Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. If you need help making a selection, our 10Best list highlights the top spots to visit in Honolulu.


US Army Museum of Hawaii

Housed in a former weapons battery, this museum documents Hawaiian military history from its ancient beginnings but especially during the period from WWI to Vietnam. Exhibits offer both visual and auditory effects, bringing to life the various conflicts. Along with viewing a host of weapons and military paraphernalia, visitors can also gain insight into encounters at Pearl Harbor, Korea, and Vietnam. Hawaii's presence in these battles is highlighted. A gift shop is available.

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USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park

Artifacts honoring the military submarine are enormous draws at this facility. In its confines, you'll view photos and posters, scale models, and missile displays. However, the real attraction is the USS "Bowfin" herself, a WWII-era vessel whose crew worked fearlessly to battle enemy threats. Today, visitors can explore her passageways and cramped rooms and imagine life below the waves. A war memorial on park grounds commemorates those 3500+ servicemen who lost their lives during the conflict. A gift shop and food kiosk are available. Children under 4 are not permitted on the submarine.

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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.

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A monument to the influence of Christian missionaries on the Hawaiian islands, this building complex includes original structures from the early 19th century, when New Englanders settled the island to spread the Gospel and instill the Protestant work ethic in islanders. The buildings – including a frame home, a printing house, and a coral-stone home and storehouse – illustrate early Western life on the islands and the zeal and strenuous efforts of the missionaries. Tours, a gift shop, and a library are also available.

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The altruism displayed by this 19th-century Belgian priest is well-known in the islands, where he ministered to a leper colony before finally succumbing to the disease himself. Born Joseph de Veuster but better known as Father Damien, the beneficent figure helped build homes, care for the dying, bury parishioners, and preach God's mercy to the afflicted. In short, he brought dignity to this terminal populace. The museum features an informative video, photographs, and many personal artifacts commemorating the colony and the priest.

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Sugar cane plantations changed both Hawaii's landscape and its ethnic makeup, and this recreated village offers a window into its immigrant workers during the early 20th century. Homes replicating those used by the variety of peoples can be visited, as can the array of corollary structures, such as a barbershop, community bathhouse, medical clinic, stores, and a Shinto shrine. Art, antiques, and other period furnishings provide interesting insight, along with photographs, documents, and domestic goods.

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Take a ferry to Ford Island to tour one of the country's original aviation fields at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Hangars, battle tested from WW-II, still stand and several famous aircraft, including a Japanese Zero fighter and the B-25 Mitchell bomber, are on display. These aircraft are known for the famous Doolittle Raid in retaliation of Pearl Harbor. After viewing exhibits, you can become a temporary pilot yourself in the interactive flight simulator. Be sure to plan ahead time wise, because the museum is located on an active base, so standard security procedures apply.

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Maikiki Heights

Occupying a lovely estate in the hills above Honolulu, this wonderful museum takes as its focus art created since 1940. It also places an emphasis on Hawaiian artists. A variety of media and of aesthetic styles is presented, and you'll find both permanent and traveling exhibits. Among the artists whose works are displayed are Jim Dine, Andres Serrano, Andy Warhol, Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, and Jasper Johns. A cafe and gift shop are available as well. Free to the public every third Thursday.

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Honolulu Academy of Arts

Boasting extensive holdings of Western and Asian art, this comprehensive museum is one of America's best. It also echoes Hawaii's multiculturalism, thanks to its collection of items from the Pacific, Africa, America, and Europe. Japanese woodblock prints and Italian Renaissance paintings are prominent, but you'll also find historical and contemporary works in a variety of media. Permanent and temporary exhibits expand the offerings, and the complex also features a theater, cafe, and studio art classes.

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Diamond Head

A private residence unlike any other, this seasonal home of early 20th-century heiress Doris Duke is a breathtaking showcase of Islamic art and design. During her honeymoon, the philanthropist developed an interest in Middle Eastern aesthetics, which soon bloomed into a lifelong passion. Rich mosaics, tiles, fountains, and decorative pieces, interspersed with spectacular ocean views, amaze and educate. Small guided tours are available by reservation only and depart from the Honolulu Academy of Arts. They last approximately 2 ½ hours and are not available to children under 12. Call ahead for ticket information, and reserve well in advance.

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