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Honolulu – Oahu Travel Guide

There's no place like Honolulu.
Last Updated
February 17, 2024
Editorial Staff
Honolulu and Waikiki beach on Oahu Hawaii
Adobe Stock

After more than three years of pandemic sweatpants, we could all use a good dose of vitamin sea. Enter Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital city, where the sun is shining, the waves are calling, and aloha shirts are totally acceptable attire. Are you tempted to ditch your Zoom background for actual paradise? Read on before you book that flight, friend.

We hope you like beaches because Honolulu has one of the world-famous – Waikiki Beach. Its miles of golden sand and rolling waves could turn even this pale, landlocked writer into a bronzed beach babe. And we’d gladly stomach the hordes of tourists for one magical Honolulu sunset (hint: make a reservation or enjoy it with take-out mai tais). Beyond Waikiki, don’t miss bodyboarding at Sandy Beach or watching daredevil surfers at the Banzai Pipeline.

When you need a break from the beach, experience Honolulu’s melting pot of cultures. From Chinatown’s hole-in-the-wall restaurants to Portuguese malasadas as big as your head, kiss boring burgers goodbye. Exploring Honolulu’s vibrant mix of flavors is an edible education all its own. Just make sure to save room for shaving ice – no judgment if you need an extra large!

This travel guide will clue you in on everything from Oahu must-dos to neighborhood gems even the locals love. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be doing the hula and speaking pidgin like a real kama’āina (local). Now go dust off those flip flops – that Hawaiian vacation awaits!


About Honolulu – Oahu

Skyline of Downtown Business District Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
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The capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu is the gateway to the U.S. island chain and the largest city in Hawaii. Its Waikiki neighborhood is a cosmopolitan hub for dining and nightlife. Waikiki is also home to the USS Arizona Memorial and the world-famous crescent beach.

In Honolulu, there are over 350 shops to choose from. There are also several surf shops to peruse. You can also enjoy the city’s diverse food scene at places such as Fresh Catch and Sato Seafood. Other great spots to visit include the historic Kaka’ako district and the University of Hawaii – Manoa’s Lyon Arboretum.

The bus system is extensive and can get you to most parts of the island for about $2.50. You’ll need an exact change to pay for your tickets, which are valid for two hours. TheBus also offers point-to-point travel in Honolulu. If you want to venture further afield, you’ll need to rent a car or hail an Uber. You can also use the Oahu Flexi Attractions Pass for savings on many of the island’s attractions.


Why Go to Honolulu – Oahu

Street view of buildings in the business district of downtown Honolulu on Oahu, Hawaii
Adobe Stock

Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular vacation spots, and the capital city of Honolulu attracts nearly 10 million visitors each year. While the island’s famous beaches and high-rise hotels are well known, Honolulu is also rich in culture and history. Visitors can experience the Hawaiian culture by visiting historical sites and landmarks.

The people of Hawaii are very friendly, and they take pride in their American heritage. Life in Hawaii is a little slower than in most U.S. cities, and customer service can be slow. Still, it’s worth the wait to see the famous sites and experience the laid-back island lifestyle.

There’s plenty to do in Honolulu, including a visit to Chinatown, Hawaii’s oldest and most vibrant Chinatown. With more than 10 acres of traditional shops and restaurants, Chinatown is a unique cultural experience. Visitors can indulge in delicious Chinese dishes, purchase cheongsams and good luck charms, and see the city’s iconic landmarks.


Best Time to Go

Aloha Tower, Honolulu, Hawaii
Adobe Stock

If you are looking for the best time to go to Hawaii, consider the winter months. The trade winds will be calmer, which means less rain and calmer surf. However, you should also keep in mind that the weather in Hawaii can change rapidly. Pack light clothing, such as a light jacket, and don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

Fall and winter are two shoulder seasons in Oahu. These seasons are low in tourist traffic, making for great weather and lower airfare. While it’s important to book early to avoid disappointment, you can find good deals on airfares and hotels during these periods.

The summer months are the busiest months, with the highest number of tourists. During this time, hotels and rental cars may be scarce and family-friendly attractions can be crowded. However, if you’re looking for a low-key experience, consider going in April or November. The weather is less rainy, and the temperatures are still comfortable. Summer months are also busier than winter months, so the weather is better for those who enjoy the ocean and less crowds.


How to Get Around

Honlulu with Blue Straight Pin
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There are many ways to get around Honolulu if you’re visiting the island of Oahu. From the airport to downtown, you have a variety of transportation options. If you’re flying in, make sure to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, as the city will require a negative COVID test in September 2021. For more information, visit the Safe Access Oahu program.

