Local's Guide to the Top Attractions in Honolulu - Marina Hawaii Vacations
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Local’s Guide to the Top Attractions in Honolulu

Author 06-21-2024

As one of the top travel destinations in the world, Honolulu, Hawaii, offers visitors a chance to experience gorgeous scenery, indulge in delicious food, and explore unique cultural wonders. Whether you’re wandering the beaches or finding hidden local treasures, your time on Oahu will leave you with memories you’ll treasure forever.

To help you plan a visit that hits all the highlights, we’ve compiled this local’s guide to the best attractions in Honolulu, Hawaii. Check them out, and be sure to add some of these to your itinerary!

Top Historical Monuments in Honolulu

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking to see some of the most iconic sites on Oahu, these top historical monuments in Honolulu are a must-visit.

Pearl Harbor

Learn about the pivotal role Pearl Harbor played in both US history and its eventual involvement in World War II when you visit this powerful memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial

Visit the hallowed final resting place of American soldiers at this haunting memorial in Honolulu. With thousands of visitors each day, it’s imperative you book your ticket in advance if you want to experience the Memorial Program, which runs every 15 minutes from 8AM-12PM and 1PM-3:30PM.

Iolani Palace

Located in downtown Honolulu, the Iolani Palace is a must-visit landmark for those wishing to learn about the history of Hawaii’s last sovereign King. As the only official royal residence in the United States, it’s an important educational stop for first-time visitors to Oahu.

The island’s connection to both Hawaiian and American legacy makes these some of the most powerful landmarks you can visit during your stay. You can also find more historical sites in our blog.

Foodie’s Favorites

Sushi plate in a restaurant.

Hawaiian cuisine is known for its freshness, its multi-cultural influence, and its overall deliciousness. While it’s easy to find award-winning chefs and famed restaurants, sometimes it’s the simplest places that leave the most lasting impression. Check out these foodie favorites and dig into a truly memorable meal during your vacation.

Waiola Shave Ice (Mō‘ili‘ili location), Honolulu

Recently named one of the top shave ice spots in Honolulu in the New York Times, Waiola Shave Ice is a multi-year winner in the Best of Hawaii awards. With that just-right ice texture and perfectly sweetened syrups, there’s no better place to try this staple treat. We recommend the Azuki Mochi Bowl or an ice cream bowl for a fun twist on traditional shave ice.

Kan Sushi

Food can be a big part of your budget during a Hawaiian vacation. Instead of hunting happy hours for discounted deals, visit Kan Sushi for an all you can eat feast of the freshest ingredients on the island. Enjoy melt-in-your-mouth tuna nigiri, specialty rolls, and traditional dishes at an unbeatable price.

Restaurant XO

Blink, and you’ll miss one of the best restaurants in Honolulu. Located in a small, unassuming building on Waialae Ave, Restaurant XO is another must-try for folks looking for quality food that won’t break the bank. With an Asian-fusion tapas-style dining experience, you can try some of the most expensive and delicious ingredients, all for under $10 dollars a plate! We recommend the A5 wagyu rice shooters, the kimchi fried rice with sous vide egg, and the buttermilk fried chicken with homemade Hawaiian tartar sauce.

Restaurants are consistently ranked as top attractions in Honolulu among visitors and locals alike. With these three choices, you can experience everything that makes Hawaiian food so fantastic, and you won’t blow your entire trip’s budget in the process.

Best Hikes in Honolulu

Taking in the scenery is a must during your vacation, and one of the most popular ways to do that is by hiking to popular sites. These local-approved sites are well worth the effort and also offer great photo ops.

Manoa Falls

This hike comes in at just under two miles out and back and rewards you with views of a beautiful 150-foot cascading waterfall. Easy enough for kids, it’s a great family activity. Wear waterproof shoes as the trail is often wet, and bring plenty of water since, unfortunately, you cannot swim in the pool at the end of the hike.

Waimea Valley

Discover cultural sites like Hale O Lono, the Ku’ula Shrine, Kauhale Kahiko, and many more as you wander the grounds and make your way to Waimea Falls. Stop and hear stories from resident artisans, spot local wildlife, or take a guided tour for a visit that makes sure you see all the sights. Swimming conditions vary, so be sure to call ahead so you know what to expect.

Diamond Head State Monument

Near the eastern edge of Waikiki, Diamond Head State Monument is known as Hawaii’s most recognized landmark. With a beautiful hiking trail, sweeping views, and extensive history, this 475-acre park is a can’t-miss. Check weather conditions before you head out, and consider going early to avoid crowds.

Outdoor Adventures

Tourists Swimming, Sunbathing on Waikiki Beach

From the beach to open-air shopping, you’ll want to be outside as much as possible when you visit Honolulu. These outdoor activities have you covered no matter what you want to do during your stay.

Waikiki Beach

As one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in the world, Waikiki in South Shore is a must-visit. Whether you’re surfing, enjoying the beach park, floating on the waves, or just relaxing on the golden sand, spending time here during your Oahu getaway is a must. Take advantage of nearby attractions when you visit, like the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium, for a full day of fun.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is a one-of-a-kind experience. In the gentle waters, you can see all types of marine life, from colorful tropical fish to sea stars, octopi, and even the occasional sea turtle! While keeping your distance from native wildlife is of the utmost importance, getting to glimpse the brilliant underwater world at such an incredibly beautiful spot will be a lasting memory of your time in Honolulu.

Ala Moana Center

When you want to enjoy some retail therapy, head to Ala Moana, the world’s largest open-air shopping center! Whether you’re looking for local artisans or national brands, you’ll find it all right here. While you explore, take advantage of the free entertainment like hula performances and hands-on workshops.

Savor your time in paradise with these outdoor activities, all within a short distance of your Marina Hawaii Vacations Honolulu vacation rental.

Cultural Sites

Until 1898, Hawaii existed as a sovereign nation ruled by its own monarchy. To this day, the people of Hawaii still foster their cultural presence and ensure it’s passed down to current generations. Acknowledging this rich history and being a mindful visitor shows respect for the native community and will help you make a deep and meaningful connection to the area during your stay. Here are some of the top cultural sites to visit in Honolulu.

Bishop Museum

As the premier cultural educational stop, the Bishop Museum is your go-to destination for all things Hawaii. When you visit, you can learn all about the environment and specific ecosystems, as well as the history and legacy of Hawaii’s rulers.

Honolulu Museum of Art

Immerse yourself in the world of art and wonder at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Explore rich exhibits, catch a film, or even take a class! This community beacon aims to help visitors and locals reawaken their appreciation of the arts with vibrant collections and thought-provoking pieces.

Byodo In Temple

Spend an early morning walking the peaceful grounds of the Byodo In Temple. Located at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, this Japanese temple welcomes people of all faiths and invites you to take a moment and reflect on the beauty around you. Stroll by peaceful streams, see the unique sights and find a keepsake at the gift shop.

Book Your Oahu Getaway with Marina Hawaii Vacations

living room of vacation rental in Honolulu

There are tons of top attractions in Honolulu, and while this list is an excellent starting point, half the fun of any vacation is getting out and exploring on your own. As you plan your Oahu vacation, see how many of your own unique finds you can add to this list.

After a full day of exploring, nothing beats coming home to a beautiful vacation rental, and at Marina Hawaii Vacations, we have a selection of properties that put you in the heart of all of Honolulu’s highlights. Browse our available Honolulu vacation rentals and find your ideal spot today! When you’re ready, remember to book directly with us for the best rate on your rental and quality service from a local, on-island staff. We can’t wait to welcome you to Oahu on your next getaway!