Top 10 Things to do in Honolulu
Honolulu is the state capitol of Hawaii, located on the picturesque island of Oahu. It is one of my favorite destinations in Hawaii because it offers something for everyone – you can relax and bronze at one of the many beautiful beaches, you will never go hungry with so many incredible spots to try, and there are plenty of activities for the more adventurous type, from surfing to hiking to kayaking. Here’s a roundup of our 10 favorite spots to visit on your next trip.
1. Start your day at the Sunrise Shack
2. Visit Waikiki Beach
First things first, right? This is hands down THE most popular thing to do in Waikiki. Kuhio Beach is the most popular stretch of Waikiki and for good reason…the conditions are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beginner surfing. Also, don’t miss the famous bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku, Olympic Champion and known as the “father of surfing”. Surfing has a long and rich history in Hawaii and Waikiki was the birthplace of it all. Waikiki beach has the ideal conditions for beginners with small and steady waves, and you can book a lesson on the spot and rent a board there.
3. Mai Tais at Sunset
Sunsets on Waikiki are pretty magical. You can watch from the beach for free, or venture up to a resort poolside bar for a special treat. Duke’s (at the Outrigger) is THE place to go for sunset drinks/dinner in Waikiki, but House without a Key (at the Halekulani) and Mai Tai Bar (at the Royal Hawaiian) are also pretty noteworthy.
4. Take in the stunning views from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is one of the most picturesque and pleasant Oahu hiking trails. Throughout the climb, the views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach,and its surrounding residential neighborhoods will take your breath away. This is a moderate 1 hour to 90 minute hike (roundtrip), depending how far you decide to go (you can reach the first old military pillbox bunker in about 20 to 30 minutes). If you’re looking for an easier alt, Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail is a 2.5 mile paved trail that also gives you gorgeous views.
5. Cool down with a shaved ice
This is an absolutely must do when you are on the island. You haven’t had shaved ice like this before – it is the thinnest melt-in-your-mouth powder and pair that with delicious tropical flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit), lychee, and mango or go for a classic natural flavor like vanilla or root beer! One of my favorites that has been around since 1940 (!!) is Waiola Shave Ice.
6. Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Hawaii of today has a lot of Polynesian influence, and ther are many hands-on activities you can experience, including a luau with Hawaiian food and entertainment and a fire show at the theater after dinner. You can buy an all-day ticket that includes admission for both the daytime activities and evening activities. See more.
7. Start your weekend at the KCC Farmer’s Market
We love the Farmer’s Market at Kapiʻolani Community College. It is only open on Saturday’s but it is filled with so many incredible local vendors, making it the perfect spot to grab breakfast or lunch, shop for local fruit or flowers, and find gift like chocolate or honey while supporting small businesses. If you’re ambitious, do a sunrise hike at Diamond Head (which is right next to this). Some of our favorite stands included the Musubi MuSushi spot (so many types of musubi, $2.50 each) and the handmade Strawberry Mochi.
8. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
This is a popular spot, but for good reason. Hanauma Bay is still one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii. It’s largely protected from the ocean and the reef is home to a huge range of species. It’s also a perfectly idyllic beach to wile away the day. Because it’s a nature preserve, there’s only a limited number of people allowed into the bay everyday and they close the parking lot when it reaches capacity so you’ll have to arrive pretty early to get in. Near the parking lot is an overlook area that’s popular with the tourists and from this point is where you’ll pay your entrance fee (about $12/person) and watch a film about conservation efforts in the bay.
9. Shop and shop some more
Waikiki has this big city feel and the main drag in Waikiki (Kalakaua Avenue) is where you’ll find high end stores like Tiffany’s, the famous ABC stores (think last minute snorkeling gear, snacks and souvenirs, and booze), surf-inspired shops, the iconic Honolulu Cookie Company (perfect for gifts!), one of the prettiest outdoor malls at Royal Hawaiian Center. The Royal Hawaiian Center has daily free Hawaiian music and Hula shows at the stage in the Royal Grove. Also, don’t miss the Ala Moana Center. It’s the most decadent shopping destination on Oahu and an attraction in itself with over 350 stores and restaurants to explore.
10. Explore the beautiful North Shore
North Shore is an oasis where you can escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and truly experience the laid back island vibe. Just a 45 minute drive from Waikiki, it’s the perfect way to spend a day or you can take the scenic route along the coast. On your way is also the famous Dole plantation. Once there, be sure to check out the legendary Matsumoto Shave Ice, Haleiwa bowls, and Giovanni’s Shrimp truck. Be on the lookout for turtles when you’re swimming and if you’re lucky, you might see some world-class surfing if a big swell rolls in.