bay is a protected marine conservation area, teeming with a diverse array of marine species. The bay’s unique volcanic crater formation has created a sheltered cove with calm waters, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and observing marine life up close. Before heading to the bay, visitors are required to watch an educational video that emphasizes the importance of preserving the delicate ecosystem. This ensures that everyone can enjoy the bay responsibly and sustainably.

5. Iolani Palace: Discover Hawaiian Royalty

Step back in time and explore Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States. Discover the opulence and history of Hawaiian royalty as you wander through this magnificent architectural masterpiece.

Iolani Palace stands as a symbol of Hawaii’s rich history and royal heritage. Built-in 1882, the palace served as the residence of Hawaiian monarchs until the overthrow of the kingdom in 1893. Today, visitors can embark on guided tours that take them through the opulent rooms, impressive reception areas, and the private living quarters of the Hawaiian royals. The meticulously restored palace offers a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Hawaii’s kings and queens.

6. Manoa Falls: Trek Through Lush Greenery

Embark on a scenic hike to Manoa Falls, a 150-foot cascade nestled in the lush Manoa Valley. The trail winds through a tropical rainforest, treating you to captivating vistas and a refreshing escape into nature.

Manoa Falls Trail is a popular hike that immerses you in the natural beauty of Oahu’s rainforest. The approximately 1.6-mile roundtrip trail meanders through bamboo groves, towering trees, and verdant vegetation. As you hike, you’ll be serenaded by the sounds of singing birds and the rustling of leaves. The reward at the end of the trail is the stunning Manoa Falls, where you can cool off in the mist and admire the waterfall’s sheer beauty.

7. Bishop Museum: Immerse in Polynesian Culture

Dive into the rich heritage of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands at the Bishop Museum. With its extensive collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Polynesian culture and history.

The Bishop Museum, founded in 1889, is Hawaii’s premier museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural and natural history of the Pacific region. The museum’s vast collection includes traditional artifacts, cultural treasures, and natural history specimens, all of which tell the story of the diverse people and unique ecosystems of the Pacific. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to engage with the culture and traditions of the islands, making it a fantastic destination for families and those seeking a deeper connection to Hawaii.

8. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail: Chase Breathtaking Views

Capture stunning coastal views along the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. This family-friendly hike takes you to the Makapuu Point Lighthouse, where you can spot humpback whales during the winter months.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail offers one of the most scenic hikes on Oahu’s eastern shore. The trail is well-paved and accessible, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels. As you make your way up, the breathtaking views of the coastline and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean unfold before you. If you visit between November and April, keep an eye out for humpback whales, as they migrate to Hawaii’s warm waters during these months.

9. Ala Moana Center: Shop ’til You Drop

Treat yourself to a shopping spree at Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air shopping mall in the United States. With over 350 stores, ranging from luxury brands to local boutiques, it’s a shopper’s paradise.

Ala Moana Center is a retail haven that caters to every shopper’s desire. From world-renowned fashion brands to Hawaiian specialty stores, this mall offers a diverse shopping experience. Take a break from shopping and indulge in a variety of dining options, from international cuisine to local favorites. The center’s open-air design allows you to enjoy Hawaii’s beautiful weather while you explore the shops, making it a delightful experience for all visitors.

10. Shangri La: Delve into Islamic Art

Experience the beauty of Islamic art and architecture at Shangri La, the former home of heiress Doris Duke. This enchanting oasis showcases a stunning collection of art from the Middle East and South Asia.

Shangri La is a hidden gem in Honolulu, where visitors can explore an impressive collection of Islamic art, textiles, ceramics, and furniture. The mansion’s exquisite architecture and lush gardens reflect a harmonious fusion of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Hawaiian influences. Guided tours provide insight into Doris Duke’s passion for art and the diverse cultures she encountered during her travels. The serene atmosphere of Shangri La offers a captivating escape from the bustling city.

11. Lanikai Beach: Paradise Unleashed

Escape to the postcard-perfect Lanikai Beach, a secluded stretch of sand known for its crystal-clear waters and laid-back atmosphere. Enjoy a leisurely beach day, paddleboard on calm waves, or simply revel in the beauty of nature.

