The gateway to the Hawaiian islands, Honolulu is where you're likely to hear your first 'aloha'. For many visitors, Honolulu is also the only place they visit in Hawaii. A multi-ethnic foodie heaven with rich music, art and surfing scenes, the major attraction is of course the beach. World famous Waikiki is hard to leave when the sun is shining, but when it sets Hawaii's main city has much more to be enchanted by.
Spread out between Pearl Harbour and Makapu'u Point, Honolulu's tourist epicentre is firmly centred on the beach. With a long strip of white sand and a close proximity to all of the city's major hotels, Waikiki is the most popular, but definitely not the only beach you'll want to catch some rays at. Take some time to also visit Hanauma Bay, located in the crater of an extinct volcano, or if you're a surfer, Makapu'u Beach. If you do manage to pry yourself away from the water, Honolulu has plenty of other attractions to see such as the iconic Diamond Head volcanic crater and the historic Iolani Palace, America's only royal palace.
Eat And Drink
A decade ago your meal time options in Honolulu would have been limited to either high-end, tourist-oriented restaurants or no-fuss local diners, but these days the city's food scene has been revolutionised. Beside Waikiki beach you'll find all manner of restaurants and eateries, such as classic tourist-friendly eateries Duke's and Roy's, but to really experience the new wave of Hawaiian cuisine, head downtown. Some of Honolulu's best new restaurants include Lewers Lounge and Vintage Cave, while for a traditional slice of Hawaiian food, Highway Inn, located halfway between the beach and downtown, has been serving some of the best local cuisine for more than 50 years. For a taste of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, check out Alan Wong’s Restaurant. For something more ‘street’ hit Honolulu’s monthly food truck gathering, Eat the Street for burgers, pizza, ribs and teppanyaki.
Where To Stay
With about 100 accommodation options to choose from, most visitors to Honolulu try to book themselves a room as close to the beach as possible. Of course the catch is that the closer to the beach you get, the more expensive the room usually is. Still, you can grab a bargain if you book well in advance with Royal Grove Hotel and Ewa Hotels the best of the budget hotels. Further up the price scale, Lotus Honolulu and Aqua Oasis offer the perfect balance of comfort and affordability, while to really spoil yourself, book a room at either the Trump International or Royal Hawaiian.
You haven't really been to Hawaii unless you leave with a brightly coloured Aloha shirt! Made popular in the 1940s, in Honolulu you'll find everything from classic collectable Aloha shirts at Tin Can Mailman and Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts, to high fashion Hawaiiana at Sig Zane. Surfing products are another popular Honolulu buy and as well as the surf stores along Waikiki beach, you'll find retailers Town and Country and Hawaiian Island Creations amongst about 200 stores at the Ala Moana Shopping Centre. If you're in search of a bargain, try Waikele Premium Outlets; and for markets, visit the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, with more than 400 vendors selling clothes, antiques, jewellery and handicrafts, three times a week.
Honolulu Like A Local
Once the city's red-light district, these days Chinatown is one of Honolulu's most popular local hang outs. Home to some of the city's best bars, restaurants and stores, Chinatown makes a great destination for a day trip exploring the Maunakea Marketplace and arts centres such as The ARTS at Marks Garage or Ong King Arts Centre. Come night fall, although the area has cleaned up a lot since WWII, you'll still feel a long way from the Blue Hawaii drinkers along the beach when you step into local boozers such as Manifest, Mercury and Smith's Union Bar. To get to Chinatown, take bus numbers 2 or 20 directly from Waikiki.