Hawaii is a literal paradise. There’s so much to eat, see and do across the islands and each one is worthy of your time. Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere and Honolulu is it. You could honestly spend your entire trip just chilling on the many beautiful beaches, but if you can drag yourself away, here are the best things to do in Honolulu.
Best things to eat in Honolulu
Food, glorious food! Polynesian culture is centred around community and that often means gathering together for a meal so you better believe they take cooking and eating seriously. When in Rome right?
- Acai bowl – Hawaii is known for its acai bowls. The berry gets a workout here and given the climate is warm, there’s no better breakfast, lunch, or even dinner than a cool, fresh acai bowl. You can find them all over but try Heavenly Island Lifestyle or Goofy Cafe for a great one.
- Mai Tai – Hawaii’s most famous cocktail! The tropical blend is made from dark rum, orange juice, triple sec, lime juice and a sweet syrup. Again, you can find them everywhere, but the best are at the very popular Duke’s Waikiki. Pro tip: book a table if you want dinner, and if you just want drinks ask to sit at the tall tables inside – you’ll get seated much quicker!
- Shrimp – Fresh seafood is on every menu in Hawaii but there’s something so right about digging into a huge plate of piping hot shrimp. Head on over to the North Shore and you’ll see plenty of food trucks on the way, including Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. It’s an institution and worth the wait. Pro tip: the spicy is SPICY. Don’t try this if you’re not a huge fan of heat.
- Malasadas – Technically a Portuguese treat, Leonards Bakery is another locally loved staple that will seduce any traveller too. The bakery specialises in the Malasada Puffs and the doughy donut-like buns are filled with custard and flavoured creams (try the watermelon!). It’s a little outside the main tourist area but well worth the trip to the main shop or one of the pop-up bakeries.
- Craft beer tour – Did you know Hawaii has amazing craft beer? You do now! Head over to the Kakaako area and treat yourself to a walking tour between breweries. Highlights include the Waikiki Brewing Company, Aloha Beer Company, Honolulu Beerworks, The Brewseum and REAL gastropub / Bent Tail Brewing Company (which also has AMAZING food).
- Shave Ice – This is not the snow cone style treat you grew up with. Shave Ice is much finer and tastier and the flavours (think pineapple and mango) are so yummy. Great on a hot day too! Find the best ones on the North Shore in food trucks.
- Pork – If you’re a meat eater, Hawaii is the place for you, especially at a Luau! You’ll find pork on every menu, from pulled to BBQ, in stews and on rolls, pork lovers will be in heaven.
Best things to see in Honolulu
Beautiful is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Honolulu. There’s a stunning sight even a stones throw from Sephora, and that’s the kind of world I want to live in. Here are the best things to see in Honoulu.
- All the beaches – This is kind of a given but just go exploring the coastline! You’ll be hard pressed to not dive in at every turn.
- See street art in Kakaako – Besides breweries, Kakaako is also home to some epic street art from local artists. Spend a couple hours here discovering this factory area and it’s colourful walls for yourself.
- Pearl Harbour – A tragic event in history and well worth a look to learn all about what happened that fateful day and afterwards.
- Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden – This is the scene of the iconic road shot where the lush volcanic mountains loom in the background. It’s a lovely area to explore too obviously and great for when you want to get away from the shopping Waikiki is famous for.
- Check out Pipeline – Did you even go to Hawaii if you didn’t go to the North Shore and see Pipeline, one of the most famous surf beaches in the world? Whether you surf or swim or not (the current is pretty strong), it’s cool to just be there on a day when the waves are pumping.
Best things to do in Honolulu
There’s so much to do in Honolulu! You can choose an adventure, or you can choose to chill. We recommend a bit of both.
- Hike Diamond Head Crater – There are plenty of amazing hikes in Honolulu, but don’t miss the well known and central Diamond Head hike. It’s not super hard, but it can get hot so bring water and your walking shoes. Oh, and your camera, the views are incredible.
- Try your hand at surfing – There’s no better time to test your surfing skills! Despite Honolulu’s fame for big waves, there are also smaller more sheltered beaches that offer lessons (and small waves).
- Snorkel Hanauma Bay – If you’re a fan of the deep blue, go exploring at Hanauma Bay for a lush day saying hello to Nemo and his friends.
- Go shopping – What many of us come for… the shops! The rumours are true, Honolulu has some out of this world shopping, so much so it can be kind of overwhelming! Make a plan to get to the outlets early! Another good shopping mall is the Ala Moana Center, it has everything you could ever want!