15 Must-Try Experiences in Honolulu

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Whether you crave fresh seafood with a view, a challenging hike followed by a refreshing dip in a waterfall, or an adrenaline-pumping helicopter tour, Honolulu has something for everyone. Here is your one-stop shop for crafting the perfect Hawaiian itinerary, packed with delicious eats, unforgettable sights, and exciting activities. So, grab your swimsuit, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to experience the magic of this city!

Where to Eat: Savoring Honolulu’s Culinary Gems

Duke’s Waikiki

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Yearning for delicious seafood while enjoying a breathtaking ocean panorama? Look no further than Duke’s Waikiki. This iconic restaurant, named after legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, serves up the bounty of the Pacific in a lively setting. From succulent grilled fish to creamy pasta dishes bursting with seafood, Duke’s menu celebrates Hawaiian flavors. Enjoy a beachfront table and watch surfers dance on the waves as you savor every bite. 

Marukame Udon

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For a taste of Japan in the heart of Honolulu, head to Marukame Udon. It’s a fast-casual restaurant that offers a delicious and affordable build-your-own udon noodle experience. Choose from various hot or cold broths, then finish your bowl with multiple add-ons like tempura shrimp, vegetables, and soft-boiled eggs. The chewy udon noodles are cooked to perfection, and the flavorful broths will warm your soul.  

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

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No trip to this city is complete without experiencing the legendary shrimp trucks. Famous for its plate lunches overflowing with succulent garlic shrimp, this truck is a local favorite. These plump, juicy prawns are bathed in a garlicky, buttery sauce that will tantalize your taste buds. Pair your shrimp with fluffy white rice and a refreshing scoop of macaroni salad for a complete and satisfying meal.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

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Helena’s Hawaiian Food is a must-visit for a deeper dive into traditional cuisine. This local gem offers authentic Hawaiian dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Sample classics like lau lau (slow-cooked pork or fish wrapped in taro leaves), kalua pig (shredded pork cooked in an underground imu oven), and haupia (a sweet coconut pudding). 

Leonard’s Bakery

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You can cap off your food tour with a sweet treat at Leonard’s Bakery, an iconic stop renowned for its malasadas, a Portuguese doughnut unlike any other. These fluffy doughnut holes are fried to golden perfection and dusted with granulated sugar. They have a light, airy texture and just the right amount of sweetness. 

What to See: Capturing Honolulu’s Spectacular Views

Diamond Head Summit

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 Hike to the Diamond Head Summit for a scenic view that will leave you breathless. It is a stunning volcanic crater that offers a challenging but rewarding trek through a dry forest. As you ascend the switchbacks, you’ll be rewarded with glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and the sprawling city of Honolulu. The scenery from the top is truly unforgettable, encompassing Waikiki Beach, surfers catching waves, and the majestic Ko’olau Mountains.  

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

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Hanauma Bay is an underwater haven with crystal-clear waters filled with colorful fish, making it a snorkeler’s dream. The crescent-shaped bay offers a protected area for swimming and exploring the vibrant coral reefs. You can also go kayaking or paddleboarding here, allowing you to explore the bay from a different perspective. 

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

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The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is the perfect place to see and get a taste of history. A somber yet significant site, this place commemorates Pearl Harbor’s December 7, 1941, attack and honors the brave men and women who lost their lives that day. Boat tours are available to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits above the sunken battleship where many sailors are entombed. 

Iolani Palace

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Take a peek into history at the only official royal palace in the country, the Iolani Palace. This majestic building was the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchs from 1882 to 1893 and offers a glimpse into the state’s royalty. Explore the opulent throne room, marvel at the exquisite furnishings, and learn about the fascinating history of the Hawaiian monarchy.  

Byodo-In Temple

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A replica of a 9th-century Japanese temple, the Byodo-In temple is situated in the lush Valley of the Temples, offering relaxation in a tranquil setting. Wander through the serene gardens, admire the koi fish swimming in the ponds, and take in the breathtaking mountain scenery. It is a place to find peace, reflect, and appreciate the beauty of nature.

What to Do: Experiencing Honolulu’s Thrilling Adventures

Learn to Surf

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Embrace the Hawaiian spirit and catch your first wave! The city offers some of the best surfing conditions in the world, making it the perfect place to learn this iconic sport. Several surf schools cater to beginners, offering lessons tailored to your skill level. Instructed by experienced professionals, you will learn the basics of paddling, popping up, and riding a wave. Imagine the thrill of standing on your surfboard for the first time, feeling the power of the ocean beneath you.  

Hike the Lush Trails of Manoa Falls

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Swap the beach for a rainforest adventure on a trek to Manoa Falls. A moderate hike takes you through a panoramic valley filled with towering trees, vibrant flowers, and cascading streams. The trail’s highlight is the Manoa Falls, a 150-foot waterfall that plunges into a refreshing pool. Take a dip in the cool water, soak up the beauty of the rainforest, and enjoy the serenity of nature. 

Explore the Vibrant Culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center

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This living museum showcases the traditions, music, and dance of various Polynesian islands. Watch skilled artisans demonstrate traditional crafts, be captivated by vibrant dance performances, and learn about the unique customs of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and more. The Polynesian Cultural Center offers the whole family a fun and educational experience.

Snorkel with Majestic Mantas at Night

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Set off on an unforgettable underwater adventure with a nighttime manta ray snorkel. As darkness falls, head out to the Kona Coast, where these fish gather to feed on plankton. The bioluminescent plankton creates an ethereal glow as you glide alongside these majestic creatures through the water. Witnessing manta rays gracefully swimming beneath you is a truly magical experience.

Take a Helicopter Ride for Unparalleled Views

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Go for a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of Oahu’s stunning beauty. Soar above the dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests, and hidden waterfalls, all while enjoying panoramic views of the coastline and turquoise waters. A thrilling ride will allow you to capture breathtaking sights that you won’t be able to see from the ground. A helicopter ride is the ultimate way to experience the grandeur of Oahu and create lasting memories.

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