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Best things to do in Honolulu

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Where in the world: USA  /  Hawaii  /  Oahu  /  Honolulu
Most tourists looking for a classic fun-in-the-sun vacation flock to the city's sandy beaches and exceptional surfing and diving spots, but things to do in Honolulu include a number of activities away from the water. History lovers can pay their respects to America's fallen soldiers and check their knowledge about the attack on Pearl Harbor at USS Arizona Memorial, commemorating one of the most iconic World War II battleships. Don't worry about the calories as you cycle your way from one eatery to another, sampling the fine tastes of the exotic Hawaiian cuisine.

Honolulu is best known for its Cemeteries, Scenic Walking Areas, and Beaches.

Top 15 things to do in Honolulu

1. USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial marks the final resting place of one of the most iconic World War II battleships destroyed in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. More than 1,100 sailors and marines died here when Japanese forces attacked the harbor. The memorial, constructed in 1962, attracts nearly 1 million people each year. Begin your tour at the visitor center, where you can listen to a free talk about that fateful day and watch a brief documentary about the attack. You can then take a shuttle boat to the memorial, which straddles the hull of the sunken battleship. Remember that the memorial admits only a limited number of visitors each day, so it is a good idea to book a tour well in advance. Set aside time for a visit to the memorial museum so you can take in the personal stories of American soldiers who fought and died here.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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2. Diamond Head State Monument

One of the first natural landmarks you see as you arrive in Honolulu, Diamond Head State Monument offers several vantage points with views of the entire island. Formed by volcanic eruptions more than 150,000 years ago, this tuff cone covers 141 hectares (350 acres). A well-beaten path leads partway to the top. Lengthy metal and concrete staircases make it easier to traverse the steepest sections, and the very narrow tunnels are illuminated. Climb to the summit if you feel fit, or enjoy the views from the lookouts along the way. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, and bring plenty of water and a snack.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Waikiki Beach

Soak up Hawaii’s island charm while relaxing on the sandy shores of Waikiki Beach. Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the beach borders the well-known neighborhood of Waikiki, once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Known for its pristine white sand, bathtub temperatures, and spectacular views of the Diamond Head tuff cone, the beach serves as a popular place for watersports and sunbathing year-round. Try your hand at riding the waves with a surf lesson, or take a stroll along the boardwalk, where you will find a variety of oceanside dining options and street vendors.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Famous for its sheltered inlet of calm and clear turquoise water, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve protects about 400 different species of fish and attracts amateur and professional snorkelers from around the world. The bay is also a nursery for green sea turtles, which you may see nesting as you walk or swim along the coastline. You can rent diving equipment if you don't bring your own and spend a day searching for parrotfish and coral. The preserve's regulations prohibit touching or walking on the coral heads, which often resemble large rocks on the ocean's floor. Keep in mind that touching or brushing up against coral or marine rocks may also result in serious wounds.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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5. Scuba & Snorkeling

Escape the fast-paced rhythm of Hawaii's largest city and sail out to pristine waters teeming with marine creatures on a guided snorkeling or scuba diving tour from Honolulu. Your experienced captain will take the comfy sailing catamaran to unspoiled coral reefs and secluded bays, as you absorb lovely views of Waikiki skyline. Your helpful crew will then draw your attention to passing dolphins and whales, as the boat gently glides over the sparkling surf before anchoring at Turtle Canyon or some other picturesque spot. These aquatic adventures often combine several exciting activities, such as kayaking around offshore islets, trekking and mountain biking through the rainforest, or enjoying a helicopter flight. The duration of the tours spans from 90 minutes to 2 days.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Kailua Beach Park, Kailua

Stephen Leatherman, known as America's beach expert, ranked Kailua Beach Park the best beach in America in 1998. The water attracts surfers and bodysurfers to its gentle waves. The beach itself slopes slowly into the water with no coral or rock. The shallow water and slight incline make swimming easy. Take advantage of the regular trade winds and try your hand at wind and kitesurfing here.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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7. Manoa Falls

Falling more than 46 m (150 ft), Manoa Falls sparkles against a sheer rock face. Take a 2.4 km (1.5 mi) hike through tall trees with twisted trunks and thick greenery to reach the falls. The pathway is often slippery, so wear shoes with a good grip. Then be prepared to take these shoes off to wade in the shallow pool at the base of the waterfall.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Ala Moana Center

Thought to be the largest outdoor shopping center in the world, Ala Moana Center offers more than 290 shops and 70 restaurants to explore. The center's design is based on modern Hawaiian architectural ideas, which you'll see as you spot the many natural symbols incorporated into the buildings and landscaping. The center's amphitheater regularly hosts hula dance performances and often features the Royal Hawaiian Band.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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9. Battleship Missouri Memorial

Battleship Missouri Memorial--the ship that served as the site of Japan's surrender, ending World War II--is now a museum. Learn about the ship's five-decade military career, including its involvement in the World War II, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm. You can explore the ship on your own with an audio guide or join a tour. One tour focuses on the history of the ship, while the other demonstrates how the ship runs and offers access to its engineering rooms.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Swim with Dolphins, Waianae

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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11. Bishop Museum

Home to the largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts, Bishop Museum was founded in memory of the Charles Reed Bishop's wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last heir of the Kamehameha dynasty. Most of the original building was used as a school for indigenous boys. When the school moved, the museum expanded. In addition to the permanent collection, traveling exhibits move through the Castle Memorial building, and science exhibits are housed inside the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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12. Iolani Palace

The only royal palace in America, Iolani Palace saw the reign of Queen Lili'uokalani, Hawaii's last monarch, end with her overthrow in 1893. Soak up the building’s Hawaiian renaissance style, which seems fitting given that the site served as the seat of government for the independent Kingdom of Hawaii. Constructed in 1879, the building has a series of rooms restored to their formal royal glory, complete with period-accurate furnishings, fabrics, and decorations. You can explore the grounds on a docent-led tour or a self-guided audio tour, but be sure to book ahead of time to ensure a spot, as tickets can sell out.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Honolulu Museum of Art

Honolulu Museum of Art houses more than 50,000 works of Hawaiian, Asian and European art. The expansive grounds host many art education, outreach, and art lending programs. Knowledgeable docents offers themed tours covering, for example, specific time periods, genres, art movements, and regions.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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14. Shark Diving

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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15. Photography Tours

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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