The Perfect 4 Day Trip To Honolulu
Honolulu is the worldly epicenter of the Hawaiian Islands. Home to the majority of Hawaii’s residents, with a vibrant 80% of the state’s people living here, the place will impress and de-stress - a living, breathing cacophony of cultures set right on top of a palm-fringed island, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Surreal? Perhaps. A wanderlust’s idea of heaven? Indeed.
Although the city is technically American, it feels more Asian than anything else. Asian-Americans and Pacific-Islanders outnumber caucasians. The city’s ethnic vibe is unapologetically Pacific Rim, giving it a flavor unlike any other place on earth.
This is a cosmopolitan city where you can shop ‘til you drop, take in the world-class arts scene, or spend your days exploring intriguing historical landmarks such as Iolani Palace, the only residence of royalty in the entire United States. Honolulu is a warm and vibrant city that merits much curious exploration. For the food lover, it’s a cultural extravaganza. Be prepared to sample Alan Wong’s famous farm-to-table cuisine at monthly ‘farmers dinners.’ The experience is beyond palatable. For art lovers, the city is ripe with galleries and museums. For the marine biologist in the family, there’s the Hawaii Maritime Center, which explores the entirety of Hawaii’s maritime connections from its discovery by Captain Cook to epic surfing feats.
The Bishop Museum, named after the late Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop is a gathering place for all things Hawaiian - history, culture, art, science and education. Open everyday except Tuesday, from 9-5, this museum is a required Honolulu watering hole for the educated traveler. The Honolulu Museum of Art is next on the list - dedicated to the preservation and education of the visual arts, it hosts a variety of exhibits, performances, films and public programs fit for Honolulu’s diverse group of locals and tourists. It’s open every day of the week except Mondays, and free for those under 17.
The Shangri La Museum, a center for Islamic arts and culture overlooks Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. Its collection of Islamic treasures is impressive, with approximately 2,500 art objects on display, coming from Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iran, India, Central Asia and even parts of Southeast Asia. The Shangri La is a true shangri-la, spanning five acres of terraces, gardens, lanais, a 14,000 square-foot house, a playhouse and even a swimming pool.
Honolulu’s Chinatown is 140 years-old and one of the best in the world, with its historic buildings, herbalists, markets, temples, antique-dealers, lei-makers and noodle shops all nestled atmospherically in paradise. There’s even an art-walk on First Fridays. Chinatown covers a twenty-block section of downtown. You can buy just about anything under the sun. Candied ginger, dim sum, orchids - you want it, Chinatown’s got it.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without feasting your eyes on the infamous Pearl Harbor. Even if you could care less about WWII, the largest natural harbor in Hawaii, (named for the pearl oysters once harvested here) is a site to behold. If you are historically inclined, there are five historic sites here to immerse yourself in - the U.S.S Oklahoma Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. An array of ticket passes and tours are available. You can spend anywhere from two hours to two days or longer - you get to choose!
The Aloha Tower in the Honolulu Harbor, is a historic landmark in downtown Honolulu. It was constructed in 1926 and remains a of docking port for cruise ships. Take in ocean-views while lunching or listen to live music at night. The touristic attraction is just a short walk from Chinatown.
The arts and culture scene in Honolulu is nothing short of world-class. From the Hawaii Opera Theater to the Diamondhead Theater; from the Hawaii Theater Center to the Polynesian Cultural Center, the sheer array of theatrical, musical, dance and cultural events are enough to make your head spin.
Manoa Falls Trail
A neighbor of Makiki Heights (Obama’s childhood haunt), Manoa Falls Trail consists of a 1300-yard hike to the lovely Manoa Falls, which drops 100-feet. You can’t swim in the falls, but they’re beautiful to see and hear. Eucalyptus trees, lush rainforest, bamboo, banyan trees and tropical flowers make for a sensual hiking experience. It’s also one of the island’s easier falls to travel to - just steps from the city’s modern beat.
Hungry in Honolulu? You won’t be for long. If you’re an ethnically inclined food lover, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven in Honolulu. Restaurants galore, from all cultures and cuisines live like distant cousins from long lost tribes.
Local chefs come to the Side Street Inn, nothing to look at from the outside, but on the inside the food is a hands-down favorite. The kalbi short ribs are the chefs pick as are the comforting pan-fried pork chops.
La Mariana Sailing Club, billed as Oahu’s private marina and original tiki bar, is a kitschy 1950’s tiki joint situated on the shores of Keehi Lagoon. Founded in 1957, this restaurant and bar is a living, breathing nostalgic postcard of old Hawaii. The marina houses 110 vessels and the resident gift shop showcases all things tiki. Pupus (appetizers) and seafood platters abound here, and the mai tais can’t be beat.
Downtown Honolulu is lacking in accommodations. Most people head to neighboring Waikiki to rest their sun-kissed heads. The Aqua Bamboo Hotel is a safe bet with rooms just over $100 a night. There’s even a YMCA with basic rooms for traveler’s on a shoestring budget.
Honolulu will boggle the mind and senses. It’s America’s top-rated city, time and time again. A trip here is a seasoned traveler’s dream. Famed travel writer Paul Theroux even made it his home. Maybe you should, too!
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