Hey there, fellow adventurers! So, you’ve just arrived on the cruise ships dock at the Honolulu Cruise Port, and you’re ready to dive into the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes that Hawaii has to offer.
Lucky for you, the area around the port is filled with popular destinations and lots of exciting activities. Without further ado, let’s dive in to see some fantastic things to do near the Cruise Port!
Visit The Royal Iolani Palace
If you are up for some royal experience and exploration, don’t forget to visit America’s only Royal palace, Iolani Palace. It is situated in downtown Honolulu and was built by King David Kalakaua, famously known as the “Merry Monarch.” This was once a royal residence for the royal family.
This lavish four-story palace is designed in the Renaissance style and is a gem listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And guess what? This was the first building in Hawaii with electricity, featuring flush toilets and even an intercom system! How cool is that!
For a tour around the palace, you can grab tickets at the entrance. You can choose between a self-guided tour or join group guided tours. It’s a must-see destination for all those visiting Honolulu.
Plus, it’s conveniently located near the State Capitol building, the governor’s home, and the King Kamehameha statue, which are all within walking distance.
They are open from Tuesday to Saturday between 9 AM and 4 PM, so plan your trip accordingly if you are planning to include this in your itinerary.
Explore The Ala Moana Center
Ala Moana Shopping Center is Hawaii’s gigantic shopping place! When we say gigantic, we genuinely mean it as the center is huge.
It has more than 290 stores and restaurants waiting for you to explore. And you’re not just limited only to shopping. You can find movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades – you name it, they’ve got it. Spend your day here, go on a shopping spree, and treat yourself to some tasty food at the restaurant.
If you are looking for more excitement, head to Ala Moana Beach Park. You’ll find a sunny sandy beach right across from the famous Ala Moana Mall. And what’s the cool part – lots of surfers come here to ride the waves. Paddle a bit, catch some surf, and trust me, it’s super fun!
Just a quick tip to remember—finding a parking spot might be a bit tricky during the weekends. So, maybe plan for a weekday exploration!
Spend A Day Sunbathing At Waikiki Beach
Located just 3 miles from the Honolulu cruise port is the famous Waikiki Beach. After a tiring cruise trip, this can be the perfect place to relax and soak in the beauty of this 2-mile stretch of white sand.
The beach is nestled on the south shore of Oahu with calm waters that are perfect for a refreshing swim, snorkeling adventure, or even trying your hand at paddleboarding. The place is heaven for those interested in surfing, as it has an excellent spot to catch some waves. If you prefer a more laid-back vibe, you can simply sunbathe and enjoy your time doing nothing.
As you walk around, you’ll come across shops offering local souvenirs, classy hotels, and tempting restaurants. It’s a great place for shopping, grabbing a delicious lunch, and catching some entertaining hula dance shows.
And while you’re here, don’t forget to snap some photos with the stunning backdrop of Diamond Crater Head – it’s an awesome opportunity for a memorable shot!
Travel Around The City
Road trips around the city are also a great option to discover the ins and outs of Honolulu, Hawaii, and are the quickest way to get your bearings!
There are tons of private tours options to choose from, each offering a unique experience. Some tours drop you off at Pearl Harbor, others stroll through the historic district, and some hit up the coolest island attractions.
On our trip, we just hopped on the Waikiki Trolley Company’s open-air double-decker buses. They’ve got color-coded routes to make things super easy. See this for a detailed bus route and schedule.
Moving ahead, if you’re up for some exciting, fun time, consider the Grand Circle Tour. This sightseeing extravaganza treats you to jaw-dropping views of the coastline and rugged mountainsides.
By booking a private tour, you can soak in all the beauty and culture of Hawaii in just a few hours. If you can, try staying to grab the amazing night sight of the stunning island. You’ll can stop by famous surfing spots, soak in the vibes at cultural sites, and even visit pineapple plantations.
Visit Pearl Harbor And Learn About Its History
Pearl Harbour is not very far from Honolulu Harbor, and you can conveniently visit it if you’ve added Waikiki Beach to your list.
A trip to Pearl Harbour is just a short 30-minute drive from the Waikiki Beach. Pearl Harbour is a National Historic Landmark and a solemn memorial commemorating the Japanese aerial attack on December 7, 1941.
The place pays homage to the pearl oysters that were once abundant in the bay, making it the largest natural harbor in Hawaii. We signed up for a walking tour around Pearl Harbour to know more deeply about the place. It is open all throughout the week and welcomes guests from 7 AM to 5 PM.
