Things to Do in Honolulu


Beaches

Cromwell’s Beach 

Located on Oahu’s South Shore, Cromwell’s beach is a great place to spend the day swimming in the enchanting lagoon.  Cromwell’s is ideal for little kids or babies because the water is calm year round.  This beach looks like it dropped right out of Peter Pan.  You get to the beach by way of a majestic hidden path covered by the many species of native Hawaiian trees and flowers.  The entrance to the secret path is just at the end of the roundabout on Kulamanu Place.  There is no parking lot so you’ll need to park curbside.   

Makalei Beach Park 

Another stellar beach on the South Shore is Malakei Beach Park.  This spot is also affectionately dubbed “suicides” by the local surfing community because the task of paddling out to the waves makes you want to kill yourself.  However, surfing itself is choice.  This is a beach for swimming but it is highly recommended that you check the tide before entering the water.  If taking a prolonged dip in the water feels too risky there is a beach area to lay out and tan, showers, and picnic tables shaded by beach greenery.  These are ideal for larger group picnics.       

Waimanalo Beach Park 

On the opposite side of the island on the East Shore is Waimanalo Beach Park.  The ride down is gorgeous and there are little places to stop along the way for pictures.  Seeing the beauty of Waimanalo Beach you’ll think you are in Tahiti with crystal clear blue waters surrounded by large volcanic peaks.  This beach has parking and is kid friendly for ages eight and up.  Regardless of age however you need to be a strong swimmer to enter the water at certain points along the shore.  Keep in mind that certain parts of the shoreline are where the waves break the hardest.    

Makapu’u

Also on the Eastern Shore is Makapu’u located right smack on the side of another mountain.  Depending on the time of year you are planning to visit you may not be permitted to swim.  Above all do not go in when there are strong waves, even experienced swimmers find it difficult to get back to shore.  In the summertime the water is calmer, more like a lake, making it an ideal place to bring small children.  There is also a parking lot close by so you can unload your beach equipment with ease.  There are also easily accessible showers and restrooms.    

Flagpoles

It’s always sandy beaches and calm waters at Kailua Beach, more commonly known to the locals as Flagpole’s.  There is tree cover at this beach for days so if the sun and surf start to take their toll you and your loved ones can take a minute to cool off in the shade.  Just be mindful of the wild roosters that roam the brush with their harem of hens.  They often invite themselves to people’s picnics.     

Yokohama’s Beach Park

If you are staying on the West Shore of Oahu then be sure to check out Yokohama’s Beach Park.  This beautiful stretch of white beach with lots of plush sand perfect for sunbathing feels like you’re swimming off the edge of the earth.  Large volcanic cliffs faces drop into the crisp blue ocean.  During the winter surf months swimming can be tricky so if you are not the strongest swimmer stay on dry land.     

Rocky’s/Rocky Point

Rocky Point or Rocky’s is another West Shore beach spot.  It also happens to be the beach where Jack Johson’s house is located.  This secluded beach is perfect for any desired beach activity whether you prefer to lay out on the soft sands and tan, swim, or kick around a football for the afternoon.  There is swimming year round and surfing is ideal for beginners to practice their skills.  

Ke Ike Beach  

The last beach on our list is Ke Ike’s on Oahu’s North Shore.  This little spread of paradise is laden with soft white sands that span for miles down the shore.  This place is the epitome of what you might consider a Hawaiian paradise and there is great surfing during the winter months.  As always though where there are stronger waves check the tides before entering the water.  

Culture

Taro Farms

For thousands of years the kalo (taro) plant has grown on the Hawaiian islands in hundreds of different varieties.  Kalo itself is a root vegetable whose leaves and stems can be used and eaten in all sorts of manners like poi or lau lau.  On the North Shore of Oahu is Na Mea Kupono, one of the oldest kalo farms on the island, tended by the Garrido-Bolosan family for decades.  These kalo patches not only play a huge part in preserving Hawaiian culture and history but they are also essential for the stability of the island’s entire ecosystem.  The kalo plant has huge leaves that provide shelter and protection for endangered species like the alae ula bird.  However, the Hawaiian people’s connection to kalo goes well beyond food.  It is in fact their ancestor, the elder sibling of all Hawaiians.  Kalo was the first born child of the earth mother and the sky father, the supreme beings who created all life.

