One Day in Honolulu Itinerary – Best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii

If there’s one place in the world that epitomizes the idea of exotic islands, welcoming locals and everything else one needs for a perfect location, it’s Hawaii. Along with its capital city Honolulu, it welcomes countless tourists every single years, both from all over the United States and all over the world. As a matter of fact, the city is the perfect base from which to explore these beautiful islands, but it too has a whole lot to offer. Spend a day here and you’ll be amazed by the things you can do and see in Honolulu.

One day in Honolulu Itinerary

What’s the best time to visit Honolulu?

The weather in Honolulu is pretty constant – it’s warm throughout the year, so you can view the city as a year-round destination without any problems. The climate is tropical, which means a fair amount of humidity too, something to be mindful of, for sure. Still, summers are quite dry and perfect for a vacation, so that’s probably the best time to visit Honolulu.

Diamond Head, Honolulu
Diamond Head, Honolulu

Festivals and events can therefore play a bigger role in your decision when to come. Honolulu Festival is in early March, and in June you have the big King Kamehameha Celebration and the very interesting Pan-Pacific Festival. In September, another very celebrated event takes place because it’s time for the Okinawan Festival. In any case, the events here allow you to learn a lot about the numerous Pacific cultures that are in some way connected to the islands, so you really should set some time aside and visit them if you’re in town.

Pan-Pacific Parade, Honolulu
Pan-Pacific Parade, Honolulu, Author: Daniel Ramirez, Source: Flickr

A few facts about Honolulu

The name Honolulu actually means “safe harbour” in Hawaiian language, which certainly fits the city perfectly. Also, it is the capital of the state of Hawaii, the last state to become incorporated into the United States. Since Hawaii was actually an independent kingdom in the past, Honolulu is the only city in the country with a genuine royal palace. Interestingly, this is also the second most populous city (Honolulu has about 350,000 people) in the region of Polynesia, trailing only Auckland, New Zealand in that respect.

Downtown, Honolulu
Downtown, Honolulu, Author: Daniel X. O’Neil, Source: Flickr

Apart from that, Honolulu is also one of the safest cities in the US, with one of the highest standards of living in the world, so you will be enjoying a lot more than just beautiful nature.

Downtown Honolulu
Downtown Honolulu, Author: Daniel X. O’Neil, Source: Flickr

One Day in Honolulu Itinerary – Best things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii

Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the best sights and things to do during your one day in Honolulu.

Start your day nice and easy

You’re here on vacation, so take things nice and slowly and go grab a cup of coffee first and soak in the city’s vibe. One of the best places to do that is Arvo Cafe, a great little coffee shop where you can get some great cups of Joe and some nice T-shirts as a souvenir. Right next door is Moku Kitchen, a great place to grab brunch since they open at 11 AM.

Go hiking

Yes, hiking! Once you’re all done with your morning ritual, head to Manoa Falls Trail, a gorgeous trail surrounded by lush greenery that ends with a fantastic waterfall. You can reach it in about 15 minutes by car, the views are fantastic, and the hike is really not too demanding, so this is easily one of the best things to do in Honolulu if you want to enjoy nature. It can get muddy, though, so maybe don’t wear your best shoes.

Manoa Falls Trail, Honolulu
Manoa Falls Trail, Honolulu, Author: Daniel Ramirez, Source: Flickr

Hit the beach

Obviously, no day in Honolulu is complete without going to the beach. So what to do if you want to just jump in? There are a few great beaches right in the city centre, like the famous Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Beach.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Author: Daniel X. O’Neil, Source: Flickr

Ala Moana is closer to the coffee shop mentioned above, but Waikiki has a great surfing school you can visit and get a crash course in what is pretty much a national pastime around here. If you don’t want to stick to the city centre, Lanikai Beach is extremely beautiful, but you’ll need a car to reach it.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Author: Bernard Spragg NZ, Source: Flickr

Have lunch and do some shopping

International Market Place is where you want to go for lunch, especially if you want to shop, too. This outdoor shopping mall is in Waikiki, so a big advantage is that it’s close to the beach.

