21 Best Things to Do in Honolulu | 2024 (with Photos)

Staša Petrović

Staša Petrović - Travel Writer

Published: June 29, 2023

Hey there! I'm Stasha, a travel enthusiast who has explored the vibrant city of Honolulu extensively. With my passion for discovering hidden gems and must-see attractions, I've curated a list of the 21 best things to do in this marvelous city, so you can make the most of your trip and create unforgettable memories. Enjoy exploring the beauty and charm of Honolulu!

Unmissable Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii - 2024

Welcome to Honolulu, Oahu, one of the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific Ocean with warm beaches, stunning sunsets, and beautiful mountainous views. No trip to Honolulu is complete without experiencing some of the fantastic Honolulu attractions and activities that this paradise has to offer.

From snorkeling with tropical fish on Oahu's north shore to exploring the vast cultural history of this city, there is something for everyone in Honolulu. In this article, we'll share with you some of the best things to do in Honolulu so that you can fully enjoy your trip there.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Top Choice Hotel

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Best Time to Visit

Sunny beaches, cultural festivals; visit Honolulu in winter.

Average Temperature

Warm and sunny throughout the year in Honolulu.

Transportation Options

Buses, taxis, ride-sharing, bicycles, scooters, walking, rental cars.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Whether you're a history buff or a nature enthusiast, Honolulu has something for everyone. Explore the historic Pearl Harbor and pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial, a poignant reminder of the city's significant role in World War II.

For a taste of adventure, hike up the stunning Diamond Head Crater and bask in the panoramic views of the city below—it's an experience you won't soon forget. In Honolulu, every moment is an opportunity to create cherished memories in paradise.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Swimming essentials
  2. Camera
  3. Comfortable footwear

What Not to Miss

  1. Diamond Head State Monument
  2. Waikiki Beach
  3. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
  4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
  5. Iolani Palace

What to Avoid

  1. Crowded beaches
  2. Excessive sun exposure
  3. Overpriced restaurants

1. Go Surfing at Kuhio Beach Park

Kuhio Beach Park

Kuhio Beach Park is a beautiful beach located in Honolulu, Oahu. Kuhio Beach is one of the most popular surfing spots on the island and attracts surfers from all over the world.

With its crystal clear turquoise waters, soft white sand, and perfect waves, Kuhio Beach Park offers an unforgettable surfing experience for both beginner and advanced surfers.

If you are trying to fit in with the locals, going surfing at this park needs to be put on your list of things to do in Honolulu. The best time to go surfing at Kuhio Beach Park is during the winter months when the waves are at their biggest.

The waves can reach up to 15 feet high which makes it perfect for experienced surfers looking for a challenge. However, if you're new to surfing or just want to try it out for fun, there are plenty of smaller waves at Kuhio Beach that are perfect for beginners.

2. Step Back in Time at the Regal Iolani Palace

Regal Iolani Palace

The Iolani Palace, off King St., is a historical palace located in downtown Honolulu, Oahu. The Iolani Palace was built in 1882 for King Kalakaua, and it served as the royal residence of Hawaiian monarchs until the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.

Visitors to the Iolani Palace can step back in time to experience life as it was during Hawaii's monarchy period. The Iolani Palace is furnished with original artifacts and antiques from the 19th century, including ornate chandeliers, exquisite furniture pieces, and opulent draperies.

The interior walls of the Iolani Palace are decorated with frescoes and murals that depict important events in Hawaiian history, giving visitors an insight into Hawaii's rich cultural heritage.

The palace is a 36-minute drive from the North Shore. Today, it is a national historic landmark and a symbol of Hawaiian heritage as it's the only royal palace in the United States, so it's a must on your list of things to do in Honolulu.

3. Cool Off at the Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

Nestled in the lush greenery of Honolulu, Oahu, the Manoa Falls offer a refreshing break from the heat and humidity of island living. With its towering trees, babbling streams, and misty falls, the Manoa Falls are an ideal destination for those looking to escape.

The Manoa Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail that takes visitors on a scenic journey through dense foliage and rocky terrain. The Manoa Falls Trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, making it perfect for hikers of all skill levels.

Along the way, you'll encounter breathtaking views of Oahu's natural beauty as you make your way toward the main attraction, the stunning 150-foot Manoa Falls.