        

Bishop Museum 

Welcome to the State of Hawaii’s premiere museum for Hawaiian history and culture.  Located at 1525 Bernice Street in Oahu’s historic Kalihi district.  This was the site of many Hawaiian legends about the adventures of the Gods and Goddesses, most notably the volcano Goddess Pele and her husband Wakea.  The museum itself is dedicated to preserving the full scope of Hawaiian history both past, present, and future.  There are several halls and galleries that museum patrons can tour.  The Hawaiian Hall takes you through the realms of Hawaii all the way from pre-contact to the sanctum of the Gods.  The Pacific Hall is dedicated to exploring the wide history of Oceania through cultural treasures, archaeological finds, oral traditions, and linguistics.  This diversity of culture showcases a diverse people yet united through their shared understanding of the world around them.  There is also a large picture and portrait gallery, native hawaii gardens, and last but not least a science adventure center.  

  • Honolulu Museum of Art
    • The Honolulu Museum of Art or HoMA as it is affectionately known, has dedicated itself to exhibiting Hawaiian based artists in addition to a well rounded collection of international art.  They have galleries dedicated to Japanese woodblock prints, a palm courtyard, and contemporary art.  After the pandemic year the Museum is welcoming visitors back, both tourists and locals alike, to view their latest featuring exhibition “Artists of Hawaii Now.”  The selected artists cover a wide range of artistic mediums and interests.  Everything from algae photography to independent films on homelessness in Oahu.  This is definitely a nice change of pace from the beach not to mention a nice air conditioned afternoon.  
  1. Fun Day Activities 
  • Kualoa Ranch Oahu 
    • If you need a break from the beach and would like to see more of Hawaii’s inland natural beauty grab the kids and head over to Kualoa Ranch for a day of fun in the sun.  They have literally any activity you could think of including but not limited to: Jurassic Park film site tours, ocean voyage adventures, ATV rentals, ziplines, horseback riding through the valley, electric mountain biking, jungle expedition tours and more.   
  • The Sandbar
    • For those of you who are old enough to drink you should definitely try it in the middle of the ocean, literally.  Charter a boat to the Kaneohe Sandbar and enjoy an afternoon of sun and swimming in the most gorgeous shallow waters surrounded by the steep cliffs and tall mountains of Oahu.  You can also rent Kayaks and make your way out to the sandbar.  You might even see a little sea turtle pop its head up on your way out there.  
  • Glass Bottom Boat for Booze Cruise
    • If you are looking for a more carefree on the ocean drinking experience then definitely check out Glass Bottom Boat for the ultimate booze cruise experience.  You can take a cruise over one of Hawaii’s most active and flourishing coral reefs as well as one of the most popular shipwrecks in Hawaii.  It is required that you bring your own alcohol of choice but these tours will give you a solid bottom line with tours starting from just $39 per person.  You can sign up for whatever time of day you prefer but the sunset cruises are said to be the most majestic.  
  • Manoa Falls
    • Hawaii has some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world.  The islands are home to over 1,400 different varieties of plant life most of which is found nowhere else in the world.  Several of these species can be seen on the Aihualama Trail at the end of which is the iconic Manoa Falls, a massive 150-foot waterfall.  The hike itself is not too rough, a decent 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of moderate difficulty.  However, if you take your time heading up, the hike is not too strenuous, and you’ll get acquainted with some of Hawaii’s beautiful flora and fauna.  
  • Wa’ahila Ridge State Park
    • One of the best hikes on Oahu for bird watching is Wa’ahila Ridge Trail.  This hike is a moderate to relatively difficult 2.4 miles (3.4 km) but the trail is mostly dry year round and covered in the most beautiful tropical forest including iron-wood and guava trees.  Take your time heading up the ridge and try to spot one or two amakihi and apapane birds.  These little birds will be easy to spot because of their bright plumage and distinct song.  There is no drinking water up on the ridge so be sure to bring enough bottled water. 
  • Koko Head Crater (old train tracks up the side of a mountain
    • The Koko head crater is definitely one of the more strenuous hikes on the island.  The trail is a set of old train tracks that lead up the side of the mountain.  It is about a 30-60 minute hike to the top depending on your fitness level so make sure to set a pace that works for everyone and take frequent breaks if need be.  Don’t let the climb scare you!  The view at the top is definitely worth it offering a panoramic view of several of Hawaii’s largest valleys including Manoa and Palolo.  You can consider this hike your workout for the entire vacation if you like.  
  • Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail 
    • This trail is definitely one of the easier trails in Oahu lasting around thirty minutes.  You don’t have to work as hard for your scenic view and corresponding instagram photo.  There are also some other noteworthy sites to make a pit stop on your way to the lighthouse including magnificent tide pools and a secret blowhole.  You can even make out Molokai and Lanai, two other islands in the Hawaiian archipelago from the trail.  If you like after the end of your hike make your way down to Makapu’u beach and take a nice dip in the water to cool off.  
  • Pill Box Hike in Kailua 
    • The Pill Box is one of Hawaii’s most iconic and definitely most photographed hiking trails.  Pill boxes were constructed on Oahu in 1943 and used as lookout points to determine the position of incoming ships.  Today they serve as hiking landmarks offering visitors to Hawaii some unbelievable views.  The hike itself is not too strenuous, around 1.8 miles (2.9 km) and rated to be a moderate climb.  One of the most outstanding sites to see on this trail is the unimaginable amount of tropical flowers.  As always, be sure that you are physically fit enough to complete the hike and bring plenty of water.  
  • Kuliouou Ridge Hike
    • We have saved the longest and most rigorous hike for last.  Kuliouou Ridge is for recreational hikers or those of you who want to test your physical limits.  This trail is almost five miles (7.6 km) on a steep uphill incline often coated in a layer of thick mud.  Definitely check the weather conditions before you decide to do the hike for your safety.  However, the slipping and sliding is totally worth it because at the end is the amazing 1,800 foot high view of the surrounding landscape and valleys.      
  1. Drinking
  • Work Play 
    • One of the best spots to spend an evening in Honolulu is at Work Play in Kakaako.  After a day at the beach treat yourself to some of their delicious cocktails like their house old fashioned made with Old Overholt Rye, apricot liquor, and angostura bitters.  Perhaps you will sample some of their smaller plates or even a dessert like their horchata cheesecake.  Every night there is some form of live entertainment including musical performances, band karaoke, DJ nights, and even talk shows.  Get dressed up in your finest apparel and make a reservation at Honolulu’s classiest cocktail lounge.         

