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As Hawaii’s state capital, the largest city across the islands, and the most remote major city in the world, Honolulu has long been the most famous and popular gateway into the Hawaiian experience. With a population of nearly 1 million residents, Honolulu thrums with diversity and energy, and a lush surrounding landscape and gentle aquamarine shores frame its populous high-rise skyline.
Blessed with a beautiful and swimmable beachfront — Honolulu means "calm port" in Hawaiian — visitors will have a wealth of oceanfront activities to choose from, whether it’s snorkeling in nearby Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or strolling across Waikiki Beach in the shadow of the city’s most luxurious resorts, or stand-up paddleboarding under the warm glow of a Oahu sunset.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) serves as the primary point of entry for visitors and is located only 10 minutes away from downtown Honolulu. One tip to remember before booking a flight: Pick a seat on the right side of the plane and get the best view of the island upon arrival.
Rideshare services are all located on the airport’s second level (Departures), with signs directing visitors to three different pickup locations. Car rental desks are located on the ground floor across from baggage claim.
Honolulu is a fairly walkable city, with buses, taxis, rideshares, and even a hop-on, hop-off trolley serving the heart of the city. Still, Honolulu is large enough to warrant a rental car, an option that will come in handy if you want to venture beyond city limits.
Chances are you’ll never need anything more than a light sweater or jacket to stay warm in Honolulu, where average temperatures typically hover between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm and dry summer weather extends from April through November. The island’s pleasant trade winds cause temperatures to fall only modestly between December and March.
The hike up to the 300,000-year-old volcanic Diamond Head Crater would be arduous if the trek wasn’t so breathtakingly beautiful along the way. The reward for those tired legs is a stunning view of Honolulu and the glistening Pacific below that deserves numerous photos for posterity. Just be sure to arrive early to avoid the wave of crowds, bring cash for the walk-in entry fee, and wear a hat and bring water for the hike up.
Those hoping to escape from highly developed Waikiki Beach should make their way southeast along the East Honolulu coast. A sheltered and tranquil bay awaits, offering some of the best snorkeling on the island for beginners. Just note: Getting down to the reef requires a 10-minute descent by a steep trail, and there’s a small admission fee (those with disabilities can take a bus down for a smaller fee).
If you want to immerse yourself in the scene where Honolulu locals dine, shop, and celebrate, head over to the city's Chinatown district. Many of the best new restaurants helmed by young Hawaiian talent are based in this section of Honolulu, packed with Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese markets and shops. The Maunakea Marketplace food court is recommended for a snack or meal, and numerous galleries and local boutiques further flavor the neighborhood.