If you’re looking for things to do in Honolulu, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ve got a list of the best things to do—from exploring the city’s vibrant culture to soaking up the sun on its beautiful beaches.
You’ll find something for everyone here. No matter your interests, we can help you find something fun and exciting to do.
We know that you want to make the most of your time when you’re on vacation. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best activities and attractions in Honolulu so that you can have the perfect trip.
Note: We have included a downloadable map at the end of this article that includes all of the locations mentioned in this post. Be sure to check it out!
Best Things to Do in Honolulu
1. Diamond Head Crater
It’s about a 1.6-mile hike to the top, and it takes about 1-1.5 hours to complete (roundtrip).
The views from the top are absolutely stunning and definitely worth the effort! You will be rewarded with amazing views of Waikiki and Oahu’s South Shore.
Tip: Arrive early, preferably right after opening. This hike is probably the most popular in Oahu, which means it can get super crowded.
2. Pearl Harbor
A trip to Pearl Harbor is one of the most popular things in Honolulu for both locals and visitors alike. This is a must-visit spot when you are on the island of Oahu.
There are a few different ways to see Pearl Harbor. You can take a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which is free, but reservations are needed. The visitor center and museums are also free.
You can also take a tour of the USS Missouri Battleship, which costs $34.99 for adults and $17.49 for children’s general admission.
This is a great way to learn more about Pearl Harbor and World War II.
3. Halona Beach Cove and Blowhole
Halona Beach Cove is a small, somewhat secluded beach that is absolutely beautiful. Many people usually come here to view the blowhole, while only a few go to the beach.
The highlight of this area is the blowhole. When the waves crash into the rocks, it creates a geyser of water that sprays up through a hole in the rocks. It’s cool to see and something you don’t want to miss!
To get to the beach, you have to walk down a small path (about 2 minutes) and then you’re there! The path is located to the left when you face the road.
Tip: This is yet another popular tourist spot, so try to come early or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
4. Polynesian Cultural Center
Located about one hour’s drive from Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a large complex that includes several different villages representing Polynesian cultures from Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.
You can learn about the different cultures through various activities such as dance performances, traditional foods, and craft demonstrations.
They also offer one of the best luaus on the island, so check it out.
This is an excellent activity for families or groups of friends. It’s also one of the most popular things to do near Honolulu, so be sure to book your tickets in advance!
5. Waikiki Beach
No trip to Honolulu would be complete without spending some time at the famous Waikiki Beach. This is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii, and it’s easy to see why.
The water is clear and the sand is pearly white, and it’s located right in the center of Honolulu.
There are plenty of beach activities to keep you busy, such as stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, surf lessons/rentals, swimming, sunbathing, and even people-watching (if you’re into that).
Remember to wear sunscreen or a rashguard as the sun in Hawaii can get pretty hot.
When you’re done with the beach, there are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby. So whether you’re looking for a relaxing day by the water or a fun-filled day of activities, Waikiki Beach is the perfect place to go.
6. Manoa Falls
The highlight of the trail is, of course, the waterfall at the end. The waterfall is about 150 feet tall and is a unique sight to see. Be sure to bring your camera so you can take some fantastic photos!
The hike is relatively easy but can be slippery in places (especially after it rains). Be sure to wear proper footwear and watch your step. We usually wear hiking sandals when doing this hike.
Tip: This is another popular tourist spot, so try to come early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
7. Ala Moana Center
Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air shopping mall in Hawaii, and it’s a great place to find souvenirs, clothes, and local Hawaiian products.
The mall is enormous, with over 350 stores and many restaurants. There’s something for everyone here! And if you get hungry, you’ll be sure to find whatever food it is that’ll satisfy your craving.
If you’re looking for a place to do some shopping, Ala Moana Center is the perfect place for you. Just be sure to bring your wallet!
8. Ala Moana Beach Park
Ala Moana Beach Park is a large park that offers something for everyone. There’s a beach, a playground, food concession stands, a tennis court, and more!
The highlight of the park is the beach. This is one of the best beaches in Oahu. The water is calm and clear, with plenty of room for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and other beach activities.
And if you get hungry, there are plenty of food options nearby. So whether you’re looking for a place to relax or a place to play, Ala Moana Beach Park is the perfect place!
Tip: Avoid going here on weekends or major holidays as it can get quite crowded. This is a local favorite spot, so it’s best to come during the week if you do not like huge crowds.
9. Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is the former royal residence of the Monarchy of Hawaii. It’s a beautiful building with an interesting history.
The palace is open to the public for tours, and it’s a great way to learn about the history of Hawaii. The tour takes you through the different rooms of the palace and tells you about the different Hawaiian royals who lived there.
You can do a self-guided tour or a guided tour.
If you’re interested in learning about the history of Hawaii, Iolani Palace is a great place to start. Just book your tickets in advance as the tours can fill up quickly!
10. Leonard’s Bakery
A trip to Oahu is not complete without making a stop at Leonard’s Bakery.
The bakery is famous for its malasadas (a type of Portuguese donut), and they are quite delicious!
They have various filling options you can choose from, but the regular ones are just perfect in my opinion.
So if you’re looking for a delicious treat, be sure to stop by Leonard’s Bakery and try one (or ten) of their famous malasadas.
11. Waiola Shave Ice
If you are looking for the best shave ice on Oahu, go to Waiola Shave Ice.
The store has been around for over 80 years and it’s famous for its delicious shave ice. That says a lot about the quality of their product!
They have many different flavors to choose from, and you can also add ice cream or mochi balls to your shave ice.
We frequent this spot mainly due to the texture of the snow. The texture is like no other and it’s definitely worth a try!
So if you’re looking for a refreshing treat, be sure to stop by Waiola Shave Ice!
12. Marukame Udon Waikiki
If you’re looking for a delicious and affordable meal, look no further than Marukame Udon. The restaurant is famous for its fresh and handmade udon noodles.
The noodles are made right in front of you, and you can choose from various toppings. The broth is also very flavorful and some of the best we have ever had.
So if you’re in the mood for some delicious udon noodles, be sure to stop by Marukame Udon Waikiki!
Note: This place is very popular and can get quite crowded during lunch and dinner. We have ordered to-go here multiple times, so if you prefer that option, make sure to order in advance and pick it up.
13. Tantalus Lookout
If you are looking for the best views near Honolulu, go to the Tantalus Lookout. The views here are absolutely amazing!
The best time to go is around sunset when you can see the city lights. It’s a great place to take photos too!
14. Foster Botanical Garden
The Foster Botanical Garden is a great place to see some of the native plants of Hawaii, as well as plants from all over the world. This is one of the best botanical gardens in Oahu and is also a great place to take photos.
The garden is about 14 acres, features trees planted from the 1850s, and is the oldest botanical garden in Honolulu. There is also a butterfly garden where you can see many different types of butterflies.
15. Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden
The Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden is another excellent option if you are in Honolulu. They are devoted to the preservation of Hawaiian plants.
The garden is free to enter, and it’s a great place to take a walk and relax. There is also a nice pond, and the gardens offer many opportunities to take gorgeous photos.
So if you’re looking for a place to see some beautiful plants and trees, check out the Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden!
16. Kuhio Beach Park
Nicknamed the Kuhio Ponds, Kuhio Beach Park is a perfect beach for families. It’s divided by two concrete walls, making for calmer waters on both sides of the pond.
This beach is also a great place for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling. And if you get hungry there are plenty of food options nearby.
17. Honolulu Museum of Art
The Honolulu Museum of Art has a wide variety of art—from traditional Hawaiian art to modern art.
It was founded in 1922 and has over 50,000 pieces of art. If you love art, the Honolulu Museum of Art is the perfect place for you!
18. Sans Souci Beach
Sans Souci Beach is a great place to go if you want to avoid the big crowds at Waikiki Beach.
It’s a small beach located in Waikiki and it’s perfect for swimming, fishing, surfing, and snorkeling.
The water here is very calm, making it the perfect choice for families.
So if you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy the water, check out Sans Souci Beach!
Also, if you like looking for a good snorkeling place close to Honolulu, this is the place for you.
See Also: The Best Snorkeling Spots in Oahu
19. Royal Hawaiian Center
The Royal Hawaiian Center is one of the best places to shop in Honolulu. They have a variety of shops and restaurants, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for luxury brands, they have plenty of options. But if you are looking for more affordable brands, they have that as well!
They also have a wide variety of events and entertainment options.
So if you’re looking for a place to shop, eat, and be entertained, the Royal Hawaiian Center is the place for you!
Chinatown is a great place to go if you’re looking for great food. There are many different restaurants to choose from, so you’re sure to find something you like.
