20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Honolulu

Jul 22, 2021

The archipelago of Hawaii is perhaps the most beautiful collection of natural islands in the world, with volcanoes, beaches, snow-capped mountains, tropical rainforests, and year-round sunsets. Home to one of the largest and most unusual collections of wildlife on the planet, the stunning landscape of the Hawaiian islands has earned them the nickname "The Land of Enchantment."

For the vacationer seeking fine dining, a wide array of luxurious hotels, and an active lifestyle, Hawaii has it all. There is, however, no need to leave the beautiful beaches and warm waters of the islands to enjoy these destinations.

Whether you arrive at Honolulu International Airport or fly in via mainland America, explore the top attractions of the Hawaiian islands on this thorough city and island-by-island introduction.

Waikiki Beach

Photo of Waikiki
Waikiki: en.wikipedia.org

Waikiki is a beach town that lies on the southern shore of the city of Honolulu. Beginning as a quiet fishing village, Waikiki has developed into a thriving tourist town that draws many visitors to its superb beaches and clear waters. Waikiki Beach is Hawaii's largest and most popular beach. Its facilities include several hotels and restaurants, boutiques, shops, and a variety of fine stores, including souvenir stores and art galleries. The Waikiki Area is also famous for its nightlife. With several clubs lining its crowded beaches, the atmosphere is lively, fun, and relaxed.

Honolulu Zoo

Photo of Honolulu
Honolulu: en.wikipedia.org

Laid out on its dramatic 1,200-acre site, Honolulu Zoo is the largest in the United States. Its tropical landscapes, including the valley of Oahu's Waianae Mountains and the mangroves of Waimanalo, make for a nature-packed excursion. Miles of wide-open spaces, from the 85-acre Central Savannah to the lush vegetation of the Agassiz Home Plant Garden, help visitors see the impact of the zoo's lush tropical landscapes. Visitors can walk through a saltwater lagoon, touch and feed sea turtles, walk among alligators and monkeys, and ride some of the zoo's more than 30 species of free-flying birds. Planning on visiting Honolulu Zoo? Click here to find out more.

Pearl Harbor

Photo of Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor: en.wikipedia.org

Pearl Harbor, the site of the US Navy's historic surprise attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, lies in Hawaii. It's famous for its powerful navy base, where dozens of warships are under repair or service, and the memorial to those lost in action. Nearby is the National Memorial Cemetery, and on a clear day the dramatic islands of the Pacific can be seen. In the city, explore historic sites such as the battleship USS Arizona Memorial and the shoreside Museum of Hawaiian memorabilia.

Hawaii Convention Center

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Hawaii Convention Center: en.wikipedia.org

The Hawaii Convention Center opened in March 2011 at a cost of $94 million and is the largest convention center in the state and the eighth largest in the country. It is located in the capital city of Honolulu, and part of the hub of hotels, shopping, dining, and entertainment centered on Waikīkī. The 3-million-square-foot convention center is the largest convention facility in the state, and the only indoor facility in the state to hold 30,000-plus attendees. The 1,252-room center offers a range of meeting and conference facilities. The SkyView Ballroom, which measures 4,800 square feet, is a 200-seat auditorium and the most flexible of the facilities with four different configurations and easy access to natural light. In addition, two smaller ballrooms - one, which seats more than 500 people, and a paneled room with open space, are available. The center also has conference facilities measuring around 1,300 square feet, six exhibit booths, and specialized meeting spaces that provide interactive technologies and video services for presentations. The Hawaii Convention Center has managed to revolutionize the way business travelers do convention-related meetings and conventions. In addition, visitors to the Hawaii Convention Center can choose from a full slate of recreational and entertainment options as part of the Hawaii Convention Center's Hawaiian vacation packages.

Diamond Head

Photo of Diamond Head, Hawaii
Diamond Head, Hawaii: en.wikipedia.org

Diamond Head is the most striking feature of the beautiful city of Honolulu, just 14 kilometers south of downtown Honolulu. The crater's summit is 2,178 feet above sea level and can be reached via the Windward Trail. Activities in Diamond Head Park include botanical gardens, a half-mile walking trail, a visitor center, picnic areas, and a coffee shop. At the park's visitor center, take the self-guided tour through the environmental-education center and find out about the history of the volcano. See the two-minute film "How Does Hawaii Move?" which explains how earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can destroy your home.