4. Relax at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a breathtaking natural wonderland located on the eastern coast of Oahu. This stunning marine sanctuary is home to over 400 species of tropical fish, making it a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving.

With its crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, visiting Hanauma Bay is one of the most relaxing things to do in Honolulu.

Whether you're an experienced diver or just starting out, the calm waters at Hanauma Bay offer something for everyone. Take a break from your busy life and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of Hanauma Bay which has been preserved for generations to come.

5. Walk Through the Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum

The Lyon Arboretum, located in Honolulu, Oahu, is an expansive garden full of greenery and exotic plant life making you feel like you're in Jurassic Park. Covering over 200 acres of land, the Lyon Arboretum houses over 5,000 species of tropical plants from all around the world.

As you walk through the paths and gardens at the Lyon Arboretum, you'll encounter various habitats that showcase different types of flora. From towering bamboo forests to tranquil waterfalls surrounded by ferns and mosses, every turn offers a new discovery.

6. Visit the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

If you're looking for a fun and informative way to learn about Hawaiian culture and history, then you must visit the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Established in 1889, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich culture of Hawaii.

Named after Bernice Pauahi Bishop, an important figure in Hawaiian history who created a trust to support education for Native Hawaiians, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is a testament to her legacy.

The Bishop Museum offers an extensive collection of exhibits that cover everything from ancient Polynesian culture and practices to the natural history of Hawaii and information about the Hawaiian gods.

With over 24 million items in their archives, there's always something new to discover at this Bishop Museum.

7. Explore the Corsair Wreck Dive Site

Corsair Wreck Dive Site

Corsair Wreck Dive Site is one of the coolest Honolulu attractions and is a must for divers who love exploring the mysteries of sunken ships. The wreck is located on the south shore off the coast of Palau, an island country in the western Pacific Ocean.

Corsair was an American fighter plane that crashed into the water during World War II, and it has since become a popular diving spot. Divers can expect to see a variety of marine life while exploring Corsair's remains.

Schools of fish swim around its wings, which are still recognizable despite being encrusted with coral and other sea creatures. It's also common to spot turtles, sharks, and rays swimming in the area.

8. Pay Your Respects at Pearl Harbor

USS Missouri (BB-63) Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum in Pearl Harbor stand as tributes to the thousands of sailors and marines who lost their lives on December 7th, 1941.

The USS Arizona was one of four battleships sunk during the surprise attack by Japan's Imperial Navy. The USS Arizona Memorial includes an interactive exhibit center where visitors can learn about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and view artifacts from that time period.

The USS Missouri, also known as "Mighty Mo," was the site of the Japanese surrender that ended World War II. Visitors to Pearl Harbor can tour the ship's deck and explore its below-deck compartments, including the engine room, crew quarters, and gun turrets.

Meanwhile, the nearby USS Bowfin Submarine Museum in Pearl Harbor offers visitors a chance to experience life aboard one of the deadliest submarines in American naval history.

9. Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor is not only a must-see for history buffs, but also for anyone interested in learning more about the events that led up to the United States' involvement in World War II.

While at Pearl Harbor, be sure to visit Ford Island, which was once an active naval base during World War II.

Only authorized vehicles are able to get onto Ford Island from Pearl Harbor, so make sure to sign up for a tour if you're interested in seeing it. At Ford Island, you can also find the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Today, the Pacific Aviation Museum houses an impressive collection of aircraft and exhibits that showcase the Pacific region's aviation history. One of the highlights of the museum is its interactive exhibits. Visitors can climb into a cockpit simulator or test their skills on flight simulators used by actual pilots.

Visiting Pearl Harbor, a national historic landmark, and experiencing firsthand what happened on that fateful day during World War II is an emotional experience for anyone interested in history or military affairs and is a must with things to do in Honolulu.

10. Stop to Smell the Flowers at the Honolulu Botanical Gardens

view of mountain covered with green near the lake

(note: majority of this place is pure greens.)

Honolulu Botanical Gardens is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and flower lovers. The garden boasts over 5,000 types of plants, including rare species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Spread over an area of 650 acres, the garden is home to a diverse range of flora from Hawaii and other parts of the world.

The garden's highlights include the Children's Discovery Garden, which offers interactive exhibits for kids and families, a stunning orchid collection featuring more than 2,000 species, and the Palm Collection, which contains some of the tallest palm trees in Hawaii.

