Outdoors, Indoors, and Underwater: Honolulu’s Top Spots for a Great Vacation

If you love tropical climates, gorgeous beaches (of course!), and a laid-back atmosphere, then you might want to make Honolulu, Hawaii, your next vacation spot. Honolulu is relaxing and adventurous all at once, no matter what time of the year you decide to go.


Fun Things To Do in Honolulu: Outdoors

Diamond Head East, Aerial View; Source: Flickr

Hit the Beach for Fun on Land & Sea

Did you know you can enjoy the outdoors and not necessarily be an outdoorsy person? Try new things with Honolulu’s outdoor activities, ranging from tranquil to daring.

Honolulu has a few great spots for surfing, especially during the winter months when waves can reach heights of over 30 feet. Waikiki Beach (a string of beaches along the island’s southwest coastline) is a great place to take surfing lessons.

Waimea Bay is another hot spot for experienced surfers. The swells can really soar here, and its high tides last throughout the winter season. During the summer, the waters are calmer so you can swim and snorkel. There is also a giant rock that extends out of the shoreline, but be cautious—it’s recommended that you only jump off it if you’re experienced. Tip: Waimea Bay’s parking is usually quite inconvenient and there are not restaurants within walking distance. Be prepared.

The North Shore at Waimea Bay in Oahu

The North Shore at Waimea Bay in Oahu

Not too far from Waimea is Sunset Beach. An expert surf haven, this is a great spot to watch pros handle the waves. Like its southern neighbor, Sunset Beach is mellower during the summer for swimming or body boarding. This beach spot isn’t as bustling with activity like some of the others, but that means there aren’t parking issues and it’s more relaxing. The perfect time to take in this North Shore beach is just like the name says, at sunset.

Diamond Head, or Leahi as the Hawaiians call it, is a famous landmark created nearly 300,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption and provides a great backdrop for Honolulu. It’s home to one of the most scenic hiking trails on Oahu. This 760-foot hike is quite the climb, but once you reach the summit and see the beautiful view of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean, you’ll understand why it’s worth it.


Fun Things To Do in Hawaii: History and Culture

Night falls over Waikiki; Source: Flickr

If you’re a less experienced hiker, check out Manoa Falls. Getting to this 150-foot waterfall requires about a 1.5-mile hike, immersed in rainforest-like scenery—it is so lush, even scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed here. You can do this hike from sunrise to sunset, but be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots and bring plenty of bug spray.

Indulge in Shopping & Local Food

When you want a break from the waves, check out the shops, cafes, and restaurants throughout Honolulu. Standout restaurants include Alan Wong’s, House Without a Key, and Morimoto Waikiki. For those with expensive taste, pamper yourself with some of the designer boutiques along Kalakaua Avenue, like Prada and Chanel.

Dive into History at Memorials & Museums

For anyone who knows U.S. or world history, then you know Honolulu is the final resting place of more than 1,000 sailors killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. Pearl Harbor, the biggest natural harbor in Hawaii, has a few historic sites, including the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor

Here you’ll learn about the events on that tragic day in 1941 and can pay your respects to the fallen soldiers. Since it’s one of the most visited World War II memorials, you can expect long lines and lots of people, but the experience is well worth it. Other sites nearby worth your visit if you have the time are the Battleship Missouri MemorialU.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and Pacific Aviation Museum.

See the only royal palace in the U.S. and learn about Hawaii’s final monarchs at Iolani Palace. This spectacular 10-room palace, now turned historic house and museum, was where King Kalakaua and his sister and successor Queen Liliuokalani lived. Go on an expert- or self-guided to see the beauty of Iolani Palace and hear the stories integral to Hawaii’s history and culture.

The Iolani Palace, lit up at night

The Iolani Palace, lit up at night

Right across from Iolani Palace stands the King Kamehameha Statue. This 18-foot bronze statue is placed out in front of Aliiolani Hale (home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court), honoring Hawaii’s first king, who was a great diplomat, leader, and warrior. This statue represents one of Oahu’s most photographed landmarks.

Honolulu has the weather and attractions every vacationer wants, so be sure to stop by some of these outdoor and historical attractions to really see why this city on the island of Oahu is worth visiting. Be sure check out these IHG hotels in Honolulu while planning your tropical getaway.

Updated: November 11, 2016