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A Sneak Peek into Oahu's Hidden Treasures: What is there to do in Honolulu Hawaii?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

what is there to do in honolulu hawaii

The Symphony of Sights: Embracing Honolulu’s Allure

When you contemplate the city of Honolulu, an enchanting montage likely springs to mind. Golden sunsets painting the sky above shimmering azure waters, vibrant rainbows arching over lush emerald landscapes, and the intoxicating aroma of fragrant plumerias wafting through salty ocean breezes. This paradise on Earth is indeed a sensory spectacle that captivates both heart and soul.

Honolulu – Hawaii's bustling capital – is a harmonious symphony of natural beauty and urban sophistication. It's nestled between the verdant mountains and the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific, offering awe-inspiring landscapes that make every moment feel like an exquisite postcard.

The city’s skyline is equally mesmerizing, with architectural masterpieces standing tall amidst swaying palms. Yet beyond its aesthetic appeal, what truly adds depth to Honolulu's allure are its vibrant cultural tapestry, warm aloha spirit, rich historic legacy, delectable culinary variety, and thriving arts scene - aspects often eclipsed by its sheer scenic splendor.

Digging Deeper: Beyond the Famous Sands

Yes – when it comes to Honolulu – Waikiki Beach invariably steals most of the limelight. It’s where surfboards dot wave-crested horizons and beachgoers laze under beach umbrella pinwheels while sipping fresh coconut water or indulging in shave ice treats.

But don’t be mistaken! Though Waikiki is undoubtedly iconic with its energetic vibe and stunning panorama crowned by Diamond Head Crater; limiting your exploration to this tourist beacon would be akin to reading a captivating novel but halting after just one chapter.

Honolulu extends far beyond her celebrated sandy stretches. Its off-the-beaten-path corners beckon with treasures waiting to be unearthed, promising experiences that marry the quintessential with the extraordinary.

what is there to do in honolulu hawaii

So, learn to surf on Waikiki if you must, but also venture forth into the city's lesser-known realms – you will find yourself rewarded with secrets only shared by the island whispering in your ear through her trade winds. That’s Honolulu for you - an enigma waiting to be deciphered beyond her famous beaches!

The Uncharted Path: Lesser-Known Beaches of Honolulu

Unveiling the Secluded Beauty of Spitting Caves

Think you've seen all the beaches Honolulu has to offer? You might want to revisit that thought. Beyond the beaten path and the hoi polloi lies a clandestine beauty named 'Spitting Caves'.

Tucked away in Portlock, a residential neighborhood, this hidden treasure offers more than just a beach. Its moniker comes from the natural ebb and flow of waves into underwater caves that ultimately 'spit' water out along its rocky coasts.

With panoramic views of the awe-inspiring Pacific Ocean, it's also an impeccable vantage point for spotting marine life such as sea turtles or even humpback whales in winter months. While it lacks sandy space for sunbathing, it makes up for with its strikingly raw beauty and secluded serenity.

The Tranquil Charm of Kahala Beach

Escape from bustling Waikiki and step into tranquility at Kahala Beach. Nestled in one of Oahu's most opulent neighborhoods, this lesser-known gem embodies calmness and seclusion, ripped straight from a luxurious postcard scene.

The beach is petite compared to others but its beauty carries an enormous weight. Turquoise waters kiss your feet while the Diamond Head crater forms a dreamy backdrop that tastes like pure paradise on your visual palate.

It is also home to some iconic landmarks like Waialae Stream Bridge and the coveted Kahala Hotel – known for their dolphin lagoon! Wrapped in silence with only occasional whispers from gentle waves, Kahala beach offers an intimate Hawaiian experience - a haven for solitude seekers.

Nature’s Underrated Wonders: Off-the-Beaten-Path Hiking Trails

While Honolulu's sun-soaked beaches are undoubtedly a major attraction, the city's lush inland offers its own share of invigorating adventures. A multitude of hidden trails await those yearning for an intimate encounter with nature. These paths, though less trodden, reward hikers with stunning vistas and tranquil atmospheres that are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Ascend to Euphoria: Koko Head Crater Trail

The Koko Head Crater Trail, locatable on the eastern side of Oahu, offers more than just a typical hike; it is an exhilarating ascension towards euphoria. As you climb each one of the 1,048 railway ties turned makeshift stairway – remnants of this trail's past as a military supply line during WWII – your efforts are instantly rewarded by awe-inspiring views.

Each step takes you higher above sea level until you reach the summit where a 360-degree panorama awaits. There’s something profoundly satisfying about beholding Diamond Head in the west to Hanauma Bay in the east from such staggering heights.

