Situated on the southern end of Oahu, Honolulu serves as the cultural nucleus for Hawaii. Home to the state capitol, the city offers its share of political landmarks, but also has a vibrant arts community and a slew of sandy beaches, including the famed Waikiki. Explore the city’s deep monarchical history, and be sure to experience its diverse outdoor terrain.
The Pearl Harbor Museum is one of Honolulu’s most popular attractions.
No active volcanoes exist in Honolulu, but the city is home to the Diamond Head crater, a former volcano that has been dormant for over 150,000 years. To experience views from the summit, take the three-hour sunrise or late-rise tour offered by Hawaii Web (hawaiiweb.com). Hike on paved trails, climb steps and go through a 225-foot tunnel before reaching the top. For a self-guided itinerary, hike up the Koko Crater to see views of Hanauma Bay. You can also walk the trails inside the crater and stop at the botanical garden stocked with native flowers and plants.
At Iolani Palace (iolanipalace.org), where former King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani used to reside, visitors can take a guided tour or venture on a self-led itinerary with audio accompaniment. See royal private quarters, opulent jewels and historic pictures that detail the palace’s construction and history. The Kawaiaha’o Church (kawaiahao.org) was also built during the days of the monarchy — it is often referred to as the “Westminster Abbey of the Pacific.” Visitors can attend worship services here or explore the fountains and King’s tomb on the grounds.
Another popular landmark is the King Kamehameha tribute that stands in front of the Hawaii Supreme Court building. Sculpted by Florence’s Thomas Gould, the 18-foot bronze statue depicts the Hawaiian King who unified the islands.
Hawaii is certainly known for its lush plant life, which is showcased at the Foster Botanical Garden (honolulu.gov). More than 75,000 people come here annually to walk the trails, explore the orchid garden and experience the butterfly habitat. Animal lovers visit the Honolulu Zoo (honoluluzoo.org), home to a bird egg exhibit, reptile house and African Savanna sanctuary where giraffes, crocodiles and hippos live. The zoo offers twilight tours, dinner safaris and a zookeeper school for children. The Waikiki Aquarium (waquarium.org) features exhibits like The Corals Are Alive, The Hawaiian Monk Seal and the shark exhibit, Hunters on the Reef.
Food lovers will be tempted by the Hole in the Wall Tour offered by Hawaii Food Tours (hawaiifoodtours.com). On this five-hour journey, taste fish fritters, noodles, tropical fruits and barbecue as you visit Honolulu’s best ethnic and exotic restaurants. Travelers in search of a fright can take Oahu Ghost Tours’ (oahughosttours.com) Honolulu City Haunts two-hour excursion. As you walk through downtown Honolulu, you’ll visit a haunted residence, explore the site of an actual murder and learn about supernatural events around the city.
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