Honolulu, Oahu

Hotel reviews summary
4.5

Our guest rating from 17 reviews

Overview

Visitors never have trouble finding things to do in Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu. With countless options for families, couples and singles alike, you're sure to love your trip to this incredible destination – no matter how you choose to spend your time.

The beaches offer an abundance of activities—from watching wild sea turtles and snorkelling, to kiteboarding, boogie boarding, kayaking and more. Exploring inland, you'll find plenty of golf courses, jungle adventures, museums, art galleries, botanical gardens and live performances to fill your vacation to the brim.

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and offers all the perks of a sleek metropolis with a dose of outback adventure. Downtown, you'll find historic sites, luxury shopping and an incredible dining scene. But a mere 10 minutes outside of Honolulu's bustling core, the wilderness begins. Hike along Nuuanu Stream to Kapena Falls, underneath towering banyan and African tulip trees. Then, stop for a swim at the base of a magnificent cliff.

There are two almost parallel volcanic ranges on Oahu: Waianae in the northwest and Koolau in the southeast. The northeast trade winds cool the Koolau mountain air, creating a rainy mist that keeps the forests lush and green. In the valley below, you can see the outline of millions of pineapples growing in the area's rich, red volcanic soil.

Some 125 beaches loop around Oahu like a Hawaiian lei, but the best place for people watching is on the sands of Waikiki. Looking for some quiet relaxation? Head outside the city, where the closest thing to noise is the song of the white-rumped Shama bird.

Honolulu is a fantastic destination for:

  • shopping & dining
  • culture & history
  • beaches

Airport served by: HNL

Destination basics

Oahu's climate is sunny and humid, though a gentle daytime breeze will keep you from overheating. Variations in temperature have more to do with where on the island you are than with the time of year you're visiting. The southwestern side of Oahu, where Honolulu and its Waikiki neighbour are located, is warmer and drier than the eastern side.

On average, Honolulu gets only 51 cm of rain per year, while Hauula on the northeastern coast gets up to 203 cm. Remember to bring a light, waterproof jacket when you go exploring the island. You should pack good footwear with traction if you plan to hike. Otherwise, a snorkel, mask and fins are all you'll need.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Honolulu, Oahu

Known internationally for its hula dancers and leis, Oahu has much more to offer than what you see in the movies. In fact, Hawaiian culture is as diverse as its history. From its healthy and delicious native cuisine to its five-vowel, eight-consonant language, you'll find a great mix of Asian, Hawaiian and Pacific Island cultures in Hawaii.

Looking for a taste of the culture that makes this state so unique? Head out to a luau. There are many luaus offered here, often at oceanfront sites, featuring hula dancers, traditional roasted pig feasts, tropical drinks and Polynesian music. You can also watch fire dances and catch other entertainment from the various islands, including Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji, that influenced the settlement of Hawaii.

Oahu is known as The Gathering Place. The nickname comes from the fact the islands were settled by Polynesian sailors who used the stars to navigate the Pacific. They arrived on the islands in voyaging canoes with experts on such topics as medicine, building, farming, plants and animals.

Following the traditions of their own native lands, they used plants, trees, teeth, bones, shells, bark, birds’ feathers and flowers in sophisticated ways to make clothing, cure their ailments, decorate and entertain themselves. That's how leis became a part of Hawaiian life: they signify grief, marriage, even peace treaties, depending on the flowers used. Leis can be found all over the island, especially in Honolulu's Chinatown.

During the 1800s, industries such as whaling, sugar and pineapple farming flourished on Oahu. Plantation owners brought in workers from Japan, Korea, China, Puerto Rico, Portugal and the Philippines, contributing to the rich ethnic mix that currently makes up modern Hawaii. Some of these residents settled in Chinatown, which is still a neighbourhood worth exploring today.

The Hawaiian Islands were governed by separate kings until Kamehameha the Great won the Battle of Nuuanu on Oahu (at what is now known as the Pali Lookout) and united the islands. Seven monarchs followed before Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1959. Honolulu's Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii's last king and queen, is a National Historic Landmark that you can tour with a guide. It is the only royal palace within the United States.

The 20th century saw the islands become one of the world's major tourism destinations, and some of the hotels built in the early 1900s, like Waikiki's landmark "Pink Palace," remain popular.

