There’s never a shortage of things to do in Honolulu. Whether you’re soaking up the sun by surfing, hiking, or day-tripping by daylight, or reveling in the culture and nightlife after dark, this city has something to offer everyone.
Take a surf lesson
Hawaii is the birthplace of the sport of surfing, so where better to learn than on your trip to Honolulu? The most popular spot on the island for lessons is Waikiki Beach, and you’ll find many surf lesson outfitters lining the beach. In the summer, the swells can get very large, so be sure to heed all lifeguard warnings. On the north shore, lessons are offered in Haleiwa, but wintertime swells are strictly for the pros. Another option is the west side of the island, where you can take a lesson with Honolulu City Firefighters that run Hawaiian Fire Surf School.
Try famous Hawaiian food
Honolulu is a great city for foodies. Not only is there a proud culture of Traditional Hawaiian Foods, like poi, lau lau, and kalua pig, but due to the large market of varied tastes, you’ll find Hawaii Regional Cuisine at its best in many of the fine dining restaurants around the island. If you’re on a budget, do like the locals do and grab a plate lunch or a SPAM musubi for a snack. And if you’re up for a drive, head out to the north shore for their famouns Shrimp Trucks. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ve got to try a malasada or cool down with some Shave Ice.
Go to a Luau
There are many popular luaus in Honolulu, Waikiki hotels will often have one at least a few evenings a week, although many choose to go out to the more remote Polynesian Cultural Center or to the west side of the island to Paradise Cove or Germain’s Luau. Although it is usually not the main reason to attend a luau, you’ll get to try traditional Hawaiian foods like poi, kalua pig, and lomi lomi salmon, along with not-so-traditional (but quite delicious) beverages like an icy cold mai tai. Hula dancing and entertainment round out the evening before you head back to your hotel.
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Go for a Hike
Honolulu is home to many gorgeous hikes for all skill levels. For beginners, try the Diamond Head Crater hike with a view of Waikiki and the south shore or the Manoa Falls hike which leads to a beautiful waterfall. East Oahu is home to many of the ridge trails, such as Kuliouou or Hawaiiloa that reward hikers with breathtaking valley views down to the sea. To get your heart pumping, try the Koko Crater Stairs. Wherever you go, be sure to come prepared with water, sunscreen and a camera to take in the natural beauty.
Take a Day Trip
Honolulu is so much more than Waikiki. If you’re looking to explore, you’ll probably want to rent a car so that you can plan at least one day trip from Honolulu. Whether its up to the north shore to check out the big waves in the winter, or to historical sites such as Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, or Chinatown, there are lots of ways to change things up and to escape the tourist mecca that is Waikiki.
Have a Picnic at the Beach
Oahu has some of the most beautiful beaches in the islands. Lanikai, Kailua and Waimanalo beaches on the windward side have a charm all their own, and the north shore beaches are great for snorkeling in the summer and watching the pro surfers take over the big waves on the winter. And then there’s the world famous Waikiki Beach, a strip running the length of Waikiki which is perfect for families and sun-worshippers alike. For the perfect sunset, head to the west side of the island – Makaha or even the north shore can have gorgeous views of a Hawaiian sunset.
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Party it up After Dark
Honolulu is the place to be for nightlife in the Hawaiian islands. Here you can do as the locals do and head to the trendy bars and restaurants of Chinatown and the downtown arts district for the best places to catch an after-work cocktail or happy hour. Check out the once a month Art After Dark theme party on the last Friday of every month at the Honolulu Academy of Arts or the First Friday gallery walk in downtown. If you’re looking to dance the night away, check out the Waikiki bars and nightclubs that stay open late, some until 4am.
>> More about Nightlife in Honolulu
Visit one of Honolulu’s Shopping Centers
Out of all the islands, Honolulu is probably your best bet for shopping. Ala Moana Shopping Center is the largest open air shopping center in the world, with hundreds of shops and restaurants to keep you busy for hours. Many of the stores here are common elsewhere, so if you’re looking for more of a local boutique experience, you might head a bit down the road to Ward Warehouse, out to Kahala Mall, or to the cute boutiques in Kailua or Haleiwa. Farmers markets provide great shopping as well, with locally made items in between the food stands.
Ready to plan your trip to Honolulu?
Are you itching to jump right in to all that Honolulu has to offer? Here are the basics for where to start with cheap flights to Honolulu as well as where to stay. You can also use the widget at the top and bottom of this post to help in your search for airfare, accommodation, or vacation packages for your Honolulu vacation.