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What to Do in Honolulu: Must See Attractions

Honolulu Attractions

Say aloha to ocean breezes, sun-soaked sand, and some of Hawaii's most storied sites in Honolulu. The capital of the Aloha State, Honolulu is most famous for its resort-lined white-sand beaches, which beckon vacationers from around the globe. The city is more than just sun and surf, though—there are countless things to do in Honolulu, from visiting historic landmarks and admiring natural landscapes to learning about native Hawaiian culture and indulging your inner foodie.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Honolulu

As the largest city in the Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu is the pulsing epicenter of the islands, made rich by a mix of urban locales, touristy retreats, and protected natural areas.

Waikiki - With its long stretch of idyllic shore, Waikiki is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hawaii. As the tourist center of the city, its Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues are packed with luxury hotels, fine-dining restaurants, extravagant shops, and nightlife hotspots just steps away from the beach. Hit the surf and catch a wave, or just grab some good old rest and relaxation in the sun.

Downtown Honolulu

Besides the skyscrapers of the business district, downtown Honolulu is home to the historic Chinatown district—one of the oldest in the country—and several National Historic Landmarks like the Iolani Palace and King Kamehameha statue.

Diamond Head

Called Leahi (meaning “brow of the tuna”) in Hawaiian, Diamond Head State Monument is one of Oahu's defining natural features and sits east of Waikiki. The 760-foot (213-m) crater is a popular destination for hikes, and you're rewarded at the summit with incredible views of Honolulu and the island's South Shore.

What to See in Honolulu

There's no understating the beauty of Oahu, from the heights of the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout to the towering waves of the North Shore. Breathtaking natural beauty lies below the surface in crescent-shaped Hanauma Bay State Park, where a snorkeling trip reveals an underwater world of tropical fish, green sea turtles, and vibrant coral. For an alternate look at the city, take a helicopter flight and catch sight of the coast stretching all the way to Pearl Harbor, or hop aboard a cruise and witness the mesmerizing Hawaiian sunset from the water.

Sightseeing in Honolulu

From swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean to learning hula dancing with pros on the beach, there's no shortage of exciting activities for families and travelers of all ages in Honolulu. With a mix of traditional song, dance, and delicious food, luaus are a festive introduction to Hawaiian culture that anyone can enjoy. The Bishop Museum reveals more about the history and culture of Hawaii and other Polynesian groups. Those looking for a truly soothing vacation can take advantage of Honolulu's many spas that offer uniquely Hawaiian massages and treatments. For the adventurous, there are plenty of opportunities to try a something new on the beach, including diving certification lessons, jet ski rentals, parasailing adventures, or any combination of the thrilling water activities.

Free Things to Do in Honolulu

Leave your purse in the hotel room. It's a snap to have a blast in Honolulu without spending a cent.

Hawaii State Art Museum - Roam around and take in the impressive displays at this popular museum.

Waʻahila Ridge State Recreation Area - Give the kids a good time or release your own inner child — this place was built for fun.

Hawaii Pacific University - Architecture connoisseur or not, you'll be wowed by this landmark's modernistic design.

Aloha Tower - Drop by this historic attraction and learn a little about the region's cultural heritage.

Kapena Falls Trailhead - Get out of life's fast lane and treat yourself to a little time out beside the water.

Hawaiʻi Heritage Center - Well known among local residents, this place is worth exploring.

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace - Take some time for a bit of prayer or meditation at this respected sacred place.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach - Skip rocks along the water, catch a sunrise or simply appreciate the views from the foreshore.

Waikiki Historic Trail - Bring along your camera and let nature spark a sense of wonder in you.

Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden - Organize a picnic and enjoy a relaxing walk around the interesting plants.

Explore The Neighborhoods of Honolulu

Waikiki

Located on the south shore of Honolulu, this neighborhood is known internationally for its great surfing and beautiful beaches.

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Kahala

The pristine beaches and ample dining options are top of the list for many visitors to Kahala. A stop by Waiʻalae Beach Park or Kahala Beach might round out your trip.

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Downtown Honolulu

Many of Hawai’i’s most important historic sites and beautiful buildings are clustered together here at the hub of the city, with the ocean just a short walk away.

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Ala Moana

If you're spending some time in Ala Moana, Ala Moana Center and Ala Moana Beach Park are top sights worth seeing.

Eastern Honolulu

The pristine beaches and ample dining options are top of the list for many visitors to Eastern Honolulu. A stop by Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or Kahala Beach might round out your trip.

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Western Honolulu

The abundant dining options and waterfront views are top of the list for many visitors to Western Honolulu. A stop by USS Arizona Memorial or Hickam Air Force Base might round out your trip.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to do in Honolulu on a sunny day?

What to do in Honolulu on a rainy day?

Try out some of these appealing indoor activities and turn a dark, rainy day into something memorable:

What is Honolulu famous for?

Decisions, decisions — there are plenty to make in Honolulu, like which of these landmarks to check out first:

  • Diamond Head
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Aloha Tower

What should I not miss in Honolulu?

You just can't go home without checking off the following wonderful sights:

  • Ala Moana Center
  • Honolulu Zoo
  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
  • Iolani Palace

Are there cheap things to do in Honolulu?

What can you do in Honolulu for free?

You could even leave your money in the hotel safe for the day, because these terrific attractions will cost you nothing at all:

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Aloha Tower
  • Ala Moana Center
  • Hawaii State Capitol