Lanikai Beach is often ranked among the world’s most beautiful beaches, and it’s not hard to see why. The powder-white sands, turquoise waters, and serene ambiance create a paradise-like setting that beckons travelers seeking tranquility. Whether you want to swim in the gentle surf, snorkel in the clear waters, or simply bask in the sun, Lanikai Beach offers an idyllic escape from the daily grind.

12. Honolulu Museum of Art: Appreciate Creative Expression

Immerse yourself in the world of art at the Honolulu Museum of Art. From classic to contemporary, Asian to Western, the museum’s diverse collection caters to art enthusiasts of all tastes.

The Honolulu Museum of Art houses a vast and diverse collection of art, spanning over 50,000 works from various cultures and periods. Visitors can admire paintings, sculptures, textiles, and decorative arts from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The museum’s impressive holdings also include a significant collection of Asian art, making it a unique destination for those interested in cross-cultural exploration. With rotating exhibitions and special events, there’s always something new to discover at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

13. Koko Crater Railway Trail: Conquer the Stairs

Challenge yourself with the Koko Crater Railway Trail, also known as the “Stairway to Heaven.” Ascend over 1,000 steps to reach the summit and savor breathtaking views of the island’s southeastern coast.

The Koko Crater Railway Trail is an adventure seekers’ delight, offering a steep and challenging ascent to the summit of Koko Crater. The trail follows the path of an old tramway used during World War II, and the steps are a remnant of this historic transportation system. As you climb, the reward of panoramic views awaits, showcasing the southeastern coast of Oahu and the surrounding lush landscape.

14. Chinatown: Taste of the Orient

Explore the vibrant and bustling streets of Chinatown, where you’ll find a mix of Asian cultures, local shops, and delicious street food. Indulge in exotic flavors and immerse yourself in this cultural melting pot.

Honolulu’s Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood that brims with energy and cultural diversity. Stroll along the bustling streets lined with markets, restaurants, and art galleries. You’ll discover an array of mouthwatering street food and exotic flavors from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. The area is also known for its art scene, with numerous galleries showcasing local and international talent. Chinatown’s rich history and cultural fusion make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic and flavorful experience.

15. Sunset Beach: Witness Spectacular Sunsets

Experience the magic of a Hawaiian sunset at Sunset Beach. This world-renowned surfing spot transforms into a serene paradise in the evening, providing the perfect backdrop for a romantic evening or a soul-soothing escape.

Sunset Beach is a legendary surf spot on Oahu’s North Shore, known for its massive winter waves that attract professional surfers from around the world. However, during the summer months, the ocean calms down, creating a serene and picturesque setting for visitors. As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, providing a breathtaking backdrop to a peaceful and reflective evening on the beach.

16. Polynesian Cultural Center: Journey through the Pacific

Embark on a cultural odyssey at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can witness traditional performances, explore replica villages, and learn about the fascinating customs of Polynesia.

The Polynesian Cultural Center offers an immersive and entertaining experience that showcases the cultures and traditions of Polynesia. Each of the six villages represents a different Pacific island, such as Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Visitors can participate in interactive activities, watch traditional performances, and even enjoy an authentic Polynesian feast. The center’s dedication to preserving and sharing Polynesian culture makes it a valuable and enjoyable educational experience for all ages.

17. Iolani Palace: A Glimpse of Royalty

Discover the opulence and history of Hawaiian royalty as you wander through this magnificent architectural masterpiece, Iolani Palace.

Iolani Palace stands as a symbol of Hawaii’s rich history and royal heritage. Built-in 1882, the palace served as the residence of Hawaiian monarchs until the overthrow of the kingdom in 1893. Today, visitors can embark on guided tours that take them through the opulent rooms, impressive reception areas, and the private living quarters of the Hawaiian royals. The meticulously restored palace offers a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Hawaii’s kings and queens.

18. Byodo-In Temple: Seek Tranquility

Find inner peace at the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a Japanese temple located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains. The serene surroundings and intricate architecture create a serene ambiance for contemplation.

Byodo-In Temple is a peaceful and sacred retreat tucked away in the lush Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Surrounded by tranquil gardens, koi ponds, and towering mountains, the temple provides a serene atmosphere for reflection and meditation. Visitors can ring the massive brass peace bell, a symbol of unity and harmony, and explore the temple’s ornate architecture and beautiful Buddhist art.

