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Our Favorite Things To Do In Honolulu

You truly can’t imagine how many people have asked me this question. What can we do in Honolulu? There’s a common perception of people that other than exploring the beaches and sunbathing, there’s quite nothing to do here. But there are a lot more things you can do than you actually thought of!

If you’ve found yourself on the shores of Oahu, get ready for a journey through the heart of this Pacific paradise. From sun-soaked beaches and cultural landmarks to mouthwatering cuisine, Honolulu has an array of experiences waiting for you.

So, grab your sunscreen, slip into your favorite flip-flops, and dive into the many things to do in Honolulu.

Take A Sunbath At Waikiki Beach

Take A Sunbath At Waikiki Beach

Waikiki isn’t just a beach; it’s a way of life in Hawaii. This sandy stretch is just the perfect spot for any water lovers. It’s a classic! It doesn’t matter if you’re into sunbathing or simply strolling along the shore; Waikiki offers the quintessential Hawaiian beach experience.

Are you into surfing? Grab a surfboard and ride the waves. You can also try your hand at paddleboarding for a different activity in the ocean. The Diamond Head nearby provides a stunning backdrop; this is the perfect spot to embrace the spirit of aloha.

And if you’re not feeling too adventurous, there’s nothing wrong with lounging on the warm sand, soaking up the Hawaiian sun.

Stroll Around At Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park is situated between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, and it is one of the top attractions along the island’s coastline.

The park features a picturesque jogging trail, a beautiful beach, and a nearby shopping center. After a short walk, you’ll find Ala Moana Cente, which claims to be the largest open-air shopping center globally to the present day.

Among the various places in Honolulu to shop for souvenirs, Ala Moana Shopping Center stands out for its extensive offerings. You’ll find a range of stores here, from high-end brands like Chanel and Gucci.

There are local department stores also available. You can find over 350 shops and restaurants. Mind it, exploring Ala Moana Center can be a quick or full-day adventure, depending on your preferences.

The stuff here might be a bit pricey for some visitors, but you can enjoy a nice time shopping here. There are many on-site dining options where you can fulfill your cravings. Additionally, there’s a free 20-minute evening hula show, which I’ll recommend as a must-watch.

Hiking The Koko Head

Hiking The Koko Head

The Koko Head Stairs is a great and beautiful hike, both at sunrise and sunset, to challenge your fitness against some of the best times that Oʻahu athletes have put up! The Koko Head hike may not be for everyone, as the stairs steeply climb a little under 1,000 ft. in about 0.45 miles.

However, if you’re up for the challenge, the summit makes for a spectacular overlook above southeast Oʻahu, which I highly recommend, either early or late in the day when it’s cooler out.

Delve Into The Hawaiian History At Queen Emma Summer Palace

Situated in the middle of Honolulu, the Queen Emma Summer Palace serves as a tribute to Hawaiian royalty and the enduring elegance of Queen Emma.

This preserved historic site invites visitors to set on a captivating journey through time, offering a glimpse into the historic summer residence of Hawaii’s beloved Queen and a chance to explore the island’s rich royal heritage.

The Queen Emma Summer Palace, a 19th-century dwelling, served as the summer retreat for Queen Emma and her husband, King Kamehameha IV.

The palace provides a peaceful escape from the noise and heat of Honolulu. Apart from that, this tranquil home has also been known to host distinguished royal guests, including the esteemed Duke of Edinburgh.

A visit to this palace is a genuine step back in time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the historical charm of Hawaii’s royal legacy.

Experience a Traditional Luau

Experience a Traditional Luau

If you are in Honululu and are not visiting the traditional luau, your entire trip is a total waste (trust me on this!). No visit to Honolulu is complete without experiencing a traditional Hawaiian luau.

These festive gatherings let you indulge in authentic Hawaiian cuisine, witness unique hula performances, and enjoy live music.

Popular luaus include the Old Lahaina Luau and the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau. However, when booking your tickets to a luau, make sure you go through every review from other travelers.

