Top Picks: Best Things to Do in Honolulu

Are you planning a trip to Honolulu and wondering what attractions and experiences should be at the top of your list? Look no further! In this article, we will share our carefully curated top picks for the best things to do in this vibrant Hawaiian city.

Top Picks: Best Things to Do in Honolulu

From stunning beaches to cultural hotspots, natural wonders to mouthwatering local cuisine, Honolulu has something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, this diverse city offers a wide range of activities and attractions that will make your trip unforgettable.

Join us as we explore the hidden gems and popular favorites that make Honolulu a must-visit destination. Get ready to immerse yourself in the rich culture, soak up the sun on pristine beaches, and embark on thrilling water activities. Are you ready to discover the best things to do in Honolulu?

Key Takeaways:

  • Our top picks for the best things to do in Honolulu
  • Explore stunning beaches that will leave you in awe
  • Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural hotspots of the city
  • Experience the breathtaking natural wonders of Honolulu
  • Indulge in the mouthwatering local cuisine

Explore the Stunning Beaches

Honolulu is renowned for its beautiful beaches. In this section, we will highlight the top beaches you shouldn’t miss during your visit. From the iconic Waikiki Beach to the tranquil Lanikai Beach, get ready to soak up the sun and enjoy the crystal-clear waters.

Stunning Beaches in Honolulu

When it comes to stunning beaches, Honolulu offers a paradise-like experience. Let’s take a closer look at some of the must-visit beaches in the area:

1. Waikiki Beach

As one of the most famous beaches in the world, Waikiki Beach is definitely a must-see. Located right in the heart of Honolulu, this vibrant beach offers a variety of activities, from sunbathing and swimming to surfing and canoeing. With its stunning views of Diamond Head and an array of restaurants and shops nearby, Waikiki Beach is the epitome of tropical bliss.

2. Lanikai Beach

If you’re in search of a picture-perfect beach, look no further than Lanikai Beach. This hidden gem is located in the upscale area of Kailua, just a short drive from Honolulu. With its powdery white sand, turquoise waters, and picturesque offshore islands, Lanikai Beach is a true tropical paradise. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing day at the beach or a morning stroll at sunrise.

3. Hanauma Bay

For an unforgettable snorkeling experience, Hanauma Bay is the place to be. This protected marine conservation area is home to an abundance of colorful fish and fascinating coral reefs. Whether you’re an experienced snorkeler or a beginner, the crystal-clear waters of Hanauma Bay offer a mesmerizing underwater world waiting to be explored.

4. Sunset Beach

If you’re a surfing enthusiast or simply love the beauty of enormous waves, Sunset Beach is a must-visit. Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this beach is renowned for its incredible surf during the winter months. Watching the professional surfers take on the massive waves is a sight to behold. Even if you don’t surf, the stunning sunset views from this beach are worth the visit.

5. Ala Moana Beach Park

For a beach that offers a blend of relaxation and recreational activities, head to Ala Moana Beach Park. Located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, this spacious beach park is perfect for picnics, jogging, and swimming. With its tranquil waters and nearby shopping centers, Ala Moana Beach Park is a popular spot among both locals and visitors.

Beach Location Activities
Waikiki Beach Honolulu Swimming, surfing, canoeing, sunbathing
Lanikai Beach Kailua Relaxation, swimming, sunrise strolls
Hanauma Bay East Honolulu Snorkeling, swimming, marine life exploration
Sunset Beach North Shore Surfing, sunset viewing
Ala Moana Beach Park Honolulu Picnicking, jogging, swimming

Immerse Yourself in Cultural Hotspots

Honolulu is a vibrant city that celebrates its multicultural heritage through various cultural hotspots. Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about different traditions, these attractions in Honolulu will captivate your senses and provide a deeper understanding of the city’s diverse identity.

Iolani Palace

Cultural Hotspots, Honolulu

One of the most significant cultural landmarks in Honolulu is the Iolani Palace. Built in 1882, it was once the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy. Today, the palace stands as a symbol of native Hawaiian sovereignty and showcases the opulent lifestyle of the royal family. Take a guided tour to explore the grandeur of the palace, admire the exquisite architecture, and learn about the fascinating history of Hawaii.


Vibrant and bustling, Honolulu’s Chinatown is a cultural gem that offers an immersive experience. Wandering through its colorful streets, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of Asian traditions and flavors. Explore the bustling markets, where you can shop for fresh produce, exotic spices, and unique handicrafts. Indulge in delectable street food, from dim sum to noodle dishes, and discover the hidden temples and art galleries that add a touch of mystique to the neighborhood.

