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Honolulu (specifically Waikiki) is the hub of tourism in Hawaii and for good reason, there’s no shortage of things to do! Here are 31 things to do in Waikiki & Honolulu:
1.Hike Diamond Head: This is probably the most iconic thing to do in Waikiki. It’s a mild hike and only takes about 30 minutes to get to the top but once you do you’ll have a fabulous view of Waikiki and Honolulu. Go early since there’s no shade. It’s $5/car to drive in (if there’s space available), and $1/person to walk in.
2.Waikiki Beach: This is what you came to Hawaii for, right? Even though it’s shoulder-to-shoulder people, hitting the beach is 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 and sunbathing.
3.Chinatown: Spend a few hours exploring Chinatown’s markets, lei shops, and bar and restaurant scene. Don’t miss the Pig and the Lady.
4.Duke Statue: The famous bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku (Olympic Champion and the “father of surfing”) is a must see on Waikiki.
5.Pearl Harbor: Really if there’s one “not to be missed experience” on Oahu, visiting Pearl Harbor is it. Get tickets here in advance to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Tickets to the Arizona Memorial are free but limited.
6.Iolani Palace: The only royal residency in the United States, touring Iolani Palace is will give you a great history lesson. Guided tours are $21.75/adult and $6/child. Self-guided audio tours are $14.25/adult and $6/child. 4 and under are free.
7.Aloha Swap Meet: This swap meet/flea market held on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at Aloha Stadium is the perfect place to do your souvenir shopping. Admission is $1/person.
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8.Foster Botanical Garden: Honolulu’s oldest botanical garden is located near Chinatown and is home to some amazing tropical plants. Admission is $5/adult. Find more information here.
9.Waikiki Aquarium: The Waikiki Aquarium is a great place to get an up close look at local marine life, especially if you have kids. Admission is $12/adult and $5/child.
10.Honolulu Zoo: If you’re looking for a way to entertain the kids, the Honolulu Zoo has a pretty good collection of animals. Admission is $14/adult and $6/child.
11.Honolulu Museum of Art: You may not think art when you think Hawaii, but this museum has a surprisingly diverse collection. Admission is $20/adult. 18 and under are free. Admission is free on the first Wednesday and third Sunday of every month.
12.Shangri La: This may be the most unexpected surprise on Oahu. Previously Doris Duke’s Honolulu home, it now houses her extensive collection of Islamic art. The property may only be seen via guided tour from the Honolulu Museum of Art. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday. Tours last 2.5 hours (1.5 hours onsite and an hour at the museum) and cost $25 (that includes admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art). Reserve in advance here.
13.Punchbowl: The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (nicknamed the Punchbowl) which was built in 1948 to serve as a final resting place for members of the US Armed Forces who lost their lives in WWII lays in the dormant volcano Pouwaina, which means “hill of sacrifice.”
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14.Halona Blowhole: Just east of Honolulu, this blowhole is easily accessible from a viewing platform at a turnout in the highway. The drive from Honolulu along this coast is amazing.
15.Hanauma Bay: Oahu’s most popular snorkeling spot is just a quick bus ride from Honolulu. It’s $7.50 to snorkel in this pristine bay (it’s a nature preserve) and you can rent snorkel gear for another $12.50. Parking is $1 but it fills up early. It’s open from 6AM-6PM, but closed on Tuesdays.
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16.Makapu’u Point Trail: If you’re out by Hanauma Bay and Halona Blowhole, consider doing this 2 mile round trip hike. It’s a pretty steep climb but completely paved and you’re rewarded with gorgeous views.
17.Ala Moana Shopping Center: This is the most decadent shopping destination on Oahu and an attraction in itself. Even if you’re not in the market for designer/luxury brands, it’s a sight to see. And surprisingly, the food court is a world class international destination.
18.Hawaii Food Tours: This epic 5 hour “Hole-in-the-Wall” tour takes food lovers all over Honolulu for “local-style comfort foods of Hawaii.” Tours are $129/person and they pick up in Waikiki.
19.Hike Kokohead: If you thought Diamondhead was a workout, wait until you hike to the top of the extinct volcano, Kokohead. This is the lesser known/done hike of the two, but perfect for those who love a challenge.
20.Leonard’s: Leonard’s malasadas (Portuguese style donuts) are Hawaii famous and while you may spot their truck around the island or see them sold at other restaurants, a pilgrimage to the original bakery is a must for any foodie.
21.Bishop Museum: The Bishop Museum is one of Oahu’s best kept secrets. The Hawaiian and Polynesian Halls are first class Smithsonian quality exhibits and a visit here is a “don’t miss” for museum lovers or anyone who wants to learn about Hawaiian history and culture. Admission is $22.95 and the museum is open everyday.
22.Farmer’s Markets: For a taste of local life, visit the Honolulu Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings from 4-7 (held on the lawn of the Blaisdell Concert Hall) or KCC Farmers Market on Saturday mornings from 7:30AM – 11:00AM and Tuesday evenings from 4:00 – 7:00PM (held across from the entrance to Diamond Head.
23.Surf Lessons on Waikiki Beach: Taking surf lessons on Waikiki is such a classic thing to do (did anybody else watch Gidget Goes Hawaiian growing up?), and it’s actually a great place to learn. Book a lesson with Waikiki Beach Services.
24.Eggs ‘n Things: One of Waikiki’s most popular breakfast spots, either get there early or be prepared to wait in line!
25.Rainbow Drive-In: Opened in 1961, this famous counter service spot services up delicious plate lunches.
26.Outrigger Canoe Ride: Besides surfing, this is the most culturally significant water sport in Hawaii. Dozens of companies will offer one or two wave rides right off Waikiki Beach.
27.Architectural Walking Tour: Take a break from the beach and learn about historic downtown Honolulu with Architectural Walking Tours. The 2.5-hour tour is held on Saturday mornings and costs $15/person. Make reservations here.
28.Waiola Shaved Ice: Considered to be the best shave ice in Honolulu (and a favorite of the Obamas) the Moiliili location is the longest running shaved ice store on the island.
29.Lyon Arboretum: Part of the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, the Lyon Arboretum is situated in a lush rainforest setting in Manoa Valley. It’s worth a trip if you’re a nature lover. The arboretum is closed on Sundays and there is a suggested $5/person donation.
30.Sunset Cruise: Go out on a catamaran for a different perspective on Waikiki. While companies offer cruises all day, a sunset cruise is a must. Book your cruise with Na Hoku II here.
31.House without a Key: For a great evening of pupus, drinks, and live Hawaiian music and dancing, definitely check out House without a Key.
P.S. Want in on a money saving secret? Check out the Go Oahu Card! This 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7-day all-inclusive card will get you admission to some of the most popular spots on the island including the Polynesian Cultural Center, Kualoa Ranch, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor attractions, Dole Plantation, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, snorkeling excursions and more! If you’re planning to do one or two big experiences, this card could save you quite a bit of money. Purchase it here.
Also, if you’re looking for absolutely everything you could ever want to know about Oahu, I highly recommend ordering the Oahu Revealed guidebook (this is an affiliate link which means if you choose to purchase I’ll make a little money). It’s worth its weight in your backpack just for its directions on finding hidden beaches, waterfalls, and trail heads. Seriously, I never would’ve found half of my favorite spots on Oahu without it.
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