How to Spend 24 Hours in Honolulu

Waikiki at sunset
Waikiki at sunset | © Alan Light / Flickr
Kalena McElroy

Downtown Honolulu and the surrounding cities are excellent starting points for classic Hawaii activities and tasting local cuisine. Alongside famous historical destinations like Pearl Harbor and ‘Iolani Palace are contemporary shopping malls and hipster cafes. A day is hardly enough time to engage in all the city’s offerings, but here are some tips to spending a quintessential day in Honolulu.


When thinking of mornings in Hawaii, surfing is probably the first thing that comes to mind for locals. Start your day early with a dawn patrol surf session at Ala Moana or Waikiki Beach. The shore is sprinkled with dozens of shacks, where you can rent a surfboard or standup paddleboard by the hour. For absolute beginners, you can sign up for a surf lesson too and learn the basics.

1. Manoa Falls

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Manoa Falls | © Cardon Fry/Flickr
© Cardon Fry / Flickr

A second morning option is to head mauka (toward the mountains) for an easy hike on the Manoa Falls Trail. The path winds through the bamboo, and lush Hawaiian rainforest ending with a close-up of Manoa waterfall.


2. Nico's Pier 38

Restaurant, Seafood

Nicos Pier 38 | © Eugene Kim/ Flickr
© Eugene Kim / Flickr

It’s hard to find seafood fresher than at Nico’s Pier 38. Each morning, the chefs make their way to the fish block a few buildings over, to see what the fishermen have to offer. The most sought-after dish is the chef’s special plate of the day, but the restaurant also serves traditional local favorites like loco moco (a hamburger patty with rice and gravy), furikake pan seared ahi, and poke bowls. Every Aloha Friday, they serve up a typical Hawaiian plate with kalua pork, lomi salmon, lau lau, and poi.


3. World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial


3. World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial
© Phillip B. Espinasse / Shutterstock
This memorial commemorates the stories of the Pacific War, including the events of Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese-American citizens and the occupation of Japan. A main part of the memorial is the USS Arizona monument—it marks the resting place of 1,102 sailors and marines who were killed on the battleship during the surprise attack in 1941. The memorial straddles the sunken ship, and visitors access it by boat.


4. Maita'i Catamaran

Natural Feature

Waikiki catamaran | © Keith Roper/Flickr
© Keith Roper / Flickr

After a day in the sun, head back to Waikiki and buy a ticket for the tradewind sails tour on Maita’i Catamaran. The relaxing sail will take you out past the reef for an unrivaled view of Waikiki and Diamond Head from sea. The adventure continues past the sea cliffs where you might catch a glimpse of a pod of dolphins before returning back to the confines of Waikiki Beach.

5. Duke's Waikiki

Restaurant, Bar, Seafood

Waikiki sunset | © Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr
© Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr
No trip is complete without a visit to Duke’s Waikiki for a sunset cocktail and pupus—Hawaiian tapas. The bar and restaurant is named after one of Hawaii’s most famous locals, dubbed the father of modern surfing. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku grew up in Waikiki with the ocean as his playground. A five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, Duke is also credited with spreading the popularity of surfing. Fittingly, Duke’s Waikiki is a lively, open-air restaurant located right on the sand, showcasing live music performances and local cuisine.

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