Bishop Museum

For a comprehensive exploration of Hawaiian culture, a visit to the Bishop Museum is a must. This renowned museum showcases the history, art, and natural sciences of Hawaii and the Pacific. Marvel at ancient artifacts, learn about the indigenous people through interactive exhibits, and gain insights into the unique ecosystem of the islands. The Bishop Museum is a treasure trove of knowledge and a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii.

“Honolulu’s cultural hotspots offer a captivating journey into the diverse heritage of the city. From the majestic Iolani Palace to the vibrant streets of Chinatown and the educational exhibits at the Bishop Museum, immerse yourself in the captivating stories and traditions that have shaped Honolulu into the culturally vibrant city it is today.”

Immerse yourself in the captivating cultural hotspots of Honolulu, where history and traditions come alive. Discover the rich heritage of the Hawaiian islands and explore the diverse cultural influences that have shaped this fascinating city.

Experience the Natural Wonders

Beyond the stunning beaches that make Honolulu famous, this Hawaiian paradise is also home to a multitude of breathtaking natural wonders. Embark on unforgettable adventures as you explore the diverse landscapes that showcase the beauty of Mother Nature.

Hike to the Top of Diamond Head

Natural Wonders Honolulu

Diamond Head, located on the eastern edge of Waikiki, is a volcanic tuff cone that offers panoramic views of Honolulu. Lace up your hiking shoes and tackle the 0.8-mile trail to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of the city skyline and the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Discover the Lush Rainforests of Manoa Valley

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the enchanting rainforests of Manoa Valley. Follow the scenic trails that wind through dense vegetation, towering bamboo groves, and serene waterfalls. Feel the mist on your face as you marvel at the beauty of this natural oasis.

“The natural wonders of Honolulu offer visitors a chance to connect with the raw beauty of the island. From the rugged volcanic landscapes to the vibrant rainforests, exploring these natural gems is a truly awe-inspiring experience.” – Local Travel Enthusiast

Whether you’re an avid hiker, a nature lover, or simply seeking tranquility, Honolulu’s natural wonders are waiting to be discovered. Plan your visit to these captivating destinations to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Indulge in Local Cuisine

No trip to Honolulu is complete without immersing yourself in the delicious local cuisine. Experience the vibrant flavors of Hawaii and savor the unique dishes that make this destination a true food lover’s paradise. From mouthwatering poke bowls to hearty plate lunches, let us guide you to the best restaurants and food markets in Honolulu where you can indulge in the local flavors.

Start your culinary adventure by sampling the iconic poke bowls. These delicious bowls feature fresh, marinated seafood like ahi tuna or octopus, served over a bed of rice and topped with a variety of flavorsome ingredients such as seaweed, onions, and soy sauce. Each bite is a burst of flavors that will leave you craving for more.

For a taste of authentic Hawaiian cuisine, be sure to try the plate lunches. These hearty meals typically consist of a main protein like kalua pork or teriyaki chicken, along with sides such as rice, macaroni salad, and grilled vegetables. It’s a satisfying and flavorful option that will keep you energized throughout the day.

When it comes to dining in Honolulu, the options are endless. From upscale restaurants serving fusion cuisine to local food trucks offering affordable and delicious eats, there’s something to suit every palate and budget. Embrace the spirit of aloha by trying the local specialties and supporting the small businesses that contribute to the vibrant culinary scene.

Must-Visit Restaurants and Food Markets in Honolulu

Restaurant / Food Market Cuisine Location
Alan Wong’s Restaurant Fine Dining, Hawaiian Fusion 1857 S King St, Honolulu, HI
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck Shrimp, Seafood 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI
Helena’s Hawaiian Food Traditional Hawaiian 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI
Waikiki Farmers Market Fresh Produce, Local Delicacies Kuhio Ave & Uluniu Ave, Honolulu, HI
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk Japanese Cuisine, Food Market 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI

These are just a few of the many options available when it comes to enjoying local cuisine in Honolulu. Plan your culinary itinerary, explore the diverse flavors, and let your taste buds be your guide to discovering the culinary gems of this tropical paradise.

Local Cuisine in Honolulu

Shop Till You Drop

Honolulu offers excellent shopping opportunities, from high-end luxury brands to unique local boutiques. Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or searching for traditional Hawaiian crafts, you’ll find it all in the vibrant shopping districts and malls of Honolulu.