Some booking companies may take advantage of the tourists and might increase the price. Also, not all luaus are authentic and can be overpriced.

Spend A Peaceful Time At Lyon Arboretum

If you want to experience some serenity, wandering around and relishing some rare tranquility in Honolulu is your go-to activity. Located adjacent to the Moana Falls area, you can easily reach it.

Originally established as a botanical garden in the 1970s, the Lyon Arboretum has evolved into a prominent destination for scientists, excelling in conservation biology, Hawaiian ethnobotany, and horticulture.

You’ll also find a small waterfall inside. The well-marked trails and the wetter conditions allow the waterfall to make a special appearance. This lush tropical rainforest houses a diverse array of plant life native to the Hawaiian Islands.

Take the time to explore the Arboretum’s themed gardens and over 7 miles of hiking trails that wind through the property. A visit here offers a peaceful escape from the bustling atmosphere of Honolulu and is an excellent location for nature photography.

Savor Local Flavors at Farmers’ Markets

Savor Local Flavors at Farmers' Markets

If you want to experience something more local and authentic, going to the farmers’ market can be your best option. Being a resident here, this is one of my favourite destinations in the whole of Honolulu.

Here, you can indulge yourself in the local food scene by visiting one of Honolulu’s farmers’ markets. The KCC Farmers’ Market, held at Kapiolani Community College, is a culinary delight, offering fresh produce, delicious snacks, and unique handmade crafts.

You also get a chance to engage with local farmers and artisans while savoring the diverse flavors of Hawaiian cuisine. And what’s the best part, you can go here with your whole family for an educational and fun time.

The market is put up every Thursday in the afternoon. So, if you are around the area, don’t miss out on this place.

Immerse Yourself in Hawaiian Culture at the Bishop Museum

Honolulu is not just about beaches but is also filled with rich art and history. You can experience this by exploring the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.

The museum boasts an extensive collection of artifacts, artworks, and exhibits, offering a comprehensive insight into the history, traditions, and customs of the Hawaiian people.

As one of the premier natural history museums in the region, the Bishop Museum stands out as an excellent family destination in Oahu.

It provides a scientifically oriented exploration of Hawaii’s history, covering aspects from Polynesian culture to native plant and animal life, including an “active” volcano exhibit and more.

This museum is spread across five major buildings, presenting collections ranging from seashells and fish specimens to an “active” volcano in the Science Adventure Center.

Hike to Diamond Head Crater

Hike to Diamond Head Crater

When in Honolulu, you cannot miss out on hiking the famous Diamond Head Crater. For a panoramic view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean, plan a hike up Diamond Head Crater.

The trail is moderately challenging and takes you through tunnels and stairs, rewarding your efforts with breathtaking vistas.

Sunrise or sunset hikes are particularly popular, offering a magical experience as the sky transforms over Honolulu. I can guarantee that you’ll be awestruck by the spectacular views of the entire island from the top.

Explore The History Of Pearl Harbor

Explore The History Of Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is one of the most popular attractions in Honolulu. And your entire trip will be incomplete if you fail to pay homage to the historic site of Pearl Harbor.

Here, you can explore the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri Battleship, both providing poignant insights into the events of December 7, 1941, and those who fought the Vietnam War.

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum showcases vintage aircraft and exhibits, offering a comprehensive look into this pivotal moment in history from World War II.

Spending your time here will familiarize you with the hardships the local residents and the soldiers went through during the difficult time.

Drive The Scenic H-3 Freeway

If you can, I suggest taking a drive on the pretty H-3 Freeway, even if it’s a bit out of the way! This is one of my personal favorite activities to do.

H-3 is a scenic drive on Oahu, especially if you’re coming from Waikiki. It’s a good choice if you want to explore the east side of Oahu, like Mokolii or the Lanikai Pillboxes.

For this, all you need to have is a rental car. Since the roads might be new to you, take it easy when you drive on the east side of the tunnel. On the way, you might see the famous Stairway to Heaven hike in the Haiku Valley.

