12 Must-Do Experiences in Honolulu

Only steps away from any accommodation in Honolulu are numerous must-do Hawaiian experiences that introduce visitors to the aloha spirit of Oahu. These must-do Honolulu experiences include learning hula, lei making, discovering the past, and playing in the ocean waves, and offer visitors the opportunity to create Honolulu-style tropical memories to take home with them.

2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
A stroll down Kalakaua Avenue is always great for people watching, shopping, and dining. In September 2013, the Royal Hawaiian Center reopened the Helumoa Hale and Royal Grover on Kalakaua. This beautiful grove provides authentic Hawaiian hula, storytelling, and ukulele performances. If you’re interested in learning more about Hawaiian history and culture, I encourage you to participate in one of the complimentary classes that the Center offers, including hula, ukulele, lei making, or quilt making. You will not leave this cultural center without learning something new about Hawaii, and your experience will be a memorable part of your visit to Waikiki!
1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
The largest museum in Hawaii studies and preserves the history of the islands and the Pacific—for those interested in local culture, it’s a must. The Victorian building originally housed family heirlooms from Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I, including her ancestor’s royal feathered cape. Today the Bishop teems with more than 24 million artifacts, documents, and photos about Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures. Other highlights include everyday items, like combs made from coconut-leaf ribs, and extraordinary ones, like the leiomano (a shark-tooth-studded weapon kept hidden until battle). Don’t miss the 55-foot sperm whale skeleton and other natural-history exhibits, along with a planetarium showing how voyagers navigated the Pacific, guided by the stars.
Chinatown in Honolulu has an enormous number of shops and restaurants, food stalls, and vendors within several blocks of downtown. There always seems to be something new to try or buy. First Friday is a great time to visit Chinatown for the art walk. Some restaurants offer specials, and local vendors proudly display their work. It’s a way to experience a part of Hawaii’s eclectic cultures.
2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
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Honolulu, HI, USA
There’s a certain kind of peace that one feels when basking in the Waikiki sun. You go there, banana daiquiri on one hand, and a trusty old camera on the other. You capture the moment and say to yourself, “ahh...this is paradise.”
If you’re looking for a great snorkel experience accessible to Waikiki, I found Hanauma Bay a great spot. Turtles and fish galore.
Every December 7 at Pearl Harbor, there is a memorial to those who died in the awful attacks that day in 1941. Survivors gather here, though fewer every year remain alive. Oil still rises from where the USS Arizona lies in the harbor. The horrific events of December 7 are still a raw part of the history here. Several months ago, the civil defense sirens went off all over Oahu. It was a glitch in the system, but I remember an elderly woman in downtown Honolulu who said she looked at the sky because she remembers when there really was an air raid, and the sirens bring her back to that time of eminent danger when what seemed impossible unfolded in front of her young eyes. For history buffs, students, and all sorts of tourists, this is a “must visit” National Park on Oahu. Tickets to take the boat to the memorial are cheap (but do require an advanced booking of a couple days), and there are several other activities and museums at Pearl Harbor to explore including a walk through the USS Bowfin.
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