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Honolulu - Oahu Travel Guide

USA

#1 in Best Hawaiian Islands

Best Things To Do in Honolulu - Oahu

The island of Oahu has a great mix of activities, particularly in Honolulu. Take your kids surfing and snorkeling, hike around Manoa Falls or soak up local history at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace. And then there's the island's plethora of World War II attractions, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. But no trip to Oahu would be complete without visiting some of the island's world-renowned beaches; a few popular options include the water sports-focused Kailua Beach Park, the family-friendly Lanikai Beach and the resort-strewn Waikiki Beach.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
Nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty used to come to the Honolulu neighborhood of Waikiki to relax and surf, just as scores of tourists do today. That's because this area's famous beach (which is a string of several beaches dotting the island's southwest coastline) is the go-to spot for its soft, honey-colored sand and the high waves that lap the shores during the winter months. But you don't have to be a surfer to appreciate Waikiki Beach; just lie back on a beach towel, relax and gaze up at the majestic Diamond Head State Monument in the distance.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Waikiki Beach
Nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty used to come to the Honolulu neighborhood of Waikiki to relax and surf, just as scores of tourists do today. That's because this area's famous beach (which is a string of several beaches dotting the island's southwest coastline) is the go-to spot for its soft, honey-colored sand and the high waves that lap the shores during the winter months. But you don't have to be a surfer to appreciate Waikiki Beach; just lie back on a beach towel, relax and gaze up at the majestic Diamond Head State Monument in the distance.
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#2

#2 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
Located northwest of downtown Honolulu in the Central Oahu region of the island, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is the final resting place of 1,177 sailors killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. The sunken battleship is still visible from the memorial floating above it.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
Located northwest of downtown Honolulu in the Central Oahu region of the island, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is the final resting place of 1,177 sailors killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. The sunken battleship is still visible from the memorial floating above it.
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#3

#3 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
Travel about 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu to the Windward Coast and you'll discover two of the island's most popular beaches – Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach. Of the two, Lanikai is more tranquil, offering relatively calm waters and a mile of white sands. This family-friendly beach is also within view of the Mokulua Islands, a haven for kayaking and surfing.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Lanikai Beach
Travel about 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu to the Windward Coast and you'll discover two of the island's most popular beaches – Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach. Of the two, Lanikai is more tranquil, offering relatively calm waters and a mile of white sands. This family-friendly beach is also within view of the Mokulua Islands, a haven for kayaking and surfing.
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#4

#4 in Honolulu - Oahu

It's no secret: Oahu is home to some of the world's best surfing spots. Every winter (when surfing conditions are at their best), professional surfers from across the globe flock to Oahu's North Shore to shred some gnarly waves in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Basically the Super Bowl of surfing, the Triple Crown takes place in November and December when massive swells roll in from the stormy northern Pacific Ocean.
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Recreation Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Surfing
It's no secret: Oahu is home to some of the world's best surfing spots. Every winter (when surfing conditions are at their best), professional surfers from across the globe flock to Oahu's North Shore to shred some gnarly waves in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Basically the Super Bowl of surfing, the Triple Crown takes place in November and December when massive swells roll in from the stormy northern Pacific Ocean.
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#5

#5 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
The Hawaiian Islands boast 1,200 miles of coral reef, so it's hardly surprising that two of Oahu's most popular activities are snorkeling and scuba diving. Dive into the island's surrounding turquoise water and you'll likely find an array of colorful fish (think: bright yellow tang, rainbow runners and reef triggerfish), plus bigger marine creatures like dolphins and sea turtles.
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Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Diving & Snorkeling
The Hawaiian Islands boast 1,200 miles of coral reef, so it's hardly surprising that two of Oahu's most popular activities are snorkeling and scuba diving. Dive into the island's surrounding turquoise water and you'll likely find an array of colorful fish (think: bright yellow tang, rainbow runners and reef triggerfish), plus bigger marine creatures like dolphins and sea turtles.
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#6

#6 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
If you like to kite surf or windsurf (or watch others participate in the sports), head to Kailua on the Windward Coast and find a perch at Kailua Beach Park. This 3-mile stretch of white, shaded sand and warm, turquoise-hued water appeals to both families and adrenaline junkies thanks to its gentle waves and ample facilities, including picnic tables, restrooms and free parking.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Kailua Beach Park
If you like to kite surf or windsurf (or watch others participate in the sports), head to Kailua on the Windward Coast and find a perch at Kailua Beach Park. This 3-mile stretch of white, shaded sand and warm, turquoise-hued water appeals to both families and adrenaline junkies thanks to its gentle waves and ample facilities, including picnic tables, restrooms and free parking.
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#7