To learn about the origins of Hawaiian culture, take a trip to Honolulu's Bishop Museum—Hawaii's State Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Built in 1889, this Victorian building predates Hawaii induction as a U.S. state by almost 70 years. Here, you learn about the Polynesian dance commonly known as the hula, and read the first description of surfing by one of Captain James Cook's crewmembers in 1779. In addition to its Hawaiian and Polynesian Halls, visitors find a planetarium, the kid-friendly Mamiya Science Adventure Center and the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. Even if you're hoping to soak in more sun and then history, many visitors also tour the Pearl Harbor site. This location, representing and important day in U.S. history, is considered a must-see by travellers to the area.

It is recommended that you bring U.S. dollars for general expenses. For your entertainment and shopping expenses, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. There are also ATMs all around the island for your convenience. Please note that transaction fees vary by ATM.

The island of Oahu is made up of five distinct areas: the Windward and Leeward Coasts, the North Shore, Honolulu and Central Oahu.

Oahu has more than 290 km of coastline and was formed by two nearly parallel volcanoes (Waianae in the northwest and Koolau in the southeast) formed more than 1.2 million years apart.

The Koolau Range is 2.7 million years old, standing 960 metres tall at its highest point. It also serves as the divider between Central Oahu and the Windward Coast. Even taller is the 3.9-million-year-old Waianae, also known as Mount Kaala, 1,227 metres above sea level.

As for plant and animal life, the vast selection found on the Hawaiian Islands was brought here by early explorers and settlers, as well as transplanted by birds and sea life. The species of plants and animals still present today are those that were able to adapt and survive. Many of these are now on endangered lists and are only found in Hawaii.

Waikiki is only one square mile in size, so getting around without a car is easy. Walking is the most convenient way to navigate Waikiki.

TheBus (Oahu's public transit system) is also an efficient and inexpensive way to get around. To get from Waikiki to Honolulu, take Bus #8. To do a circle island tour, take Bus #52 and #55.

The Waikiki Trolley also offers affordable transportation to Oahu's major tourist attractions on its four lines.

For a change of pace from Waikiki, rent a car and explore the 180 km of Oahu's pristine coastline. Discover secluded beaches and stop for lunch with the locals to get a real taste of Hawaiian life and culture.

Tours are another great way to get around and experience some of Oahu’s best attractions. Transportation from your hotel (or at a nearby pickup point) is usually included.

Arrival

Prior to boarding your flight to Honolulu, you will pass through U.S. Customs. Once you arrive in beautiful Hawaii, all you'll need to do is collect your luggage.

If you have pre-booked a transfer or transfer with lei greeting with WestJet Vacations, please see the Diamond Head Vacations representative in the baggage claim area. Identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you'll be on your way. Aloha!

Rental car shuttles and other shuttle services are located outside the baggage claim area, 2nd sidewalk with signage directing you to the shuttle pick up area. Taxis are located outside the baggage claim area at the closest sidewalk to the doors of the airport.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will be happy to assist you at our transborder check-in counters located in the main terminal, Lobby 4 of the international departures area. WestJet counters open three hours prior to departure and close 15 minutes after departure time. Guests can also check in and select their seats ahead of time by using WestJet's convenient Web check-in service.

Services in Honolulu International Airport's main terminal include restaurants, gift shops, business centres, duty free and WiFi access. Please note that these services are only open during certain hours.

What makes Honolulu so unique is the contrast between Honolulu's high-energy Kalakaua Avenue at night and the sight of an endangered monk seal shuffling from sand to surf during the day.

Although all of the major Hawaiian Islands are famous for their tropical climate, awe-inspiring beaches and volcanic mountain ranges, Oahu is the only one that's also blessed with a major city and the bustling urban culture that comes with it.

Honolulu has a spicy cultural mix that is reflected in its South Pacific-influenced food scene. The city's Chinatown, well over a century old, offers stall after stall of freshly stir-fried Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Singaporean food.

Elsewhere on the island, you can buy warm banana fritters from roadside vendors, along with freshly picked mangoes, papayas and coconuts—whose milk can be guzzled right from the shell.

In Honolulu, you can visit the historic Queen Emma Summer Palace, a beachside aquarium containing only indigenous fish, and then indulge in high-end shopping at shops including the Chanel and Hermes boutiques.

At the Ala Moana Center, you'll find handmade Hawaiian quilts and traditional foods like kalua pig in the food court. Just a few stores away, discover the latest bikinis at Victoria's Secret or indulge in a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.

Outside Honolulu, Oahu is home to countless smaller communities, each with its own distinct charm. The North Shore's Haleiwa, once a plantation town, is now a second home for bronzed and shaggy-haired surfers determined to conquer the world's gnarliest waves. In Haleiwa, the relaxing vibe invites you to quench your thirst with shaved ice, satisfy your hunger with fish tacos and poke around its funky shops for sarongs, jewelry and surfboards.

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ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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