Honolulu is an ultra-modern city full of enormous diversity. The county of Honolulu is home to approximately 800,000 people of all races and cultures. It is what gives O'ahu the nickname, "The Gathering Place."
Waikiki Beach stretches from the slopes of
The main thoroughfare of Waikiki is Kalakaua Boulevard. Most of the hotels, shops, and restaurants are gathered along this well-populated strip. The
This diverse area is probably the first place business travelers will see, thanks to the presence of the enormous Hawai'i Convention Center. Be sure not to miss one of the largest open-air shopping centers in the country,
Chinatown is one of Honolulu's most colorful and exciting neighborhoods. The area has been a major gateway for immigrants to Hawai'i. Chinese medicine and Eastern religion have a huge presence, with Taoist, Buddhist and Shinto temples sandwiched between herbalists, shops, and restaurants. Highlights of Chinatown include
From the steely skyscrapers and luxury high rises that rise up along the waterfront to the restored palaces and fascinating museums on Beretania and Bernice Streets, the downtown area proves Honolulu to be much more than the glitzy tourist town that Waikiki would have us believe. Landmarks are numerous, but a few that can't be missed are the grand and graceful bustling
Manoa Valley, where the University of Hawaii is situated, is typical of the valleys resulting from the erosion caused by lava flows in Hawai'i. One of the best places to view Honolulu and the Ko'olau mountain range is from the Manoa Cliff Trail. The main attraction of the valley itself is the University of Hawaii, a research university founded in 1907 and the only one of its kind in the state.
Manoa and the nearby neighborhood of Makiki comprise one of the major cultural hot spots on the island. While this district isn't marketed or publicized as a cultural destination, it is home to several galleries, museums and theater companies. Among the hidden jewels in the area are
East Honolulu—Diamond Head Kahala, Hawaii Kai
There are several major tourist attractions spread out through this area. Diamond Head is great for hikers. This peak can be seen from many vantage points in Honolulu, but for outdoor enthusiasts, there's no better way to experience it than by hiking to the summit and gazing down at the island below.
Experts agree that
North Honolulu—Pearl Harbor, Pearl City & Ewa
Aside from Waikiki, this district may be the one most often visited by tourists. Site of the infamous Pearl Harbor attack, it is among the most famous
If you visit Honolulu or even read about it, you'll likely find that the term "Windward" is tossed around quite a bit. Windward, to clarify, is the Eastern shore of the island. It's a quiet, laid-back place, devoid of all the glitz and noise of Honolulu. Most locals will also tell you that it's the best part of the island.
There are no major hotels or malls here, but there are plenty of restaurants and shops, and there seems to be a B&B tucked under every hillock and at the end of every street.
Leeward O'ahu & Central O'ahu
Like Windward O'ahu and East Honolulu, Leeward (that's Western to all you mainlanders) is a quieter district with a few outstanding visitor attractions. Smart tourists—at least, the ones who can afford it—pooh pooh the jam-packed hotels of Waikiki, knowing that true paradise awaits at
Central Honolulu isn't much of a visitor destination, although the famous
It seems like every Hawaiian island has its own North Shore, where surfers from around the world come to brave the big waves in winter time. It doesn't stop there: It has great beaches, famous parks and a mellow lifestyle.
As the geographical center of the Pacific, Honolulu is also the entertainment capital of this vast region. There is much to do and see in its many entertainment venues.
Hawai'i is home to many world-class artists, and Honolulu has multiple galleries displaying their work. The Arts of Paradise Gallery in Waikiki features the art of more than 40 of Hawaii's best artists.
Honolulu Academy of Arts, which opened its doors to the general public in 1927, was the dream of Anna Rice Cooke. Her goal, which became the goal of the Academy as an entity, was to create a place where, artistically, "East meets West." There is a large main exhibit area that is used for temporary special exhibits. In addition, there are several other permanent galleries along with a wonderful shop and a delightful restaurant, the Pavilion Cafe, set in a tropical courtyard.
In Honolulu's prestigious Restaurant Row near downtown, nine screens show first-run features. In the old Dole Cannery area on the other side of Honolulu's downtown area there is a 16-screen Signature Theatre.
Music & Dance of Polynesia & Beyond
All the colorful islands of the Pacific are well represented in the music and dance of Honolulu. Two excellent production shows are The Magic of Polynesia and the legendary Don Ho Show, both at the Waikiki Beachcomber. The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu's North Shore also presents daily and nightly music and dance extravaganzas. Free entertainment is presented often throughout Waikiki. Two of the best free shows are the classic live hula show at the Waikiki Shell and Aloha Waikiki, at DFS Galleria.