Iolani Palace

Photo of ʻIolani Palace
ʻIolani Palace: en.wikipedia.org

Built between 1882 and 1887, Iolani Palace has been the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy since it was completed. Today, with its Louis XIV-inspired architecture, stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and exquisite furniture, it is one of the most impressive structures in the Pacific. Not only was Iolani Palace the first palace in the Hawaiian Islands, but it was also the first palace in the United States. The walls of the palace are lined with tiles from Tonga. Statues of King Kalakaua, who is interred in the palace's crypt, were among those returned to their homeland following the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Hanauma Bay

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Hanauma Bay: en.wikipedia.org

Sunrise from Hanauma Bay's serene 2-million-gallon viewing well is a sight to see, as on this early morning visit to the world-famous Hanauma Bay Marine Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. The spot has been used as a backdrop for TV and film shoots and, if you are lucky, you may spot a few actors who have made it their home here. From the popular Hanauma Bay as well as its sister bay, Makapu'u, it's only a 10-minute drive to Hilo, the island's largest city.

USS Arizona Memorial

Photo of USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial: en.wikipedia.org

The USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu is a 21-meter-high white cross, dedicated to the 1,177 men who died when the Japanese submarine U-Boat sank the USS Arizona, one of America's greatest battleships, during the Battle of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The memorial is located in the grounds of the USS Arizona Memorial Park, which is home to the USS Arizona Museum, dedicated to the navy history of the ship. The park also contains memorials to other navy sailors who lost their lives during the war.

Waikiki Aquarium

Photo of Waikīkī Aquarium
Waikīkī Aquarium: en.wikipedia.org

Waikiki Aquarium is the most-visited aquarium in the United States with more than 4 million visitors per year, making it the third-most-visited aquarium in the world. This international tourism gem, located in Honolulu, is about 45 minutes away from the international airport. The aquarium is constructed in a different themed water environment. Waikiki Aquarium features animals native to Hawaii, the Pacific Ocean, and around the world. We recommend a visit to the Waikiki Aquarium, to see the sharks, rays, and turtles.

Big Island

Photo of Hawaii (island)
Hawaii (island): en.wikipedia.org

Home to the airport where you'll fly to get to Hawaii, Honolulu is one of the best places to start your travel to this unique island, not just because it's located in the Hawaiian Islands. The first thing you'll see when you arrive in Honolulu, is the mountain, Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world. Take time to wander around the city itself and then get off and explore this island's many historical sights, as well as some fun side attractions.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum

Photo of USS Bowfin (SS-287)
USS Bowfin (SS-287): en.wikipedia.org

The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum is a former World War II submarine that is now a historical and maritime museum with a collection of equipment and a vast library. It also holds an assortment of original World War II memorabilia, as well as displays relating to the Pacific Theater, both on the ocean and in Hawaii. The entrance to the Submarine Museum is on Matson Terminal Island, where it shares its land with cargo and cruise ships. Visitors can step into the submarine via a self-guided tour of the complex that features a large theater where visitors are able to see a video of the famous TV program "I Love Lucy," in which Bowfin made an appearance. In addition to the popular TV series, tours of the bow of Bowfin are also available.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Photo of National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: en.wikipedia.org

Founded on September 27, 1968, this memorial cemetery is the only one of its kind, memorializing those who served in the Pacific in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The four acre grounds contain beautifully landscaped trees and gardens that are dedicated to peace and sacrifice. The memorial includes 13 evergreen trees and 33 rectangular limestone markers that represent the 31,271 American servicemen and women killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Museum of the Pacific War in the memorial opened in February 1995. The exhibits are dedicated to the history of the Pacific theater of World War II. Guided tours of the memorial are available daily from 10 am to 2 pm.

Lana'i

Lana'i is a lush, green paradise on the southwestern side of the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. Within the Hawaiian Islands, it's known as one of the most beautiful islands because of its temperate climate, emerald-green volcanic mountains, serene beaches, stunning waters and colorful reefs. Lana'i's main town, Lahaina, offers breathtaking scenery and opportunities to shop for souvenirs, visit the town's historic district and shop for local and souvenir goods and even take a tour around the island. Numerous water activities are popular here, including sailing, kayaking, and scuba diving. But perhaps the island's best feature is the remarkably calm waters around it.

