As seasoned travelers will tell you, getting to know a city is best done by foot. And we agree. After all, every city—including Honolulu—has its nooks, crannies and dirty little secrets. While on vacation here from Seattle, Carter Churchfield did her own exploring of Chinatown and what she discovered, she says, was nothing short of scandalous.
“There’s so much more to Chinatown than meets the eye,” says Churchfield, a former historical guide tour who relocated to Oahu to start Honolulu Exposed. “While prostitution was illegal in the rest of the U.S. during the 1930s, Chinatown had a red light district that operated under a de facto system, which was run by the police force.”
Churchfield describes her WWII Red Light District Tour as “theatrical and a one-woman comedy show.” The 90-minute tour runs Thursdays through Mondays, starting at 9:30 am. Private tours are available at any time. Tickets are $30, and Thursdays are “Pay What You Can” (suggestion donation). The tour starts at The Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St. If you are taking the bus from Waikiki take 2 or 13 to Bethel and Hotel St.
Matthew Gray offers a different perspective of Chinatown—its mom-and-pop restaurants. On this tour, the former chef to celebrities and food critic leads guests on a two-hour, behind-the-scenes walking and tasting jaunt, offering a taste of dim sum, Hong Kong-style barbecue and Chinese noodles. “If you love food and fun, this tour is definitely for you,” says Gray on his website. Waikiki hotel pick-ups are available and start at 9 am.
Aloha Food Tours
Owner Ryan Conching offers a one-of-a-kind, culinary experience for visitors who want to discover, taste and touch authentic dishes that locals are proud to call their own. Choose from two different, 2.5-hour walking tours: “Local Eats Ala Moana Food Tour” and “Best of Chinatown Food Tour.” Tours and dishes sampled may be adjusted according to the customers’ preferences and custom private tours may also be created upon request. Japanese-language tours and group discounts are also available.
Visit some of the most haunted places on Oahu, if not on all of the Hawaiian Islands, on the Honolulu City Haunts tour. Experienced guides will escort participants to spooky places and will entertain (and scare) them with stories of the supernatural. All sites are real and all the stories you'll hear are true, based on historical and ancestral information, along with eye-witness accounts.
Organized by the nonprofit American Institute of Architects (AIA) of Honolulu, this walking tour allows guests to see Honolulu’s buildings through the eyes of an architect. Points of interest include Hawaii Theatre, Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, St. Andrews Cathedral, Washington Place, State Capitol, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hale, Kawaiahao Church, Mission House Museum and Aliiolani Hale. Tours are held on pre-reserved Saturday mornings from 9-11:30 am with check-in at 8:45 am.