Lovers of classical music should make a date with the The Honolulu Symphony. The highly reputed Symphony attracts some of the world's finest guest conductors and soloists. The Hawaii Opera Theatre has been entertaining lovers of the genre for years.
One of the most popular forms of entertainment for the visitor to Hawai'i is the luau, a traditional Hawaiian festival party. Guests are served sumptuous food and drink and treated to a music and dance extravaganza. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki, offers the Royal Hawaiian Luau, one of the best around. Germaine's Luau is another favorite, as is the luau at Paradise Cove. On the North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers a luau that is widely praised for its authenticity and quality.
Honolulu boasts one of the country's most interesting local history and cultural archives, the Bishop Museum. Located downtown, this fascinating place was founded in 1889 by Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a member of the Hawaiian royal family. The museum primarily focuses on the islands of the Pacific Basin, but it also houses a fascinating astronomy exhibit. Also downtown, the Mission Houses Museum allows one to step back in time to the early 19th century, when Honolulu was a bustling whaling port. In North Honolulu, Hawaii's Plantation Village recreates life on a sugar plantation through several decades.
For those interested in Military history, the island of O'ahu offers many choices. At the northern end of Waikiki, you'll find the historical Fort DeRussy. The mighty Battleship Missouri has been turned into a Navy and World War II museum at Pearl Harbor. Nearby, the Bowfin Memorial Park has many exhibits about undersea warfare in the last century.
The Music Scene
The most popular venue for rock and pop concerts is the 9000-capacity Neal Blaisdell Arena, located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu also do their share to entertain the rock and pop fans visiting Waikiki.
Honolulu, like most cities, has a wide variety of spots where nightlife flourishes. Most of these nightclubs are in the tourist area of Waikiki. In the Waikiki Trade Center you will find the large and luxurious Zanzabar Nightclub. Other night spots include the boisterous Pipeline Cafe, and Chai's Island Bistro in the Aloha Tower Marketplace, which features the best local Hawaiian performers. There are also countless karaoke and hostess-bars throughout Honolulu. Ala Moana is the main area for these establishments.
The premier house for live theater is the Diamond Head Theatre in the shadow of the Diamond Head State Monument. Another place to see live theater is at the Manoa Valley Theater near the University of Hawai'i. The Honolulu Academy of Arts has the Doris Duke Theatre that sometimes presents plays and musical showcases.
One of the main reasons visitors come to the Hawaiian Islands is the abundance of beautiful golf courses. Honolulu's home island of O'ahu has a number of great choices. Coral Creek is a favorite for its lush tropical landscaping, exotic coral formations and challenging par-72 course. On the North Shore you'll find the Links at Kuilima. The crowded Ala Wai Golf Course is a convenient and reasonably priced place to play. If saving a few dollars is important, Stand-by Golf can get you next-day and same-day tee times at discounted rates.
For information on all of Honolulu and Oahu's many activities, stop by a hotel activity desk, an activity broker or any airport kiosks. The most thorough source of information is the Convention & Visitor's Bureau (+1 800 464 2924 / http://www.gohawaii.com).
Hawai'i began 60 million years ago as what geologists call a hot spot: a bulge of hot, molten rock about 250 miles wide running down 1900 miles to our planet's iron core. It rose to the Pacific Ocean plate, where it melted the rock and turned to magma, breaking out of the Earth's crust as lava, and eventually turning to land. Today on Honolulu's home island, O'ahu, there are the remnants of two huge volcanoes, Waianae and Ko'olau.
The earliest inhabitants of these islands were likely royal navigators from the Marquesa Islands. They found their way to Hawai'i sometime around 900CE. Later came seafarers from New Zealand, Tahiti and other Pacific islands. When the navigators reached these islands, the Big Island's southern points were the first areas settled. British Captain James Cook started the "modern era" of Hawai'i on January 18, 1778. During the next 20 years, the Hawaiian Islands became a beacon for voyagers in an era of international imperialism. For the most part, Hawaiians welcomed the foreign crews, not knowing they brought diseases deadly to the native population. During the next 100 years, 80 percent of the native Hawaiian population succumbed to these illnesses. Tyrannic ruler Kamehameha the First died in May of 1819 just as the first of the American Christian missionaries proclaimed their goal of "raising up the people of Hawai'i to an elevated state of Christian civilization." The influx of missionaries over the next 40 years was to change the island chain forever.
