Honolulu, Hawaii, the largest city and state capital of the Hawaiian Islands, is a montage of white-sand beaches, high-rise hotels and condominiums, and a myriad of shopping, dining and entertainment. While it has a tropical ambience, Honolulu — and the entire island of Oahu — is the state’s political, economic, military, educational and cultural center. It’s an urban metropolis with a bustling downtown and attractions like museums, historic sites and performing arts.
Without a doubt, Waikiki Beach, located on Oahu’s south shore, is Honolulu’s tourism central. Once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, it’s Honolulu’s main hotel and resort area, with dozens of properties located on the beach or within a short walking distance. World-class shopping and dining can be found along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues and at places like the Royal Hawaiian Center and the Waikiki Beach Walk. And, when the sun goes down, there’s plenty of nightlife and live music.
For visitors who yearn for a taste of city life, downtown Honolulu is full of historic buildings, a thriving Chinatown, and several cultural attractions, including a gallery walk, where the area’s art galleries and museums stay open in the evening on the first Friday of every month.
Honolulu’s attractions range from historic sites to scenic spots. The city is home to the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on U.S. soil; the Bishop Museum, Hawaii’s preeminent cultural showcase with artifacts and interactive exhibits; and several art museums. In Waikiki, there are the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium, as well as surfboard markers along the Waikiki Historical Trail. To the east is Diamond Head crater, which can be seen from almost anywhere on the south shore. In addition, Honolulu is located within a half hour of many other attractions, including Pearl Harbor.
Like most of the regions in the Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu features restaurants that serve Hawaii regional cuisine made with farm-to-table ingredients and locally caught fish and seafood, with some menus adding an Asian flare to the fare. Hawaii also is known for its mixed plate lunches (and dinners) featuring a main dish, such as Hawaiian pork or chicken, with macaroni salad and rice. Another local dish is “loco moco” — a mound of rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and brown gravy.
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is served by all major domestic carriers and many international carriers. Most visitors rent a car, but there are also shuttle services; and, once in Honolulu, you can take the TheBus, Oahu’s public transportation system. There’s also the Waikiki Trolley, which stops at most major attractions. Taxis are also available.
Year-round, Honolulu’s climate is warm and mild, with occasional — and mostly brief — showers and an average temperature of 70 to 85 degrees, although the weather is a bit milder during the summer high season. While there is some humidity, trade winds keep the islands cooler than most other tropical destinations.