The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Honolulu

© Pung / Shutterstock
© Pung / Shutterstock
Photo of Jonathan Stern
2 March 2017

History, art, wildlife, nature and even fantastic food, Hawaii‘s capital city seems to have it all. Whether you’re up for an outdoor adventure or prefer a lesson in cultural history at a local museum, there’s a bit of something for everyone. Check it out…

World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial

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People visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii | © 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, which 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.

Battleship Missouri Memorial

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Decommissioned battleship USS Missouri where the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender took place on September 2, 1945 © Phillip B. Espinasse / Shutterstock
Decommissioned battleship USS Missouri where the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender took place on September 2, 1945 | © Phillip B. Espinasse / Shutterstock
Another World War II memorial in Honolulu is the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The ‘Mighty’ Mo’, as it is sometimes called, has a particularly important historical significance, and not just for the United States. On the deck of this ship in 1954, representatives of the Japanese Empire and several Allied powers signed the peace treaty that put an end to World War II. Visitors can explore the decks of the Missouri on their own, or take a tour guided by an expert historian.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park back in 1967. The pristine waters of this curved bay are filled with fish and marine life. In an effort to preserve these natural wonders, all first-time visitors must watch an informative video on the marine life, preservation and safety rules prior to entering the park. Hanauama Bay is a spectacular spot to explore, snorkel and learn about responsibly treating the environment.

Koko Crater Railway Trail

Botanical Garden, Hiking Trail, Park
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Koko Crater Railway Trail | © Remi Yuan/Unsplash
Koko Crater Railway Trail | © Remi Yuan / Unsplash
Koko Crater is an ancient volcano that last erupted more than 30,000 years ago. To appreciate its beauty, adventurers can set out to conquer the strenuous Koko Crater Railway Trail. The trail is worth the sweat and eventual muscle soreness – the spectacular views from the top are an awe-inspiring reward for all that effort! There is little doubt that the 1,100 steep steps make for a fantastic workout. In the end, the old railway leads to the summit of the crater, which measures in at a height of 1,208 feet. A botanical garden in the middle of the crater is an unexpected bonus!

Magic Island

Created in 1964, this manmade peninsula just outside the city center was originally conceived as a resort center. That idea was later scrapped, and the area was turned into a park. These days Magic Island is a popular gathering spot: it’s common to see family picnics, frisbees being tossed around among friends and the occasional festival or performance. On the 4th of July, the Ala Moana Center puts on a fireworks show over the island to go along with a concert featuring local bands and artists.

Magic Island beach park in Hawaii, from helicopter | © Mana Photo / Shutterstock

Hawaiian food at Highway Inn

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Looking for a place to try some traditional Hawaiian food during your visit? Then head to Highway Inn in downtown Honolulu. (Hawaii Magazine named this spot the best Hawaiian food restaurant in town). Learn more about Hawaiian cuisine through the best method possible – eating it! For an appetizer, order the poke – it consists of raw yellowfin tuna, sea salt, sesame oil, seawood and soy sauce. Kalua pig is a smoky dish that is traditionally the centerpiece to the Hawaiian luau, or party.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

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Bishop Museum | © Daniel Ramirez/Flickr
Bishop Museum | © Daniel Ramirez / Flickr
Dedicated to natural and cultural history, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is located in Honolulu’s historic Kalihi district. This is the place to go to learn about Hawaiian history. The Bishop Museum is the single largest museum in Hawaii and is home to more Polynesian cultural artifacts than any other place on earth. Also impressive is the museum’s insect collection: with more than 13.5 million specimens, it is the third largest insect collection in the US.

Lyon Arboretum

Botanical Garden
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The Harold L Lyon Arboretum botanical gardens inland of Honolulu, Hawaii | © Lisa Strachan / Shutterstock
The tropical plant life of Lyon Arboretum makes it a truly beautiful place to visit. The arboretum and botanical gardens are impressive, covering a total of 194 acres. The average rainfall here is 165 inches per year – no wonder there are more than 5,000 different tropical plant species that thrive on these grounds! The numerous trails and small water features are perfect for exploring this serene spot.

Moana Surfrider, a historic hotel

Affectionately known as ‘The First lady of Waikiki’, the Moana Surfrider is a historic hotel on Waikiki Beach. It first opened its doors at the turn of the century – 1901 to be exact – back when Waikiki was but a quiet backwater surrounded by swamps, taro fields and duck ponds. Today, of course, the area is jam packed with action. Through it all, the Surfrider strives to continue on with the tradition of Hawaiian hospitality. Historical tours of the property are offered every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, 2365 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, +1 808 922 3111

Honolulu Museum of Art

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Honolulu Museum of Art © Jeff Whyte/Shutterstock
Honolulu Museum of Art | © Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock
The Honolulu Museum of Art is another beacon of Hawaiian culture in Honolulu. The museum prides itself on being an educational tool of Hawaii’s ethnically diverse community, offering art exhibitions, films, videos and the performing arts. The collection of artwork represents all the major cultures of Hawaii and covers a range of 5,000 years! The Hawaiian collection includes everything from beautiful quilts and feather capes to 20th-century Maui landscapes by Georgia O’Keeffe.

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