#7 in Honolulu - Oahu

Hawaiians call it Le'ahi, geologists call it a tuff cone (consolidated volcanic ash), 19th-century British sailors called it Diamond Head. Whatever you call it, this unique crater was created 300,000 years ago during a single volcanic eruption that spewed ash into the air. That ash settled over thousands of years, and today, Diamond Head State Monument's ridgeline is one of the most recognizable features of Oahu's skyline, not to mention home to one of the island's most scenic hiking trails.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Diamond Head State Monument
Hawaiians call it Le'ahi, geologists call it a tuff cone (consolidated volcanic ash), 19th-century British sailors called it Diamond Head. Whatever you call it, this unique crater was created 300,000 years ago during a single volcanic eruption that spewed ash into the air. That ash settled over thousands of years, and today, Diamond Head State Monument's ridgeline is one of the most recognizable features of Oahu's skyline, not to mention home to one of the island's most scenic hiking trails.
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#8

#8 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
Stretched across nearly 2 miles of Koko Crater in the Windward Coast region of Oahu, this hiking trail features more than 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad ties. At the trail's summit, visitors will find panoramic vistas of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Diamond Head State Monument.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Koko Crater Trail
Stretched across nearly 2 miles of Koko Crater in the Windward Coast region of Oahu, this hiking trail features more than 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad ties. At the trail's summit, visitors will find panoramic vistas of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Diamond Head State Monument.
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#9

#9 in Honolulu - Oahu

Launched in 1944, the USS Missouri (or "Mighty Mo") is best known for hosting a meeting between Allied and Axis representatives that led to Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. After the war, the ship served in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm before docking in Pearl Harbor and opening as a memorial. It holds the distinction of being the world's last active service battleship.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Battleship Missouri Memorial
Launched in 1944, the USS Missouri (or "Mighty Mo") is best known for hosting a meeting between Allied and Axis representatives that led to Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. After the war, the ship served in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm before docking in Pearl Harbor and opening as a memorial. It holds the distinction of being the world's last active service battleship.
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#10

#10 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
In ancient Hawaiian times, the Punchbowl Crater was used for human sacrifices. Now, it's the final resting place for men and women who served in the U.S. military. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific stretches across much of the crater and contains several moving tributes, including the Honolulu Memorial, which is dedicated to armed forces who fought in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Notable veterans buried here include Ernie Pyle (the famous World War II correspondent) and Stanley Dunham (the maternal grandfather of former President Barack Obama).
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
In ancient Hawaiian times, the Punchbowl Crater was used for human sacrifices. Now, it's the final resting place for men and women who served in the U.S. military. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific stretches across much of the crater and contains several moving tributes, including the Honolulu Memorial, which is dedicated to armed forces who fought in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Notable veterans buried here include Ernie Pyle (the famous World War II correspondent) and Stanley Dunham (the maternal grandfather of former President Barack Obama).
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#11

#11 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
Less than 6 miles northeast of the Koko Crater Trail lies the 2-mile-long Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. Easier to trek than the one at Koko Crater, this free trail overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for spotting seabirds and whale watching between November and May. The path also leads to the red-roofed Makapu'u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
Less than 6 miles northeast of the Koko Crater Trail lies the 2-mile-long Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. Easier to trek than the one at Koko Crater, this free trail overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for spotting seabirds and whale watching between November and May. The path also leads to the red-roofed Makapu'u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909.
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#12

#12 in Honolulu - Oahu

In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Arts joined forces with the Contemporary Museum to create the Honolulu Museum of Art. Together, this museum and its sister property, Spalding House, feature an art collection that spans across seas, styles and centuries. For the price of entry at one museum, you can also explore the other within the same day. (But note: They're 2 miles away from each other.)
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Honolulu Museum of Art
In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Arts joined forces with the Contemporary Museum to create the Honolulu Museum of Art. Together, this museum and its sister property, Spalding House, feature an art collection that spans across seas, styles and centuries. For the price of entry at one museum, you can also explore the other within the same day. (But note: They're 2 miles away from each other.)
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#13

