Honolulu Travel Guide

Is there anywhere that evokes images of paradise more than Hawaii? With its sandy beaches, world-class waves that stretch into the horizon, and centuries of rich history, Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, is a top U.S. travel destination for a reason.

Whether you want to soak up the reverent history of Pearl Harbor, cruise the waves of the iconic Waikiki Beach, or get your fill of culture at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu is a vibrant city with so much to see & do.

Not sure where to visit when you’re in Honolulu, HI? We’ve got you covered with our complete Honolulu travel guide with the best places to visit, where to stay, and how to get around.

Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.

What to see & do in Honolulu

Pearl Harbor

Honolulu is full of historic sites, but the one that is always listed as one of the best things to do in Honolulu is Pearl Harbor. Known for taking a devastating attack on December 7th, 1941, this naval base is now a museum, memorial, and gallery. It’s one of the most visited spots in Honolulu.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor National Monument is dedicated to the 2,403 Americans who died during the attack, 1,177 of which were sailors or marines. Today, it’s a peaceful place to educate visitors, remind yourself of the sacrifice the armed forces make, and stand in one of the most pivotal spots in modern US military history.

The USS Arizona Memorial, which is a part of this complex, stands right above the wreckage of the naval ship that’s the final resting place for many sailors.

Diamond Head State Monument

Even if you only have one day in Honolulu, there’s one hike that seems to be on every itinerary. The Diamond Head State Monument rises up above Honolulu, offering expansive panoramic views. Strap on your hiking boots and get exploring!

Diamond Head State Monument

With a ridge trail leading around the edge of a volcanic crater, the Diamond Head State Monument hike is an amazing experience. Take in the coastal views, look back inwards at the land, or give yourself a minute to catch your breath and realize that you’re standing on top of a giant volcano!

Not into hiking so much but love history? Diamond Head State Monument was also home to a former military fort that you can still explore and learn about. The staff here are super knowledgeable and helpful, so ask away!

Waikiki Beach

What’s a trip to Hawaii without a little time at the beach? As one of the best beaches in Honolulu, Waikiki Beach is super popular with tourists and locals alike. Lay out your towel and relax, rent a board and hit the waves, or wander along the beachfront, taking in the view.

Waikiki Beach

Located next to all the major hotels and coated in soft, golden sands, Waikiki Beach is what many people first envision when they think of Hawaii. Despite stretching out for two miles, Waikiki Beach regularly bustles with people; stake out your spot early to avoid all the crowds.

As the epicenter of beach life and tourism in Honolulu, there are a ton of things to do in Waikiki, too. The Waikiki neighborhood is home to a ton of great bars and restaurants where you can refuel and set yourself up for another few hours at the beach.

Honolulu Museum of Art

If you’re looking to inject some culture into your visit to Honolulu, bring your critical eye over to the Honolulu Museum of Art. With over 50,000 pieces to browse, you can easily spend a whole day at this wonderful museum and gallery. HoMA, as it’s affectionately called locally, also includes gardens and a theater that hosts movies and live concerts.

Honolulu Museum of Art

With pieces ranging from native Hawaiian artists all the way to Van Gogh and Hokusai, the Honolulu Museum of Art is a varied and vibrant excursion that’ll have an art style for everyone in your party. Take in the exquisite pieces, find a new favorite artist, and then grab yourself a souvenir at the gift shop.

Need to have a break and get a cup of coffee and some food? You can choose from one of two cafes located at the Honolulu Museum of Art, both serving up incredible food.

Ala Moana Center

Sometimes we all need some retail therapy. How about visiting the 11th biggest mall in the US? Located in central Honolulu, the Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air mall in the world. If that doesn’t get the shopaholics amongst us excited, nothing will!

Shop at Ala Moana Center

With over 350 shops and restaurants specializing in everything from artisanal goods to clothing to homeware and beyond, the Ala Moana Center hits all the key demographics. Getting tired of shopping? Take a break at one of the many eating establishments dotted around the concourse; there are over 160 to choose from!

Whether you want to shop til you drop, pick up a couple of souvenirs, or just hang out and browse, the Ala Moana Center has you covered.

Where to stay

With so many amazing attractions and natural wonders on your doorstep, it can be tricky to find where to stay in Honolulu. Each neighborhood offers something different and exciting, depending on what kind of trip you’re looking to have. So, let’s dive in and figure out where is going to be the best place for you to stay.


We’ve spoken a little bit about the Waikiki neighborhood already, but if you’re looking for shopping and nightlife, this is the spot to stay in Honolulu.


You’ll be in the thick of the action, super close to the iconic Waikiki Beach, and all the luxury, big-name hotels are located in this area.

Ala Moana

Looking to please a few different types of people? Opt to stay in the Ala Moana neighborhood. As well as housing the biggest open-air shopping mall in the world, it’s also home to pristine beaches, great restaurants, and cultural hotspots like the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Ala Moana Beach Park

The added bonus is that Ala Moana is only half an hour from the airport, so you can get your vacation off to a quick start.

Diamond Head

Outdoor and adventure lovers should stay in Diamond Head. Named for the famous Diamond Head State Monument, this neighborhood is ideal if you love to lace up your hiking boots or hit the bike trails.

Diamond Head Crater

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and the intense but rewarding Koko Head Crater Trail are also located in Diamond Head, as well as access to the Waikiki beaches.


If you’re looking for a more authentic, residential feel, stay in Manoa, around a 10-minute drive from Honolulu city center. Here you’ll find a ton of hostels and budget hotels, as well as plenty of free excursions.

Manoa, HI

Manoa is the ideal spot if you’re looking for an affordable neighborhood and don’t mind traveling in for the big sights.

When to visit

Honestly, there’s really not a bad time to visit Honolulu. But if you’re looking to avoid the summer crowds and the winter big-wave storms, the best time to visit Honolulu is from April to early June. In these months, it’s less crowded, airfare is cheaper, and you’re likely to get deals on your accommodation or tours.

Koko Head Crater Trail

The other shoulder season in Honolulu is September to November. In these pre-holiday months, kids are back in school and many families are waiting until December break to book a trip. Again, these months offer fewer crowds, and it tends to be a little bit cheaper.


Getting there

Honolulu is served by Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), located three miles northwest of downtown. Several major airlines offer direct flights to HNL from major domestic and international destinations, including:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United States

Getting around

Realistically, a lot of Honolulu is super walkable and bike friendly. If you’re looking for an affordable way to get around while soaking up the Hawaiian rays, the city is a great spot. Many of the main attractions are relatively close to each other so you can explore a few in one walking route.

If you don’t want to walk, the public buses are your best option. With one-way tickets starting at just $2.75, the bus is a reasonable option.

Waikiki Trolley

Planning on using public transport a lot? Get yourself a HOLO card which is a credit-based travel pass with prices capped at $5.50 each day, regardless of if you’re hopping on and off around Honolulu or heading to the other side of the island.

Pounding the trails? Sadly the public buses don’t go there and it’s not really walkable from Honolulu city center. In this case, you’ll either have to rent a car or get a taxi to get up to the trailheads.

If you’re not comfortable hailing a taxi off the street, ask the concierge or reception at your hotel or hostel to call a reliable firm with a decent rate. They’ll know the best people for the job!

To journey further afield from Honolulu, you can rent a car either in Waikiki or at the airport. You don’t really need a car in Downtown Honolulu itself, and parking can be a nightmare. Consider hiring a car for your day trips rather than your whole vacation.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.