Visitors can also explore several themed gardens like the Herb Garden, Tropical Rainforest Garden, and Cactus & Succulent Garden.

11. Go on a Stroll at Magic Island

 Magic Island

One place that stands out from the rest in Honolulu Oahu is Magic Island. Located just off Ala Moana Beach Park on Honolulu’s southern shore, Magic Island, a man-made peninsula, offers visitors a plethora of activities to enjoy.

From picnicking and jogging to swimming and scuba diving, there are plenty of things to do in Honolulu.

However, if you’re looking for more adventure beyond the shores of Magic Island, head up to the North Shore, located about an hour's drive away from Honolulu.

This legendary stretch of coastline has some of the best surfing in the world due to its massive winter waves that draw surfers from all over the globe.

12. Sunbathe at the World-Famous Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

One of the most famous beaches in the Hawaiian islands is Waikiki Beach. With its stunning views, crystal-clear waters, and plenty of things to do in Waikiki, there's no better place to relax and unwind than Waikiki Beach.

Located 60 minutes away from the North Shore, Waikiki Beach offers visitors a chance to experience paradise firsthand. Waikiki beach is known for its gentle waves that are perfect for swimming, surfing, or paddleboarding.

Waikiki Beach is also surrounded by an array of restaurants and shops where you can indulge in local cuisine or pick up some souvenirs to take home with you. Whether you're looking for adventure or just want to kick back and relax, Waikiki Beach has something for everyone.

13. See the Views From the Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Views From the Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is a hidden gem on the island's south shore in Honolulu, Oahu that offers visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

The Koko Crater Botanical Garden is located at the top of Koko Crater Trail, one of the most popular hiking trails in Oahu. The trail itself is not for the faint of heart as it requires a steep climb up 1,048 stairs to reach the summit.

Once you reach the top of Koko Crater Trail, however, you'll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views and a beautiful botanical garden featuring over 60 species of plants from around Hawaii and other tropical regions.

After embarking on the Koko Crater trail, hikers can also enjoy picnic tables and benches throughout the park where they can relax and take in their surroundings.

14. Visit the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design

Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design

If you're looking for a unique museum experience, then add Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design to your list of things to do in Honolulu.

Located by Diamond Head in Honolulu, Oahu, Shangri La Museum offers visitors an opportunity to explore Islamic art and culture in a stunning setting.

The museum is housed in the former residence of heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke. The house itself is a work of art, with intricate tilework, carved wood panels, and beautiful gardens.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore galleries filled with Islamic manuscripts and rare works of art from around the world, including the Middle East.

15. Indulge in Some Shopping at the Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

The Ala Moana Center is the perfect place to indulge in some shopping while visiting Hawaii. Situated in Downtown Honolulu, Oahu, the Ala Moana Center is known for its vast selection of stores, restaurants, and entertainment options.

The Ala Moana Center features over 350 stores, ranging from luxury brands like Chanel and Gucci to popular retailers such as Forever 21 and H&M.

Aside from shopping, the Ala Moana Center offers a variety of activities that visitors can enjoy. The Ala Moana Center overlooks the beautiful Ala Moana Beach Park where you can take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic with loved ones.

At Ala Moana Beach Park, you can also play tennis or go fishing. There's plenty to do at Ala Moana Beach Park and the Ala Moana Center, so make sure to add these spots to your list of things to do in Honolulu.

For those who prefer water activities and who might want to escape Ala Moana Beach, the Kailua Beach Park is just a short drive away where you can go surfing or paddleboarding.

Whether you're looking for high-end designer labels or affordable fashion pieces, the Ala Moana Center has something for everyone.

16. Hike to the Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument

The Diamond Head State Monument is one of the most stunning natural wonders in Hawaii. The hike to the Diamond Head Crater is an unforgettable journey through lush forests and breathtaking vistas.

Visitors from around the world come to Hawaii for its stunning beaches, but many find that hiking up to the Diamond Head State Monument offers a unique experience that can't be found anywhere else.

The Diamond Head hike itself is relatively easy, but it does require some physical exertion. Visitors should expect to climb stairs and walk on uneven terrain as they ascend to the top of the Diamond Head Crater.

At the summit of Diamond Head Crater, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, and the surrounding area.