The public transportation system on Oahu is easy to use, and buses run frequently. The bus system covers most of the island. Timetables vary from line to line, but buses generally run every 15 or 30 minutes. TheBus website lists schedules and times. It’s important to plan ahead and know your destination, so you can find the best way to get around.

Another option for getting around Honolulu – O’ahu is by foot. This option is convenient and cheap for short trips. There are carshares available on the island, such as the DriveHui app. If you don’t have a car or want to park your rental vehicle in a convenient place, you can also consider hiring a private shuttle. While a private shuttle will cost you a bit more, it’s easy to arrange a schedule and a driver. Chartering a shuttle is also a good option if you have a large group.


Best Restaurants

Restaurant view of Koko Head Cafe
Koko Head Cafe

For a fine dining experience in Honolulu, eat at one of the Best Restaurants in Honolulu. The restaurant focuses on local sustainable seafood and features a Midcentury Modern-meets-Aloha vibe. Try the Family Feast, which consists of a whole fried fish, buttered ulu (breadfruit), pohole (fiddlehead fern) salad, and tropical fruit pavlova.

The Koko Head Cafe is a popular brunch spot on the island of Oahu. This eatery serves a variety of brunch dishes and offers beer and wine. It also serves delicious breakfast scone and kimchi bacon cheddar scone. There are also outdoor tables if you don’t want to dine in.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic sunset or traditional French food, Honolulu has it all. Michel’s Oceanside restaurant, which offers breathtaking ocean views, is a fine choice. Its menu features mouthwatering dishes made with fresh ingredients, and the service is top-notch. It’s located at the base of Diamond Head, so reservations are recommended.


Things to Do

People Surfing on Sea
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Honolulu is a city in Hawaii where tourists can enjoy all sorts of activities. The city is a photographers’ dream thanks to the incredible street art. If you want to see some of the best works, consider joining a graffiti or mural tour lead by friendly locals.

During your visit, you can visit the famous Dole Plantation. There, you can enjoy a train ride in a vintage car and tour the plantation gardens. This is a great activity for the kids and is one of the top Things to do in Honolulu – Oahu.

Whether you love the beach or the ocean, you will find plenty of opportunities to go snorkelling in Honolulu – O’ahu. The sheltered waters here make for excellent snorkelling, and visitors can get a taste of the tropical fish in the area. Getting to Hanauma Bay is easy enough; just thirty minutes away from the city center, the park offers plenty of parking and tours.


Neighborhoods to Know

Aerial view of expensive residential housing at Black Point neighborhood in the Kahala area of east Honolulu on Oahu, Hawaii
Adobe Stock

If you’re looking to buy a new home in Honolulu, Hawaii, you’ll want to be familiar with the city’s neighborhoods. Oahu has a diverse housing market and many neighborhoods are great places to live. If you’re unsure where to start looking, you can work with a local agent to find the perfect home for your needs.

If you’re looking for luxury, beachfront property, or a great place to raise your family, there are many choices in this area. Kaimuki, which is bordered by Diamond Head Crater to the south, offers a good mix of island amenities and good-sized family homes. You’ll also find many excellent schools in the area. The location is great for families and is only a ten-minute drive to downtown Honolulu.

You may also want to consider living in Central Honolulu. This area is located on the eastern ridge of the island and is home to Manoa Marketplace, a shopping center, and the Manoa Elementary School, which has a GreatSchools ranking of 10. Punahou K-12 School is a private school, and boasts former student Barack Obama. The area was originally developed in the 1960s by real estate magnate Henry Kaiser. The area features beautiful homes and condos surrounded by a fishpond. There are also high-rise condos that offer views of the ocean. Some of these properties have golf courses nearby.



Downtown Honolulu Hawaii
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Honolulu is a tropical city with mild winters and pleasant summers. The climate is relatively temperate, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the high-80s. Most days see a pleasant breeze and are sunny. The average daily temperature rarely dips below 70°F. Winters are generally quieter, with fewer tourists and lower hotel prices.

The best time to visit Honolulu is from mid-May to mid-October. The best time for swimming or snorkeling is between mid-May and mid-October. The average daily temperature during these months is between 71-80°F.

The length of a day varies throughout the year. The shortest day is December 21, with 10 hours and 50 minutes of daylight, while the longest day is June 20, with 13 hours and 26 minutes of daylight. On the chart below, the black lines represent the number of hours of solar daylight. Color bands show the time of sunrise and sunset, and gray bands indicate twilight or nighttime.







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