The best way to drive on this route is from east to west, especially during a rainy day. That’s something you need to see! I assure you the sight will be the most beautiful one you can see in Hawaii.

Dolphin Snorkeling

Dolphin Snorkeling

While whale sightings in Hawaii are limited to the winter season, the presence of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins can be enjoyed throughout the year, especially on the West Side of Oahu, in my opinion.

The stunning mountain backdrop enhances the experience as you swim in the crystal-clear blue waters, creating a remarkable setting.

However, if you find yourself staying on the North Shore, don’t underestimate the possibility of taking a tour out of Haleiwa. Tours from the North Shore also offer an excellent opportunity for an amazing experience with dolphins, comparable to the West Side.

Visit The China Walls

China Walls is a highly popular sunset spot in east Honolulu, mostly visited by locals, students, and visitors alike.

If you plan to visit for the sunset, be aware that it’s not a secluded spot later in the day due to the crowds. However, if you travel around the little cove to the south, you’ll discover a beautiful reflection pool on the other side, providing an excellent location for sunset photos.

For first-time visitors, I suggest you do not swim at China Walls. The area is significantly dangerous due to open-ocean swell, especially on days with waves.

These swells can crash along the wall, reaching considerable heights and potentially causing harm. It’s a locals-only swimming spot for safety reasons.

While jumping in might seem fun and easy, climbing out can only be done in specific spots and a very particular way, making it trickier than it appears.

Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs)

Stairway to Heaven

You sure might’ve heard of the phrase “Stairway to Heaven,” but here you can actually see it. And honestly, I won’t be doing justice to this list if I fail to mention the infamous Stairway to Heaven.

It’s mostly a hike and a perfect activity for those who are physically fit and want to take in the amazing views of the beautiful island. This can be added to any of your day trips.

The Stairway to Heaven is one of the most captivating attractions on the entire island. It comprises more than 3500 stairs that take you up an imposing mountain ridge, sometimes at an almost vertical incline, with only a handrail preventing a potential fall into the valley below.

Yes, I know, this must be sounding very dramatic, but trust me, there are more difficult hikes out there in Oahu.

Royal Hawaiian Center

If you’re up for some shopping, then you need to visit The Royal Hawaiian Center. It is a famous shopping destination on Oahu, offering a diverse collection of high-end luxury boutiques, top-notch restaurants, cozy island cafes, and unique local stores.

While in Waikiki, you can balance your time between beach activities and exploring the Royal Hawaiian Center. The center is a blend of exclusive shopping and a warm aloha spirit. Here, guests can enjoy dance, music, and Hawaiian traditions while exploring the diverse shopping and dining options the center offers.

It is conveniently located next to Waikiki Beach and is surrounded by more than 30,000 hotel rooms, including some of the finest international and boutique hotel brands. Additionally, there are numerous dining options to choose from.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

If you are planning to visit the famous Hanauma Bay, you should be careful about a few things and make sure to get here on time. The place imposes strict visitor limits to preserve its ecosystem. For exact timings, you can check out here.

Since the place is best known for snorkeling, remember to carry with you a mask, snorkel, and fins to immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters of Hanauma Bay.

You can also witness a vibrant school of butterfly fish gliding beneath you and greet the graceful green sea turtles as you dive down.

As you go beneath the water, you get a chance to appreciate the intricate formations of living coral, exploring Oahu’s accessible marine ecosystem.

Once done, don’t forget to deepen your understanding of their biology and habitat at the Marine Education Center. Don’t forget to book a snorkeling trip for a more immersive and engaging experience.

Have Fun With Animals At Honolulu Zoo

Move away from just bathing in the salty water and resting under the sun. Grab your kids and put on your comfortable shoes to visit the zoo to see some cool animals.

The Honolulu Zoo isn’t very big, but you’ll definitely enjoy spending your time here. The zookeepers here take good care of the entire area along with the different animals that you can see. The zoo is also involved in research, and the exhibits are interesting and easy to understand.

