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Plan Your Trip to Honolulu: Best of Honolulu Tourism

Explore Honolulu

As the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu delivers on big-city vibes just steps from some of the best nature on the islands (in the world, really). Spend your city days in downtown Waikiki, with its blocks of shops and sky-high hotels, or head to the food haven of Kapahulu to snack on poke bowls and shaved ice. The beaches are always right there—ready for surfing, sunbathing, snorkelling, and swimming with sea turtles and dolphins. There’s also nearby waterfalls and volcanos to check out—from Diamond Head Crater to Waimea Falls. Don’t forget to carve out a day or two to get to know the island’s roots: Roam through the remnants of Hawaii’s monarchy at Iolani Palace and Washington Place, or learn about Hawaiian natural history and Polynesian culture at the Bishop Museum. You can find tickets, tips, and even more recs below.

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Downtown Honolulu’s modern Hawaiian culture

Although I’m a kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) from the kuaaina (country) on Hawaii Island, Downtown Honolulu is my zone. I love that it has so many local, small businesses in an urban setting (plus, it doesn’t hurt that this is where my wife and I met). Here are my go-to kanaka maoli-owned restaurants, bars, and shops where you can get a taste of modern Hawaiian culture.
Daniel Ikaika Ito, Honolulu, HI
  • Bar Leather Apron
    Award-winning kanaka maoli mixologist Justin Park is the co-founder and co-owner of this upscale craft cocktail bar, which was recently awarded “most outstanding bar” by the James Beard Foundation. Make bookings to sit at the bar—watching these experts mix your drink is truly something to behold. Order the E Ho‘o Pau Mai Tai (named world’s best mai tai a few years back) or the signature BLA Old Fashioned.
  • Native Books
    The written word was first introduced here by the missionaries in 1820, and Native Hawaiians embraced reading and writing to the extent that the Hawaiian Kingdom boasted a 91% literacy rate by 1832. Native Books celebrates this tradition with its focus on carrying every book in print about any aspect of Hawaii.
  • Fete
    Named best chef for the Northwest and Pacific region, co-owner Robynne Maii is the first Native Hawaiian woman to win a James Beard Award. My go-to bougie business meal order: the smoked ono club with crispy potatoes and a Fête 75, a spin on a French 75 with elderflower liqueur and cucumber.
  • The Daley
    Led by Native Hawaiian restaurateur Danny Kaaialiii, the Daley makes my favourite smash burger in the state. It’s got Hawaii-grown, grass-fed beef on a bun that is soft and firm at the same time—just like your favourite pillow. Wash it down with one of the locally-brewed, craft beers on tap.
  • Encore Saloon
    Danny Kaaialii saw a need for a restaurant in Downtown with a robust list of mezcal, so he and his partner, Jonny Vasquez, opened Encore Saloon. Their menu features legit barbacoa, and their nachos are the best because of the house-made chips.
  • Kaiao Space
    This art gallery is curated by the team at Sig On Smith and features avant-garde artists from around the state. “Kaiao,” has a very specific meaning, translating to “the time before the sun peeks above the horizon, when the skies are lit with morning colours, the air is crisp, and the day is new”—and the art here has that same fresh energy.
  • Manifest
    Whether it’s an afternoon pick me up with a dirty chai latte while checking out this space’s exhibits of local artists or a late-night tall boy brewski while dancing the night away, the Manifest is the Swiss Army Knife in the tool kit of good times in Downtown Honolulu.
  • Sig On Smith
    Forget what you think you know about Hawaiian shirts and level-up your style with the authentic aloha designs from Sig On Smith. This brand was founded by Sig Zane, a surfer, fisherman, hula dancer, and artist who aims to perpetuate Native Hawaiian culture through clothing. Sig on Smith is his only location on Oahu (and a heads up, it’s only open on Fridays).