Hawaii has been a hot vacation spot for decades, and it’s only growing in popularity. Honolulu, the state capital, is a top destination for tourists around the globe. However, some of the best spots are those that aren’t in your travel guidebook.
Honolulu is full of “hidden gems” that can still fill you with the awe and unique vacation memories. Here are the top five sites you need to visit while you’re in Honolulu that go beyond your cozy resort.
1. Hanauma Bay
Just east of Honolulu, you’ll find a spot that looks more like a place of fantasy. Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve that is home to dozens of protected ocean species, and more importantly, a tropical beach. Not only can you take a dip in its rich blue water, but you can snorkel and view some of the native fish and coral reefs for an up-close look at Hawaii’s beauty.
The Father Damien Museum, located at the Molokai Heritage Center, is the perfect place to visit if you want to connect with the history of Honolulu and Hawaii as a whole. Although it’s conveniently located across Waikiki Beach, it’s often overlooked, but it houses some of the city’s most notable artifacts. Here, you’ll find everything from gorgeous tile mosaics to vintage photographs.
3. Diamond Head
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you may want to consider a hike up Diamond Head, the most notable mountain in the Honolulu area. There are open hiking trails up the mountain for those who want the best view of the city, operated by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. You can also explore Diamond Head’s crater, which was formed 300,000 years ago. Now, an abundance of new vegetation and birds have made the crater their home.
Any visitor looking to truly immerse him or herself in a unique cultural experience will want to stop by this gem, located in Honolulu. The Shangri-La is a Center for Islamic Arts and Culture, originally created by Doris Duke. Today, it houses her Middle Eastern art collection on a cliff-side with breathtaking views of Waikiki.
If you’re looking for another location to get in touch with the outdoors (perhaps without snorkeling), you may want to consider visiting Ka’ena Point State Park. This park, nestled along a shoreline formed by lava, is home to stellar ocean views. The ancient Hawaiians used to consider the area sacred, and one look at its beauty will show you why.
Of course, there are other ways to find those “off the beaten path” gems of Honolulu. One of the easiest ways to do so on your own is to take a tour bus (as cheesy as it may sound). The operators are typically extremely knowledgeable on the Islands, and you’ll get to see more than just the perimeter of your resort. The Double-Decker Bus Tours from Polynesian Adventure Tours, for instance, has a trip that will take you through Downtown Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.