The Symphony of Nature: Manoa Falls Trail

Located within Manoa Valley – itself an oasis away from Honolulu’s concrete jungle – is yet another gem we implore you not to miss: Manoa Falls Trail. This hike invites you on a journey through verdant rainforests resounding with nature's symphony - rustling leaves dancing in harmony with babbling brooks under the watchful eye of towering trees blanketed in moss.

The breath-taking climax arrives at a majestic waterfall cascading down 150 feet into a shimmering pool below. It serves as both an idyllic backdrop for capturing unforgettable moments and a testament to the wild beauty that thrives beyond Honolulu's sandy shores.

Cultural Corners: Exploring Honolulu's Rich History and Art Scene

Unearthing Royal Roots at Iolani Palace: America's Only Royal Palace

Nestled amidst the city’s bustling business district, the majestic Iolani Palace stands as an oasis of tranquility and grandeur. This opulent edifice, boasting a unique blend of Hawaiian and American architectural styles, served as the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy in the late 19th century. As you step into this royal haven, you are immediately transported into a bygone era.

what is there to do in honolulu hawaii

The palace's sumptuous interiors, replete with ornate details and historical artifacts including King Kalakaua’s original throne and Queen Liliʻuokalani’s beautiful gowns, tell tales of a rich cultural past. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience an audio tour that provides fascinating insights into Hawaii's regal history.

A Splash of Color in Kaka'ako: Honolulu's Vibrant Street Art Scene

Stepping away from the royal splendor, shift your sights to a modern artistic spectacle in the heart of Kaka'ako district. Once an industrial neighborhood known for its warehouses and factories, Kaka’ako has transformed into an open-air gallery that tells stories through vibrant murals.

Every mural is an explosion of creativity that captures aspects of Hawaiian culture, tradition and contemporary issues. Walk down its streets during POW!

WOW! Hawaii—an annual art event—and watch as local and international artists bring mundane walls to life with their brushes.

In between these colorful lanes lined with boutiques selling unique local crafts to quirky eateries serving palate-pleasing dishes, this district is not only a feast for your eyes but also for your taste buds! So whether you're art aficionado or simply someone who appreciates vivid displays of creativity; take a leisurely stroll around Kaka'ako, and you'll find that this vibrant district has more hues to offer than even a rainbow can hold.

Foodie’s Paradise: Unique Local Eateries and Markets

Savor the Tastes of the Island at Helena's Hawaiian Food

If you were to ask the locals where to find authentic Hawaiian cuisine, chances are most directions would point towards Helena's Hawaiian Food. Nestled in a nondescript part of town away from the bustling tourist areas, this gem has been serving up traditional fare since 1946. Once you step inside, you will be welcomed by a warm smile and tantalizing smells that immediately tell you're in for a treat.

The menu is an invitation to embark on a culinary journey across Hawaii’s rich gastronomic landscape. Dishes like Kalua pig (Hawaiian-style pulled pork), pipikaula short ribs (Hawaiian beef jerky), and chicken long rice (a soup dish with clear noodles) offer an authentic taste of the islands' diverse flavors.

And let's not forget about their famous haupia—a creamy coconut dessert that perfectly ends any meal on a sweet note. Dining at Helena's isn't just about enjoying good food; it's about appreciating Hawaii’s vibrant culture, one delicious bite at a time.

An Ode to Freshness: KCC Farmers Market

Saturday mornings in Honolulu hold something special for those devoted to fresh produce and local goods—the Kapiolani Community College (KCC) Farmers Market. As sunlight filters through rows of stalls adorned with fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and more, you step into what feels like a vibrant festival celebrating all things local. Here is where you can find pineapples so sweet they could be dessert on their own or avocados as big as your head—literally!

The market teems with farmers eager to share stories behind their produce and vendors offering mouth-watering dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients. As you saunter through the vibrant scene, don't forget to sample delicate lilikoi (passion fruit) pastries, attend a poi-making demonstration, or simply relish the joyous energy that permeates every corner of the market.

The KCC Farmers Market is more than just a place to buy groceries. It’s where you connect with Hawaii’s agricultural community, support local businesses, and get a taste of island life in its most authentic form.

Shopping Secrets: Beyond the Usual Tourist Traps

When you're in search of a shopping experience that transcends the ordinary, Honolulu has more to offer than you might imagine. Forget the traditional beachside stalls and trinket-packed tourist stores; instead, prepare to plunge into a world where unique finds and vintage treasures beckon at every corner.

Scouting Eccentricities in Chinatown’s Eclectic Shops

A trip to Honolulu would be incomplete without a visit to its vibrant Chinatown district. A heady mix of sights, sounds, and scents await as you navigate your way through this bustling neighborhood.

Skirting past food stalls wafting with the intoxicating aroma of Asian cuisine, you'll stumble upon unassuming shopfronts housing an array of curiosities. Whether you’re hunting for exotic spices, beautifully crafted ceramics or hand-woven textiles, these shops are filled with surprises at every turn.

