Honolulu Attractions

Honolulu Attractions

Oahu Beaches

The island of Oahu has some of the best beaches in the best beaches in Hawaii, and arguably, in the World. The island finds the perfect balance of pristine sandy beaches, turquoise water, and rugged scenic hills in the background. The temperatures are perfect for enjoying the beaches year-round and many activities are to be found on the more popular beaches such as surfing lessons and outrigger kayaking. If you leave Honolulu, beautiful and isolated beaches are not difficult to find. Check out our guide to the top 20 beaches of Oahu.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Mormons started this cultural theme park which is Hawaii’s number one paid attraction. Plan on spending a whole day here to see 42 acres featuring 7 villages representing the islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori and New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti and Tonga. Lots of activities and demonstrations by Polynesian students of Brigham Young University recreate the cultural heritage of their home islands.

General admission, not including dinner and show : adult $45 and child $35,
A better deal is admission, buffet, dinner and show: adult $60 and child $45.
For admission, luau and show: adult $88 and child $64.

55-370 Kamehameha Hwy. (Rte. 83), Laie.
Open year-round Mon-Sat 9-6:30.

International Marketplace

The International Marketplace is across the street from Waikiki Beach and is an outdoor vendors’ mall. Some distain this shopping venue as being tacky and offering cheap merchandise but there are treasures to be found. Some of the same merchandise in higher end gift shops on Waikiki is here at much lower prices. As always, buyer beware but give it a shot. It’s a lot less pretentious and less intimidating than the higher end stores. And haggling is welcome.

2330 Kalakaua Ave. (next to Waikiki Town Center)
Open year-round daily 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is not your typical tourist attraction. It’s a historical site, memorial and fully functioning military installation. The most popular place to visit in Hawaii consists of three sites: the USS Arizona Memorial, the floating commemoration of the sinking by Japanese bombing attack of the battleship that took with it 1,177 sailors on December 7, 1941; the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the ship where the Japanese surrendered to end World War II; and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. The Bowfin sank 44 enemy ships during the Second World War. Along with it is the Waterfront Memorial which honors 52 American submarines and 3500 crew members that were lost during the war. (See more detail about Pearl Harbor attractions in “Day Trips.”)

USS Arizona Memorial
1 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu.
Open year-round daily 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Battleship Missouri Memorial, 11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu. Tickets and shuttle bus available only from USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. 808/423-1341. www.ussmissouri.com. Open year-round daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Ticket window closes at 4 p.m.) Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving Day and December 25th.
Guided tour $22 adults, $14 children. Museum only $16 adults, $4 children.

Open year-round daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.(last tour of submarine at 4:30 p.m.)
$8 adults, $3 children, ages 4-12. (No children under 4 allowed on submarine but may visit museum and mini-theater at no charge.)

11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu

Iolani Palace

The one and only royal palace in the United States is located in downtown Honolulu. King David Kalakaua built the palace in 1882 and its last occupant was his sister Queen Liliuokalani who was forced to abdicate her throne at gunpoint in 1893 and was imprisoned there.

The rococo-style palace has three floors of galleries and, whether with a docent or on your own, exploration of the Throne Room, State Dining Room or Coronation Pavilion is sure to be fascinating.

Open year-round, daily 9-4.
Self-guided gallery tours $6, guided grand tours $20.

S. King and Richard Streets, Honolulu.

Kualoa: LOST Film Set

The Kualoa Ranch is famous for its film locations, especially Jurassic Park, and most recently, for the tv show, LOST. A half-day tour of film and tv sites on the Kualoa Ranch starts at $ 65.90 for adults and $37.25 for kids, ages 3-11. The full-day tour is $85.00 for adults and $56.35. 1-877/877-1222

A 5 hour Hummer tour, “Lost/Adventure” by KOS Tours, which visits more than 20 movie locations and “countless” tv locations, will cost $139 for adults, 13 and older, and includes water and snack bars.


Sea Life Park

The 62 acre oceanfront marine park at Makapuu Point in East Oahu is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Be prepared to be impressed at the 300,000 gallon aquarium as you enter the park. There is an 18-foot high Hawaiian Reef Tank with tropical fish, sharks, eels, and green sea turtles. Other exhibits include the sea lion feeding pool, sting ray exhibit and sea turtle lagoon. There are dolphin and seal lion shows and Sea Life Park even has penguins. Be sure to see the curious “wholpin,” a cross between an Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin and a false killer whale. There are special experiences available, too, where visitors can swim with and interact with dolphins.