Foreigners created the village of Honolulu beside the tiny harbor of Kou in the first half of the 19th Century. By 1850, Honolulu Harbor was full of masts with more than 150 whaling and merchant ships. This meant that more than 3000 seamen were ashore, looking for liquor and other entertainment. Honolulu's jails were always filled to capacity. The town, for better or worse, had become the hub of commerce for the entire northern and central Pacific. Sugar production took hold in the 1840s, and by 1884 production soared to 10 million pounds a year, transforming Hawai'i from a traditional, insular, agrarian and debt-ridden society into a city that was multicultural, cosmopolitan and prosperous. In the center of this world was Honolulu.
19th-century super-powers England, France, and the United States were keenly aware of the Islands' and Honolulu's strategic importance. By the early 1840s, intrigues by British residents led Rear Admiral Richard Thomas, commander of the British Squadron in the Pacific, to send Lord George Paulet to Honolulu to protect British interests. He arrived in the winter of 1843 and issued a series of threatening ultimatums. King Kamehameha III had sent emissaries to Europe to resolve all disputes, but to no avail. The king was forced to yield to British guns on February 15, 1843. Protests mounted in the Islands. Since Great Britain had already recognized Hawaii's independence and France had promised to do likewise, the provisional cession to Paulet was received with concern in London, Paris and other foreign capitals. Admiral Thomas came to Honolulu on July 26 and declared Paulet's act to be unauthorized. On July 31, the Hawaiian flag was again raised.
In 62 years, there were to be five individuals that carried the Kamehameha title, with the last of the direct dynasty passing on in 1872. In 1887, several hundred foreigners formed a secret group called the Hawaiian League. By various means, they intimidated the current king, David Kalakaua (descended from a cousin of Kamehameha the Great), into accepting a new constitution, known as the Bayonet Constitution. It stripped him of many powers, making him a figurehead, and permitted only Caucasian foreigners to vote in elections. In 1889, a man named Robert Wilcox led an uprising against the new constitution. The uprising was put down by the king's troops, but Wilcox became a hero to native Hawaiians. An all-Hawaiian jury at his conspiracy trial found him not guilty.
After David Kalakaua's death in 1891, his sister Lydia garnered the distinction of becoming the last Hawaiian monarch. Queen Liliuokalani, as she was known, was a courageous and intelligent woman and a strong nationalist. She tried to replace the Bayonet Constitution with one that would favor native Hawaiians, but was pressured into letting the old constitution stand.
Hawaiian planters needed political help to keep their plantations profitable. Most of all, they needed a reciprocity treaty that gave them the ability to sell sugar in the United States without paying a tariff. Hawaiians opposed reciprocity, fearing it was the bait to give the United States exclusive use of Pearl Harbor. The Queen's attempt to create a constitution that would restore more power to the Hawaiian monarchy was the catalyst and the call to action for powerful Honolulu businessmen. On January 17, 1893, supported by U.S. Marines, they overthrew the Kingdom of Hawai'i. A provisional government was declared and immediately recognized by John Stevens, the American Minister to Hawai'i. Pineapple baron Sandford Dole was appointed President. This lasted until 1898, when the United States annexed Hawai'i and it became a territory of the United States. Once Hawai'i became a state in 1959, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created to manage native lands ceded during the overthrow and U.S. annexation.
During the pre-tourist years, sugar planters and pineapple growers ran the islands with impunity, and prospered. However, strong new cultural identities were emerging. The U.S. military was creating a strong presence in the Pacific. The Navy and Army both considered Honolulu, with its key asset of Pearl Harbor, as the most important place in the North Pacific. Unlike military bases on the mainland or in the Philippines, where military life was separated from civilians, Hawai'i and the military grew up together. Military officers were at the top of Honolulu society. Waikiki's first luxury-trade hotel, opened in 1901, the elegant Moana Surfrider, was an exclusive paradise mainly for the rich. The same held true for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which opened in 1919. This would change greatly during the next 20 years, as steamship companies, Hollywood and the Pan American Clipper discovered Honolulu.
In one of World War II's most historic events, Pearl Harbor was struck by forces of the Japanese navy on December 7, 1941. For America, World War II began here, although interestingly, Hawaii would not become a state until much later in 1959.
