Everyone knows Honolulu is a bustling metropolis surrounded by the beauty of nature, where you can luxuriate on Waikiki’s white sand beaches while enjoying the glittering backdrop of the city’s skyscrapers. Behind and between these tall structures, and along the city’s pristine coastline, you’ll find some amazing travel gems from luxurious hotels to must-see attractions and eye-opening culinary experiences.
We reveal what you need to know to inspire you to visit this urban paradise in the Pacific. As if you needed the encouragement.
Where to Eat
Azure, the world-class seafood restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, offers private beachfront cabanas with stunning views of Diamond Head and the waters of Waikiki. Try the popular tasting menu or order one of their infamous seafood dishes a la carte, like the seared Hawaiian ahi with island corn succotash and a citrus soy buerre noisette.
For a more casual experience, dine oceanfront at the Outrigger Hotel’s Hula Grill. This popular hot spot features Hawaiian cuisine made with local produce in a space that evokes a plantation-era beach house. Try their harissa roasted opah or snack on Poke tacos and coconut crusted calamari.
Other options include StripSteak Waikiki, Sushi Sho and Eating House 1849 – think Hawaiian-style cooking with plenty of Portuguese and Filipino influences. And for brunch lovers, you can’t go wrong with Koa Café in the Mō‘ili‘ili neighborhood or Over Easy Hawaii in Kailua.
What to Do
Waikiki Beach is one of the best places in the world to learn to surf. Take a lesson from a pro in the birthplace of modern surfing or spend the day snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. In this submerged volcanic crater, you’ll swim alongside sea turtles and a diverse array of fish, including parrotfish, puffers and trumpet fish.
For history buffs, don’t miss a visit to Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, the final resting place of 1,102 sailors killed on December 7, 1941. Have some extra time? Take the Ford Island shuttle for a tour of the U.S.S. Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Need more ideas? You can also hike to the summit of Diamond Head, check out contemporary artwork at the Honolulu Museum of Art, go windsurfing at Kailua Beach Park, watch pro-surfers ride the waves at Sunset Beach, or take a tour of ‘Iolani Palace, a historic house and museum that follows the lives of King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s final monarchs.
Where to Shop
The largest open-air shopping center in the world, Ala Moana Center, is certainly not your average mall. Adorned with palm trees and koi ponds, Ala Moana offers complimentary hula shows seven days a week. Or, go for a stroll along bustling Kalakauai Avenue in the heart of Waikiki where you can find everything from local specialty shops to luxury boutiques including Tiffany & Co, Gucci and Yves St. Laurent. Looking for something different? Check out the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet held every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. This open-air flea market features 400 venders selling everything from eclectic pieces of art to popular local snacks.
Where to Stay
The Modern Honolulu is a relatively recent addition to the city’s hotel scene. Located just far enough from the hectic pace of Waikiki Beach to give you a little peace and quiet, this luxury resort hotel provides topnotch views of the city’s skyline as well as the Pacific. Stylishly decorated with contemporary art, the hotel offers two pools, one for adults only, beachside yoga classes and restaurants and bars that make The Modern a dining destination.
For a more traditional option, stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. This iconic resort, known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific, was built in a Spanish-Moorish style in 1927 and features an impressive black terrazzo-marble lobby adorned with elaborate floral arrangements made from exotic local flowers.
Alternatively, travelers can enjoy the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa. Conveniently located in the heart of Waikiki, just steps away from Diamond Head, this hotel features large guest rooms and unobstructed views of the Pacific. Relax on your private balcony or take a dip in the fresh water pool overlooking Waikiki Beach.