Facts About Honolulu, Hawaii

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The Honolulu skyline from the Pacific Ocean
The Honolulu skyline from the Pacific Ocean (Image: sprokop/iStock/Getty Images)

If you could pick a capital city to fall in love with, Honolulu, Hawaii, would be a major contender. Rich in history and home to world famous Waikiki Beach, Oahu's largest city is one place where you can have your sun and your entertainment too.

Getting to Honolulu

To get to Honolulu, you must either hop on a plane or a ship. The Honolulu International Airport, one of the busiest transportation hubs in the Pacific, is just south of downtown and west of popular Waikiki. Your other option is by private boat or cruise ship. Private boats can arrange for moorage at local marinas, but reservations are usually advised. Most private boat visitors come from neighboring islands, due to logistics. Cruise ships dock regularly at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Ship arrival information is available through referral numbers from the marketplace. You can book a cruise through the cruise lines and/or a travel agent.

Getting Around Honolulu and Beyond

Once you've arrived, you have a choice of shuttles, city bus service, taxis, limos and rental cars. If you're headed for Waikiki or downtown Honolulu, you may want to rethink renting that car. Driving is challenging, with one-way streets and names that are, at first, almost unpronounceable. The roadways turn into parking lots during the morning and afternoon commutes. Parking is hard to find, and expensive when you do. It's smarter to take a shuttle or cab to your hotel and then rent a car for a day to explore the island. Most rental car firms have outlets in downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. Another way of getting around Waikiki and Honolulu is to catch the Waikiki Trolley. This is a private bus service that sells single day and multiday passes with on and off privileges. The service has routes and tours over much of Oahu. The Bus, Oahu's public transit service, is another option. Pay by the ride or opt for the four-day visitor's pass. Just pop in any ABC Store and buy one.

Honolulu Accommodations

Most of the accommodations are in Waikiki Beach, Honolulu's high-octane fun zone. Here you'll find iconic properties like the pretty-in-pink Royal Hawaiian that first welcomed guests in 1927. The Moorish-style property sits where King Kamehameha and Queen Kaahumanu spent their summers. The Hilton Hawaiian Village, distinguished by its giant rainbow tower, is Waikiki's largest resort. It has multiple towers and swimming pools and an onsite water park. Family-friendly condos, like the Aston Waikiki Sunset near Kapiolani Park, are also available. Outside of Waikiki, you'll find modest properties near the airport as well as a few upscale offerings near the Aloha Tower Marketplace. One, catering more toward business travelers, is the Aston Executive Centre Hotel, kind of a crossover between hotel and condo that includes luxury hotel rooms and one-bedroom units with full kitchens.

Honolulu Area Attractions

Many of the attractions, such as Waikiki Beach, Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head are in the Waikiki neighborhood. Downtown Honolulu is home to Iolani Palace, which once housed Hawaiian royalty. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum features a family-friendly museum and planetarium. Hands-on exhibits make it especially fun for the kids. Head west of downtown to Pearl Harbor. You'll find the USS Arizona Memorial, its arched white form straddling the ship, and her crew, still on the harbor floor. Across from that is the USS Missouri, now a museum. This is the ship where World War II officially ended with the formal surrender.

Honolulu Shopping

Honolulu, especially Waikiki, is full of mom-and-pop shops and trendy boutiques selling everything from coconut bras to high-end pearl jewelry. If you're more the mall type, you could head for Ala Moana Center, just outside of Waikiki. This is the largest mall in Honolulu and one of the largest in the state. The Aloha Tower Marketplace is smaller, but it does have some name brand pubs and restaurants, most with panoramic ocean view seating. If you're into bargain hunting, head out to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, in Aiea, about 20 minutes west of downtown. Find anything from one-of-a-kind souvenirs to homemade jams and fresh produce.

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