Any short list of “must-sees” is highly subjective. Eventually, you’ll make your own, but we’re glad to offer ours: the expanse of Honolulu from Round Top Drive on Tantalus; the North Shore, whether the surf is up or not; the sea cliffs from Hanauma Bay to Sandy Beach; the windward coast as we round Makapuu Point; the Koolau Mountains as seen from anywhere between Waimanalo and Kahaluu; and three truly special attractions: the Honolulu Zoo, Iolani Palace and King Kamehameaha Statue. There are so many opportunities for fun in the sun activities, whether you stop at the Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Gallery Maze, which incidentally holds the record for the largest maze from the Guinness Book of World Records, on your way to cruise the North Shore or perhaps decide to head westward to spend a few hours at Bishop Museum, or learn about marine life at the Waikiki Aquarium. Fun for the entire family abounds and with so many activities to choose from, the challenge will be figuring out just what to do first!
Hawai‘i’s largest museum, is home to the most extensive collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts. The two-level Pacific Hall offers a peek into the families and cultures of the Pacific with each case showing an artifact that ranges from religious to navigation. What a perfect place to learn about Hawaiian culture.
Have you ever looked into the eye of zebra shark? Seen an octopus opening a jar? Or met the real-life versions of Dori and Nemo? Dive into Hawaii’s underwater world “without getting wet.” Waikiki Aquarium brings visitors face-to-fin with colorful tropical fish, reef sharks, living corals, endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea jellies.
Home to 1,230 mammals, birds and reptiles, Honolulu Zoo is located between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue and Kalakaua Boulevard. The parking lot entrance is on Kapahulu Ave and charges twenty-five cents per hour. The Shell parking lot across the street on Monsarrat Avenue has free parking.
The life of King Kamehameha the Great is filled with legends and tales of epic proportions. It’s no wonder, then, that the famous gold-leaf statue constructed to honor his memory has a dramatic story of its own. Commissioned in 1878 to an American sculptor living in Italy, the completed statue was lost en route to Hawaii.
Before Hawaii became a U.S. territory and, eventually, a state, the Islands were a sovereign kingdom. One remaining edifice of Hawaii’s past is Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the country. Built in the late 1800s, the palace was fitted with telephones and electricity before the White House.
Waikiki Beach is perhaps the world’s most famous strip of sand and was once the playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today, millions of visitors flock to the sun-kissed shores and warm waters to snorkel, take a surf lesson or ride an outrigger canoe, which can only be experienced in Hawaii. Restrooms are available.
Polynesian Cultural Center is a family outing not to be missed. Dedicated to preserving the cultures of the various island groups that make up Polynesia, the center is home to six “islands,” which represent Hawai‘i, Tahiti, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Here, adults and children alike learn through fun-filled demos.
Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s "Pineapple Experience" in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year. And it also holds the bragging rights of being the world's largest maze.
Its name derived from the surrounding fresh water (wai) that feeds the reddish (mea), iron-rich soils, Waimea was once inhabited by royalty and priests, who chose to settle in the area because of its spiritual power, as well as the abundance of burial caves and temples. It was once believed that bathing in the waters could cure the sick.
Upon the last stop of her honeymoon, Doris Duke – daughter of tobacco tycoon turned generous philanthropist – fell in love with something other than her dashing new husband: the majestic and natural beauty of Hawaii. Her Shangri La estate on the slopes of Diamond Head has become a showcase of vibrant colors and Islamic art.