As the tour begins, you’ll come across the poignant historic sites within Pearl Harbor—the USS Arizona memorial. This is constructed directly over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona Battleship.
You’ll be shown a reel of the unfortunate events of the early morning attack on the battleship. After you’re done with the film, a shuttle boat ride will transport you to the open-air, floating USS Arizona memorial.
Tickets can be snagged right at the park entrance, ensuring you have the opportunity to explore even more of this historically significant and moving site.
Have A Snorkel Session At Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is the perfect place to visit to experience the thrill of exploration and appreciate the beauty of the natural aquatic world.
I personally enjoyed this tour as I was able to be up close with some incredible aquatic creatures! Situated right on the south coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve calls all cruise passengers on a 26-minute drive to experience a total paradise vibe.
When you’re snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, you’ll be surrounded by turquoise waters, coral reefs, and swaying palm trees. Hanauma Preserve protects delicate marine life in the bay, so you’ll be able to see some unique creatures.
Nearby, you’ll find a park where tourists can learn more about natural wildlife preservation. But make sure to be on time here as they limit the number of visitors inside.
See Colorful Fish At The Waikiki Aquarium
Make sure to include a visit to this aquarium in your Honolulu itinerary for an immersive exploration of marine life. With its exotic selection of tropical sea life, it promises to intrigue visitors and is conveniently located close to the port.
Established in 1904, this esteemed facility, located along the Waikiki coastline, is not just about entertainment—it’s on a mission to educate visitors and contribute to the preservation of delicate marine species.
This aquarium boasts fascinating exhibits that provide insights into Hawaiian aquatic species, interactive displays for hands-on learning, and a chance to get up close to coral reefs.
You’ll also see a variety of fish, eels, sharks, and turtles, and even the mysterious chambered nautilus, a relative of squids and octopi.
Visit Oahu’s North Shore
Situated 32 miles from Honolulu Harbor, Oahu’s North Shore is a stunning destination for which you can rent a car or hire a private shuttle.
Don’t forget to tag along your surfing boards because what you’re heading to is the surfing capital of the world. The North Shore stretches over seven miles, where beaches transform into the epicenter of world-championship surfing competitions during the winter.
If you are visiting the place during fall, get ready for high waves towering 30 feet or more to make your surfing session more exciting. However, if visiting during summer, you can expect smaller waves.
Don’t forget to visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center – Hawaii’s grandest tourist attraction. Here, you’ll find replicas of Polynesian villages, along with tour guides sharing their cultural heritage through traditional dress, arts and crafts, and captivating storytelling.
With the plethora of sights and activities, one day on Oahu may feel like a tease – there’s just so much to explore, taste, and experience in this tropical paradise.
Be Up Close With The Hawaiian Culture At The Polynesian Cultural Center
Don’t forget to hop off at this stop—we bet this destination will be the star of your Oahu adventure! When in the Hawaiian islands, you must find a way to explore the tradition and culture of the place. The Polynesian Cultural Centre is just the right place for you to experience that.
Located 31.5 miles away from Honolulu port and 32.9 miles from Oahu cruise port, this cultural center is a living museum where six villages represent the different Hawaii islands. You can dance, have authentic food, watch their live music performance, wear traditional clothes, and take part in different Hawaiian activities.
Whether it is lighting a fire from two wooden sticks or weaving palm leaves, you can learn all that here. You can also join a hula dancing lesson. There’s just so much to learn here. It’s like a one-stop shop to learn about Hawaii and other Polynesian islands.
The tickets for here are valid for up to 3 days, so you can buy the tickets once and then go on exploring the center within those 3 days. Three days might feel like a whirlwind, but trust me, you’re in for something truly enchanting. The magic of it all is bound to leave you wanting more.
Hike To The Top Of Diamond Head Crater
This short 7-mile trip from the cruise port is the best place to hike the volcanic summit. You can take a tour and hike up to the famous Diamond Head Crater—an iconic volcanic wonder that used to be a real live volcano.
This place is a big deal in Oahu, and you can see it from almost everywhere in Honolulu, giving the town an impressive backdrop.
If you want to claim you’ve really been to Honolulu, this is a must-visit spot. The hike might throw in a bit of a challenge here and there, but guess what? It’s all paved, making it a smooth journey. Plan for about 30 minutes to hike to the top and soak in the breathtaking views.
Getting there is a breeze. You can walk, drive, or hop on a bus or the green Waikiki Trolley that drops you off at the crater’s tunnels. There’s free parking outside the tunnels, but if you want to park inside the crater itself, it’ll set you back $5. The park charges $1 for walkers and $5 for cars.
