Blake Walsh

16 Best Things to Do in Honolulu County, HI

  • Published 2023/06/03

Honolulu is a consolidated city and county on the breathtaking island of Oʻahu, Hawaii.

It has long served as the capital of the Hawaiian Islands, dating back to the mid-19th century when Hawaii was still a kingdom.

This world-famous destination has modern beach resorts and a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

Home to stunning nature preserves and geologic features, it offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, such as hiking and wildlife observation.

The county is also a gateway to exploring Hawaiian culture and heritage, with museums and landmarks full of rich stories of the islands’ past.

If you’re planning a Hawaiian summer getaway, here are some of the best things to do in Honolulu County, Hawaii:

Enjoy the Renowned Beaches of Waikiki

Sunny day at Waikiki beach

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Spend days in the sun and sand at the famous beaches of Waikiki.

Situated on Oʻahu’s southern shore, modern resorts line up this famous beach neighborhood, offering picturesque ocean views.

Get up in the morning to the pleasing sound of the waves on the shore and go for a swim.

Learn how to surf and catch your first wave.

People at a Waikiki beach

Pamela Au /

Hop on a boat and admire the coastline while cruising.

Known as a vibrant gathering place, the resort area is also home to dining, shopping, and entertainment facilities.

Come sundown, take a moment to admire the lovely Waikiki sunset scene, and then head out to check out the nightlife around.

Aerial view of Waikiki beach

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See the Diverse Marine Life at Hanauma Bay State Park

Scenic view of Hanauma Bay State Park

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Get your snorkeling gear ready and experience the mesmerizing beauty of one of the country’s best beaches at Hanauma Bay State Park.

One of the island’s most popular spots, this nature preserve protects the curved bay and its pristine ecosystem with rich marine life.

Its calm waters make it a favorite destination for swimming and exploring wildlife.

Fish at Hanauma Bay State Park

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Head out for a day of snorkeling and see the bay’s stunning coral reefs, colorful tropical fish, and iconic sea turtles.

To protect this diverse area, the park limits the number of visitors and ensures that visitors learn about the area’s rich wildlife through its programs.

The Hanauma Bay State Park is located in the Hawaii Kai area in the city of Honolulu.

Marvel at Hawaii’s Geologic Landmark at Diamond Head State Monument

Signage of Diamond Head State Monument

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Head to Diamond Head State Monument and see Hawaii’s iconic landmark.

Locally known as Lē‘ahi, the Diamond Head is a volcanic cone estimated to have formed 300,000 years ago.

The park spans over 400 acres and offers exciting opportunities to enjoy this unique geologic feature and its rich history.

Hike to the summit on the historic trail, which was built as part of the coast’s defense network.

Hikers at Diamond Head State Monument

Rayoela /

Along the trail, enjoy scenic views of the O‘ahu coastline and some offshore islands.

You can also take a self-guided audio tour and explore the incredible landscape as you learn about its rich history and significance in Hawaiian culture.

The Diamond Head State Monument is located along Monsarrat Avenue in the city of Honolulu.

A person admiring the view from Diamond Head State Monument

Maridav /

Hike on the Mānoa Falls Trail

Cascades of Mānoa Falls

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Take your friends for a hike on the beautiful Mānoa Falls Trail.

The 1.6-mile out-and-back trail takes you along the Waihi Stream, through the lush rainforest preserve, and to the base of the 100-foot Mānoa Falls.

The trail is considered beginner-friendly and has an elevation gain of 800 feet.

Along the trail, you can see native plants and hear the beautiful songs of birds.

Signage of Mānoa Falls Trail

Joshua Rainey Photography /

Stop by the interpretive signs and learn about the plant and animal life along the trail.

At the end of the trail, take a break and enjoy the rewarding view of the falls.

You can find the trailhead of the Mānoa Falls Trail along Manoa Road, Mānoa.

Greenery along Mānoa Falls Trail

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Step Back into History at Iolani Palace

Exterior of the Iolani Palace

Nagel Photography /

Tour the Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu and take a glimpse into Hawaii’s storied royal past.

As the only royal residence in the United States, this restored grand palace served as the official home of the Hawaiian monarchs until 1893.

Visit and explore the palace’s two floors and galleries in the basement.