International Market Place, Honolulu
International Market Place, Honolulu, Author: Tony Webster, Source: Flickr

Shops abound, plus there are plenty of good choices when it comes to eating – from sushi and seafood to pizzas and good old burgers. Mexican, Japanese, American and Italian cuisines are all represented, so you’re bound to find something tasty.

International Market Place, Honolulu
International Market Place, Honolulu, Author: Tony Webster, Source: Flickr

Visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre

Your one day in Honolulu doesn’t have to be restricted just to the city. Head to the northern side of Oahu and find the Polynesian Cultural Centre. It may take about an hour to get there, but it’s well worth it. This excellent theme park will teach you a whole lot about Polynesian cultures, namely Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa, Fiji and, of course, Hawaii. Loads of fun, since there are plenty of things to do and activities you can participate in. Be warned, it’s easy to spend a whole day here!

Polynesian Cultural Center, Honolulu
Polynesian Cultural Center, Honolulu, Author: Daniel Ramirez, Source: Flickr

Enjoy more beaches

After you finish with the cultural centre, hit the beach once again. Northern part of Oahu has some truly spectacular places to visit, including Sunset Beach, Keiki Beach and Waimea Bay. Many consider these to be the very best beaches on the island, so don’t miss your chance to see them. If you have a car with you, you can head about 20km west for some skydiving at Skydive Hawaii’s centre.

Waimea Bay, Honolulu
Waimea Bay, Honolulu, Author: Andrew K. Smith, Source: Flickr

End your day with a dinner cruise

If you have followed this itinerary, your one day in Honolulu has certainly been an active one, which means it’s time to just chill out an enjoy at the end. The best way to do that is to book a dinner cruise and sail into the sunset, maybe with a nice cocktail in hand. You will be able to soak in the beauty of this place to the fullest, and it really seems like the best thing to do to end a wonderful day, especially if you’re here with your significant other.

What to do in Honolulu at night?

On the other hand, if you still have some energy, it’s time to party! You don’t have to worry about what to do in Honolulu at night because the city has quite a lot to offer, as you would expect from a destination like this. Bar 35 is a great place, for example, especially for those of you who want to be sure they have always some interesting beers nearby. Duke’s Waikiki has a great Barefoot Bar which will offer you exactly the experience you want from Hawaii – evenings near the ocean and on a sandy beach. Finally, Mai Tai is a great place to just take it easy and sip a nice cocktail or two.

Honolulu at night
Honolulu at night, Author: Jason Jacobs, Source: Flickr

Where to stay in Honolulu?

Aston Waikiki Beach Tower, Honolulu

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel

2570 Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI 96815

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is, as the name suggest, right near the Waikiki Beach. However, this is a five-star condo hotel located in one of those huge skyscrapers near the beach. Therefore, no matter in which condo you stay, you will have an incredible view of the Pacific. Fully equipped kitchens and ironing facilities are just the tip of the iceberg of features you get, and the hotel even has an outdoor and a children’s pool. Perfect!

BOOK A ROOM HERE

Lotus Honolulu Hotel

Lotus Honolulu Hotel

2885 Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI 96815

Luxury and fantastic surroundings, that’s what you get at Lotus Honolulu Hotel. It is within a short walking distance from Sans Souci Beach, and with the Diamond Head volcano looming behind it, the setting is absolutely mesmerizing. The rooms are huge, with big terraces, and the hotel even serves wine from 5.30 to 6.30 PM every day. You’re going to love it here!

BOOK A ROOM HERE

Hampton Inn & Suites Oahu Kapolei, Honolulu

Hampton Inn & Suites Oahu/Kapolei

91-5431 Kapolei Parkway, Suite 900, Kapolei, HI 96707

If, however, you want great value for your money on your trip to Honolulu, book a room in Hampton Inn & Suites Oahu/Kapolei. The design is great, the rooms are well equipped and there is also a pool in the hotel. To top everything off, they serve excellent complimentary breakfast here! You will also be close to Pearl Harbour, and considering all of this, you really can’t get a much better deal.

