15 Essential places to visit in Honolulu, Hawaii

Top tourist attractions in Honolulu, HI.

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, and as such, it’s a major tourist destination. When people think of Honolulu, they most often think of Waikiki Beach, one of Hawaii’s most famous beaches.

The beach is one of the best in the state, and if you plan on visiting Honolulu at some point, it’s a good idea to check out Waikiki Beach.

Another top tourist attraction in Honolulu is the Bishop Museum.

This museum is dedicated to the history and culture of Hawaii and Polynesia, so if you’re interested in learning about these subjects, then this museum is for you.

Places to visit in Honolulu

Also worth checking out are the Iolani Palace (the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs from 1845 to 1893), Diamond Head Crater (an extinct volcanic crater on the southeast side of Oahu), Ala Moana Center Mall (Oahu’s largest shopping center), and Honolulu Zoo (which houses more than 1,000 animals).

Top 15 things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii

  1. Ala Moana Center
  2. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
  3. Diamond Head State Monument
  4. Duke’s Waikiki
  5. Battleship Missouri Memorial
  6. Honolulu Zoo
  7. International Market Place
  8. Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
  9. Ala Moana Regional Park
  10. Moana Surfrider A Westin Resort & Spa Waikiki Beach
  11. Sea Life Park Hawaii
  12. Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
  13. Fort DeRussy Beach Park
  14. Kapiʻolani Regional Park
  15. Iolani Palace
tourist attractions in Honolulu
Tourist attractions in Honolulu

Honolulu, the capital of Hawai’i and the largest city in the state, is a beautiful metropolis full of natural wonders.

Often called “The Gathering Place,” Honolulu is home to a vibrant, multicultural community filled with people worldwide.

As a major metropolitan city, Honolulu is a product of its environment.

One of the best things about the island of Oahu is that it’s home to all these unique places—the beach, the mountains, and the ocean.

You can be in a village on one end of the island one day, then drive 20 minutes to find yourself in a palm tree-lined suburb, then another 30 minutes to find yourself at an isolated beach.

Then, you can move back to town, stop at the grocery store to pick up some snacks for your mountain trip, and make it into the hills in time for sunset.

places to visit in Honolulu
Places to visit in Honolulu

You can find it downtown if you’re looking for a fast-paced city life with shopping, entertainment, and nightlife.

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However, plenty of spots throughout Oahu will suit your tastes if you want to relax and enjoy nature.

Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air retail center in Hawaii. It has over 2.2 million square feet of shopping space and is home to 350 stores and services, offering everything from designer clothes to shoes, electronics, and a food court.

The mall first opened in August 1959. The name Ala Moana translates to “pathway to the sea” and was chosen for its location on the former site of a Hawaiian fishpond, where they gathered to fish for trade with other islands.

Ala Moana Center
Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana has over ten anchor stores, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Target, along with several restaurants, including Foodland Farms, Morton’s The Steakhouse, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

In addition, the mall frequently hosts special events like trunk shows and holiday displays that are popular with locals and tourists.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial commemorates the lives lost on December 7th, 1941, when Japan attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor and effectively pulled the United States into World War II.

Visiting the memorial is like visiting a cemetery—it’s a place to reflect and honor those who died, but more importantly, it’s a place to honor their memory.

There are two ways to get there: take a ferry from Honolulu Harbor or drive directly there by taking the H-1 freeway. The ferry stop is located right next to the visitor center.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Pearl Harbor National Memorial

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial Museum is open every day of the year except for December 25th and January 1st, and it’s free of charge.

The exhibits cover both sides of World War II in addition to other topics such as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and Operation Hawaii—the Japanese attack plan for Pearl Harbor.

One thing that struck me about the exhibits was how personal they were.

Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument is a volcanic crater and one of Honolulu’s most popular tourist destinations.

It’s on the southeastern coast of Oahu, Hawaii, and contains an enormous green hole. Diamond Head Crater was formed when molten lava from the Koolau volcano penetrated the soft sedimentary rock on the southeast side of Oahu.

The lava is believed to have flowed into Honolulu Bay and down the volcano’s southeast flank, creating a significant landslide as it moved into the water.