After your hike at Diamond Head, you can enjoy a picnic at Kapiolani Park by Diamond Head, which is right next door. You can also enjoy a beachfront view at Sans Souci Beach Park. Having a meal by the sea is definitely one of the best things to do in Honolulu.

17. Visit the Animals at the Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo

There are plenty of things to do in Honolulu, but the Honolulu Zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers.

Located in the heart of Waikiki and right by Diamond Head, the 42-acre Honolulu Zoo is home to over 900 different animals and boasts an impressive collection of exotic and endangered species from around the world.

Whether you're traveling with family or looking for a fun day out with friends, the Honolulu Zoo offers something for everyone.

One of the highlights of any visit to the Honolulu Zoo is getting up close and personal with some of its most popular residents. From majestic tigers and playful monkeys to rare birds and reptiles, there's no shortage of fascinating creatures to observe at the Honolulu Zoo.

18. Stop by the Aloha Tower in Downtown Honolulu

Aloha Tower in Downtown Honolulu

If you're looking for a must-visit destination, then the Aloha Tower should be at the top of your list of things to do in Honolulu, Oahu.

The Aloha Tower has been welcoming visitors to Downtown Honolulu since its construction in 1926. Located on the waterfront, the Aloha Tower stands tall at 10 stories high and offers breathtaking views of Honolulu Harbor and the surrounding areas.

The tower is a symbol of Hawaiian hospitality and culture as well as an important piece of history.

19. Swim With a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Turtle Canyon

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Turtle Canyon

If you're a fan of sea turtles, then Turtle Canyon in Hawaii is the place to be. Located off the coast of Waikiki Beach, Turtle Canyon is one of the most popular things to do in Honolulu, Oahu.

The canyon is known for its stunning coral reefs and most importantly, its resident population of green sea turtles. These green sea turtles are a sight to behold in their natural habitat. Sea turtles can often be seen swimming gracefully through the water or basking on the rocks.

The green sea turtle is one of seven species of sea turtles found around the world and is recognized as an endangered species. However, thanks to conservation efforts in Hawaii, their population has been steadily increasing over recent years.

20. Shop and Eat at the Royal Hawaiian Center

Royal Hawaiian Center

The Royal Hawaiian Center is a unique shopping and dining destination located in the heart of Waikiki. With over 110 stores, restaurants, and cafes, it offers an unparalleled shopping experience for visitors and locals alike.

From high-end brands to local artisanal products, the center has something for everyone, so if you enjoy spending an afternoon shopping at a variety of shops, add this to your list of things to do in Honolulu.

21. Admire the Art at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Honolulu Museum of Art

Downtown Honolulu, Oahu is a vibrant area, and if you are a lover of art, then the Honolulu Museum of Art should be on your list of things to do in Honolulu.

Founded in 1927, the Honolulu Museum of Art has an extensive collection of artwork from around the world. The permanent collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art includes pieces from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

The Honolulu Museum of Art is also nearby to the Hawaii State Art Museum which showcases works by local artists. If you want to learn about Hawaiian culture and immerse yourself in its beauty through art, the Honolulu Museum is perfect for you.

FAQs About Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii

Let's look at some frequently asked questions related to Honolulu, Hawaii.

What is the best time to visit Honolulu?

The best time to visit Honolulu is between September and November or from March to May. During these months, the weather is mild, and the tourist crowds are smaller than during the peak summer season.

How do I get around in Honolulu?

The best way to get around Honolulu is by renting a car, taking public transportation, or using ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. Walking and biking are also popular options, especially in the downtown area.

Is Honolulu a safe city to visit?

Honolulu is generally a safe city to visit, but like any big city, there are certain areas and times of day when tourists should exercise caution. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety.

Summing up: Best Things to Do in Honolulu

Visiting any of the Pacific Islands is a must, but specifically seeing Honolulu on Oahu Island is something you have to do at least once in your life.

Whether you’re looking to tan with ocean views at Sans Souci Beach Park by Diamond Head, explore the culture by attending the Paradise Cove Luau, or have a picnic at Kapiolani Park, there are plenty of unforgettable experiences to be had during this Hawaiian vacation. Additionally, there are plenty of evening entertainment options in Honolulu.

From relaxing at Hanauma Bay to walking along Pearl Harbor, or feeling like you're in Jurassic Park with all the tropical plants, no trip would be complete without sampling these unmissable things to do in Honolulu.