From the top, you’ll catch sight of the Ko’olau mountains, popular beaches like Waikiki Beach, the vast Pacific, and even a peek at the Koko Crater.
Visit The Pali Point Lookout
Located just 7.3 miles from Downtown Honolulu, it’s a quick 15-minute ride to reach the Pali Lookout from the Honolulu cruise terminal. The lookout point is best for nature lovers as they witness an awe-inspiring view filled with the beauty of this historical and picturesque spot!
Pali is packed with history. This is where King Kamehameha I clinched the victory in the 1795 battle, uniting the Hawaiian islands.
Perched 1000 feet above sea level, this cliff provides a panoramic bird’s eye view of Oahu’s stunning landscape. This place is perfect for capturing stunning photos and diving into various activities like fishing and kayaking.
Take in the sights of Waikiki, the majestic Ko’olau cliffs, and the lush windward side of the island. On the right of the Pali Lookout, catch a glimpse of the Kailua base, while on the left, feast your eyes on Kaneohe Bay, which is adorned with charming little islands.
Get Up Close With The Hawaiian History At The Bishop Museum
Being Hawaii’s largest and most esteemed museum, the Bishop Museum is your go-to for Hawaiian history, conveniently close to the port.
The museum was established in 1889 to house Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s family treasures. This museum has transformed into Hawaii’s go-to spot for all cruise ship passengers to explore the cultural and natural histories of the region.
The museum accounts for millions of artifacts and guides you through a captivating journey across the islands’ history. You can engage in exhibits and multimedia displays that cover a wide range of topics, offering a complete picture of Hawaii.
The museum also houses a planetarium, adding a cosmic touch to your exploration. Just make sure to check online about which hall to explore, or simply spend an entire day soaking up the fascinating history.
Watch The Whales
Don’t miss out on the thrill of watching whales in Honolulu, Hawaii! The southern coast of the island is a prime spot to catch a glimpse of the majestic humpback whales, also known as Kohola.
The place is best to visit between December and April as you can witness these creatures visit Hawaii’s warm waters for mating and calving.
To make the most of this experience, consider chartering a whale-watching cruise. As you sail along the coastline of Honolulu, you’ll have the perfect vantage point to observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat. It’s a fantastic addition to your list of things to do on a cruise ship while exploring Oahu!
Hike Up The Koko Crater Trail On A Train
This is a unique adventure on an old railway line that zigzags its way from the bottom to the top of the crater. The place was constructed by the military for transporting goods and supplies but is now a popular hiking spot for tourists exploring Honolulu.
The hike at Koko is known as one of the toughest on the island. As you make your way up the crater, get ready for jaw-dropping views of Hanauma Bay and the Honolulu shoreline.
Finally, after reaching the top, you can see the Koko Botanical Garden. If you love horses, you can come across some friendly horses chilling inside the crater.
Explore The Underwater With Atlantis Submarine Adventure
To try something new, dive into a one-of-a-kind oceanic adventure aboard the world’s largest recreational submarine! The submarine descends 100 feet beneath the ocean’s surface so you can witness the captivating sight of underwater nature right before your eyes.
The dive site is located within sight of the iconic Leahi (Diamond Head), and it’s a hotspot for green sea turtles, sharks, yellow tangs, eels, and a variety of other underwater marine life.
Apart from that, you can also catch a glimpse of the sunken ships, remnants of hurricane-swept airliners, pyramid structures, and other objects, creating a thriving ecosystem on the Atlantis reef.
It is a must-try experience, for an up-close encounter with Hawaii’s marine wonders.
What are the top attractions near the Honolulu Cruise Port?
Some of the top attractions near the Cruise Port include the Ala Moana Center, Royal Iolani Palace, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, Oahu’s North Shore, Polynesian Cultural Center, Diamond Head Crater, Pali Point Lookout, Whale Watching, Waikiki Aquarium, and the Bishop Museum.
What is the best time for whale watching in Honolulu?
Whale watching in Honolulu is best between December and April when humpback whales visit Hawaii’s warm waters for mating and calving.
How can I explore the city of Honolulu quickly?
Taking a city tour is the quickest way to explore Honolulu and get your bearings. Various tours, including those by the Waikiki Trolley Company or a private tour company, offer guided experiences to different parts of the city.
Explore The City At Your Own Pace!
As you get off the cruise ship at Honolulu Port, you’re ready for an exciting adventure exploring Hawaii’s beauty and culture. The lively area has lots of things to do, ensuring your visit is memorable. And whether you love history, shopping, or nature, Honolulu Port has something special for everyone.