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5 Things to Do in Honolulu


One thing that really struck me the first time I visited Hawaii was just how far away it is from mainland USA. I mean, sure, I knew the state was a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but the almost six-hour plane journey from LA still came as a bit of a shock. The plane journey was long forgotten, however, as soon as I arrived. Greeted with an “aloha” and a lei – the flower garland synonymous with the state – my Honolulu adventure was about to begin.

If you're planning a trip to the Aloha State, read on for 5 unmissable things to do in Hawaii's capital city!

Turtle in Honolulu

Turtle in Honolulu

Take a Dip with the Locals at Turtle Canyon

When visiting Honolulu, you simply cannot miss the opportunity to swim with some of its cutest residents: Hawaiian green sea turtles. Book onto a snorkel cruise heading for the aptly named Turtle Canyon, and you will not be disappointed. Green sea turtles travel to this area for a spot of pampering, as the popular snorkel site is home to an eclectic range of reef fish who enjoy cleaning the turtles' shells! This, in turn, affords us humans the chance to view these magnificent creatures up close, as they linger under the water enjoying their spa session. 

And turtles might not be all you spot – I was lucky enough to be in Honolulu towards the end of whale season and witnessed a couple of humpbacks leaping out of the ocean.

Snorkelling in crystal-clear waters off Honolulu is wonderful regardless, but coupled with the chance to swim so close to such amazing wildlife makes it an unmissable experience.

Snorkel Tour Honolulu - Image: Margaret Donnellan

Snorkel Tour Honolulu

Image: Margaret Donnellan

Explore the Infamous Waikiki Neighbourhood

A visit to Honolulu isn't complete without a trip to the iconic Waikiki neighbourhood. Known for its incredible beach (we'll get to that!), Waikiki is also chock-a-block full of hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants and designer shops. Think Las Vegas, but on a paradise island.

It's on the streets of Waikiki that you remember you're in America. Yes, the stunning mountain ranges in the distance remind you of your tropical (and volcanic) location, but the ostentatious buildings, bustling nightlife and noisy tourists remind you that the USA is not only geographically gigantic, but culturally so.

The food and drink options in Waikiki are endless. You're on holiday in one of the most over-the-top towns in America, so why not treat yourself to a cocktail or one of the gargantuan local oysters. They're almost as big as the green sea turtles!

Honolulu Oysters - Image: Margaret Donnellan

Honolulu Oysters

Image: Margaret Donnellan

Catch a Dazzling Friday Fireworks Display

You don't have to visit Honolulu on the Fourth of July to be treated to a spectacular fireworks display. Indeed, every Friday evening (I would say weather dependent, but come on – this is Hawaii we're talking about!) the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free firework display that can be clearly viewed from Waikiki Beach. If you get there at around 7:45pm you're sure to see them, but it can get crowded, with tourists and locals alike heading to the beach to watch the Honolulu sky light up. If anything gets your weekend, and indeed holiday off to a bang, it will be this!

Waikiki - Image: Margaret Donnellan


Image: Margaret Donnellan

Catch a Romantic Waikiki Beach Sunset

If you'd rather watch the lights go down over Honolulu, then make sure you head to the beach shortly before sunset to catch one of the most breathtaking views you'll ever see. The beach is a must-visit at any time of day – absolutely packed with eccentric sun worshippers, it's the perfect place for people-watching – but is particularly amazing at sunset. Crowds converge on the shore to watch the sun disappear over the horizon, bidding a dramatic goodnight to one of the last time zones in the world.

Waikiki Sunset - Image: Margaret Donnellan

Waikiki Sunset

Image: Margaret Donnellan

Soak up the Culture with a Luau

Cultural shows are everywhere in Honolulu, from events at the luxury hotels to free hula displays along the beach. Whatever your budget, it's always worth checking out your nearest luau. A traditional Hawaiian feast that also features entertainment – usually Hawaiian music and a hula show – luaus are a fantastic way to soak up the local culture and sample the state's delicacies. The main event (culinarily speaking) is usually a whole roast pig on a spit, so no matter how big the crowd, you're unlikely to go hungry. And don't forget to try the poi – a thick starchy paste made from the root of the taro plant. A Hawaiian speciality, it's best paired with pork and other salty meats. It's a bit of an acquired taste though – and admittedly not one that I am personally fond of! I did, however, greatly enjoy the hula shows that I encountered not just at the luau, but whilst on a stroll one evening along the beach. There really is no shortage of entertainment in Honolulu!

Luau, Honolulu - Image: Margaret Donnellan

Luau, Honolulu

Image: Margaret Donnellan

Written by Margaret Donnellan

I'm originally from Ireland but have lived and worked in the UK and USA. A communications professional, when I'm not writing for work or pleasure I can be found travelling the world, sampling local cuisines and getting up close and personal with native wildlife! Find me on Instagram: @margaretd13.

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