The city of Honolulu rests on the O’ahu Island, commonly referred to as the “Heart of Hawai’i.” As the third-largest Hawaiian Island, O’ahu is home to a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures, dining, culture, art, history and more. With access to fast-paced city life and laid-back beach communities, there is certainly something for everyone who visits.
For those with limited time.
The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, designated the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, is a museum of history and science in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu.
Built by King Kalakaua in 1882, Iolani Palace is a physical reminder of the last reigning Hawaiian monarchs. The palace served as the official royal residence until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893. Today, the palace serves as an immersive historic site featuring artifacts, furnishings, garments and more from historic Hawaiian royalty. Tours are currently offered Tuesday through Saturday and walk-ins are based on availability, so reservations are highly recommended.
Queen Emma Summer Palace (Hānaiakamalama)
Also called Hānaiakamalama, the Queen Emma Summer Palace was the secluded mountain home and summer retreat of Queen Emma of Hawaii from 1857 to 1885, her husband King Kamehameha IV and their son, Prince Albert Edward. Today, the home and 22,750 square feet of the grounds is a historic landmark and museum preserved by the Daughters of Hawai’i.
Hawaiian Mission Houses
Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives is an active site for Hawaii’s history since 1820. This one-acre site in the historic Capital District in downtown Honolulu preserves Hawaii’s oldest Western-style house, the 1821 Mission House, as well as the 1831 Chamberlain House, the 1841 Bedroom Annex, a cemetery, and more.
Historic Sites and Archives
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National memorial is a National Park Service site and is one of the most frequented attractions in Hawaii where visitors can learn about one of the most pivotal moments in U.S. history: the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial site located here marks the location of the lost sailors and Marines killed during the attack on Dec. 7.
Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum located at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park next to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center shows gives visitors a history of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force. The USS Bowfin is a Balao-class submarine of the U.S. Navy named for the bowfin fish.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is located on historic Ford Island, a 441-acre island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. Moored off its shores on Dec. 7, 1941 were some of the largest ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in addition to the dozens of patrol and scout planes that filled the hangars and airfield, all of which were targets of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now a National Historic Landmark, Explore the scars of war at Ford Island.
Battleship Missouri Memorial
Proudly serving through WWII, the Korean War and the Gulf War, the Battleship Missouri is a living piece of history that stands in Pearl Harbor. Today, the memorial site strives to preserve the historical integrity of this ship and offers an immersive experience for guests.
The Punchbowl Lookout is a 360-foot extinct tuff cone volcano that surrounds the Punchbowl National Cemetery, America’s second-largest military cemetery with nearly 13,000 WWII soldiers buried on-site. The lookout grounds feature a military memorial, the Court of Honor and a 30-foot statue of Lady Columbia. The site attracts nearly five million visitors every year making it one of Honolulu’s most popular tourist attractions. Tickets aren’t needed to enter the site and parking is available at the back of the monument.
Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA)
HoMA is a culmination of Honolulu’s art, history, educational and cultural components. Filled with thousands of pieces from all over the world, HoMA is one of the nation’s finest museums and an immersive cultural experience for all visitors. With several exhibitions and galleries to coffee shops and a theatre, there is something for everyone here. Tickets are required for entry (excluding the coffee bar and HoMA café).
The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design is a museum for learning about the global cultures of Islamic art and design in new and inspiring ways. It is a memorable introduction to Islamic art, culture and design, and is only accessible from the Honolulu Museum of Art, Thursday through Saturday by reservation only.
Diamond Head State Monument
Hawaii’s most recognized landmark is known for its historic hiking trail, stunning coastal views and military history. Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi) State Monument encompasses over 475 acres, including the interior and outer slopes of the crater, which was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption. The trail to the summit of Lē‘ahi was built in 1908 as part of O‘ahu’s coastal defense system. The 0.8 mile hike from trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of Diamond Head.
Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance and does sell out. Secure your spot by making your reservation today.
Surf lessons in Waikiki
Try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding in the ocean or in Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. Visit the Lagoon or Beach Towel Stand for rentals.
Master the art of lei making or learn about Hawaiian Hula with lessons on the Village Green. See the complete schedule in your hotel guest directory.
For those planning to spend a little more time on O’ahu.
Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve is home to two listings on the U.S. Department of the Interior National Register of Historic Places. Established in 1850, the goal of Kualoa is the protect and enhance the natural beauty of the land while developing sustainable recreational, agricultural and aquacultural enterprises compatible with the environment.
Situated on Oahu’s North Shore, Gunstock Ranch offers an authentic Hawaiian experience far away from big crowds and up close with nature. Choose from Hawaii eco-tours, horseback rides, tree plantings and off-road adventures.
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Pacific Islands are rich in culture and much of today’s Hawaiian tradition are rooted in Polynesian culture. The Polynesian Cultural Center gives visitors a chance to explore this history by mingling with natives from six Pacific cultures, enjoying local crafts and traditions, a royal Ali’li Luau feast and a show. The cultural center is a highly awarded attraction in Hawaii. There are several ticket options and packages for those interested in an array of experiences.
Polynesian Cultural Center ticket packages: https://polynesia.com/packages
Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village
Step back in time to explore a living history museum and botanical garden that opens a door to a time of true hospitality and cultural sharing that sprung from Hawaii’s plantation life. The village tells the story of life on Hawaii’s sugar plantations (circa 1850-1950) and includes a museum, restored buildings and replicas of plantation structures. This historic site shares the story of Hawaii’s many cultures — Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Okinawan, Portuguese and Puerto Rican.
Formed within a volcanic cone, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve has been a protected marine life conservation area since 1967. For years, the bay was used by Hawaiian Royalty for fishing and recreation. Today, it is one of the island’s premier locations for marine life, tropical fish, snorkeling and more. It is important to note that reservations are required under the new Pilot Program and reef-safe sunscreen should be used when attending.
Hanauma Bay Reservations: https://pros11.hnl.info/
On the north shore of Oahu Island near Kahuku Point is a beach commonly referred to as Turtle Beach. Visitors flock to this popular attraction for its namesake – the turtles, of course. It is a great spot to visit and potentially see the turtles the beach is made famous for. Remember: it is illegal to touch or handle the turtles and you should keep your distance from them. Parking is free and entrance to the beach is through the resort parking lot. There is also a café right on the beach!
Turtle Beach information: https://www.hawaii-guide.com/oahu/beaches/turtle-beach
Manoa Falls is a 150-foot waterfall along the 1.7-mile out-and-back Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu. This trail is extremely popular for hiking and is open year-round. The trail opens through a shipping container that continues to a natural wooden bridge and, eventually, the Manoa Waterfall. The infamous trail has been the location for scenes in movies Jurassic Park and LOST. Hiking the trail is free and visitors are urged to avoid swimming in the pool below the falls.
For those planning to spend a little more time on O’ahu.