Must-Visit Shopping Districts

When it comes to shopping in Honolulu, there are a few districts that stand out for their diverse range of stores and boutiques:

  • Waikiki: This iconic district is not only known for its stunning beaches but also its world-class shopping scene. From designer brands to local surf shops, Waikiki offers something for every fashion lover.
  • Ala Moana: Located near Waikiki, Ala Moana Center is one of the largest open-air shopping malls in the world. With over 350 stores, including luxury brands like Chanel and Gucci, as well as popular retailers like Zara and Apple, this mall is a shopaholic’s paradise.
  • Kakaako: This up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its artistic vibe and hip boutiques. Explore its trendy stores and art galleries to discover unique finds and support local designers.

Hidden Shopping Gems

Beyond the popular shopping districts, Honolulu is home to hidden gems where you can uncover one-of-a-kind treasures:

Salt at Our Kakaako: This urban retail and dining complex features local artisans and trendy shops, creating a vibrant atmosphere that perfectly captures the essence of modern Honolulu.

Chinatown: Explore the bustling streets of Chinatown and discover a melting pot of cultures, along with wonderful markets and shops selling everything from antiques to fresh produce.

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the top shopping malls in Honolulu:

Mall Location Highlights
Ala Moana Center 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu
  • Over 350 stores
  • Wide range of dining options
  • Entertainment venues
Royal Hawaiian Center 2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu
  • Boutique shopping
  • Hawaiian cultural performances
  • Outdoor seating area for relaxation
International Market Place 2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu
  • Upscale retailers
  • Unique dining experiences
  • Twilight Hawkers Market on selected nights

Indulge in retail therapy like never before when you visit these top-notch shopping destinations in Honolulu.

Shop Honolulu

Dive into the Exciting Water Activities

If you’re a water sports enthusiast, Honolulu is the perfect destination. With its crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches, this tropical paradise offers a wide range of thrilling water activities for adventure seekers of all levels. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or a beginner looking to try something new, Honolulu has something for everyone.

Discover the exhilarating water adventures that await you in Honolulu:

  1. Snorkeling: Immerse yourself in the colorful underwater world and swim alongside vibrant tropical fish and stunning coral reefs. Explore popular snorkeling spots like Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or venture off the beaten path to discover hidden coves and mesmerizing marine life.
  2. Surfing: Ride the legendary waves that have made Honolulu a surfing mecca. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just starting out, there are waves suitable for all skill levels. Head to Waikiki Beach or the North Shore to catch some epic rides and experience the thrill of surfing.

  3. Stand-up Paddleboarding: Explore the calm waters of Honolulu while testing your balance on a stand-up paddleboard. Glide along the coastline, take in the breathtaking views, and enjoy a fun workout all at the same time.
  4. Swimming with Dolphins: Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and swim alongside dolphins in their natural habitat. Experience the magic of these intelligent creatures as you watch them play and interact in the open ocean.

  5. Jet Skiing: Feel the rush of adrenaline as you speed across the ocean on a jet ski. Zip through the waves, feel the wind in your hair, and enjoy the thrill of this exhilarating water activity.

With so many exciting water activities to choose from, Honolulu guarantees an unforgettable aquatic adventure. Whether you prefer to explore the underwater world, ride the waves, or interact with marine life, you’ll find endless opportunities to make the most of your time in the water.

Water Activities in Honolulu

Uncover the Hidden Gems

While Honolulu is famous for its well-known attractions, there are also hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These lesser-known spots offer a unique and authentic glimpse into the true essence of Honolulu. From tucked-away beaches to charming neighborhoods, let’s explore the hidden gems that will make your visit to Honolulu truly unforgettable.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

1. Tantalus Lookout

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Tantalus Lookout for panoramic views of Honolulu. Located within the lush forests of the Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park, this hidden gem offers breathtaking vistas of the city skyline, Diamond Head, and the sparkling waters below.

2. Lyon Arboretum

Discover the tranquility of Lyon Arboretum, a hidden botanical oasis nestled in the Manoa Valley. Explore its extensive collection of tropical plants, hike through lush trails, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Don’t forget to snap a photo at the enchanting Bamboo Garden.

3. Makapu’u Tide Pools

Escape to the scenic eastern coast of Oahu and find the Makapu’u Tide Pools, a hidden treasure frequented by locals. Accessible via a rocky trail, these natural tide pools offer a secluded spot for swimming, snorkeling, and observing marine life. Marvel at the vibrant aquatic wonders and enjoy the serenity of this hidden gem.

