6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Honolulu

For the majority of travelers, Honolulu is the first stop when visiting Hawaii, and many wonder if it’s worth spending time exploring the bustling city before heading out to other areas of Oahu or flying to another island.

Your answer will depend on a variety of factors, including whether you are looking for exciting nightlife and shopping opportunities and whether you are fine when it comes to big crowds. Some certainly prefer to spend their entire vacation relaxing in solitude without having to rub shoulders with other tourists.

However, the question isn’t whether or not you should hang out in Honolulu—the answer to that is a resounding “Yes!” Nobody should pass up the opportunity to experience its beautiful beaches, one-of-a-kind cuisine and heady dose of Aloha spirit. The only question is how much time you should spend there.

Here’s why you need to visit Honolulu:

1. To See Its Historic Downtown

Downtown Honolulu is filled with history, and at just a mile long, all of its major attractions are within walking distance. Take a stroll down the city streets to see historic Kawaiahoa Church, a reminder of Hawaii’s rich past, as well as the adjacent cemetery, the resting place of Hawaiian royalty.

Aloha Tower, built in 1926, was the tallest building in the city for many years and was the first thing travelers arriving by ship would see. A walk up the 10-story structure to the observation deck offers panoramic views of the city as well as the harbor.

A visit to ‘Iolani Palace provides the opportunity for tourists to immerse themselves in Hawaii’s royal heritage. In fact, it’s the only official residency of a monarch on U.S. soil.

2. For the Incredible Shopping and Art Galleries

The best shopping in the islands can be found in Honolulu. Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air shopping mall in the world. Then, a stop by Chinatown offers a chance to purchase exotic tropical and Asian produce as well as beautiful leis with fresh flowers that can be custom-made at the best prices on the island.

At Na Mea Hawaii you’ll find paintings and crafts from over 40 Hawaiian artists in addition to locally made gifts and clothing. If you happen to visit on the first Sunday of the month, live-music concerts are held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

3. To Dine on Fantastic Cuisine

For traditional Hawaiian fare, Honolulu can’t be beat. Here you’ll find some of the best, including Helena’s, a staple in the city for more than six decades. With some of the most authentic Hawaiian cuisine in the world in sizable portions and at reasonable prices—including items like freshly pounded tarot, Pipikaula (Hawaiian short ribs) and luau squid—it’s a spot every visitor to Hawaii should make a point not to miss.

If you like sushi, you’ll find it served in a unique and unpretentious atmosphere at Hawaiiana Café. Chat with the owner while dining on spicy ahi poke rolls, garlic shrimp with rice, soba noodle soup and the wildly popular dynamite rolls filled with spicy tuna, salmon and yellow tail.

4. To Party the Night Away

Honolulu is the place to go when it comes to exciting nightlife, great bars and outstanding live entertainment. Every night of the week you’ll find venues for listening to live music and dancing and bars in which to kick back and enjoy a good drink.

Ginza Club in Honolulu’s Ala Moana neighborhood, with modern décor and a huge dance floor, is where the younger crowd goes—and it stays open until 4 a.m.!

A spot everyone will enjoy is the Mai Tai Bar. This hidden gem is tucked inside of a mall, and it has the best happy hour in town, plus live music on Wednesdays and weekends. With so many bars, restaurants and nightclubs to choose from, all it takes is a short conversation with your hotel concierge to find the perfect one for you and your family or friends.

5. To Soak Up the Sun

Although Waikiki Beach is touristy, there is no denying its incredible beauty. It also offers opportunities to learn to surf, go sailing, take the kids snorkeling, relax in the exquisite soft sand and just about anything else you love doing on or near the beach.

With Hawaii’s diverse population, just sitting and listening to the many different languages spoken can be a fun way to while away the afternoon. The wide variety of personalities and eclectic characters also makes this the ultimate place for people watching.

Waikiki is also an ideal stretch of coast for learning to surf, thanks to its shallow waters. Lessons run only $40 or so an hour, including board rental!

Those who would prefer not to exert themselves on their island getaway can choose to enjoy the ocean waters sitting down; this beach is the only spot in Hawaii where the waves can be surfed by canoe. Taking part in this activity doesn’t require any skills, as professionals will do all the work for you.

6. For All the Other Amazing Attractions!

Moped and bike rentals are available for exploring more of the island, and there are a number of popular attractions including Pearl Harbor, the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. Stop by the Royal Hawaiian Center and learn how to strum a ukulele or dance the hula.

If you’re looking to book some excellent tours and activities in Honolulu or beyond, check out Tom Barefoot’s Tours:

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The opportunities for adventure in Honolulu are endless, making the city a perfect place to start learning about the state of Hawaii, its rich culture and its amazing people before heading out on jaunts to other islands.