City Guide: Honolulu – Hawaii’s Vibrant Soul

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Honolulu is Hawaii’s capital city and a popular tourist destination, but there is much more to it than flower garlands and grass skirts. We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting things to do during your stay, from learning about Hawaiian history to tasting the delicious local cuisine.

Pearl Harbour

Pearl Harbour has important historical significance, as it is where the Japanese launched a surprise attack on US ships in 1941 and brought the US into the WWII. The Pearl Harbour Memorial is a moving visit whilst you’re in Honolulu, and is great for understanding a bit more about WWII.

A video explaining the history of what happened at Pearl Harbour starts the tour, which provides a good insight into what the memorial represents. After that, you can see the sunken USS Arizona, as well as the USS Bowfin back on land. Take the opportunity to tour the WWII submarine, it’s amazing to see the tiny space so many soldiers had to spend months in. Overall, the memorial is very interesting and close to Alicia’s Market for a delicious lunch afterwards. Tickets can be pre-purchased online or bought on the day.

pearl harbor

Tour Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is an iconic landmark of downtown Honolulu and was originally built by King Kalakaua in the late 19th century. The palace was designed to make Hawaii a more prestigious nation and these ambitions can still be seen in the elegant, luxurious greeting rooms. Along with the impressive Grand Hall, Throne Room and Blue Room of the palace’s public rooms, you can get a look at the King’s opulent private suites and the famous Queen Kapiolani suite. It has been beautifully restored and it’s easy to see the style once enjoyed by the royal families. You can show yourself around if you prefer to go at your own pace, or you can take a guided tour for a more in-depth glimpse into the history of Hawaii’s royals.

Visit Manoa Falls

The varied landscape is one of the most wonderful things about Honolulu and a walk up to Manoa Falls is the best way to explore the dense tropical jungle. Television series, Lost, was filmed in the rainforest here, and there are plenty of stunning photograph opportunities both during the walk and when you reach the waterfall. You’ll be able to see some of the beautiful plants and tropical trees that grow in Hawaii and, as long as you’re careful, the pool at the bottom of the waterfall is perfect for a refreshing swim. It takes about an hour to walk there and back again, so it’s not too strenuous but those with health or mobility issues should be wary.

manoa falls

Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is one of the most famous places on the island for snorkelling, with all kinds of diverse marine life calling the bay home. Sheltered on each side with a long golden strip of sand, the bay is a nature reserve and marine sanctuary. You’ll be required to watch a short video about preserving the marine life when you arrive, then the bay is all yours to explore. Snorkel and mask sets are available to hire if you don’t have your own, and it is well worth it for the quality of the snorkelling. Expect to see everything from exotic fish to sea turtles.

Hike Diamond Head

Honolulu’s picturesque backdrop owes a lot to the Diamond Head volcano, but if you want to see the real views you need to hike to the top of it. The Diamond Head crater was formerly used as a military base, but it is now open for the public to explore. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the top, but the panoramic views of Honolulu make it well worth the climb. Diamond Head market is there to help you refuel when you get to the bottom, with its great food and amazing blueberry scones.

diamond head

Learn to Paddleboard

Ocean sports are very popular in Hawaii and Honolulu’s beaches lend themselves well to surfing and bodyboarding. For something a bit more relaxing, learn to paddleboard on one of Honolulu’s beaches. It’s a great way to enjoy the water and soak up the sun at the same time. You’ll need good balance, but it’s much easier to master than surfing the waves.

Time Travel at the Paradise Cove Luau

Hawaiian culture is an important part of Honolulu’s identity, and the traditional luau at Paradise Cove is a fun way to see how people used to live on the island. You can learn to string a lei, weave a headband and throw a spear, whilst learning a bit more about Hawaiian history. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunity to feast (the meaning of the word ‘luau’), with food being prepared in a traditional imu underground oven. Delicacies such as lomi salmon, taro bread rolls and kalua pork are all served, before guests relax with some Hawaiian entertainment.

Taste Hawaii at Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Helena’s Hawaiian Food is loved by locals and tourists alike for its traditional, no-nonsense local comfort food. With marinated pipikaula hanging over the stove that produces some of the best and most authentic Hawaiian home cooking available, it’s easy to see why the eatery won the James Beard Foundation award for regional cuisine. Order mouth-watering kalua pork, laulau, squid lau and lomi lomi salmon for a true taste of Hawaii.

If you fancy exploring the wonders of Honolulu as part of a cruise visiting the Hawaiian Islands, why not check out our great range of cruise online, or by calling our friendly sales team on 0808 301 4786?

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City Guide: Honolulu – Hawaii’s Vibrant Soul
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We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting things to do during your stay, from learning about Hawaiian history to tasting the delicious local cuisine.
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Cruise1st UK
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Claire Wilde

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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