An Insider's Guide to Honolulu curated by Takeoff to Travel | Fora Travel

An Insider's Guide to Honolulu

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Bird's eye view of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii

Curator’s statement

There's no place like Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. From the gorgeous Waikiki Beach to designer shopping along Kalakaua Avenue, the island has it all. It's the perfect synthesis of urban life with pristine beachfronts; think of it as a two-for-one package deal. Take some time to relax and rejuvenate with the Aloha spirit, and enjoy some nightlife and the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay

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Things to do

Bird's eye view of Diamond Head monument, a popular hike in Honolulu, Hawaii

Greatest hits

Honolulu runs a tough competition between nature tourism and city offerings, being both a swoon-worthy nature destination and the metropolitan center of Hawaii. It offers an array of outdoorsy and cultural activities that will keep you on your toes on the seaside, in the mountains, in the air and even in the historical and contemporary part of the city.

The Aloha Tower, considered Hawaii’s Statue of Liberty, is a 184-foot lighthouse located on Honolulu Harbor. Aloha Tower has welcomed millions of sailors and travelers since its completion in the early twentieth century.

Nature exploration on the island starts with a visit to the famous Waikiki Beach where you can beach, shop and dine, all at your fingertips right in front of the white-sand beach and the azure waters.

Looking to spend more time in the water? Hanauma Bay, just 10 miles east of Waikiki Beach, is a great place to snorkel with giant green sea turtles often found in the shallow water of the reef. Just remember to respect the sea creatures and use reef-friendly SPF!  

The active traveler may want to scale a (moderate) hike up which will take you to the crater’s summit featuring breathtaking aerial videos of both the Pacific Ocean and the city. For the traveler looking to get even higher, parasailing in Waikiki will take you soaring thousands of feet over the Hawaiian island. For the runner, stay in shape during your Hawaii vacation by joining other runners at Al Moana Beach Park or Kapiolani Park.

Still, for more nature exploration, a day trip to the North Shore to the Dole Plantation is a true must. Try out the famous maze or jump on the Pineapple Express train to explore the city’s rich fruit history and how it became one of the most coveted (and sweetest) pineapples in the world. An insider’s tip: stop by Matsumoto’s for some Hawaiian Shaved Ice – trust me, you won’t regret it! 

The Polynesian Cultural Center is also located about an hour north of the city center, where the locals of the tropical villages demonstrate various artisanal arts and crafts. Distinct shows and an evening luau offer an authentic experience right into the heart of the ancestral wisdom of the island.

And when you're ready to get back, shopping at the Royal Hawaiian Center along Kalakaua Ave, Hawaii's own 5th Avenue, with an Island Vintage Shaved Ice in hand, is sure to be a memorable luxury experience.

For a final dose of Honolulu’s most recent history, check out the Iolani Palace in Downtown Honolulu. Built in 1882, it is home to Hawaii's last royal residence which was overthrown shortly after in 1893.

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A note from Tyler

Though not technically in the city of Honolulu, a short, 20-minute drive west of the city is Pearl Harbor. If you fly into the Honolulu International Airport, it’s less than 10 minutes away. Even if you aren’t a history buff, it’s worth a visit to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, commemorating the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks and also featuring the USS Arizona Memorial. 

Places to eat & drink

A bowl of ramen noodles from Ramen Nakamura in Honolulu, Hawaii

Breakfast

Holey Grail Donuts: A must-have breakfast at one of their two Honolulu locations features a coffee and the shop’s own unique Taro donuts.

Lunch & dinner

Helena's Hawaiian Food: A casual eatery that features traditional authentic Hawaiian food.

Ramen Nakamura: Small ramen restaurant on the famous Kalakaua Ave. (Try their oxtail ramen!).

Rokkaku Hamakatsu: High-end, modern Japanese establishment at the Ala Moana Center. Try the tonkatsu, or the Miso Butterfish, and you’ll thank me later!

The Pig and the Lady: Located in Downtown Honolulu, this modern Vietnamese cooking featured on Buzzfeed's “Worth It,” and it is!

Tim Ho Wan: Known for being "The World's Cheapest Michelin-Star Restaurant," the Waikiki outpost of this famed Dim Sum chain is a must-have.

Tsurutontan: Craving some udon noodles? Head over to Tsurutontan where you have numerous udon options as well as Japanese plates. Tip: the small bowls and large bowls of udon are the same price, so opt for the large ones, free of charge.

Marugame Udon: The line may be wrapped around the building at this budget-friendly udon destination, but it moves fast and it is totally worth the wait. 

53 by the Sea: This location delivers a million dollar view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, especially at golden hour, just before sunset. Request outdoor seating to take in the Hawaiian breeze, enjoy the delicious fare, and make sure to save room for dessert!

Snacks

Big Island Candies: The famous diagonally dipped shortbread cookie shop was established in 1977, and currently features two locations on the Hawaiian Islands — one in the Big Island, and one in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Center. Try some gourmet Hawaiian chocolates and famous cookies like the Macadamia Nut chocolate dipped shortbread cookies. My personal favorite? The pineapple Manju has a crisp buttery crust that surrounds a delicate pineapple filling.

Need to Know

Honolulu unveils its splendor year-round, in every season and mostly pleasant weather. However, island weather calls for occasional daily showers only to make up for it with stunning rainbows to follow. Try visiting in the off-season when the kids are back in school for less crowds.

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