Follow these tips for having an indie travel experience in Honolulu.
  • Honolulu is a big city not unlike many other big cities – except there are beaches, hiking trails, and lots of great food to be had.
  • The Iolani Palace is the only palace in the United States, so it’s definitely worth a visit. You can take a guided tour, but it’s just as easy to do it yourself.
  • Hawaii has a large Chinese population, which means Chinatown. Visit for some great food and culture.
  • Instead of going to the super popular and super crowded Waikiki Beach, head to one of the lesser-known ones:
    • Ala Moana Park has green spaces, trees, and a nice sandy beach where many of the locals hang out.
    • Hanauma Bay is set in a remarkable setting – the crater of an extinct volcano. Great for snorkeling and scuba diving.
    • Halona Beach Cove is good for swimming, but there are no lifeguards.
  • Hike to Diamond Head for a great view of the city.

Why you should add Honolulu to your RTW travel list

  • Hawaii 5-0, hula dancers, Waikiki, Pearl Harbor – that’s just the beginning
  • After partying up in Waikiki, hike Diamondhead
  • Surf the ‘Banzai pipeline’
  • Visit the Polynesian cultural center in Laie
  • Just hang on tropical Pacific beaches, of course!

Why you should not add Honolulu to your RTW travel list

  • Traffic is amongst the worst in the United States.
  • It isn’t going to be a cheap addition to your RTW trip, so make sure you budget appropriately.

Overview

Be sure to check out our Hawaii Travel Guide for more details on visiting Honolulu and the rest of the islands! Honolulu is more than just the capital city of Hawaii, it's the largest city and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the islands.

What to Do

Honolulu is home to Hawaii's most famous beach, Waikiki, so it's no surprise that it's the city so many tourists flock to each year when they want the Hawaii experience. What many visitors aren't prepared for in Honolulu, however, is that it's not just a tourist destination - it's a major Hawaiian city where the vast majority of Hawaiians actually live and work. Life's not always a beach for them! Waikiki Beach is Honolulu's top draw, and is often absolutely full of people from end to end. This is no secluded or private beach we're talking about here, but it's an excellent Hawaiian beach nonetheless. Waikiki is a great beach to sunbathe, swim in the beautiful ocean waters, and try your skills at surfing. In addition to the beach, Honolulu is also home to the USS Arizona Memorial (one of the city's top tourist attractions) and there are several scenic points outside the city which are great for hikes and photographs.

Getting There

Honolulu International Airport (airport code HNL) is not only the main airport for Honolulu but also for the entire state of Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines is based here, but most major airlines offer airline tickets to Honolulu - at a price! Sometimes getting to Honolulu can be expensive, so be sure to shop around. Unlike other Hawaiian islands, Oahu is well-served by a public bus system called TheBus - so getting around Honolulu is easy and inexpensive.

Where to Stay

Places like Waikiki Beach are lined with giant hotels, but there are lots of hotels in Honolulu - not all of which are expensive or right on the beach (those two things tend to go together). Getting a hotel further away from the beach, in downtown Honolulu for instance, will save you money. There are a few hostels in Hawaii, too.