Museum of Hawaiian Islands

Photo of Honolulu County, Hawaii
Honolulu County, Hawaii: en.wikipedia.org

Hawai'i is a paradise for anyone interested in art and culture. Learn about Hawaiian mythology in the Hawai'i Maritime Museum, see the popular beach towns in Maui, visit the fabulous local artwork at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, take a cooking lesson in Kona, see the great island scenery from a float plane, and much more.

Kauai

Though it's easy to fly to Hawaii and fall in love with the island, many travelers decide to vacation on a land mass that's slightly larger than the state of Connecticut. Home to 32 different islands, Kauai is the largest of them all and, in the classic Hawaiian way, almost every part of the island has something to see and do. Beautiful beaches and lush forests, including a tangle of tropical rainforest and fragrant banyan trees, have made Kauai one of the world's leading botanical research areas. Due to the large amount of land covered by these types of trees, wildlife numbers are somewhat limited. Nevertheless, chances of encountering brown boobies, green sea turtles, and exotic birds abound.

North Shore

Photo of North Shore (Oahu)
North Shore (Oahu): en.wikipedia.org

The northern coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu is the most visited. It includes Waikiki Beach, and most other hotels are within a 10-minute walk. North Shore, a long stretch of surf-beaten sand with a restaurant-lined promenade and the shops and boutiques of Kapalua, is more than 20 miles from Waikiki. What to do in North Shore, in addition to visiting the beach and surfing, is taking tours of the lush tropical vegetation found in the area. Two large botanical gardens, the National Tropical Botanical Garden, in Kualoa Ranch, and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, offer tours and their own private tour boats. Visiting the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Gardens, which produces citrus, pineapple, banana, macadamia, and avocado trees, is another option.

Wailea

Photo of Grand Wailea Resort
Grand Wailea Resort: en.wikipedia.org

Wailea is one of the most fashionable Hawaiian resort areas and is home to the upscale, tropical-style Wailea Beach Villas, which offer golf, tennis, and swimming. Although more rustic, there are also more down-to-earth spots, like the lovely but undiscovered Honolulu surf breaks, Hanakapi'ai and Lanikai, which offer a much more affordable adventure. Wailea is about 25 miles north of Honolulu and offers a wide range of beaches, shops, and restaurants. Day-trippers to Oahu can easily spend a few days here, with hiking and biking trails in the mountains nearby, and, for a more active getaway, many opportunities for surfing, boogie boarding, and waterskiing in the ocean waters. Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Hilo

Photo of Hilo International Airport
Hilo International Airport: en.wikipedia.org

The capital of the Big Island of Hawaii (informally known as Hawaii Island), Hilo is the gateway to the many attractions that line the beautiful coastline. Most of the action centers around Keawe Street, with its unique array of quirky, kitschy tourist stores and restaurants. The rest of Hilo can be safely avoided, though. Kona, east of Hilo, is home to two of Hawaii's biggest attractions: the Kona Coffee Plantation and the colorful white-sand beaches of beautiful Waikoko.

Chinatown

Photo of Chinatown, Honolulu
Chinatown, Honolulu: en.wikipedia.org

Chinatown, with its wooden-fronted buildings and narrow sidewalks, was once the heart of Honolulu, long before the tourist industry. Walk through the Chinatown Visitors Center and take the free Chinatown Walking Tour to learn the colorful history of the community from the 19th to the 20th century. Also be sure to stop in at the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce for information about this working and living museum. There are also a number of interesting Chinatown and Hawaiian culture-related cultural tours, ranging from dinner cruises and trolley rides to all-day walks.

Halawa Valley

Photo of Halawa, Hawaii
Halawa, Hawaii: en.wikipedia.org

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the peaceful Halawa Valley is lined by sweet tea plantations and features a lovely stretch of lagoons that form a perfect, if narrow, waterway surrounded by lush tropical foliage. The sandy beaches that flank this clear stream are popular for swimming and snorkeling and you can explore the beautiful beachside scenery with bicycle rentals. Other nearby destinations include the Haleakala volcano, a popular tour stop in Oahu's west, and Hanapepe on the island's southern coast.