Honolulu is popularly known as a town of rolling surf and seaside cocktail shacks and it is located in Hawaii. The island is filled with lots of thrilling and fun activities that you can try out from relaxing on the Waikiki beach to hiking the rugged peaks of volcanoes and extinct craters which rise on the horizon. There are also varieties of Chinese eateries and interesting museums and memorials that you can visit on the island. Honolulu is also very popular for its surfing swells that attract world-class wave riders to the island all through the year. Some of the best things to do in Honolulu are listed below.
21 Best Things To Do In Honolulu
#1 Visit The Waikiki Beach
This beach is considered to be the most popular beach in Hawaii and it once attracts kings and queens to the Hawaiian archipelago.
The beach is now filled with high rises luxurious hotels which provides a scenic backdrop and it was also the place where the first longboards were ridden by the nobles on the island back in the 1800s.
The legendary Duke Kahanamoku who is known as the father of modern surfing also conquered the swells of Waikiki and you will find his memorial between the palm tree groves. This beach is surely a top place not to miss while in Honolulu.
#2 Go Hiking On Chinaman’s Hat
The Chinaman’s Hat is a small island located close to Kualoa Ranch. The island can be accessed by a short swim or a kayak and once you get to the island, you will go on a mini hike to the peak where you can enjoy mesmerizing views of the shore and the Kualoa Mountains.
There are lots of kayak tours that can pick you up from Waikiki and take you on a kayak adventure to Kaneohe and then to Chinaman’s Hat. The best thing about the tour is that it is not for profit and the proceeds will be used to fund Kama’aina Kids and He’eia State park.
#3 Go On Oahu Scenic Helicopter Flight
Going on a scenic helicopter flight is among the best things to do. The tour will go over the magnificent island and it offers a lifetime memory that will linger in your mind for long.
The best way to enjoy this tour is by going on an island tour just after sunrise where you will fly over waterfalls, craters, and some of the best beaches in Oahu.
The helicopter tour in Honolulu are diverse and the best is the full-circle island flight and the fireworks flights. If you have $200, you can just book a 25-minute tour of Waikiki area.
#4 Go Sightseeing At Pearl Harbor
The Pearl Harbor is among the most visited tourist destination in Hawaii and the highlight is the USS Arizona. You are going to find the USS Arizona visitor center located on the north-eastern fringes of Honolulu.
The harbor also houses the sunken wreckage of the USS harbor and you can access the museum by boat. The boat offers tourist the chance to catch a glimpse of the destruction that the attack by the Japanese in December 1941 caused the American naval fleet. The exhibition and memorial space in the museum is divided into three separate sections that you can explore.
#5 Go Surfing In Honolulu
This city is known as the surf capital and a trip to Honolulu will not be complete without going surfing. Surfing is known as the local pastimes and you can head to the southern coastal stretches of the island which offers a plethora of surf spots which are well-known all over the world.
You can head to the crashing Bowls of Ala Moana with its adjoining beach park which is where the reefs and sand bars makes a perfect barrel. You can also head to Waikiki beach which is a perfect spot for the beginner wave riders.
For advanced surfers, you can head to the north shore to enormous beaches like the Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline.
#6 Go Hiking To The Top Of The Diamond Head Crater
This is known as the most famous hike to try out in Oahu. And it is also the famous thing to do in Honolulu aside from visiting Waikiki Beach.
It is going to take about 30-minutes before you get to the old war bunkers which are located at the top, the peak also offers magnificent views of Waikiki and the ocean.
The entire hike is very scenic and the best thing is that you can go on a guided tour where you will be shown the way and also hear stories and history from the guide.
#7 Try Out Skydiving On The North Shore
This is a thrilling experience and it is perfect for tourists seeking nerve-wracking adventure. On this tour, you will jump from a plane where you will enjoy mesmerizing azure water with a rocky coastline of the North Shore.
This is definitely among the craziest things to do and you can book for the Tandem Skydive tour on the North Shore to bring out the daredevil in you. The tour also includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Waikiki.
#8 Wander Around Chinatown
Chinatown is located between the Downtown and the residential area of Kalihi-Palama and it is among the largest and the most original Oriental districts in the United States.
The area is vibrant and you can visit the Maunakea Marketplace where you can shop for tropical fruits and soy-sauteed meats.
Chinatown is also filled with lots of magnificent temples such as Japanese Shinto shrine of Izumo Taishakyo and the dragon topped Kuan Yin that you can visit. You can also try out mouth-watering cuisines at the numerous eateries that dot the area.
#9 Go Sightseeing At Iolani Palace
This palace is known as the ancestral home of the famous Kalakaua Dynasty and it is located in Honolulu downtown. The palace offers a contrast from the modern building that surrounds it.
Iolani Palace is a 19th-century palace and it has a Francophone and Italianate charm from its terraces and Baroque architecture. The palace was constructed by the monarch David Kalakaua who traveled to Europe, Africa, and Asia to get inspiration for this enormous project.
Once you step foot inside the building, you will find exhibitions that cover collections of Queen Liliuokalani and King Kalakaua and also military artifacts. You should also make sure you do not miss the regular performances of the Royal Hawaiian Band while you are here.
