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Honolulu, Hawaii: A Modern City Rich in Culture, History and Fun

Rooted in authentic Hawaiian tradition and home to a melting pot of ethnicities, Honolulu is a modern city with a unique blend of cultures that serves as state capital and a gateway to the Hawaiian Islands.

You can tour the historic downtown area, surf world-famous Waikiki Beach, shop in world-class stores, hike breathtaking coastal cliffs of and dine at five-star restaurants. Best of all, you can do all of this in the same day.

Must-See Scenery

Diamond Head is an extinct volcano southeast of Honolulu near the Kahala and Kaimuki neighborhoods. The iconic cone is popular with hikers and photographers, who gain a view of the entire leeward coast of Oahu. You’ll find the white sands of Waikiki Beach inviting and its calm waters perfect for surfing lessons. Beach kiosks will offer equipment and varying-length lessons, as will many hotels.

Historic Landmarks

Plan to take a tour of Iolani Palace, the sole royal residence on U.S. soil. The palace served as the home for Hawaii’s last two monarchs. Cross the street to see the bronze King Kamehameha statue, which memorializes the monarch who unified the Hawaiian Islands.

Pearl Harbor, the joint military base west of Honolulu, is an emotional site and a National Historic Landmark. Daily tours are given of the USS Arizona Memorial, a battleship sunk in the 1941 attack. The 10-story Aloha Tower was erected in 1926 to welcome passenger ships arriving at Honolulu Harbor. Shop at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, a harborside complex of stores and restaurants. And greeting you with open arms at Waikiki Beach, the Duke Kahanamoku statue memorializes the Olympic medal-winning swimmer and surfer who popularized the sport worldwide.

Local Flavor

The neighborhoods of Honolulu are rich with tastes of every variety. You’ll find just about anything you could crave at the hotels and resorts in the Waikiki Beach area, but if you’d like to venture farther afield, try the busy and diverse neighborhood of Kalihi. Alicia’s Market serves the very-Hawaiian poké, cubes of seasoned, raw fish served with pickled vegetables.

Downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown has become the up-and-coming neighborhood for nightlife. The many restaurant offerings, such as dim sum at Lam’s Kitchen or barbecued ribs at Fong’s Meat Market, are popular in the day. At night, the 20-block neighborhood comes alive with a multitude of bars and entertainment venues.

Family Fun

From snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to a helicopter tour of the island, your child will never forget a trip to Honolulu. With its renowned resorts, gorgeous beaches, surfing lessons, restaurants and luxury-brand stores, the Waikiki Beach neighborhood is full of upscale fun.

But elsewhere, children can get all wrapped up in aerial adventures on the ropes and trapezes at Samadhi Hawaii on Cooke Street, take an art class at the downtown Honolulu Museum of Art, learn about the ocean environment from instructors at Na Kama Kai classes on Waikiki, or experience ocean kayaking at Kaneohe with the Kamaaina Kids.

Honolulu, Hawaii Highlights

Don't leave without tasting...

A freshly cooked malasada (Portuguese doughnut) from Leonard’s Bakery; a rainbow shave ice from Matsumoto’s; poke (seasoned cubed raw fish) from Alicia’s Market; loco moco from Rainbow Drive-In. Loco moco is a local favourite consisting of rice topped with a hamburger patty, gravy and an egg cooked over-easy (turned over when nearly done and fried briefly on the reverse side).

Where locals go to relax

Honolulu beach

The beach! Most locals love relaxing at the beach, whether that entails surfing, swimming or just soaking up the sun.

Want to stay up late?

Start with sunset cocktails at RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki or drinks and pupus (a Hawaiian appetiser) at Tiki’s Bar and Grill, which overlooks bustling Waikiki Beach from the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel. Then make your way to Honolulu’s Chinatown to mingle with the young, hip crowd at one of the area’s trendy bars, such as Bar35, The Manifest, thirtyninehotel, Next Door, SoHo or Indigo. If you’re still raring to go, end your night by dancing at Addiction at The Modern Honolulu hotel, where the party continues until the early hours of the morning. Or visit Honolulu’s latest nightclub, The Standard.

Your child will always remember...

The lei greeting he or she receives when arriving at the airport or checking in at a hotel.

Favourite souvenirs

  • Aloha shirts from classic Hawai‘i apparel companies such as Reyn Spooner, Tori Richard and Iolani Sportswear
  • Custom-made heirloom jewellery from Philip Rickard
  • A handmade instrument from Kamaka ‘Ukulele or KoAloha ‘Ukulele
  • Fresh flower or seed leis to take back to someone special
  • North Shore-grown Waialua Estate coffee and chocolates
  • Hawaiian Chip Company’s potato and taro chips.

If you want to fit in...

  • Dine at ‘plate lunch’ restaurants like Zippy’s, Rainbow Drive-In and Nico’s at Pier 38
  • Don’t wear a plastic lei
  • And don’t use the term ‘flip-flops’ when referring to the footwear favoured by visitors and locals alike. They’re called ‘slippers’.

Cool neighbourhood

Chinatown offers a taste of both old and new Oahu, and is reflective of the many immigrants (not only Chinese) that now call Hawaii home. Walk through the open markets, lei stands and herbal medicine shops, many of which are in historical buildings. Then check out local art in the Chinatown Art District, tour historic Hawaii Theatre, shop for trendy clothes at one of the locally-owned boutiques and refuel at one of Chinatown’s hip bars or restaurants.

Best bargains

Hawaiian fruit

  • For the best deals on local products and tasty food, visit one of the island’s daily farmers’ markets. The biggest one is the KCC Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Saturday at Kapi‘olani Community College, just outside Waikiki. Other options: Ala Moana Center Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, the Royal Hawaiian Center Farmers’ Market on Tuesday evenings and the Honolulu Farmers’ Market at the Blaisdell Center on Wednesday evenings
  • Hawai‘i’s largest open-air flea market, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, is held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Shopping heaven

Ala Moana Center

The Ala Moana Center has more than 290 shops and restaurants to choose from, including only-in-Hawai‘i stores such as Martin & MacArthur, Tori Richard and HIC Surf, as well as international brands and department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Chanel, Williams-Sonoma and Victoria’s Secret.

For your first visit...

Pearl Harbor

  • Go hiking at Diamond Head for panoramic views of Honolulu
  • Visit Pearl Harbor, where the USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial are located, to learn about an important time in world history
  • Tour ‘Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence on U.S. soil
  • Relax and enjoy dinner or drinks on the beach at sunset.

Official Honolulu, Hawaii Travel Site

Hawaii Tourism Authority

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