19. Lanikai Pillboxes Hike: Panoramic Rewards

Embark on the Lanikai Pillboxes Hike for stunning panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. The trail is relatively short but steep, offering a rewarding experience for hikers.

The Lanikai Pillboxes Hike is a popular trail that leads to two old military pillboxes perched atop a ridge, offering breathtaking views of the windward coast of Oahu. The hike begins in the residential neighborhood of Lanikai and quickly gains elevation as you ascend the ridge. Along the way, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and lush vegetation. It’s the perfect spot to capture postcard-worthy photographs and create lasting memories.

20. Foster Botanical Garden: Green Oasis

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at the Foster Botanical Garden, a lush oasis with a diverse collection of tropical plants, including rare and endangered species.

Foster Botanical Garden is a peaceful sanctuary nestled in the heart of downtown Honolulu. As you stroll through the garden’s various sections, you’ll encounter a fascinating array of plant species from Hawaii and around the world. The Orchid Conservatory houses a dazzling display of colorful orchids, while the Prehistoric Glen showcases plants that have survived since the time of dinosaurs. A visit to Foster Botanical Garden offers a calming escape and an opportunity to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the plant kingdom.

21. Honolulu Zoo: Wildlife Encounters

Families and animal lovers will delight in a visit to the Honolulu Zoo, home to over 900 animals representing species from around the world.

The Honolulu Zoo is a fun-filled attraction for visitors of all ages. Spanning 42 acres, the zoo is home to a diverse collection of animals, including elephants, giraffes, lions, and many more. Special exhibits focus on Hawaiian and Pacific Island animals, providing a unique opportunity to learn about the region’s native wildlife. The zoo’s commitment to animal conservation and education makes it a valuable destination for families seeking an educational and enjoyable outing.

22. Sea Life Park: Marine Adventures

Immerse yourself in marine adventures at Sea Life Park, where you can swim with dolphins, interact with sea lions, and learn about Hawaii’s unique marine life.

Sea Life Park is a marine theme park that offers exciting and interactive encounters with marine animals. Visitors can swim with dolphins, participate in sea lion shows, and watch engaging marine life exhibits. The park also emphasizes marine conservation and education, providing guests with a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s ocean ecosystem and the importance of protecting marine wildlife. A day at Sea Life Park promises marine adventures and unforgettable memories.

23. Magic Island: Recreation and Relaxation

Magic Island, also known as Aina Moana, is a man-made peninsula where you can enjoy picnics, jogging, and serene views of the Honolulu skyline.

Magic Island is a popular spot for both locals and visitors to unwind and enjoy outdoor activities. The park features large grassy areas perfect for picnics and sunbathing, as well as walking and jogging paths that provide beautiful views of the ocean and the city. Families often gather for barbecues and beach days, and the calm waters along the shoreline are ideal for a refreshing dip. Magic Island is a versatile and picturesque location where you can experience the best of Honolulu’s natural beauty.

24. Makapuu Point Tide Pools: Natural Paddling Pools

Discover the beauty of Makapuu Point Tide Pools, natural formations that offer a unique opportunity for safe paddling and snorkeling.

Makapuu Point Tide Pools are a hidden gem along Oahu’s southeastern coast. During low tide, the pools are exposed, creating a natural playground for paddling, snorkeling, and exploring marine life. The shallow pools are ideal for families with children, allowing them to safely wade and observe colorful fish and marine creatures. It’s a delightful spot to immerse yourself in the wonders of the ocean and connect with Hawaii’s coastal beauty.

25. Kaena Point Trail: Wild Coastline

For an off-the-beaten-path adventure, venture to Kaena Point Trail, a remote and rugged trail that leads to the westernmost tip of Oahu.

Kaena Point Trail offers a unique and untamed experience for hikers who seek seclusion and breathtaking views. The trail stretches along the rugged coastline and is surrounded by dramatic cliffs, sandy dunes, and vast ocean vistas. The area is also a designated natural area reserve, providing a sanctuary for native coastal plants and wildlife, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and Laysan albatross. As you hike, you’ll feel a sense of wilderness and adventure, making it a remarkable journey for nature enthusiasts.

26. Kualoa Ranch: Hollywood of Hawaii

Visit the legendary Kualoa Ranch, a picturesque location that has served as the backdrop for numerous Hollywood movies and TV shows. Explore the stunning landscapes and take part in exciting outdoor adventures.

