Photo by Erin Kunkel
Its name means “Sheltered Bay” in the Hawaiian language, but Honolulu is now a tropical metropolis stretching around the entire island of Oahu. As Hawaii’s most populated city, Honolulu also lives up to Oahu’s meaning—a "Gathering Place" among the remote Pacific Islands. Honolulu offers loads of act…ivities from snorkeling to surfing and from hiking to farm tours. Visitors to this Pacific crossroads will return home with a piece of paradise in their hearts.
What to know before you go to Honolulu
Hawaii boasts the best weather on the planet, making nearly anytime the perfect time for an escape to Honolulu. Hurricane season, from June to November, rarely touches the Islands, and an unpredictable bout of rain remains the mild disclaimer of any tropical island destination, Honolulu included. August and February bring fewer tourists and better prices.
Domestic and international arrivals land directly at Honolulu International Airport on major U.S. airlines and international carriers including Qantas, Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Air Canada. For travelers arriving from within the state, Hawaiian, Island Air, and Mokulele airlines operate interisland flights.
Despite being small, the state of Hawaii is full of tropical activities, and each of the four major islands is large enough to warrant a car rental. Honolulu's main highways include H1, H2, and H3, and traffic is heavy, so build extra time into any day trip. Guests who prefer to stay in one place for most of their vacation can use taxis or shuttle services. Tour companies typically provide pickup services and meet guests at their hotel.
Hanauma Bay may not be as iconic as Diamond Head, or provide the beach experience of Lanikai or the shoppers' dream of Ala Moana Center, but there is magic in the stunning cove of sea water in the middle of a volcanic crater. Hanauma is a nature preserve where sea creatures are protected and plentiful. Lucky snorkelers may see a turtle along with moray eels and the Hawaii state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa. A short ecological and safety video is offered before entering the bay. Snorkeling equipment is available for rent on the beach. Parking is $1 per car, and entrance is $7.50 per adult visitor.
As in most American cities, diners in Honolulu can find a variety of cuisines. Honolulu’s predominant Asian and South Pacific Island cultures influence many menus. Travelers will love the seafood, including Hawaii’s signature ahi poke and fish fresh from the boat. Several restaurants offer organic and farm-fresh foods from local sources.
Honolulu is undoubtedly the largest business center in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, drawing businesses and people from all over the Pacific Rim. The city's residents include native Hawaiian people, Asian and South Pacific immigrants, military personnel, colonial settlers from Europe, and more recent mainland transplants. The most recent U.S. land to attain statehood, Hawaii has a relatively short history. But in an ethnically diverse state, Hawaii’s people contribute to a great variety of cultural events, landmarks, and cuisine.
In addition to U.S. federal holidays, state holidays honor the history and culture of the Hawaiian people. Parades and festivities tie up Waikiki streets during celebrations like Kamehameha Day, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day, and Statehood Day. Hawaii's colorful exuberance and somber remembrance give visitors and locals a beautiful way to participate in the state’s history.
While Waikiki is Honolulu’s tourist hub, nearby districts have a bit less congestion. Ala Moana offers restaurants, a large shopping mall, and a beautiful beach park. Kakaako is an up-and-coming neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and high-rise buildings popping up everywhere. Respect for the local people and culture goes a long way toward contributing to island spirit—from yielding when surfing on the waves to respecting the island as a place where locals live and work. While many Hawaiian businesses take credit cards, having cash on hand is essential at some restaurants and tour companies.
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Born in Vancouver, Canada and raised in Washington State, Andrea calls North America home with a predisposition to the Pacific states. She most recently lived and worked in Honolulu, Hawaii where she relished long weekends on the neighboring islands and searched for the best fish taco on Oahu. A marketing professional, Andrea is currently developing her own travel, photography, and design business, The Earth Ink, with postcards and travel items in the development pipeline.