Things to do in Honolulu, HI

Get Your Bearings in Honolulu

By Jade Eckardt
Honolulu Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

Honolulu is home to a wide range of attractions, enabling visitors with diverse interests to be satisfied. Art, history and culture can all be explored in the city, but it's the island's gorgeous beaches that draw travelers. Between the North Shore, east and west sides, visitors can find some of Hawaii's best beaches and world class waves. See popular attractions in the heart of Honolulu and explore the island's natural beauty around the rest of the island.

Avoid:

The highway during morning and afternoon rush hour.

Hot Tips:

Watch the sunset at Ke Iki Beach.

Where to Stay

The vast majority of Honolulu's best accommodations are all in busy Waikiki, but there's a wide array of beautiful resorts in the laid back areas of Kapolei and the North Shore. The hotels in Waikiki are within walking distance to the city's plethora of restaurants, attractions, nightlife and shopping. Yet the ones on the north and west side of the island offer more peace and seclusion near gorgeous beaches. Staying exclusively in Waikiki doesn't require a vehicle, but the North Shore and Kapolei require a car.

Caution:

Book all Honolulu hotels well in advance.

What to Eat

Although great food can be found all over the island, the majority of Honolulu's best restaurants are located in the heart of the city. The island's cultural diversity is reflected in the variety of cuisines, and just about anything you'd crave can be found here. Well-known restaurant chains dominate the main strip of Waikiki, but it's the smaller local eateries that are the culinary gems of Honolulu. Out on the North Shore, diverse cuisines can be found, and the east and west sides offer an array of high-end restaurants and quaint eateries.

Caution:

Weekends are busy in Honolulu, so make reservations.

Hot Tips:

Explore up-and-coming Kapahulu Avenue for culinary diversity.

Be Sure to Sample:

Local and Pacific Rim cuisines.

Places to Party

Honolulu has the most - and best - nightlife in all of the Hawaiian Islands, and it's all located right in the city. Most bars and clubs are within walking distance from any Waikiki hotels, and taxis are always available 24 hours a day. Honolulu nightlife ranges from wild dance clubs to western-themed bars to classy lounges, and just about everything in between. For nightlife that's a bit more laid back, head out to the North Shore for fun at small venues.

Caution:

The city bus stops running near midnight.

Take It or Leave It:

Smaller bars offer a more unique experience.

Hot Tips:

Honolulu parties all week long, not just weekends.

Where to Shop

Honolulu is the island's main shopping location for malls and well-known brands, and they're all within walking distance from any Waikiki hotel. The state's largest mall, Ala Moana Shopping Center, is located in the city. But outside of Honolulu, the island is dotted with wonderful locally-owned boutiques that shouldn't be missed. For a local twist on shopping, take the half-hour drive out to Haleiwa for unique shops offering locally made goods and clothing.

Caution:

Waikiki has the highest shopping prices.

Hot Tips:

Go thrift shopping for affordable and vintage souvenirs.

Best Local Souvenir:

Local art.

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Things to do in Honolulu


Honolulu is known for...

Four of Honolulu's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Surfing:

Oahu’s North Shore is the surfing Mecca of the world. While different parts of the island get surf throughout the year, from about August through April the waves on the North Shore are huge and booming. Locals come from island-wide to catch the North Shore’s world-class perfect waves. From October to January the waves are biggest, maxing out at 30 feet high. These are the months the world’s best surfers, both professional and otherwise, flock to the North Shore to take part in competitions and test their skills. If you’re on Oahu during the winter months, a visit to the North Shore to watch surfing is a must-do. 

2. Beaches:

Oahu may be the most populated island in Hawaii - hence the nickname the Gathering Place - but it does have some fantastic white sand beaches. The great thing about Oahu is its blend between socializing, nightlife, shopping and eating, but there’s no shortage of options for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the sun and sand. The North Shore and the east side have the most beautiful beaches, and usually the least crowded. Famous Waikiki is a great beach, but it’s often so crowded it’s hard to walk around. Waikiki has great surfing, and lovely views of Diamond Head. If you’re a beach bum you won’t be disappointed on Oahu. 

3. Shopping:

Waikiki is a shopper’s paradise. Most of Honolulu, especially the Waikiki strip, is loaded with boutiques, shops, and large stores. From generic souvenirs to Gucci, just about anything a shopper could want to purchase can be found in Waikiki. Nearby is Ala Moana Shopping Center. The name translates to huge mall, with name brand stores such as Macy’s and Luis Vuitton found near local boutiques and places to eat. Out in the countryside (think North Shore and the east side), there’s no shortage of island style stores, surf shops, jewelry, and art. If you need retail therapy, Oahu is the spot. 

4. Nightlife:

Whether visitors are in search of nightlife in the form of shows, luaus, wild clubs and dancing, or the occasional concert, Oahu has it all. Dining can be found island wide, but the clubs, shows and concerts usually take place in Honolulu. Honolulu never fails to provide a full night on the town and there’s also never a shortage of people enjoying one. Waikiki is usually bustling at night with visitors in search of entertainment of all kinds. For those in need of some action after relaxing Hawaiian style, a night or two on Oahu should do the trick.