Hawaii’s thriving capital city, Honolulu, combines world famous beaches with diverse culture and distinctive dining. Whether you’re flying in for a quick visit or enjoying a leisurely cruise around Hawaii, you’ll never be short of things to see and do.
Here’s our top tips on what to do when holidaying in Honolulu.
MUST SEE IN HONOLULU
Like any top destination, there are some sights you just can’t miss on your trip to Honolulu. Here are our must-see sights for anyone visiting the city.
Probably the most famous attraction on the island, there are actually eight sections of the beach along the coast in the Waikiki area: Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Fort DeRussy Beach Park, Gray’s Beach, Royal Hawaiian Beach, Prince Kuhio Beach, Queen Kapiolani Beach, San Souci Beach, and Outrigger Canoe Club Beach.
Each beach has its own benefits. For example, Fort DeRussy is great if you want to play beach sports like volleyball. Other beaches like Duke Kahanamoku are great for a gentle swim, as they’re protected by a man-made sea wall.
You won’t find a better view anywhere on the island of Oahu than at the national state park of Diamond Head. A beautiful section of the island’s coastline, the park itself takes up 375 acres – leaving you plenty of space to explore. A hike to the Diamond Head State Monument, where you can look out across the Pacific and the city itself, takes about 2 hours with the trail leading to the edge of a 300,000-year-old crater. Make sure you don’t leave it too late though, as entry to the park closes at 4:30pm.
HONOLULU FISH AUCTION
If you’re a seafood fan, or even just a curious tourist, the Honolulu Fish Auction is a unique experience. Hawaii is famous for its tuna, and for good reason. The auction house holds the only fresh tuna auction in the country. Take a guided tour, or simply arrive and explore yourself - but always remember to be respectful to the many vendors. Watch as the fish arrives fresh and the clamour from restaurant and shop owners begins. You can even get involved yourself and bid on some of the finest selection of fish anywhere in the world. To really be a part of the action, get there nice and early – the first tour starts at 6am!
A 30-minute drive away from Waikiki is the historic military site of Pearl harbour. The tragic location of the infamous 1941 Japanese attack on US Naval forces that prompted US involvement in World War Two, the harbour is now home to many memorial sites commemorating those who lost their lives. Soak in the history in the Pacific Aviation Museum, pay tribute to the fallen at the USS Oklahoma memorial, and step aboard the immense Battleship Missouri Memorial – the battleship now acts as a museum and is three football fields long!
WHERE TO SNORKEL IN HONOLULU
As well as being home to some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, Hawaii is a great spot for water sports - especially snorkelling. Expect to see some of the world’s most exotic and beautiful species of fish, including the flying fish and the bannerfish – or maybe even a green sea turtle if you’re lucky. There are plenty of spots on the city’s coastline to snorkel, here are our favourites.
When the surf is low, the picturesque Kuilima cove is the ideal place for snorkelling beginners to get started. Also known as Bayview Beach, the cove is on the North Shore of the island, about an hour drive away from the city centre. Sheltered from the waves and with a maximum depth of only 10ft, you’ll catch a glimpse of some beautiful species including the Yellow Longnose Butterfly.
For more experienced snorkellers and divers, Sharks Cove is one of the most famous snorkel and dive beaches on the North Shore. Despite its name you’re unlikely to find any sharks here – the cove itself is shaped like a shark when viewed from above. Explore the area’s underground tunnels and caves formed by the island’s volcanic activity. But be aware, there are no lifeguards at this spot so stay safe!
At the other end of the island, on the South Shore, Hanauma Bay is a marine life conservation and underwater national park. If you love fish, then this is the area for you, with the biggest concentration of fish anywhere in the island and some beautiful coral formations. Previously voted the best beach in the United States, learn more about the history of the area and the marine life within it at the nearby visitor centre.
WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU
Hawaii is well known for its distinctive cuisine, a fusion of different cultures influenced by its Polynesian history, but also by the many travellers and settlers you’ll find across the islands. If you want traditional Hawaiian food in the city, then you can’t go wrong with the famous Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Opened by Helena Chock in 1946, it’s been serving up classic favourites such as poi (mashed taro root), kalua pig (cooked in an imu – a type of underground oven) and, of course, the fantastic seafood that is so plentiful on the Pacific island. If you’re after something a little more elegant, then why not try Alan Wong’s, perfect for a special occasion.
If you want something on the go, or perhaps something to satisfy a sweet tooth, then Kamehameha Bakery is a must eat spot in Honolulu. The bakery has over 40 years’ experience serving locals and tourists delicious sweet treats and is well known for its poi-glazed donuts, and that’s just the start. Make sure you get down early in the day though, as the bakery regularly sells out as the masses swarm in for some of the best baked goods in the city.
Find out more about our cruises, including our range of destinations and activities around Honolulu here.