#13 in Honolulu - Oahu

Like the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park sits in Pearl Harbor within view of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This historic vessel, which went on nine patrols during World War II, is one of only 15 U.S. World War II-era submarines that still exists. It now serves as a walk-through exhibit alongside a museum with various war artifacts, including battle flags, submarine bells and a Poseidon missile. Additional items, such as a cruise missile, a torpedo and a submarine rescue chamber, are on display in the surrounding park.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
Like the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park sits in Pearl Harbor within view of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This historic vessel, which went on nine patrols during World War II, is one of only 15 U.S. World War II-era submarines that still exists. It now serves as a walk-through exhibit alongside a museum with various war artifacts, including battle flags, submarine bells and a Poseidon missile. Additional items, such as a cruise missile, a torpedo and a submarine rescue chamber, are on display in the surrounding park.
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#14

#14 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
This approximately 100-foot-tall waterfall, which sits 5 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, is easily accessible. All you need is proper footwear, insect repellant, drinking water and the stamina to hike about 1½ miles on a well-worn path. The rainforest scenery is otherworldly, with enormous prehistoric ferns and the snaking roots of banyan trees. It's no wonder why Steven Spielberg filmed scenes from "Jurassic Park" here. You probably won't see any dinosaurs, but be prepared: The path to the falls can be quite slippery with mud, so wear sturdy hiking shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Manoa Falls
This approximately 100-foot-tall waterfall, which sits 5 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, is easily accessible. All you need is proper footwear, insect repellant, drinking water and the stamina to hike about 1½ miles on a well-worn path. The rainforest scenery is otherworldly, with enormous prehistoric ferns and the snaking roots of banyan trees. It's no wonder why Steven Spielberg filmed scenes from "Jurassic Park" here. You probably won't see any dinosaurs, but be prepared: The path to the falls can be quite slippery with mud, so wear sturdy hiking shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.
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#15

#15 in Honolulu - Oahu

Built in 1882, this 10-room historic house and museum details the reigns of King Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's final monarchs. It is the only official state royal residence found in the U.S.
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Historic Homes/Mansions Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Iolani Palace
Built in 1882, this 10-room historic house and museum details the reigns of King Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's final monarchs. It is the only official state royal residence found in the U.S.
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#16

#16 in Honolulu - Oahu

Free
There are many places in Honolulu to put down some cash and pick up some souvenirs, but none are as extensive as Ala Moana Center. Located northwest of Waikiki Beach and roughly 2 miles southeast of the city center, this behemoth open-air shopping center boasts a collection of high-end stores like Chanel and Versace, department store staples like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, and tourist-kitsch shops like 'Auana Quilts and Island Magnets. Its 350-plus shops and restaurants can take as little as an hour or as much as a whole day to explore.
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Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Ala Moana Center
There are many places in Honolulu to put down some cash and pick up some souvenirs, but none are as extensive as Ala Moana Center. Located northwest of Waikiki Beach and roughly 2 miles southeast of the city center, this behemoth open-air shopping center boasts a collection of high-end stores like Chanel and Versace, department store staples like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, and tourist-kitsch shops like 'Auana Quilts and Island Magnets. Its 350-plus shops and restaurants can take as little as an hour or as much as a whole day to explore.
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#17

#17 in Honolulu - Oahu

If you want to find out more about Hawaiian history and culture, then head to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Named after the last descendant of the Kamehameha royal family and wife of museum founder Charles Reed Bishop, this property houses more than 24 million historical, cultural and natural artifacts about Hawaii and the Pacific. Exhibits include the three-story Hawaiian Hall (where visitors can learn about Hawaiian gods, key events in Hawaiian history and more) and the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame (an area devoted to Hawaiian sports history).
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
If you want to find out more about Hawaiian history and culture, then head to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Named after the last descendant of the Kamehameha royal family and wife of museum founder Charles Reed Bishop, this property houses more than 24 million historical, cultural and natural artifacts about Hawaii and the Pacific. Exhibits include the three-story Hawaiian Hall (where visitors can learn about Hawaiian gods, key events in Hawaiian history and more) and the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame (an area devoted to Hawaiian sports history).
... more

#18

#18 in Honolulu - Oahu

The American tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent her winters living in this opulent oceanfront home near Diamond Head State Monument. She began building it in 1937 and then spent nearly 60 years filling its walls and rooms with art and furniture from Egypt, India, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey. By the end of her life, she had amassed approximately 2,500 objects, which are now available for you to see on a tour of her home.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Shangri La
The American tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent her winters living in this opulent oceanfront home near Diamond Head State Monument. She began building it in 1937 and then spent nearly 60 years filling its walls and rooms with art and furniture from Egypt, India, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey. By the end of her life, she had amassed approximately 2,500 objects, which are now available for you to see on a tour of her home.
... more
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