10 Best Things to See and Do in Honolulu
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Oahu has the most things to see and do out of all the Hawaiian Islands, and the goods news is that the options are broad and varied. The North Shore is home to the island's best beaches that boast the world's best surf in the winter time. Meanwhile the East Side has gorgeous beaches too and a lush green, waterfall laden backdrop. In the heart of Honolulu is the island's museums, notable statues, and city style things to do. Out on the West Side, water sports, golf and diving are popular things to do.
With so much to see and do in bustling Honolulu, it's often helpful to be pointed in the right direction - and that's what we're here to do. From experiencing the underwater world, to taking a trip back in time, to watching amazing surfing, you'll find it all in Honolulu, and so much more. Here you'll find things to do that are rich in history, loaded with adventure and adrenaline, and of course things that offer peaceful and quiet experiences.
A good idea when traveling around Honolulu is to make sure to cover the things that are in the same area at the same time since the traffic can get pretty heavy at times. Never forget the camera, and always have swimwear on hand. Swim with sharks and surf on the North Shore, kayak around the East Side, explore museums in Honolulu, and go jet skiing on the West Side.
10 Lanikai Beach
Set on Oahu's windward coast, this gorgeous beach offers incredible waters and the picturesque presence of two small, offshore islands. About a mile long, the beach varies in width, although its entire stretch provides soft sands and beautiful vistas out towards the ocean and of the Koolau Range. Along with swimming and snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are popular pastimes. The beach is protected by an offshore reef, making the waters calm on this quiet stretch of coastline. Explore cute and quaint Kailua Town just minutes away after a day on the beach. End it with dinner in of the great eateries or browse the shops. (800-464-2924)
9 Manoa Falls
A beautiful hike leads to gorgeous Manoa Valls in the lush Manoa Valley. The trail is about three quarters of a mile near a rocky stream and comes to an end at the falls. The falls are calming and intriguing, but it's advised to not swim in the pool because the occasional rock has been known to fall in, and you're far away from other people here. The hike takes about a half hour, and is generally easy. Yet be aware of footing on the sometimes muddy and slippery trail. Bring water, a camera, and a lunch if you wish to enjoy the peace and quiet of birds chirping and water rushing. (none)
8 Hanauma Bay
Created from a collapsed volcano crater, this bay is protected and calm, ideal for snorkeling, as you'll see from the crowds around you. The snorkeling is truly amazing, since the preserve protects the wildlife and creates a favorite place for the fish to come eat. It offers great opportunity for viewing marine life and also boasts a terrific beach and hiking trails. Additional facilities include picnic areas, showers and restrooms, concession kiosks, a volleyball court, and lifeguards. Although parking can be difficult if you don't arrive early, a shuttle bus runs from Waikiki in the mornings and makes return trips in the afternoons. (808-396-4229)
7 'Iolani Palace
Built in the early 1880s, this graceful Italian Renaissance structure is America's only royal palace and was home to Hawaii's last two rulers. When American businessmen overthrew the monarchy, they used the palace as the capitol until 1969; after it was vacated by the state government, restoration was begun. These days, three of the building's four floors are open to tours, and visitors can glimpse the ornate throne room, koa-wood staircase, and a wealth of plasterwork and elaborate furnishings. Amazing jewels and artifacts are available for viewing in the Galleries. Guided tours are not open to children under 5 (they are allowed in the Gallery tour). Reservations recommended for guided tours. (808-522-0822, 808-522-0832)
6 Sunset Beach Park
This North Shore beach is a favorite with folks who follow the surfing circuit. During the summer, its two miles of white-sand shores are relatively safe, and you'll find swimmers and snorkelers frolicking among milder waves. Come winter, though, the surf runs high, and rip currents can be deadly. At this point, it's best to leave the imposing waves to experts and simply watch experienced folks tackle the ocean from a safe perch on the beach. Sunset Beach is part of the seven mile miracle, meaning beach goers can walk in any direction and find more sand, swimming and waves to watch. (808-638-7051, 800-464-2924)
5 North Shore
With a reputation for relaxed living and incredible waves, this portion of the island attracts its fair share of latter-day hippies and surfers, both of whom eschew the corporate lifestyle. The North Shore offers all sorts of outdoor recreations, from hiking to scuba diving, parasailing to horseback riding. You'll also find one of the last vestiges of old Hawaii here, where locals stick to their heritage rather than sell out to development. Although the town of Haleiwa is most often equated with the North Shore, the area stretches across the top of Oahu, from western Kaena Point to Waimea Bay and east to Laie. A drive along the North Shore and time spent on its beaches, and exploring historic Haleiwa Town is a not to miss experience. (none)
4 Bishop Museum - Hawaii Maritime Center
Since its founding in 1889 as a repository for Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's family artifacts, this museum has ascended to become the state's premiere institution for documenting the area's cultural and natural histories. Today, its holdings include fantastic collections of archaeological and anthropological items, which preserve the Pacific region's wide-ranging cultures. Millions of items chart the history of these islands in a variety of exhibits and multimedia displays. The facility also includes a planetarium. An on site cafe offers good lunches, and the different exhibits and things to do mean there's something for everyone, from small children to history loving adults. (808-847-3511)
3 SeaBreeze Watersports
SeaBreeze Water Sports is an all around water sport company providing everything from scuba diving and para sailing to flying high in the air with a jet pack on your back. Yup, you heard me right. Here's your opportunity to do some of the usual water sports in Hawaii like spend time at the bottom of the ocean diving or ride a jet ski. Or, you can relive those childhood fantasies and put on a jet stream back pack and shoot yourself high in the air and even hang 30 feet in the air for a while. The Jet Lev R200 was released just last year, and there are only eight units being used around the world - two of which are being offered here at SeaBreeze for $399 a pop. (808-396-0100)
2 Hawaii Shark Encounters
With Hawaii Shark Encounters, you'll venture over three miles out to sea where you'll have the opportunity to watch from the boat or hop into a floating cage where you can view sharks just inches away through a poly glass window. No diving or scuba experience is necessary, and you enter from the top and stay on the surface with mask and snorkel. You'll be treated to a shark education on the way out and back where you'll learn about shark safety, health and endangerment. Children as young as five years old are welcome at the rate of $75. Military and kama`aina (resident) specials are $90. Adults cost $105. ((808) 351-9373)
1 Waimea Bay Beach Park
Deceptively beautiful, this scenic cove � home to some of the planet's most unforgiving surf � can mean death to naive swimmers. That is, in winter, anyway, when the waves churn up and some of surfing's best talents take to the sea to prove their mettle. In this season, rip currents are strong, and waves can rise to thirty feet. Summer brings calmer waters, however, and even mere mortals can enjoy the beauty of Waimea. Then, they're under the protection of lifeguards and can take advantage of picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. Parking can be tough here, so look for paid parking at the church and at the start of the valley. (808-596-7873)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
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