Honolulu is currently the permanent home to almost one million people of all races and cultural backgrounds. It is not only one of the largest cities in the US, hovering around the 10th or 11th spot on the census charts, but also one of the most popular destinations in the country for business and leisure. At any given time, there are about 100,000 visitors in Hawai'i. Nearly all of them travel through Honolulu, "The Queen of the Pacific."
Five million people per year visit the island of O'ahu and the Pacific metropolis of Honolulu. It is no wonder that the island boasts some of the finest hotels in the world. It is the land of Aloha, and you'll find the famous "Aloha Spirit" in many of the fine area hotels.
The two oldest hotels on the strand are the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel, dating from the early 1900s, and the "Pink Lady of the Pacific," the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Both of these great hotels are right on the beach and in the top tier of accommodations in Waikiki. The Halekulani is also considered by many people to be one of the top five hotels on the Islands. All three of these elegant options are expensive, but the accommodations, ambiance and service at each of them are of the highest quality. The Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel at the start of the beach is a bit less expensive, but is still wonderful; it's one of the best choices for families. The Village has two high-rise towers, a lovely tropical shopping bazaar, many fine restaurants, three pools and a beachfront location.
Another famous chain, Outrigger, has several locations in Waikiki. Among them are the ideally situated Outrigger Reef on the Beach and flagship Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. These are moderately priced hotels, but the quality of the rooms and service is very good. Aston is also well represented in Waikiki. The Aston at the Waikiki Banyan provides excellent accommodations at moderate prices.
There are many economy choices in this famous area. An excellent option is Waikiki Parkside. As the name suggests, it overlooks a beautiful park that marks the start of Waikiki. Family plans at this hotel are quite reasonable. The Castle Hotel group operates several Hawai'i hotels, all reasonably priced. One of the best is Queen Kapiolani Hotel.
Almost all of the hotels in Waikiki have Japanese speaking personnel, and the spirit of Aloha is very much alive throughout the hospitality industry.
As mentioned above, the Ala Moana district of Honolulu is the community that borders Waikiki; it is a very popular shopping and dining area. The Ala Moana Hotel sits right beside the shopping mall and is a moderately priced choice for accommodation. Nearby is the Westin Hawaii Prince Hotel. It is a bit pricier than its neighbors, but exceptionally well appointed. On the border of Ala Moana and Waikiki, Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki offers short- and long-term accommodations in a great setting overlooking the colorful Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Discovery Bay (across the street from the Ilikai) offers long-term vacation condo rentals. The Pagoda Hotel on Rycroft Street, three blocks from the Ala Moana Shopping Center, is a favorite economy hotel of inter-island travelers and knowledgeable visitors from the mainland. There are also several hostelries in the Ala Moana area, but it is best to avoid them.
Downtown & Airport Areas
Honolulu's central area is one of the nicest, prettiest and cleanest in the country. Here, you'll find the ResortQuest at the Executive Centre Hotel on Bishop Street. This luxurious business stopover features well-appointed suites and all necessities for conducting commerce.
Like most cities, Honolulu has a number of good lodging options near its busy international airport. The Honolulu Airport Hotel on Nimitz Highway offers comfortable rooms and is a favorite stopover for military personnel from nearby Pearl Harbor and Hickam Airforce Base. The hotel offers a free 24-hour airport shuttle service, as does Best Western Plaza Hotel next door.
Kahala, lying just to the south of Waikiki and at the foot of Diamond Head Crater, boasts one of the best and most exotic hotels, the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Like all of the Oriental hotels worldwide, this is a showplace. Set on the beach amid beautiful gardens and patios, it is also one of the most expensive places on the island.
The premier place to stay on Oahu's famous north shore, an hour and a half from downtown Honolulu, is the Turtle Bay Resort. It is a great place to get away from it all while relaxing in a low-rise, blissful Hawaiian setting. It is also a wonderful place to take in a sunset.
At secluded Ko Olina Marina is the lovely JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa. Boasting a world-class golf course, the Azul restaurant, and an idyllic natural setting, this place appeals to the true escapist.
If smaller, more intimate lodgings appeal to you, there are many Bed and Breakfasts in Honolulu and on O'ahu. Bed & Breakfast Hawai'i at +1 800 733 1632 (http://www.bandb-hawaii.com) can help you find a suitable place anywhere from Waikiki to the Manoa Valley to the North Shore.