Honolulu Travel Guide
Check out downtown Honolulu | Photo by Farragutful
If you’re coming to Oahu, you’ll almost certainly spend a significant amount of time in Honolulu and Waikiki. Honolulu is, of course, the largest city in Hawaii and has by far the most lodgings and accommodations of any region on Oahu. There’s also a ton to do in the city from shopping and dining to beaches and hikes–and so much more!
Here, you’ll find everything you need to travel to Honolulu and explore this beautiful city. We’ll give you some travel tips, as well as all the wonderful attractions there are to see in Honolulu such as the zoo and museum of art. Without further ado, here is our definitive Honolulu Travel Guide!
Enjoy your vacation in perfectly warm sunny weather | Photo by skeeze
In general, Hawaii receives two seasons: summer and winter. The drier, warmer summer months are from April to October. The wetter, cooler winter months are from November to March.
During summer, daily highs sit between the mid to high 80s. During these months, Honolulu might receive anywhere from three to five days of rain. During the winter months, this area receives highs in the low 80s with five to seven days of rain per month.
Best time to Visit Honolulu
If you’re more concerned about crowds, prices, and activities than the weather, here’s what you need to know. There are two major shoulder seasons for traveling when crowds and ticket prices are at low points. These occur in September before most people are able to leave for winter vacation and in late January when most travelers have returned home.
If you’re looking to surf or witness a surf competition, winter swells make for the best waves. The famed Bonzai Pipeline Surf Competition occurs in early December. The whale watching season, when humpback whales migrate to Hawaii, is from October to May and peaks from January to March.
Since rideshares are now allowed for pickups and drop-off, getting to and from your lodging and Honolulu Airport is easier than ever. You can estimate your rideshare costs here. Rides from the airport to popular lodging areas in Waikiki might cost around $30, however, rideshares prices are based on demand. Traveling at peak times such as weekends or rush hour can sometimes cost twice as much.
Alternatively, you can take the bus or rent a car. Bus fees are $2.75 one way with one transfer or $70 for a monthly pass. Rental cars will run you between $60 and $200 a day depending on the vehicle.
There are several rental car companies at the Honolulu airport and many more in the popular lodging areas. If you’re only looking to leave Honolulu occasionally, you might be better off booking a rental car of Hui for only the day, since the town is easy to walk or bus.
Check out our ultimate Hawaii Airports Guide for everything you need to know.
Take a walk around Honolulu and explore! | Photo by Brendel
Best Places to Stay
There are too many hotels and resorts in Honolulu and Waikiki to detail them all, but here are a few of the most popular, well-reviewed options.
- Embassy Sweets
- Hokulani Waikiki
- Waikiki Beach Marriott
- Hyatt Regency
- The Kahala Hotel and Resort
If you’re looking to save a bit on accommodations, you might consider these options, which are also excellent establishments.
- Ala Moana Honolulu by Mantra
- Pagoda Hotel
- Honolulu University Hostel
Best Places to Eat
There’s also no shortage of awesome places to get a bite to eat in Honolulu and Waikiki. If you’re looking for a taste of Hawaiian cuisine, check out Highway Inn in Kaka’ako. Malee Thai is simple but delicious. For Italian, Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar is pricey but worth it. Brick Fire Tavern has the best pizza. Thyda’s Tacos is phenomenal. For upscale American dishes try Chuck’s Cellar. And, if you’re looking for the Hawaiian classic, the Poke Bar, Maguro Brothers Hawaiian, and Off the Hook Poke all offer fresh and well-made poke. Some other popular spots are:
- The Pig and Lady, Vietnamese
- Zigu, Japanese
- Paris Hawaii, Japanese and French fusion
- Merriman’s, upscale, American, farm-to-table
- Moku Kitchen, American, farm-to-table
- Maui Brew Co, American
- Duke’s Waikiki
The Honolulu Zoo is one of the most popular attractions on the island. The animal exhibits here include must-sees such as zebras, tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants, an array of primates, and so much more! Entrance to the zoo costs $19 for adults or $11 for children under twelve for non-residents. Prices for residents of Hawaii are roughly halved. The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm every day.
Honolulu Museum of Art
The Honolulu Museum of Art houses works of renowned artists from all over the world. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $20 for adults and free for anyone under 18 years-of-age. The museum is also free to all guests on the third Sunday of every month.