4. Shangri La

Step into the world of art and culture at Shangri La, the former home of heiress Doris Duke. This hidden gem features a stunning collection of Islamic art and architecture, surrounded by meticulously curated gardens. Join a guided tour to explore the beauty and cultural significance of this hidden gem.

Hidden Gems in Honolulu

5. Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument

Uncover the ancient past of Honolulu at Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument. This archaeological site is the largest heiau (Hawaiian temple) on Oahu and provides a glimpse into the island’s cultural history. Take a walk around the sacred grounds and admire the panoramic views of the North Shore.

Hidden Gem Description
Tantalus Lookout Offers panoramic views of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and the sparkling waters.
Lyon Arboretum Explore a botanical oasis with tropical plants, lush trails, and a Bamboo Garden.
Makapu’u Tide Pools Discover secluded tide pools for swimming, snorkeling, and observing marine life.
Shangri La Visit the former home of Doris Duke and admire the Islamic art and architecture.
Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument Explore the largest heiau on Oahu, providing insights into the island’s cultural history.

Explore these hidden gems and unlock a different side of Honolulu that many tourists miss. From breathtaking viewpoints to cultural landmarks, these lesser-known attractions will give you a deeper appreciation for the beauty and heritage of this incredible city.


In conclusion, Honolulu offers a multitude of incredible experiences for visitors. From its stunning beaches to its cultural hotspots and natural wonders, there’s something for everyone in this Hawaiian paradise. Whether you’re looking to relax on the soft sands of Waikiki Beach, visit historic landmarks like the Iolani Palace, or embark on thrilling water activities like snorkeling and surfing, Honolulu has it all.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the city by exploring Chinatown and sampling delicious local cuisine, from fresh poke bowls to mouthwatering plate lunches. And don’t forget to indulge in some shopping at the city’s diverse array of shopping districts and malls, where you can find everything from high-end luxury brands to unique Hawaiian crafts.

But what sets Honolulu apart are the hidden gems that often go unnoticed by tourists. Venture off the beaten path and discover the tranquil beauty of Lanikai Beach or hike through the lush rainforests of Manoa Valley for a truly extraordinary experience. Whatever you choose to do, Honolulu has the magic to captivate and leave you with unforgettable memories.


What are the top things to do in Honolulu?

Our top picks for the best things to do in Honolulu include exploring stunning beaches, immersing yourself in cultural hotspots, experiencing natural wonders, indulging in local cuisine, shopping till you drop, diving into exciting water activities, and uncovering hidden gems.

Which beaches should I visit in Honolulu?

Honolulu is known for its stunning beaches. Some of the top beaches you shouldn’t miss include the iconic Waikiki Beach, the tranquil Lanikai Beach, and the picturesque Hanauma Bay.

What cultural hotspots can I explore in Honolulu?

Honolulu boasts a diverse range of cultural hotspots. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the city by visiting the historic Iolani Palace, exploring the vibrant Chinatown, and discovering the fascinating Bishop Museum.

What natural wonders can I experience in Honolulu?

Beyond the beaches, Honolulu is blessed with breathtaking natural wonders. Experience the thrill of hiking to the top of Diamond Head for panoramic views, explore the lush rainforests of Manoa Valley, and visit the majestic Nuuanu Pali Lookout.

Where can I try local cuisine in Honolulu?

Honolulu offers a wide range of delicious local cuisine. Indulge in poke bowls at the famous Tamashiro Market, try plate lunches at Helena’s Hawaiian Food, and sample traditional Hawaiian shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice.

Where can I go shopping in Honolulu?

Honolulu is a shopper’s paradise. Discover high-end luxury brands at the Ala Moana Center, browse unique local boutiques in the Kakaako neighborhood, and explore the bustling International Market Place.

What water activities can I enjoy in Honolulu?

If you’re a water sports enthusiast, Honolulu has plenty to offer. Enjoy snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, catch some waves while surfing at Waikiki Beach, and have an unforgettable experience swimming with dolphins at Sea Life Park.

Are there any hidden gems in Honolulu?

Yes! Honolulu has some hidden gems that often go unnoticed by tourists. Explore the tranquil Foster Botanical Garden, visit the historic USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and hike the beautiful Makiki Valley Loop Trail.

What can I conclude about Honolulu?

In conclusion, Honolulu is a paradise for travelers. From its stunning beaches and cultural hotspots to its natural wonders and delicious cuisine, the city offers a diverse range of experiences. Don’t miss the chance to uncover the magic of Honolulu during your next trip.