The landslide left an enormous depression that eventually filled with rainwater and became a freshwater lake or pond. After the pond dried up, trees and other vegetation grew in this area.

Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head State Monument

According to legend, Hawaiian chief Kapua’e found his wife, who had run away from him, hiding with another man.

He killed them both using a spear made from a diamond head-encrusted rock from the crater walls and threw their bodies over the cliff into the ocean below.

This story later became known as “The Legend of Diamond Head.”

Duke’s Waikiki

Duke’s Waikiki is a bar and restaurant located at 2335 Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is a popular destination for tourists and residents of the area. The restaurant serves seafood, steak, pasta, and pizza.

Duke’s Waikiki is a great place to eat and drink on the beach, as it’s located on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. It has a great menu, with some of the best seafood I’ve had in a long time.

The service is impeccable, always making you feel welcome. The atmosphere is fun, with various people, from tourists to locals.

Duke’s Waikiki
Duke’s Waikiki

It’s also an excellent place to go for happy hour. One of my favorite things about Duke’s is that it offers live music every night for dinner service, which makes for a lovely ambiance and adds to the fun experience at this restaurant.

Battleship Missouri Memorial

The battleship Missouri has a lot of history. From 1944 to 1998, it was a warship and became a museum ship in Hawaii. The USS Missouri served in World War II and the Korean War.

It is famous as the site of signing the Surrender Documents on September 2nd, 1945, ending World War II. It was named the “Mighty Mo” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said this when he saw how big it was.

Battleship Missouri Memorial
Battleship Missouri Memorial

The battleship Missouri is decommissioned, meaning they no longer use it for military service. However, decommissioned ships are usually kept just as they were when they were used in battle so that people can visit them and learn about their history.

Many people visit Mighty Mo to research or find information about relatives who served her during her service years.

Some people come to see it because their father or grandfather served on her, and they are interested in seeing where their loved one worked and lived for many years.

Find things to do in Honolulu, HI, and make the most of your visit

Hawaii is a beautiful place to visit. The best way to enjoy your trip is to come prepared with an open mind and a list of things you want to do.

If you’re unsure where to start, here are my tips for making the most of your Hawaii trip.

The first thing you should do when planning a trip to Hawaii is map out your daily itinerary. When I visited Oahu, I set aside time daily for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, other beach activities, hiking, and exploring the island.

I also scheduled some “me” time—to relax at the beach or by the pool and read a book (or ten). It gave me structure and helped me make the most of my time off the beaten path.

things to do in Honolulu
Things to do in Honolulu

Don’t forget that there’s more to Hawaii than beaches and water sports! One of the best parts about visiting Honolulu is the diversity of its landscape.

There’s something for everyone here: from museums to shopping malls, from an aquarium to concerts at a local park. So, it’s easy to fill your days with activities without leaving Waikiki Beach!

Soaring Above Honolulu: The Thrill of Helicopter Tours

For those who have explored the attractions, streets, beaches, and shopping centers, there’s another, more thrilling way to experience Honolulu and Oahu.

Helicopter tours offer an unparalleled perspective of the island’s diverse landscapes, from the bustling cityscape to the tranquil ocean vistas.

Honolulu helicopter tours are popular for those looking to capture the city’s essence from above.

These aerial adventures provide breathtaking views of iconic landmarks, including Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, and Pearl Harbor. It’s an experience that adds a whole new dimension to the concept of sightseeing in Honolulu.

But why stop at the city limits? Oahu helicopter tours extend the journey to the island, offering a comprehensive aerial experience.

From the volcanic craters and lush valleys to the hidden waterfalls and secluded beaches, these tours showcase the island’s natural beauty in all its glory.

So, if you’re looking to elevate your Honolulu experience, literally and figuratively, helicopter tours are a must-try.

They offer a unique vantage point that few other attractions can match, making them a memorable addition to any Oahu itinerary.

Conclusion

Though Honolulu is a large city, there are plenty of scenic locations to explore on foot or by car.

And thanks to the moderate weather and pleasant pace of life in Hawaii, it’s easy to feel content with taking things slow while you explore the lush greenery surrounding the city.

So whether your trip is only a quick stopover or you plan to stay awhile, explore my list of essential places to visit in Honolulu.

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