On the last Friday of every month from January through October, the Honolulu Art Museum hosts an art party from from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m called ARTafterDARK. The party features a DJ, food, and drinks. Museum members enter for free. $25 dollars at the door buys you a membership and entrance to the event.
Shaka Guide Honolulu Tours
If you really want to get to know the city, we believe that there is no better way than to take one of Shaka Guide’s Honolulu or Waikiki tours. We have three awesome tours to guide you through the city, each of which offers a unique perspective. If you want to feel a connection with your surroundings and understand the history and culture of Honolulu, check out our Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour, Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour, or Biki Street Art Tour.
Waikiki and Waikiki Beach
If you’re staying in Honolulu, you’ll inevitably find your way to the beautiful Waikiki area. Here, you’ll find wonderful places to eat, grab a coffee, or just hang out. You can find almost any retail outlet, as well, if you’re looking to get some shopping done. Waikiki Beach is an excellent place to swim or soak up some sun.
The beach is also one of the best places on earth to learn to surf. The long, shallow waves are perfect for beginners looking to stand up on a surfboard for the first time. There are also loads of places from which to rent boards or take lessons right on the beach such as Waikiki Beach Services, Function Surf, and Faith Surf School Hawaii. There are usually large crowds at this beach, however.
Learn more about Hawaiian culture by visiting Iolani Palace | Photo by Farragutful
The restoration of Iolani Palace is emblematic of the restoration and reclamation of Hawaiian Culture itself. Built in 1882, the palace was originally the home of Hawaii’s final monarchs including Queen Liliuokalani until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
The palace is the only royal residence in the United States, and today serves as a historical landmark and icon of hawaiian heritage. It features Hawaiian original furniture and Hawaiian artifacts, which can be viewed on tours of the estate.
Tours last from 60 to 90 minutes. There are two guided tours and audio tour options available. A day-time guided tour costs $27, evening tours cost $40, and audio tours cost $27. Book here.
Experience a relaxing beach vacation in Honolulu | Photo by jaspion82
Waikiki isn’t the only beach in Honolulu, of course! We’d specifically recommend Cromwell’s beach on the far east end of town. But you might also consider the following beaches:
- Sand Island Beach
- Ala Moana Beach
- Fort Derussy Beach
- Kuhio Beach
- Queens Beach
- Sans Souci Beach
- Kaimana Beach
- Makalei Beach
- Waialae beach
- Kahala Beach
- Diamond Head Beach Park
- Duke Kahanamoku Beach (selected as one of the Best Beaches in the US in 2019)
Who wants to go hiking in Honolulu? | Photo by Kalen Emsley
For an adventure, there are tons of hikes in the Honolulu area to check out. Manoa Falls is one outstanding hike which is an absolute must-see if you’re staying in the Honolulu area. Manoa Falls is the site of several filming locations such as Jurassic Park and Lost. The Waʻahila Ridge State Recreation Area also offers several surreal hikes.
Diamond Head is an awesome, paved but strenuous hike up the Diamond Head crater. From the top, you can see gorgeous views of the entire city of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. Koko Head Crater hike is also extremely popular. It follows the route of an old railway, with the beams serving as steps to the top of the mountain. It’s extremely strenuous and rated as difficult but worth it for the panoramic view that you get at the top.
For more hiking, you might also consider:
- Makiki Arboretum Trail
- Makiki Valley Loop Trail
- Round Top Forest Reserve
- ʻUalakaʻa Trail
- Kanealole Trail
- Ka’au Crater Trail
- Wiliwilinui Hiking Trail
- Mau’umae Trail
- Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Experience zen at the Kyoto Gardens of Honolulu Memorial Park | Photo by Lashley
More Things to do in Honolulu
There is loads more to do in Honolulu if you know where to look. Here are some of our favorite activities to help fill your vacation with memorable experiences
- Waikiki aquarium
- Snorkel at Diamond Head
- Catamaran Sail
- Attend a Luau
- Whale Watching Boat Tour
- Attend a Farmers Market
- Visit Ala Moana Mall
- Visit a Botanical Garden
Visit Honolulu on your next vacation with Shaka Guide | Photo by Jared Rice