Honolulu, Hawaii, is the gateway to the Aloha State. Many visitors coming from mainland US, Asia, Australia, and Canada will oftentimes land at Honolulu airport before moving to one of the smaller islands. From surfers looking to catch those adrenaline invoking waves to visitors looking to enjoy a lazy time, the city has something for everyone.
Tourists know the popular spots on the island, but a worldwide local knows how to get a fully authentic experience. This is an insider’s guide to Honolulu’s most exquisite places. Honolulu is famous for its beautiful beaches, lip-smacking food, cultural heritage, and hot spots to try various water activities. This guide will help you make the most of your visit to this tropical island.
One of the most popular neighborhoods in Honolulu is Waikiki because the majority of resorts and shopping areas are found here, along with the best Honolulu restaurants. Unless you want to be part of a large tourist crowd and would be willing to part with a hefty amount for accommodation, avoid the beachfront properties. Opt for one of the Honolulu hotels located a short walk from the beach, instead. The best place to stay, however, is Downtown--center of all the Honolulu action.
Worldwide Local Tip: The summer months can attract hordes of tourists. The best time to visit is during what is known as the “shoulder season” which is Mid-April to Mid-June and September- Mid December when there are fewer visitors. Flights to Honolulu and hotels are going to be the cheapest and the crowds will be at the lowest during these times.
Honolulu has some of the most amazing beaches, the most popular being Waikiki. If you want a local spot with fewer crowds and slightly calmer waters, head to Ala Moana Beach Park, a 10-minute walk away. Another option is to visit Lanikai beach, which is where the Obama family stays when they visit the island.
With the Pacific Ocean at the end of the street, there are many water-related things to do in Honolulu. Choose to go snorkeling, paddling, scuba diving, surfing, swimming, or take a boat tour if you want to explore the waters without getting wet. Head over to Hanauma Bay Park and watch the colorful local marine life.
Worldwide Local Tip: The park is closed on Tuesdays, so for the clearest waters, visit first thing on a Wednesday. Getting a parking spot can be quite hectic, so make sure to get there before the park opens at 6.00 am.
Hiking and More
For a more adventurous time in Honolulu, hike up the iconic Diamond Head Crater and see the most fantastic bird-eye view of the city. Other exciting trails that will get you sweating as you enjoy unbeatable views include Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, Koko Crater Railway, and Lanikai Pillbox Hike. For an excellent aerial view, without the hassle of a hike, head out to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout.
To see Mother Nature in full effect, check out the Halona Blowhole. A natural lava tube, carved off lava rocks, it’s located on the southeastern shore of Honolulu. When the waves hit the coast, water is forced through the lava tube to an opening in the rocks and up to the surface, where it can shoot up to 3 feet in the air.
Worldwide Local Tip: Make sure you are well prepared before taking a hike and are wearing sunscreen, as the Honolulu weather can be scorching. Carry enough water and a few snacks, and most importantly have the proper footwear.
Shop ’Til You Drop
Honolulu is a shopper’s haven. You can shop luxury/ designer label items from the Royal Hawaiian Center or any of the other number of shops lining Waikiki’s main road. Alternatively, head over to Ala Moana Center, which is considered the largest open-air shopping mall. For good bargains, visit the Aloha Swap Meet, a flea market open on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, at Aloha Stadium. Here you can shop souvenirs, find local handmade crafts, and even book discounted tours around the island.
Where and What to Eat
The food culture in Honolulu is a fusion of cultures from different parts of the world, the most significant being Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian influences. Portuguese malasadas, puffy pieces of dough fried and sprinkled with sugar, are a must have when in Honolulu. For an authentic taste of Honolulu, indulge your taste buds as you enjoy an order of Loco Moco, a meal consisting of a bed of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. Get the best Loco Moco at Joe’s Grill Express, located right behind the airport.
Worldwide Local Tip: After a hot day at the beach or a long sweaty hike, indulge in Honolulu’s best coolant, shaved ice served with the flavor of your choice. Enjoy this sugary delight at Waiola Shave Ice, a local spot that’s known to sell the best shaved ice on the island.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Honolulu is a dream destination for most people, and exploring the city as a worldwide local will surely make your visit there an unforgettable experience.