#10 Go Swimming With The Shark
This is a nerve-wracking if you are a thrill-seeker. You can join the shark diving tour where you will visit the roaring swells located on the northern coast which is where shark sighting is very common.
You will then be locked in a secure steel cage which will be lowered into the water so that you can see varieties of sharks like grey reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, and sandbar sharks swimming around the current.
Also, you are going to see marine fauna such as rare green sea turtles, enormous humpback whales, and lots of exotic marine flora.
#11 Join A Sunset Cocktail Cruise From Waikiki
This is a romantic and relaxing activity that you can try out in Waikiki while you enjoy panoramic sunset views. You can join a sunset cruise on a 53-foot catamaran which will take you south towards the iconic Diamond head. The best thing about this tour is that you will enjoy sunset views while sipping a cocktail.
#12 Try Out Paradise Cove Traditional Luau Experience
One of the top things to try out in Honolulu is to experience a traditional Hawaiian luau with mesmerizing sunset coastal views at Paradise Cove.
On this cultural experience, you will get to try out Mai tai and authentic Hawaiian fare which includes fresh seafood, tropical fruit, and kalua pork. You will also be entertained by Hawaiian musicians, fire twirlers, and hula dancers while enjoying sunset views.
#13 Join The Turtle Canyon Catamaran Snorkel Tour
This is a top activity to try out if you are a nature or animal lover as you will get to snorkel with green sea turtles in the Turtle Canyon during 2 to 3-hour tour.
The turtle canyon is known as the best place to spot turtles in Hawaii and a family-friendly destination. You can then snorkel where you will find turtles and lots of other marine animals.
You will then enjoy lunch after the snorkeling trip and you should be alert so that you do not miss marine animals such as dolphins and migrating whales.
#14 Go Snorkeling At Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular places in Hawaii where tourists can spot a turtle and see marine life. Hanauma Bay has a magnificent coral formation and also a protected bay which makes it a great spot for a half-day snorkeling adventure.
You are going to find numerous fish and marine species and if you are lucky you will even spot a turtle. The best way that you can explore the bay is by joining a snorkeling tour with expert snorkeling guide. So, you will have access to snorkeling gear and also skip the lines at Hanauma Bay.
#15 Visit The National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific
This cemetery is also called the Punchbowl cemetery and can be found at the bottom of the Punchbowl crater located in the north-eastern side of the bustling downtown of Honolulu.
The cemetery is a perfect escape from hustling and bustling of the island and it attracts millions of tourists per year. Visitors come here to pay their respects to heroes that fought and died in the Pacific Theater while fight in conflicts like WWI, Vietnam War, and the Korean War.
The cemetery also houses the Honolulu Memorial where you will find displays of names of all the soldiers that were missing in action during wars. It also features a monument of Lady Liberty and words by the former President Abraham Lincoln.
#16 Explore The Koko Crater Trail
The trailheads of the Koko Crater start from the southern fringes of the city. It passes through the Ko’olau mountains and above the waters of the magnificent Hanauma Bay.
The trail houses a nature reserve which houses spiked cacti and sunbaked paths and it offers hiker the chance to explore rugged backcountry of Honolulu.
The trail follows a disused train track which passes between the scrublands and rocks. It offers 360-degree views of south-eastern Honolulu coast and the cliffs of Molokai island in the distance.
#17 Go Ziplining At Kualoa Ranch
This is a thrilling and family-friendly activity to try out in Honolulu. You will get the chance to float along a zip line along with the Jurassic Park territory and it offers a short scenic cruise through the mesmerizing scenery.
This activity is a nerve-wracking adventure to try out with family or a group of friends. The zip line tour also includes pick up and you will enjoy zip line adventure in 7 different zip lines in the Kaawa Valley.
#18 Join The Atlantis Submarine Tour In Waikiki
This tour will give you the chance to climb aboard a 48-passenger submarine and it is perfect for family and adventure seeker.
The tour takes you through the underwater passages of the popular Waikiki beach. And from the portal windows, you are going to see coral, Hawaiian fish, turtles, airplanes, sunken ships, and so on.
This tour offers a mind-blowing experience where you will see sunken warships and planes. It is suitable for history and nature lovers.
#19 Go Sightseeing At Manoa Falls
The Manoa Falls is known as the second most famous hike in Oahu after the Diamond Head Hike. You are going to find the trail located close to the busy streets of Waikiki and it will take you to a large waterfall.
The fall is also used as movie sets for some popular music such as Lost and Jurassic Park. It is best if you explore the trail with a tour guide so that they can help to identify the local flora and fauna found along the trail.
#20 Explore Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu Falls is a cascading waterfall located in the middle of the forest and it is a great spot to just relax in the afternoon. Before you can get to the fall, you will need to take a 30 minutes hike from the Pali Highway.
#21 Join A Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour In Waianae
This tour offers a great chance to see some of the most magnificent creatures in the ocean while you cruise along the coast of Honolulu.
The tour will take you to two of the best snorkel sites on the island where you will find dolphins and whales. You can also go snorkeling on this tour if you are up for more adventure.
These are some of the best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii and you can start exploring your journey with the help of the above list.