And if you want to do some shopping, there are also many different shops to choose from too.
Chinatown is a great place to experience the culture of Honolulu.
21. Honolulu Zoo
The Honolulu Zoo is a great place to go to see tons of animals. This is a fun activity to do with your whole family, especially the little ones.
They have a wide variety of animals—from lions and tigers to monkeys and parrots.
This is the only zoo in the United States that was established by grants made by a sovereign monarch.
This zoo is also a great place to learn about the many animals. So if you love animals, be sure to check out the Honolulu Zoo!
22. Corsair Plane Wreck Dive Site
The Corsair Plane Wreck Dive Site is a great place to go if you love diving and have the skills for it. It’s located off the southeastern coast and is a popular spot for scuba diving.
The Corsair Plane Wreck occurred during World War II. The pilot apparently ran out of fuel but managed to land the plane smoothly and was quickly rescued. The aircraft wasn’t damaged, but it soon sunk to its final resting spot at the bottom of the sea.
Today, this is a popular place for divers and photographers alike.
So if you’re looking for a great diving spot, check out the Corsair Plane Wreck Dive Site!
Note: This dive is for experienced divers only. Guides are highly recommended.
23. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is a great place to go if you love snorkeling. This is one of the best snorkeling places in Oahu, and it’s perfect for all levels.
Hanauma Bay is a marine life conservation district, and they limit the number of people who can visit per day.
So if you’re planning on going, be sure to make a reservation in advance.
You can make reservations within 48 hours of your preferred visit date. Make sure to wake up early as spots fill up quickly.
We made our reservation at exactly 7:00 am Hawaiian time and by the time it was 7:20 am, all spots were reserved.
24. Honolulu Beerworks
Honolulu Beerworks is a great place to go if you love beer (and food). This is a microbrewery that offers a variety of different beers.
If you are looking for some of the best handcrafted beers in Honolulu, this is it.
Honolulu Beerworks also has a great food menu. So if you’re looking for a place to drink beer and eat some great food, this is the place for you!
25. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a great place to go if you’re looking for a place to pay your respects.
This is the final resting place for many veterans and their families.
The cemetery is also a great place to learn about the history of the United States.
So if you’re looking for a place to remember those who have served, this is the place for you.
26. Bishop Museum
The Bishop Museum is a great place to go if you’re interested in learning about the history and culture of Hawaii.
This museum was founded in 1889 by the last descendent of the royal Kamehameha family, Charles Bishop. He founded it in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Bishop.
This is the largest museum in Hawaii and it has a wide variety of exhibits. It was initially established to house the royal family heirlooms of the princess and a collection of Hawaiian objects.
Today, the museum includes millions of objects and photos of the Hawaiian and Pacific island cultures.
27. Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple is located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, which is about a 30-minute drive from Honolulu.
This temple was built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.
The Byodo-In Temple is a replica of the Phoenix Hall at the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan.
The Byodo-In Temple is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
The temple invites people of all faiths and it is a non-practicing Buddhist temple.
If you are looking for one of the most picture-perfect places in Oahu, this is your answer.
28. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Hike
While located about 30 minutes from Honolulu, this hike still deserves a spot on this list.
The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Hike is an easy hike in Oahu and is about a 2-mile round trip hike.
The Makapu’u Lighthouse was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest lighthouses in Hawaii.
This hike offers stunning views of the windward coast of Oahu, Koko Head, and Koko Crater.
29. Koko Crater Railway Trail
The Koko Crater Railway Trail is a difficult 1.6-mile round trip hike that takes you to the top of Koko Crater.
This trail is not for the faint of heart as it is very steep with an elevation gain of 1,617 ft and about 1048 stairs.
But if you’re looking for a challenge, this is your place.
The Koko Crater Railway Trail offers stunning views of the windward coast of Oahu, Sandy Beach Park, and Diamond Head.
30. Sandy Beach Park
Located on the eastern side of Honolulu, Sandy Beach Park is a great place to go if you’re looking for a place to relax.
This beach is the perfect place to swim (if the waves are calm), bodyboard, or bodysurf.
Sandy Beach Park is also a great place to watch the sunrise—if you’re a morning person, be sure to experience one of the best sunrises on the island of Oahu.
See Also: The Top 5 Sunrise Hikes on Oahu
31. Shark’s Cove
Shark’s Cove is another one on this list that’s far from Honolulu but still deserves an honorable mention.
