About This Place
On the southern coast of Hawaii’s third-largest island, Oahu, lies Honolulu, the state capital. Busy Honolulu is the center for government, commerce and tourism, but is best known for its seductive beaches. Excellent public transportation makes it easy to traverse this enormous metropolis, while the charms of the Waikiki and Downtown neighborhoods may be discovered at a leisurely pace on foot.
The 1.5 square miles of Waikiki encompass some of the state’s prime beachfront property. Once the choice destination for Hawaiian royalty, today Waikiki represents quintessential beach culture. The sands are white and powdery, the waves mild, and the weather ideal. This was once the stomping ground for multiple beach legends, including Duke Kahanamoku, the famous Hawaiian sportsman accredited for popularizing surfing. Travelers seeking more dramatic waves hit nearby Diamond Head Beach, while snorkelers prefer coral-filled Hanauma Bay.
The world of Waikiki life has always been more than fun and games. History buffs enjoy attractions like the Waikiki Historical Trail, which marks 19 significant sites with bronze surfboards. Many visitors head to Pearl Harbor, the location of the Japanese attack that led the United States to enter into World War II.
Downtown Honolulu teems with attractions as well. Amid the historical sites, hotels and restaurants, the most prominent downtown building is the 10-story Aloha Tower shopping plaza, which contains a full marketplace of retailers and restaurants. For more thoughtful browsing, the Hawaii Maritime Center next door showcases the seafaring history of the island state. Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in America, is another must-see Honolulu landmark for those on a walking tour of Downtown.
Along the edge of the financial district lies Chinatown, the venue for local, traditional-medicine practitioners, herbalists and vendors of souvenir shops. Here, shopping and sightseeing intersect, with a decidedly Asian flair. While Downtown, do not miss Chinatown’s Buddhist temples. These sublime cultural monuments display exquisite Chinese and Japanese architecture.
Regional cuisine reflects the diverse cultures of Honolulu’s roots. Restaurant fare reveals the influence of China, Portugal and the Philippines on local Polynesian cooking. Poke, raw fish cut into small pieces and tossed in a vegetable salad, is a popular dish. It is often served in the traditional Hawaiian box lunch that typically includes scoops of rice and macaroni salad. Many Waikiki establishments are also helmed by a variety of acclaimed chefs, each with a different interpretation of Hawaiian cuisine. Ingredients are freshly harvested from the island and surrounding waters.
Moving around Honolulu is simple, thanks to the well-developed public transportation system. Transit reaches most places within the city, with more than 100 routes serving over 4,000 stops. Visitor bus passes are ideal for short stays; daily or weekly passes are available. Beach tourists travel Routes 22 and 52, which stay near the coast and access much of the hospitality scene. Route 52 circles the entire island of Oahu.