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Although it’s an island and filled with marvelous opportunities for surfing, snorkeling, and swimming, Oahu’s adventures don’t end at the water line. Within the island’s lush interior, you can mountain bike, hike, or ride horses to stunning overlooks, hidden ruins, and tremendous waterfalls. In the city, museums detail the state’s history as a kingdom and neighborhoods like Chinatown are perfect for strolling.

Things to do in Honolulu

Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts

No trip to Oahu is complete without shopping for Hawaiian shirts; while some of the better shirts here sell for upwards of $3,000, you can take others home for under $10. Kitschy treasures of vintage Hawaiiana are also on deck.

517 Kapahulu Ave., HI, 808-734-7628, www.alohashirts.com
Tags: family | shopping | things to do | souvenirs | novelty

Bishop Museum

From mythology to monarchy, the Bishop Museum offers an excellent introduction to Hawaii's natural and cultural history. The planetarium points out what you'll see in Hawaii's night sky, while the Hawaiian Hall (reopened in August 2009) presents the world's most comprehensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts.

1525 Bernice St., HI, 808-847-3511, www.bishopmuseum.org
Tags: family | things to do | culture | history | museum

Cindy’s Lei Shoppe

Locals have been coming to this Chinatown landmark for over four decades to shop from wide variety of leis (at low prices) for special occasions. Cindy will even ship her vivid, fragrant arrangements to the mainland U.S.

1034 Maunakea St., HI, 877-536-0007, www.cindysleishoppe.com
Tags: shopping | great value | local favorite | things to do | souvenirs

Diamond Head

Although the hike to the top of this iconic peak is just under two miles long, you’ll climb nearly 550 feet to reach the breezy summit that offers stunning views of Waikiki and the Pacific.

HI, www.gohawaii.com
Tags: family | hiking | editor pick | views | things to do

Honolulu Symphony

In existence since 1900, the Honolulu Symphony is the longest-established orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains. Under the direction of the esteemed Andreas Delfs, the symphony collaborates with musicians from the around the world, such as violinist Cho-Liang Lin, to bring music written by the likes of Brahms and Wagner to life.

Neal S. Blaisdell Center Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave., HI, 808-792-2000, www.honolulusymphony.com
Tags: historic | smart splurge | things to do | performing arts

Honolulu Zoo

Twilight tours every Saturday at the Honolulu Zoo illuminate creatures of land and sea in a different light. It’s a great place to bring the kids every other day of the week as well.

151 Kapahulu Ave., HI, 808-926-3191, www.honoluluzoo.org
Tags: family | things to do | wildlife | zoo

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States. It was home to King Kalakaua, who oversaw its construction in 1882, and his successor, Queen Lili‘uokalani, who was imprisoned within the palace walls for nine months following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. Fascinating docent-led tours, offered Tuesday through Saturday, take visitors back in time through the palace corridors and into the state rooms, the private quarters, the galleries and the basement, for a peek at what palace life was like. Reserve at least one day in advance. 

364 South King St. , HI, 808-522-0822, www.iolanipalace.org
Tags: art | things to do | culture | architecture | history | museum

Kayaking at Kailua

Windsurfers and kayakers flock to the beach town of Kailua, where tradewinds create near-perfect conditions for skittering across the water. Kayakers can paddle to one of the tiny crater-filled volcanic cays that stud the ocean on this side of the island or ogle the mansions along Lanikai beach to the south. Lessons and rentals are available at Kailua Sailboard and Kayaks Company.

130 Kailua Rd., HI, 808-262-2555, www.kailuasailboards.com
Tags: kayaking | windsurfing | things to do | adventure

Learn to Surf

Learning to surf needn’t take all day. Head to the Aloha Beach Services stand behind the Westin Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki for half-day surfing lessons.

Aloha Beach Services, Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., HI, 808-922-3111 ext. 2341
Tags: family | surfing | editor pick | great value | things to do | adventure

Pearl Harbor

Some 2,335 military men and women died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and each year more than 1.5 million visit the stark-white marble memorial to the USS Arizona, as well as the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin, and the Pearl Harbor Museum, where you can listen to survivor interviews.

1 Arizona Memorial Place, HI, 808-422-0561, www.nps.gov/valr
Tags: family | things to do | history | museum | memorial

Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry

In 1887, Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani (the last Hawaiian monarch) attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in England, where the two were presented with gold bracelets upon which their names were cut out and enameled in black. They were so taken with the gifts that upon returning to Hawaii they reproduced such bracelets for the rest of the court. This forged a tradition of commemorating anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays with these handmade keepsakes. For 35 years, engravers of Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry have incorporated symbols of Hawaiian culture, such as the plumeria and hibiscus, into these bracelets.

1130 Bishop St., HI, 808-524-4313, www.rhhj.com
Tags: shopping | smart splurge | things to do | jewelry | crafts

Saturday Farmers’ Market

This weekly market hosted by Kapiolani Community College is a must for locals and visitors alike: Gape at the otherworldly fruits and vegetables on display; pick up local jams and Hawaiian volcanic sea salt; and wash down a lunch of organic cheeseburger and pineapple bread pudding with a homemade ginger ale.

4303 Diamond Head Rd., HI, 808-947-3804, www.kcc.hawaii.edu
Tags: family | shopping | things to do | culture | culinary


Tobacco heiress Doris Duke’s 15,000-square-foot home is an Arabian Nights’ fantasy, complete with around 3,500 pieces of art from Iran, Egypt, India, Morocco, Syria, and Iraq; reservations recommended.

4055 Papu Circle, HI, 808-734-1941, www.shangrilahawaii.org
Tags: family | editor pick | art | things to do | culture | architecture | history

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Calm water, a massive reef, and more than 400 species of fish make snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve a Technicolor flurry of reds, blues, and yellows. Rent equipment or bring your own. Note that the preserve is closed on Tuesdays and that it’s quite a long trek from the parking lot to the bay. Also, get there early as the park suspends entry when the parking lot is filled.

7455 Kalaniana'ole Hwy. (10 miles east of Waikiki), HI, 808-396-4229, www.honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay
Tags: snorkeling | things to do | wildlife | adventure

Waikiki Aquarium

Take the whole family along to gaze at the incredibly diverse wildlife the Pacific Ocean has to offer. With unique species of fish, the aquarium is a great place to spend an afternoon.

2777 Kalakaua Ave., HI, 808-923-9741, www.waquarium.org
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | wildlife | aquarium

Waikiki Starlight Luau

Besides the standard mai tai and shell lei greeting, Oahu's newest luau on the rooftop garden at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort offers some appealing twists. Upon arrival guests can engage in hula lessons, get temporary Polynesian tattoos, or simply kick back with a mai tai. The huge buffet includes traditional Hawaiian luau offerings (like kalua pig and poi), as well as local favorites like huli huli chicken, Portuguese sausage, rice noodles, ahi poke, and Molokai sweet potatoes. After dinner, the Polynesian performers put on a mesmerizing show with a four-man Samoan fire-knife dance finale. The cost is $95 per adult, $47.50  per child ages 4-11. Luaus are held Sunday through Thursday, weather permitting.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, 2005 Kalia Rd., HI, 808-941-5828, www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/luau
Tags: family | smart splurge | things to do | culture

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