You can take a self-guided audio tour and enjoy the experience at your own pace.

Interior of the Iolani Palace

Phillip B. Espinasse /

Or join a guided tour and hear more stories about the palace and its residents.

Outside, you can also enjoy the sights on the palace grounds, which are said to be ancient worship grounds.

The Iolani Palace was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1962 for its political significance.

Dining table in the Iolani Palace

Frozen Bayberry /

Experience the Breathtaking Natural Beauty of Kualoa Ranch

Scenic view of Kualoa Ranch

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Treat your family to unforgettable nature experiences at Kualoa Ranch.

This gorgeous 4000-acre nature preserve protects sacred lands and their history while sharing its beauty with guests.

It offers exciting nature adventures that will take you through the lush rainforests, across the beautiful valley, and to secret beaches.

Hop on an off-road vehicle for a driving tour of the picturesque Jurassic Valley, where many Hollywood films were filmed.

ATV tours at Kualoa Ranch

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If you’re looking for more adventure, see the valley from up above on a zipline tour!

Go on a jungle expedition and experience the Hawaiian rainforest.

The preserve offers event venues for hosting weddings and other celebrations.

Kualoa Ranch is located in Kāneʻohe.

Horses at Kualoa Ranch

okimo /

Spend a Day at the Honolulu Zoo

A giraffe at Honolulu Zoo

Creative Curve /

Take the family to a fun and educational day at the Honolulu Zoo.

This 42-acre zoo is home to over 900 species of fascinating animals from the tropics, including amphibians, Komodo dragon, and Australasian birds.

Tour its African savanna and see fennec foxes, bongos, rhinos, and wild dogs.

Meet the tortoises in the reptiles area.

Baboon at Honolulu Zoo

JJM Photography /

Admire the colorful birds at the sanctuaries.

For a more memorable experience, join a twilight guided tour and learn about the animals’ night routines!

You can find the Honolulu Zoo along Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu City.

Flamingos at Honolulu Zoo

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Catch an Amazing Show at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Entrance arch of Polynesian Cultural Center

Michael Gordon /

Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the Pacific islands at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Opened in 1963, this center shares the beauty of Polynesian culture through various entertainment and educational programs.

Catch the interactive cultural presentations, learn some island dances, and even toss a native spear!

Hula dancers at Polynesian Cultural Center

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In the evening, watch a show at the center’s Pacific Theater, where you’ll be treated to a spectacular display of Polynesian music and dance.

Marvel at the showcase of Polynesian blazing fireknives and amazing animation and special effects.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is located along Kamehameha Highway in the town of La’ie.

Fire show at Polynesian Cultural Center

Jose Gil /

Visit the World-Famous Dole Plantation

Exterior of the Dole Plantation

Alexandre G. ROSA /

A visit to the island won’t be complete without seeing the Dole Plantation.

Opened to visitors in 1989, the world-famous company’s plantation offers family-friendly pineapple farm activities.

Hop on the pineapple express train and learn about the history of pineapple growing in Hawaii as you traverse the island’s lovely north shore.

Take a stroll through the gardens and the island’s native plant species.

Pineapple maze trail at the Dole Plantation


Find your way through the stunning pineapple maze—dubbed the largest maze in the world.

There’s food, of course, and a delicious serving of the famous Dole soft serve!

You can find the Dole Plantation in the town of Wahiawa.

Pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation


Relax at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

Scenic view of Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

Shane Myers Photography /

Take a break from the beaches and spend a relaxing day in the peaceful atmosphere of the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden.

Established in 1982, this 400-acre botanical center is home to a collection of plants from the tropics.

Go on a leisurely walk around and admire the Hawaiian and Polynesian palms.

In addition to the region’s native plants, you can also see plants from India, the Philippines, and the tropical Americas.

Road at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

Konstantin Kuteev /

At the visitor center, check out the art gallery and seasonal activities offered, such as bracelet making, painting, meditation, and weaving.

If you’d like to spend more time in the lush greenery, you can also plan for a camping weekend in the garden.

The Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden is located in Kāneʻohe.

A bird at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

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Explore Hawaiian Culture and History at the Bishop Museum

Exterior of the Bishop Museum

Alexandre G. ROSA /

Dive into Hawaii’s culture and history at the Bishop Museum.

