It's the major hub for Hawaii travel, and with good reason. When it comes to idyllic scenery, and friendly people, you'll find the phrase "welcome to paradise" no idle boast when you arrive in Honolulu.
Whether you're looking for the best hotels, shopping, surfing, spectacular day trips out to the countryside, or just the best places to laze the day away - everything you've ever dreamed about a Hawaii vacation you'll find in and around Honolulu and Waikiki:
Best Honolulu Shopping
Ideal shopping is located within convenient walking distance from major hotels in Waikiki Beach, or else minutes away by TheBus, Honolulu's major public transport:
Strolling the promenade
Ala Moana Center.
• Royal Hawaiian Center - One of Hawaii's largest shopping malls, this four-story shopping center is located in the heart of Waikiki and features 110 welcoming shops and restaurants to suit every budget and taste. If you don't find what you want, you're not seriously looking! Address: 2201 Kalakaua Avenue.
• Ala Moana Center - THE largest shopping mall in the state, with four floors of shops, a food court, and entertainment at Ala Moana Centerstage, one of the most popular public amphitheaters in all of Hawaii. Address: 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, across from the Ala Moana Beach Park.
• International Marketplace - Waikiki's original shopping mecca features over 130 carts, shops, and artisan stands in an open-air setting under scenic banyan trees in the heart of Waikiki. Also check out the food court offering a variety of local and international cuisine, plus free Hawaiian entertainment. Address: 2330 Kalakaua Avenue.
• ABC Stores - ABC (which stands for "Aloha Brings Customers") serve as Honolulu's chain of general stores where six packs of beer, candy and snacks, camera batteries, and suntan lotion are all on hand, along with lots of cheap souvenirs. These include very affordable gift packs of macadamia nuts, seashells, trinkets, (and don't forget to check the bargain bin for some great finds on souvenir t-shirts.) Open day and night, ABC Stores are seemingly located on every corner of the city.
• Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace - If you're into flea markets, this one's the Big Kahuna where the locals shop for the best deals, and tourists hunt for bargains on souvenirs at Hawaii’s largest open air flea market. Open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m to 3 p.m. Admission $1. Kids under 11 get in free. To get to the stadium, take H-1 freeway to the "Stadium" exit, about 20 minutes from Waikiki.
Best Honolulu/Waikiki Hotels
The Kahala features its own lagoon where
kids and adults can swim with dolphins.
• Kahala Hotel & Resort - "This is where the rich people go" say the locals, but if you're planning one major splurge in Hawaii, be sure to make it the Kahala Hotel & Resort. Even a single night's stay may be one of your most cherished memories. Offering gracious service, family-friendly activities (with its own dolphin lagoon where kids can swim with dolphins), the Kahala also offers free transport if you want to indulge in the 'bright lights big city' of Waikiki. Address: 5000 Kahala Avenue, about 10 minutes outside Waikiki.
• Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Famous for it's eye-catching pink facade, the Royal Hawaiian is a romantic Waikiki landmark (built in 1927) in the ornate Spanish-Moorish style, where today guests are still treated like royalty amid 14 acres of prime Waikiki beach front. Address: 2259 Kalakaua Avenue.
• The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort - If you're traveling with kids, Hilton Hawaiian Village features its own zoo complete with pink flamingos, ducks, turtles, tropical fish, and ... 8 African penguins! Take advantage of arranged on-site activities, or have the hotel plan trips for you to the Waikiki Aquarium and other kid-friendly Honolulu places. The Hilton Hawaiian is not very cyber-friendly, but that may be a good thing when you're on vacation with the family. Address: 2005 Kalia Road.
Best Honolulu Attractions
• Waikiki Beach - The legendary beach lives up to its reputation, offering something for everyone - including shopping, surfing, jogging, walking, or just having your day in the sun on one of the most glorious beaches on the planet. With kids in tow, visit the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium located just nearby, or bring the teens to one of a dozen surfing schools in the area offering lessons for the surfing newbie.
Bird's eye view of Honolulu
atop Diamond Head.
• Diamond Head - You can't go to Honolulu without the breathtaking climb (literally) up to the top of Diamond Head, an extinct volcano and former military defense lookout. Get there early in the morning to beat the heat on your climb up to the top, where a mind blowing view of Waikiki and Honolulu makes it all worthwhile. Open Daily 6 am to 6 pm. Admission: $1. Address: Just off Diamond Head Road, between Makapu'u Avenue and 18th Avenue.
• Pearl Harbor - Relive the Day of Infamy when Japan launched their air attack, resulting in the worst naval disaster in US history. Take in the documentary film before getting a close-up look at memorial built over the remains of the USS Arizona - the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941. Open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Get their early before the tour buses arrive. Address: 850 Ticonderoga St. Phone: 808-690-9052.
• Iolani Palace - The only royal palace on US soil, this was the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, the last king and queen to rule Hawaii. Today, it houses the last vestiges of the monarchy, including royal jewelry and exotic regalia. For the full story, hire a tour guide on site or take the cheaper self-guided audio tour. Hours: Monday-Saturday 9AM to 5PM. Address: 364 South King Street. Phone: 808-532-1051.
• Chinatown - Filled
with excitement, Honolulu's Chinatown is a place of history, mystery and fun. Amid
the lei stands, noodle and dim sum factories; hole-in-the-wall Thai, Vietnamese
and Chinese restaurants; and herbal medicine shops, don't miss the Oahu
Market known for having the best sashimi, fresh meats and produce in town. Location: Downtown Honolulu.
• Bishop's Museum - A colorful way to learn about Hawaiian history and culture, (and with enough kid-friendly interactive exhibits to keep everyone happy), the Bishop Museum is a vivid look at Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures through the ages. Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesdays through Mondays. Closed Tuesdays. Address: 1525 Bernice Street. Phone: 808-847-3511.
Best Day Trips from Honolulu
The parade of canoes at the
Polynesian Cultural Center..
• Polynesian Cultural Center - Near Oahu's beautiful north shore, the island's star attraction offers looks into the music and culture of Hawaii and other islands throughout Polynesia. In the early afternoon, see the lively and colorful Parade of Canoes (performed daily), and be sure to reserve tickets for the nightly luau and stage show. Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Highway in Laie.
• Oahu's North Shore - Ruggedly beautiful, the rest of the North Shore offers a trip into the island's countryside, best taken with a tour guide who can point out local flora and fauna, as well as famous film locations for such hits as Pirates of the Caribbean and Jurassic Park.