Kualoa Ranch is a paradise for movie buffs and nature lovers alike. The ranch’s lush valleys, towering mountains, and pristine beaches have provided the setting for iconic films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Godzilla,” and “Jumanji.” Guided tours take visitors on thrilling ATV rides, jungle expeditions, and horseback adventures, allowing you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery that has captured the hearts of filmmakers and audiences worldwide.

27. Lyon Arboretum: Tropical Wonderland

Embark on a botanical journey through the Lyon Arboretum, a 200-acre tropical paradise filled with diverse plant species, including native Hawaiian plants and rare exotics.

The Lyon Arboretum is a haven for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers. Situated in the lush Manoa Valley, the arboretum boasts an impressive collection of plants from Hawaii and other tropical regions. Wander through the enchanting gardens, meander along tranquil trails, and learn about the essential role these plants play in preserving Hawaii’s unique ecosystems. The Lyon Arboretum is a delightful escape into nature, offering a peaceful and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

28. Iolani Barracks: Historical Relics

Step back in time at the Iolani Barracks, part of the iconic Iolani Palace complex. These historic structures provide insight into Hawaii’s military past and the role they played during the kingdom’s reign.

The Iolani Barracks once served as the living quarters for the royal guards of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Today, visitors can explore the barracks and gain a deeper understanding of the kingdom’s history and the lives of the royal guards. The adjacent Iolani Palace is an architectural marvel that stands as a symbol of Hawaii’s sovereignty and heritage. A visit to the Iolani Barracks and Palace offers a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s royal past and its journey to statehood.


Q: What are the best outdoor activities in Honolulu? A: Honolulu offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including surfing at Waikiki Beach, hiking Diamond Head, and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.

Q: What are the must-visit historical sites in Honolulu? A: Don’t miss the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Iolani Palace to gain insights into Hawaii’s rich history and heritage.

Q: What is the best time to visit Honolulu? A: Honolulu’s pleasant weather makes it a year-round destination. However, the dry season from April to October is ideal for outdoor activities.

Q: Can you recommend some family-friendly attractions in Honolulu? A: Families will enjoy exploring the Honolulu Zoo, Sea Life Park, and the Polynesian Cultural Center for educational and entertaining experiences.

Q: Are there any hidden gems in Honolulu worth exploring? A: Absolutely! Consider hiking the Lanikai Pillboxes Trail and visiting the Makapuu Point Tide Pools for unique and lesser-known experiences.

Q: Where can I find the best shopping opportunities in Honolulu? A: Head to Ala Moana Center for a fantastic shopping spree, featuring a wide range of stores and boutiques to satisfy all shopping desires.

Conclusion: Discover the Magic of Honolulu

As we come to the end of our journey through the 28 best things to do in Honolulu, we hope you’ve been inspired to experience the enchanting beauty of Oahu. From its world-renowned beaches and historic landmarks to its lush landscapes and vibrant culture, Honolulu offers a diverse range of experiences that will captivate your heart and leave you with unforgettable memories.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural enrichment, Honolulu delivers it all with the warm embrace of the Aloha spirit. Embrace the island’s charm, soak in the breathtaking views, and savor the moments that make Hawaii an extraordinary destination.

So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler returning to the islands, we invite you to embark on this unforgettable journey through the 28 best things to do in Honolulu. Discover the magic of Oahu, immerse yourself in its captivating beauty, and embrace the spirit of Aloha that welcomes you at every turn.

Mahalo for joining us on this adventure, and we look forward to welcoming you to the shores of Honolulu soon!

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Upendra Yadav is a seasoned Data Analyst with a passion for exploring new places and immersing himself in different cultures. With a curious mind and an eye for detail, Upendra delves deep into the history, people, and cuisine of the places he visits, and brings his experiences to life through his writing.. His work has been featured in various travel blogs, where he shares his insights and recommendations for fellow explorers. Through his writing, Upendra aims to inspire others to venture beyond their comfort zones and discover the hidden gems of the world. When he's not analyzing data or traveling to new destinations, Upendra can be found indulging in his other hobbies, such as photography and trying out new recipes. He is currently working on his next travelogue, where he hopes to take his readers on a journey to even more exciting and lesser-known destinations.