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18 Amazing Things To Do In Honolulu, Hawaii For First Timers

people swimming in waikiki beach

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There really isn’t anywhere in the world quite like Honolulu. Not only is it the capital of Hawaii, but it’s the gateway to exploring this majestic island chain, known for its palm fringed beaches, WWII history, and balmy beachside resorts.

Despite there being so many things to do in Honolulu, not many people stick around for too long, and use it as a pit stop rather than a destination to be explored.

It’s time to change that. Honolulu is a beautiful, sunny beach vacation destination, but it also boasts a vibrant arts scene, unique culture, excellent shopping and world-class nightlife.

Only in Honolulu will you be able to swim at an idyllic beach, visit the only royal palace in the U.S., have your pick of dim sum, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai or Hawaiian food for lunch, and in the evening, go salsa dancing, clubbing, or listen to live jazz — all in one day.

Things to Do in Honolulu

1. Hike Diamond Head Crater

mother and child posing on Diamond Head Walk, Oahu, Hawaii
Diamond Head Hike Oahu

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Hawaii. If you love a good hike, you’re never short on trails to explore.

One of the most accessible, and popular trails, is to the Diamond Head State Monument (Lē‘ahi) which is just a 15 minute drive away from Honolulu on the Waikiki’s coastline.

The crater extends for 475 acres and was formed 300,000 years ago. The volcano is now dormant, and has since been reclaimed by nature, covering it in vegetation which attracts ample bird life.

In 1908, a 800 meter, steep and strenuous trail was created to the summit. The trail elevation is 560 feet and is one way up the side of the mountain, combining natural surface and staircase.

Today there is a concrete walkway followed by stairs, with some switchbacks.

You’ll want to do this in the early morning of a clear day, before it gets too hot, as it’s a challenging hike.

Active kids will love this hike, with its bunkers and tunnel to explore along the way.

And you’ll love the magnificent panoramic view from the top of Waikiki and the Honolulu skyline, plus it’s possible to see humpback whales off the shores if you time your visit to the right season (December to May).

2. Visit Iolani Palace

woman walking in front of Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace, Honolulu

If you’re at all interested in Hawaii’s history, visit the only royal palace in the United States, and learn a little about the monarchy before Hawaii’s annexation…

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