The Mauna Kea Marketplace is a must-visit for those seeking authentic Hawaiian souvenirs. Meanwhile, at places like Pegge Hopper Art Gallery or Owens & Co., one can unearth exquisite jewelry pieces and home decor items that echo Hawaiian traditions with a modern twist.

Vintage Voyages: Bailey's Antiques & Aloha Shirts

For lovers of retro charm and eclectic nostalgia, Bailey's Antiques & Aloha Shirts is like stepping into a sartorial time machine. This landmark store located on Kapahulu Avenue is home to over 15,000 vintage aloha shirts– reputedly the largest selection anywhere in the world!

Each shirt tells its own story through vibrant prints depicting bygone eras of Hawaiian history and culture. The magic of Bailey’s extends beyond their famed shirt collection; it invites patrons to explore a treasure trove of antiques, from vintage sunglasses and old-fashioned postcards to nostalgic memorabilia.

what is there to do in honolulu hawaii

This unique place offers more than just a shopping experience; it's an opportunity to delve into the kaleidoscopic past of this enigmatic island paradise. So, why not bring back home an unforgettable memento from the heart of Hawaii?

Nightlife Nooks: Where Locals Really Hang Out After Dark

The Melodious Charm of Blue Note Hawaii

When the sun dips into the horizon and darkness blankets Honolulu, one place that begins to buzz with vibrancy is Blue Note Hawaii. Nestled in the heart of Waikiki inside the famed Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, this spot is a haven for music enthusiasts.

Offering a variety of performances from world-renowned artists to emerging local talents, there's something for every type of music aficionado. The intimate setting paired with excellent acoustics makes it a preferred venue for both performers and spectators alike.

It's not just about jazz - although they have that in abundance - but also pop, rock, reggae and traditional Hawaiian music grace their stage regularly. Relax with their exquisite array of drinks as you enjoy the melodious strains floating through the air - an experience that's bound to make your Honolulu nights unforgettable.

The Frothy Delights at Maui Brewing Co.

For those who find comfort in the chilled embrace of a skillfully crafted pint, Maui Brewing Co should be on your must-visit list while exploring Honolulu after hours. As Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, it proudly represents the islands' vibrant craft beer scene. Located in Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, this brewery pours out a wide array of handcrafted beers made with locally sourced ingredients – from pineapples to coconut – giving each brew its unique Hawaiian touch.

Complementing their frothy offerings are panoramic views of Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head from their outdoor lanai seating area where you can soak up some authentic Aloha vibes beneath starlit skies. Whether you're a seasoned beer connoisseur or simply looking to unwind after a day full of adventure, Maui Brewing Co offers an enchanting blend of Hawaiian hospitality and globally inspired beer craftsmanship.

Wellness Retreats: Holistic Havens in the Heart of Honolulu

A Touch of Aloha: Experiencing Traditional Lomi Lomi Massage Therapies

In the hustle and bustle of exploring Honolulu, a moment of respite can be your own hidden gem. And what better way to indulge in some relaxation than with a traditional Lomi Lomi massage? A staple in Hawaiian healing practices, dating back centuries, this unique therapy involves rhythmic motions and long forearm strokes that mimic the waves of the ocean—aptly fitting for this island paradise.

Several wellness retreats such as Ho'omana Spa and Serenity Spa Hawaii offer these massages, integrating native elements like aromatic ‘awa (kava), tropical oils, and even sea salts. This therapeutic experience is not just about physical relaxation; it's like a spiritual journey that connects the mind, body, and soul.

Serenity with a Scenery: Attending a Yoga Class with a View

To keep up with your wellness routine or perhaps try something new while enjoying Honolulu's breathtaking vistas, consider attending an outdoor yoga class. Yoga Love Mana offers classes by the soothing Waikiki Beach, their backdrop nothing less than emerald waters kissing golden sands under warm sunlight.

Imagine meditating to the soft rhythm of waves while practicing sun salutations—indeed an exercise for both body and soul! Or if you prefer lush greenery over beach landscapes, visit Yoga in The Park Hawaii which offers sessions surrounded by verdant trees at Ala Moana Park.


From tranquil beaches to vibrant murals; from local flavors to hidden shopping spots; from sizzling nightlife to holistic wellness retreats—Honolulu is indeed more than meets the eye! While its popular attractions continue to mesmerize visitors worldwide with their charm, these lesser-known facets add a distinctive touch to the overall Honolulu experience.

So next time you find yourself in Hawaii's beloved city, don't just scratch the surface, dive deeper. Seek and discover these hidden gems that await your exploration, promising an unforgettable journey marked by serenity, discovery, and local culture.


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