It’s only a short drive of 0.8 miles from Waikiki Beach to the zoo. When you enter the Honolulu Zoo, you’ll see colorful flamingos right away.

There are also over 160 other types of tropical birds with bright feathers. If you keep walking, you’ll also see reptiles up close, like Komodo dragons, crocodiles, and iguanas. After that, check out the giraffes, meerkats, cheetahs, and aardvarks for more fun with animals.

Sail On The Ocean Makani Catamaran Sails

Sail On The Ocean Makani Catamaran Sails

Looking for an interesting experience in the Pacific Ocean? Hop on a highly-rated Oahu sunset boat tour that lasts for 2 hours and comes with fun and free drinks.

This cruise gives you a great experience with an island-style dinner and a free drink while enjoying the sunset.

Sailing on this boat, you can chill and feel like you’re truly on a relaxing vacation. But don’t get too lost in the beauty around you. Always keep an eye out for sea creatures during the sail, such as various tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine life.

If you prefer some daylight, there’s also a daytime sail option known for spotting dolphins, sea birds, and whales. There are several boat tours you can find that will offer you a sail at quite a reasonable price.

For a fun nightlife, you can book a sunset dinner cruise and enjoy the taste of some local cuisines. You can also choose from a variety of drinks, such as beer or tropical cocktails, at the open bar as you sail away.

Explore The Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is a popular destination that many tourists visit while on their trip to Honolulu. It’s a unique destination for many due to it being the only U.S. state with its own monarchy.

If you want to get an in-depth exploration of Hawaii’s history and the stories of its royal families, a visit to Iolani Palace is a must. The palace was the residence of the last two Hawaiian monarchs and also stands out for its royal decor and classic furnishings, offering a journey back in time.

This meticulously restored building now functions as a museum, providing insights into the lives of the final rulers of the Hawaiian Kingdom, with a particular focus on nineteenth-century art and architecture.

The palace offers both indoor and outdoor spaces to explore, ensuring you experience the entire grandeur of the palace and its surroundings.

Make sure to check out any free events hosted by Iolani Palace, as they often contribute to the cultural richness of the experience.


What transportation options are available in Honolulu for tourists?

To travel around in Honolulu, you can get bus for public transportation. There are also some bike sharing options you can look into. However, if you want to travel more privately, you can easily rent a car, scooter or any other vehicle.

Are there any events or festivals in Honolulu that I should know about?

Yes, there are certain festivals that are celebrated by the residents. These are: Honolulu Festival celebrated in March, Lantern Floating Hawaii celebrated on the Memorial Day, King Kamehameha Day Celebration in June and Aloha Festivals in September.

What shopping options are available in Honolulu?

For shopping you can visit Ala Moana Center, one of the largest outdoor shopping malls where you can shop from luxury brands as well. International Market Place in Waikiki that have a lot of options to choose from and Waikiki Beach Walk for boutique shops and restaurants.

Make The Most Of Your Time In Honolulu!

Honolulu offers a wide variety of activities beyond the sun-soaked beaches, making it a vibrant and captivating destination. It’s blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and recreational offerings ensures a memorable and fulfilling experience for every visitor.

So, whether you’re strolling through Ala Moana Beach Park, attending a sunset boat tour, or delving into the unique charm of China Walls, Honolulu is sure to leave you with unforgettable adventures.


  • Elizabeth L

    Aloha! I’m Elizabeth L. At LiveYourAloha, I am responsible for writing about sightseeing tours and Hawaiian culture. For the last 12 years, I’ve been working as a tour guide in Hawaii. It’s been a great way to see the world and learn about new cultures. I love nature and the outdoors, and have even climbed two of the world’s highest peaks! Making connections and showing my visitors the incredible beauty of these beautiful islands is a passion of mine. When I’m not out giving tours, you’ll likely find me on an invigorating hike or enjoying local cuisine on the beach.