It’s located on the North Shore of Oahu, and it is a great place to go if you’re looking for a place to snorkel.
This cove is home to various fish, turtles, and other marine life.
Shark’s Cove is also a great place to relax and take in the beauty of the North Shore.
So if you’re looking for a place to snorkel and relax, this is the place for you.
32. Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is located on the windward side of Oahu, and it’s a working cattle ranch.
This ranch offers a variety of activities such as horseback riding, ATV tours, hiking, and more.
Kualoa Ranch is also the location of various movie and TV show filming sites such as Jurassic Park, Lost, Hawaii Five-0, and more.
So if you’re looking for a place to experience the country lifestyle on Oahu, this is the place for you.
While not located in close proximity to Honolulu, the 35-minute drive to get there is worth it.
While you are there, check out the Kualoa Regional Park located 0.7 miles from the ranch.
Here you will get fantastic views of Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i Island) and the Kualoa Mountains.
33. Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout
We saved the best for last. This is one of our favorite places on Oahu.
If you are looking for one of the best views of Honolulu, go to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. The lookout is located on the windward side of Oahu, about a 15-minute drive from Honolulu.
The Pali Lookout offers fantastic views of Kailua, Kaneohe, Coconut Island, Mokoli’i Island, and the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens.
The Ko’olau Mountain Range views here are absolutely breathtaking, and it’s one of the best views we have ever seen!
Aside from its spectacular views, the Pali Lookout has profound historical significance. It was here that King Kamehameha I conquered the island of Oahu in 1795. Many soldiers lost their lives here, and some fell off the Pali Cliffs.
In Hawaiian, pali means “cliff” and Nu’uanu means “cold,” so the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is aptly named as it can be pretty windy and cold at the lookout. But the views are definitely worth it.
So if you are looking for a fantastic view and a bit of history, be sure to check out the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout!
Things to Do in Honolulu: Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many days do you need in Honolulu?
You could probably do all the things on this list in 4 days while staying in Honolulu.
But if you want to take your time and enjoy each activity, we would recommend seven days to see Honolulu and other parts of Oahu.
2. What is the best time of year to visit Honolulu?
The best time to visit Honolulu depends on many factors such as budget, what activities are at the top of your bucket list, etc.
Summer is May-October and is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and many more activities.
Winter is November-April and is perfect for whale watching, surfing, and surfing competitions, among other things.
It all comes down to what you want to do while you’re on the island.
3. Do you need a car in Honolulu?
No, you do not need a car in Honolulu. The city is very walkable, and the public bus can take you to most places on the island.
However, if you are looking to venture out on your own and visit other parts of the island such as the North Shore and the windward coast, we would recommend renting a car for those days.
4. What is Honolulu best known for?
Honolulu is best known for its beaches, year-round warm weather, and Waikiki Beach.
5. What are some free things to do in Honolulu?
All beaches in Hawaii are public and, therefore, free. Hiking is also a great free activity while you’re on the island. Most of the places mentioned in this article are pretty affordable too. Some just require a small parking fee.
6. What is the number one thing to do in Hawaii?
The number one thing to do in Hawaii is go to the beach. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax, swim, bodysurf, bodyboard, or surf, there’s a beach for you somewhere.
Many would argue that Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head are a must-see while you’re on the island.
7. What should I avoid in Hawaii?
Some things to avoid doing in Hawaii are:
- Not respecting the Hawaiian culture
- Not wearing reef-safe sunscreen
- Underestimating the power of the ocean
- Hiking illegal trails
- Stealing sand or lava rocks and attempting to take them home
- Stepping on coral
- Touching wildlife such as turtles, monk seals, etc.
- Ignoring parking signs (don’t do this, you will get ticketed)
8. What are some activities to do with kids in Honolulu?
Honolulu is a great place to bring the family, with plenty of kid-friendly activities such as:
Visiting the Honolulu Zoo, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, spending the day at Ala Moana Beach Park or Waikiki Beach.
This list is just a start; there are plenty of other things we mentioned in this article that you can do with kids in Honolulu.
Map of Best Things to Do in Honolulu
The Wrap Up
Honolulu is a great place to visit for its beaches, year-round warm weather, and its variety of activities.
Whether you’re looking to spend your days relaxing on the beach or learning about Hawaiian culture and history, Honolulu has something for everyone.
We hope this list of things to do has inspired you to plan your trip to the island! Aloha!