Hawaii has been on my bucket list for years. From Ireland, it is a trek and a half to Honolulu, Hawaii. As I’m in San Francisco, I had to visit. My first visit to the Islands (one of many future visits) was to Honolulu in Oahu. I based myself in Honolulu and completely relaxed while here. I spent 5 nights on the Island and it felt like a proper getaway.
Honolulu is Hawaii’s capital and is based on the south shore of Oahu. Waikiki is the main hub of activity in Honolulu with lots of restaurants, shopping and tourist activities. Honolulu is the most built up area of the Islands and high rise hotels line the palm treed beach. A quick drive out of Waikiki and you arrive at the postcard scenes from Hawaii.
Top Things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii
#1 Relax or adventure vacation
Honolulu, Hawaii, caters for all sorts of holidays. Whether you want to relax on the white sand admiring the turquoise blue ocean or whether you want an action packed holiday, Honolulu, Hawaii, offers both.
#2 Festivals of all kinds
There are many festivals in Honolulu throughout the year such as music festivals, surf riding competitions, hula dancing, boat races and local craft festivals to name a few.
#3 Enjoy the water
Waikiki is the perfect place in Honolulu, Hawaii, to catch a wave surfing or enjoy a canoe ride.
#4 Hiking adventures
For the more adventurous who take a trip to Honolulu, Diamond Head Crater is an extinct volcano which has a hiking trail built to the summit. The views are incredible and worth the trek! There are so many hikes and trails around the island where you can nip by waterfalls, the bay or craters.
#5 Park and garden areas
Kapiolani Park and gardens in Honolulu is a way to experience island beauty by stepping away from the built up Waikiki. An aquarium, zoo, tennis court, shows and pathways all can be found within the park and gardens.
There are a whole host of festivities that take place throughout the gardens and showcase the phenomenal beauty of the island & Honolulu.
#6 Water activities
There are companies upon companies who offer water activities such as snorkeling with turtles, submarine scooters, parasailing or day sailing adventures. Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve with a beach and an abundance of green turtles and parrotfish.
One of the top things in Honolulu, Hawaii is definitely the sealife, clear waters and beaches. I highly recommend spending some time in the water in Hawaii as it is one of the most beautiful & memorable things about Hawaii.
#7 Visit Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is a top to do in Honolulu, Hawaii. Explore the exhibit galleries and the Pearl Harbor National memorial to learn more about it’s significance and history.
#8 Enjoy beach sunsets
We spent one evening swimming in the ocean and watching the sun go down and it was the best sunset I have ever seen in my life.
The sky went through a spectrum of colors from soft pink to a yellow glow, onto a burning orange and every shade in between.
Make sure you have an evening spent on the beach in Honolulu, listening to the waves and watching the sun go down. A truly memorable evening & one of the best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Top Restaurants in Honolulu, Hawaii
#9 Dukes Restaurant
We went to Dukes for brunch and the views are quite the delight. Sipping refreshing mimosas while catching up by the palm trees was a perfect Saturday morning in Honolulu, Hawaii. There is a huge variety of food from freshly cooked-to-order omelets, to mouthwatering stacked pancakes to rainbows of freshly cut island fruit.
#10 Heavenly Island Lifestyle Acaí Café
Hawaii is the home of the Acaí bowl and every couple of blocks, an Acaí Café can be found. One favorite of mine was in Heavenly Island Lifestyle which was just off the beach and served Acaí bowls along with other brunch foods.
#11 Arancino di Mare Italian restaurant
Arancino di Mare, an Italian restaurant, with dainty fairy lights outside and magnificent pizza is a must. Make a reservation in advance for an outside table.
#12 Beach House restaurant
The Moana Surfrider hotel has a restaurant, the Beach House, at the back of the hotel with the most tranquil, picturesque views of blue skies and white sand. This Westin property is a little more on the expensive side, so I would say have an afternoon lunch or a fancy cocktail here to enjoy the views.
#13 Roy’s Waikiki Beach Sushi restaurant
There are sushi restaurants dotted around Waikiki and range from takeaway to 5 star sushi restaurants. Although Honolulu can be on the more expensive side, there are lots of different options for different budgets. Try Roy’s Waikiki beach.
Where to stay in Honolulu, Hawaii
#14 Live Music at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel
I have been traveling a lot over the summer so booked my accommodation quite last minute and prices in Honolulu can be more on the expensive side (top tip: book in time!). I stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and it was a great choice.
The balcony overlooked the hotel pool and the sun shone brightly in our room every morning. Each night, there was live music at the hotel and each evening as the pool closed up, there was a traditional band and dancers to ease into the evening.
#15 Poolside Lounging at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
The pool was beautiful, never too full and there were always lots of pool loungers. The bar is right by the pool also and food is served throughout the day. For lighter, healthy snacks and juices, there is a café just beside the pool entrance.
#16 Explore beautiful grounds at Royal Hawaiian hotel
The “Pink Hotel” or the Royal Hawaiian is a sister hotel of the Sheraton Princess and was the very first hotel in Waikiki. The hotel oozes old school charm and pink is tastefully dotted throughout the grand hotel. The hotel steps right onto the beach and there are beautiful grounds to explore around the hotel.
#17 Enjoy a beachfront hotel at Moana Surfrider
If you want to have a major treat-yourself moment, the Moana Surfrider is a beautiful hotel which is directly across from Sheraton Princess and is right along the beach. I highly recommend a stroll to each of the hotels to enjoy the views and beautiful décor.
#18 Get adventurous with an island feel Airbnb
As well as lots of great high rise hotels in Waikiki, there are the cutest Airbnbs which give such a homely island feel. Some are completely in the wilderness on the Island, so if you plan on getting a car and staying on Oahu, I would recommend looking into this option.
Shopping in Honolulu, Hawaii
#19 Shopping at designer shops
Honolulu, Hawaii, has an abundance of amazing designer shops! Waikiki is lined with high end stores and also lots of high street. There are ABC shops every corner where you can get some holiday trinkets and Hawaii treats such as chocolate macadamias (a must!).
Lei’s are also a pretty addition to any outfit when in Hawaii. Naturally, we wore flowers in our hair most days.
Flights to other islands from Honolulu, Hawaii
#20 Island hopping
Flights to other islands are so short (about an hour) and relatively cheap (about $100 if you book in time) so if you are spending time in Hawaii, I would definitely recommend island hopping to make sure you get the most out of your journey.
I’ve stayed on Oahu and I did lot of plane hopping. I went to Maui another time & absolutely loved it.
You can read more on top things to do in Maui HERE or read about the beautiful stay we had in Maui on a yoga retreat HERE. Maui was more relaxing and less city like which I preferred so if you are choosing between the two pick Maui.
Hope my guide of top things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii inspires you to explore the ocean, beaches & sunsets on your holiday of a lifetime. There are so many things to do in Honolulu that this is just a fraction of the best things to do in Honolulu.