7 Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii 2024
Read on and find out all the things you must not miss when in the capital of the famous Hawaiian islands, Honolulu.
I went to Honolulu last September in 2023, and it's an experience worth spending all your vacation money on; take my word for that. I spent over a week there, and I'll try to cover all the things you simply MUST do if you're already planning to fly all this way to this little piece of heaven on earth.
If you didn't surf in Hawaii - you didn't go to Hawaii. Get on a surfboard!
If you're a surfer, it's already on your must-dos list, and if you've never tried - this is simply your chance. Hawaii is a surfers' paradise: surfing can be called Hawaiian culture and history. It originated in the Polynesian islands and has been practiced in Hawaii for centuries. Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is full of surfers (mostly beginners) 24/7.
You'll find surfing lessons and surfboard rentals all over Honolulu. I'd recommend going a bit further from the beach as they sometimes offer lower rates.
You can get only the equipment or take a whole surfing lesson (personal or with a group). We went to Moniz Family Surf and paid somewhat around $120 for a 2-hour lesson as a group of four.
However, first things first - DO NOT forget sunscreen. I repeat - do not! Advanced surfers have special suits, but if you're going for the first time, most likely you'll go in your swimming suit. The sun is crazy, no matter what time of the day it is, so apply the sunscreen generously. Also, it's best if your chest & stomach are covered - you'll spend a lot of time on the board, so there will be a lot of rubbing. Sounded weird but I guess you got me.
Go snorkeling and see the 🐢🐢
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, known locally as "Honu," are a symbol of good luck and longevity in Hawaiian culture, so how could you miss it? The waters around Honolulu are full of marine life, offering more than just turtles, though. You'll definitely spot a bunch of colorful fishes, coral reefs, and other creatures.
Some of the best places to snorkel around Honolulu are Hanauma Bay, Turtle Canyon, and Shark's Cove. You can book a snorkeling tour online (there are plenty of guided ones where the guides tell you everything about what's under you), and it'll take around 2-3 hours. I recommend going early in the morning so the sun isn't that active and you have less chance of getting burnt while floating.
Visit Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head, known as Lē‘ahi in Hawaiian, is one of Honolulu's most recognizable places. This ancient volcanic crater was used as a military lookout in the early 20th century, and now the area offers insights into Hawaii's geological and military past.
From the city center, it's around 10-15 minutes by car, but it's also reachable with buses and Uber. You'll have to do a little of hiking to the top of Diamond Head. The hike isn't too challenging and is more of a walk achievable for most fitness levels. It has some scenic stops along the way, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, and it took us around 40 minutes to reach the top. The views are very worth it!
I recommend starting early to avoid the daytime heat, bringing water, and guess what. You're right: applying a lot of sunscreen because the whole hike is in the sun. Also, there's a small fee of a few dollars to enter.
Go to Waikiki Beach
I know this sounds like common sense, but really - if you're staying somewhere further from it, get to Waikiki Beach at least once. It's one of the most famous and recognized beaches in the world, known for its golden sands and clear blue waters. Also, all the action surrounds that area, so it's great during the day time & night time.
Go to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
We learned this one from our Uber driver on our way from the airport. The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet has taken place ever since 1979 and has become Hawaii's premier outdoor market with over 400 vendors and crafters.
This Meet is held only on Wednesdays, Sundays, and Saturdays and is only a short drive away from the city center. There, you'll find all the Aloha stuff you couldn't even have imagined existed. If I remember correctly, the entrance fee was $2 per person, and the fee only applies to tourists. Apparently, it's a trendy attraction in Honolulu. It's perfect for souvenirs - the prices are friendly, and you'll find a bunch of "buy 3 get 1 free" deals.
Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was one of the main events in World War II, leading to the United States' entry into the war. The site provides an educational journey through museums, exhibits, and films.
A few of the must-visit places are:
👉 USS Arizona Memorial. The floating memorial is accessible via a boat ride and is built over the sunken battleship USS Arizona.
👉 USS Missouri Battleship. Moored nearby, the USS Missouri represents the end of World War II, as Japan formally surrendered on its deck in 1945.
👉 USS Bowfin Submarine. Nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor Avenger," this submarine offers a glimpse into the life of submariners during the war.
👉 Pacific Aviation Museum. This museum showcases World War II aircraft and offers insight into aviation history during the war.
Rent out a car and drive around the island!
Honolulu is only one and very touristy part of the Oahu island. If you can, definitely rent out a car for a one-day trip and drive around the island. You'll see more local and hidden places and get the full Hawaiian experience outside the touristy one.
The west shore is known to be more of a place for locals, and we were recommended to skip that part of the island better. Going to the east shore and then returning through the middle of the island is the best way to see as much and make it in one day.
And you're set to go! No printed version with a checkmark system this time (booo!), but you're more than welcome to come back and read all over again as you go.