Sky Waikiki

If you want a great view with your evening pre-dinner aperitif or after dinner drinks then definitely check out Sky Waikiki.  This bar is located nineteen floors up on top of one of the largest buildings in the Waikiki Business Plaza and offers customers a view of the entire city of Honolulu.  There wrap-around bar offers anything and everything your heart could desire to drink.  They have an amazing cocktail list, an extensive wine bar, and some pretty tasty seafood options.  Be sure to make a reservation beforehand, you will not be seated without it and dress to impress.  Make a reservation before 5:00pm to indulge in their daily happy hour prices featuring $2 oysters, $4 Heineken, and $9 Bubbly.  

  • Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar 
    • Seven days a week from 6-12 you can wang chung, do a little dance, sing a little song and maybe even get your freak on at Wan Chung’s Karaoke Bar.  This place is a guaranteed good time with a lively staff, Asian kitsch aesthetic, and more than enough hard liquor to go around.  This is a very “come as you are” kind of place so don’t worry about a dress code, just wear what makes you feel fabulous and funky.  This is no doubt one of the favorite bars of the Honolulu LGBTQ+ community.  Keep in mind that Wang Chung’s does not take reservations so get there earlier in the evening if you want to guarantee getting a table.     
  • Addiction NightClub
    • Addiction is one of the later additions to the Honolulu club and bar scene but it has already made quite a reputation for itself.  The club definitely shoots for a more upscale and classy vibe so much so that it has mandated a dress code.  For the men you must appear in close toed shoes and a button up shirt.  Seems like the minimum but you would be surprised how many people go places without shoes in Honolulu.  For ladies, break out that little black dress and throw on some jewels because you will not get past the front door in your casual cute fair.  However, abiding by the dress code is worth it.  Honolulu’s hottest DJ’s keep the party going till 3:00am underneath Addiction’s iconic ceiling, decorated with 40,000 light bulbs.