Open year-round daily 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Entrance fee is $29.99 for adults, $19.99 for kids, 3-11.

41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo.

Shangri La

Shangri La is the house that Doris Duke built in 1937 to house her collection of Islamic art. Her collection, amassed over 60 years, encompasses over 3500 objects. The only way to see Shangri La is by1 _ hour guided tours which leave from the Honolulu Academy of Arts by mini-van. Be sure to make reservations well in advance. Shangri La may also be visited via virtual tour.
Tours depart from the Honolulu Academy of Arts
900 s. Beretania St, Honolulu

Visit by 2 _ hour guided tour only, year-round Wed-Sat 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
$25 for adults and children 12-17. (No children allowed under 12.)
Tickets through Honolulu Academy of Art: www.honoluluacademy.org.

Foster Botanical Garden

This 14 acre piece of serenity began in 1850 and continues today on the north side of Chinatown. Some of the original trees that were planted by German botanist William Hillebrand are still flourishing on the land which was leased from Queen Kalama. Tropical flowers, palms and exotic, rare plants and “exceptional” trees (deemed worthy of preservation) abound in this oasis in the middle of downtown Honolulu. Watch out for those 50 pound nuts hanging off the double coconut palm!

180 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu
Open year-round daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
$5 ages 13 and older, $1.00 ages 6-12.

Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo is small but contains a wide variety of animals on its 42 acres. The most popular area is the Kabuni Reserve, containing black rhino and white rhino, Grants zebra, lions, Indian elephant, hippos, giraffes, spotted hyena, cheetah, and chimps, roaming free in an African Savannah habitat. This gem of a zoo also contains an amazing array of tropical birds in its collection from Amazon parrots and American flamingo, king vulture and black swan, great horned owl, wrinkled hornbill, and the green singing finch. The rare Hawaiian state bird, the nene, is here, too. With over 1200 animals, a half-day here may not be enough. Bring a lunch and stay awhile. The zoo is ok with coolers and outside food.

Open year-round daily 9 a.m.-4:30 pm.
General admission, $12, ages 13 and up, $3 for children 4 and up with an adult, 18 and older.

151 Kapahulu Ave., (between Diamond Head and Waikiki, Honolulu)

Waikiki Aquarium

The country’s third oldest aquarium dates back to 1904 and features an amazing variety of more than 3500 sea creatures. There are unusual animals here than you would find in your local aquarium back home. Besides reef sharks and monk seals, there are the biggest clams in the world, measuring two feet long.

There is a live web cam available of the South Pacific Barrier Reef exhibit, which the zoo touts as “one of the largest living coral reef exhibits in the country.” See it at www.waquarium.org/webcams.asp.

Admission: adults: $9, youth 13-17: $6, junior, 5-12: $2, and 4 and under, free, accompanied by an adult.
Open year-round daily 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Closed Dec. 12, 2010 and Dec. 25th. Limited hours on Thanksgiving Day and Jan. 1st.

2777 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu

Atlantis Submarines

The world’s largest passenger submarine is the Atlantis XIV which takes 64 passengers for an undersea exploration off the Waikiki coast. It’s the chance to see colorful Hawaiian fish, coral and sea turtles from the comfort of a state-of-the-art, high-tech submarine. The Atlantis XIV descends 100 feet and the tour lasts 1 _ hours. The online price for adults, 13 and up is $103.50, 12 years and under is $47.70.

There is also a combo tour, the Premier Atlantis Combo which combines the above Atlantis Premium Submarine Tour with a Sunset Buffet Dinner Cruise on the ship, the Navatec I, for $178 for adults and $80 for kids.


Dole Plantation

Dole Plantation is advertised as “Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience,” and they do the pineapple thing quite well. If you want anything pineapple, you can get it at the retail store there. But the drawback is that it’s always crowded and it takes forever to get that pineapple ice cream or juice that you may want. There is a maze, which at one time was certified as the longest in the world by Guinness Book of World Records. The “Pineapple Express” train takes visitors on a 20 minute ride around the grounds. But bypass this, unless you are prepared to wait for food or a restroom. There is so much more of Hawaii to see.

Kuan Yin Temple

Past the entrance to Foster Botanical Gardens, you can’t miss Chinatown’s Kuan Yin Temple. Bright red with a jade green tile roof with upturned edges to turn away evil spirits, this Buddhist temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy. Please leave your shoes and enter quietly. Light a joss stick, incense burned at religious shrines. This is very much a house of worship, a “holy place of enlightenment.” Suggested offerings are fresh flowers, fresh fruit, incense, or vegetables.