Dating back to 1889, the museum was established to house Hawaiian artifacts and family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Bishop, the last descendant of Hawaii’s royal family.

The museum has since been a premier Pacific cultural institution, housing one of the world’s biggest collections of natural history specimens.

Take a public tour and learn about the island’s living culture and see some unique cultural materials.

Interior of the Bishop Museum

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If you’re visiting with kids, let their curious minds get entertained at the planetarium and science adventure center.

Outside, take a leisurely stroll through the garden and get to know native plants significant to the island’s culture.

The museum also hosts various special exhibitions throughout the year.

You can find the Bishop Museum along Bernice St., near downtown Honolulu.

Exhibit in the Bishop Museum

Alexandre G. ROSA /

Experience the Rugged Beauty of Kaʻena Point State Park

The waters of Kaʻena Point State Park

James William Smith /

Bask in the beauty of landscapes at Kaʻena Point State Park.

This remote coastal park showcases the wild coastlines of the northern and western sections of Oʻahu island.

Explore the rocky and sandy terrain and see the park’s gorgeous geologic features, which include a sea cave and fossilized reefs.

Daytime view of Kaʻena Point State Park

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The park is also home to one of the state’s remaining sand dune ecosystems.

From a distance, you can observe the area’s wildlife, such as the Hawaiian monk seal and shearwater birds.

You can reach the Kaʻena Point State Park along Farrington Highway in Mokulēʻia.

A monk seal at Kaʻena Point State Park

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Go Wildlife Viewing at Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail

View of the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse

Lu Yang /

Go on a hike on the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail for spectacular views of southeast O’ahu.

This 2-mile roundtrip trail will take you through hot and dry slopes, but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coastline, offshore islets, and wildlife.

Get your cameras ready to capture the fascinating sights of humpback whales during their migratory season.

People along Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail

Steve Heap /

Don’t forget to also bring binoculars and enjoy spotting seabirds.

You can access the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail via the trailhead along Kalanianaole Highway in the city of Honolulu.

Binoculars along Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail

Michael Gordon /

Enjoy the Waves at Waimea Bay Beach Park

People at Waimea Bay Beach Park

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Enjoy the world-class waves at Waimea Bay Beach Park.

The bay is famous for its winter waves, but if you visit in summer, you can enjoy the calmer waters.

Spend a nice day out swimming, diving, or snorkeling.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot some dolphins!

Surfers at Waimea Bay Beach Park

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You can also just soak up the sun while watching the surfers riding the waves.

The park also has picnic areas you can use during your day trip.

The Waimea Bay Beach Park is located on North Shore.

Aerial view of Waimea Bay Beach Park

Kelly Headrick /

Indulge in Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine at Roy’s Waikiki

Exterior of Roy’s Waikiki

Jeff Whyte /

Close out a great day on the beach with a sumptuous dinner at Roy’s Waikiki.

Opened in 2007, this Waikiki restaurant from award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi offers fusion creations using the island’s best local ingredients.

Explore its appetizers and taste some classic dishes, such as crab cakes and spring rolls.

Indulge in its delectable seafood dishes such as butterfish, salmon, and Hawaiian fish.

You can enjoy your dining experience out at the lanai or indoors at a table or on the counter.

Roy’s Waikiki is located along Lewers St. in the city of Honolulu.

Shop at Ala Moana Center

Exterior of Ala Moana Center

Theodore Trimmer /

Head to Ala Moana Center for a day of retail therapy.

This open-air shopping and dining destination houses over 350 stores and restaurants.

Explore the boutiques for new wardrobe pieces or browse the shops for travel souvenirs.

Shoppers in Ala Moana Center

Theodore Trimmer /

You can also check out the mall’s entertainment options, such as cinema and arcade.

Cap off your day with a sumptuous meal at one of its restaurants or grab a coffee and relax at a café.

You can find the Ala Moana Center along Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu City.

Shops at Ala Moana Center

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Final Thoughts

Relaxing days of leisure and recreation await you in the world-famous destination of Honolulu.

The city and the county offer spectacular tropical scenery and activities, from lounging on its beaches, visiting its geologic landmarks, hiking in its forests, and exploring its entertainment and shopping districts.

Plan your summer getaway now and don’t miss out on some of the best things to do in Honolulu County, Hawaii.

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