BOOK A ROOM HERE

Hostelling International Honolulu

Hostelling International Honolulu

2323A Seaview Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96822

Hostelling International Honolulu is most probably the best hostel in the city. From there, you can reach Prince Kuhio Beach in under 10 minutes by car and the airport is also quite close. You will get towels when you check in, and all dormitories have an equipped kitchen. That being said, keep in mind that the dormitories are male- or female-only. The staff is excellent and will also contribute a lot to your pleasant stay.

BOOK A ROOM HERE

Day trips from Honolulu

There are plenty of day trips from Honolulu you can make, so don’t just limit yourself to the city if you’re spending more than one day here. Don’t know where to go? Here are a few great suggestions!

Big Island

Attention nature lovers! Hawaii’s big island is an incredibly diverse place with loads of fascinating things to see and places to visit, so you really mustn’t miss this tour. Beaches of black sand surrounded by palm trees will make you feel you’re in paradise, and there is also a chance you see sea turtles enjoying the sun. Apart from that, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also a must, plus there are plenty of fascinating waterfalls, too.

Pearl Harbour

WW2 fanatics will surely want to see this, but other visitors shouldn’t miss it, either. It’s one of the best things to see when in Honolulu. You can visit USS Arizona Memorial and pay homage to the biggest disaster of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Furthermore, there are two interesting museums you can visit and actual footage of the attack you can see. While this is usually not a full day trip, it is nevertheless very much worth it.

Paradise Cove

Probably the most famous luau around, Paradise Cove Luau is not so much a day trip from Honolulu as an evening trip. Hula dancers, great food, loads of games and contests, the Shower of Flowers, an incredible sunset… all that and more awaits you here. This is just good clean fun all the way, so if you’re looking for a way to party like a local, just book this. You’ll love it!

Oahu

Why not just explore Oahu, the island on which Honolulu is located? There are so many things to see around there that it will make for an excellent day trip. You can visit the Byodo-In Temple, a beautiful edifice built fully in Japanese style, check out pineapple plantations and taste their fresh an delicious products, climb the Diamond Head volcano… and that’s just the beginning!

Extra tips for visiting Honolulu

  • Souvenirs at the airport and hotels are much more expensive than those in town. Buy a souvenir as you’re exploring the city or maybe at one of the places you will visit.
  • Renting a car is a good idea to get around. Sure, there’s Uber and Lyft you can take, but if you’re out for exploring as much as possible, renting car is the solution because there really are so many places to see and visit in Honolulu.
  • Be careful with the fees. The so-called nightly resort fees, as well as parking fees are often not included in the hotel price and you will have to pay them when checking out.
  • Wind can get sand into your gadgets like cameras and phones. Protect them with something like a ziplock bag.

If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Honolulu Itinerary, feel free to share it in the comments below!

Logistical Tips and Tricks

Organize your trip in five easy steps!

BOOK A FLIGHT!

Obviously, if you’re going on a trip somewhere far a way, you’ll need to book a flight. There is absolutely no need to worry about this, though, because with Skyscanner, you will be able to find a cheap flight anywhere in the world. And their website is extremely easy to use, so you will have your seat on a plane in no time at all!

BOOK A ROOM!

To easily find the best possible room in the city you’re visiting, just head to Booking.com. They have quite literally thousands of options, a reliable rating system and will always get you a great deal. On top of that, you can learn a lot from the comments people leave there, too. No matter if you’re looking for an apartment or an elite hotel, you’ll find what you need here.

GET A CAR!

If you want the ultimate sense of freedom while on your trip, a car is a must. Fortunately, there is a simple way to get one – just visit Booking’s Rentalcars and they’ll have your vehicle ready in a jiffy. Now you’ll be able to explore the new city thoroughly and, who knows, maybe even make a trip outside it.

INSURE YOURSELF FOR PEACE OF MIND!

Accidents, mishaps and other troubles happen to everyone. The key is to be prepared. That’s why getting a travel insurance is such a great idea: it can help you deal with any health issues, theft and even cancelled flights. World Nomads know full well about the problems that can arise on a trip because they are passionate travelers themselves. That’s why they can offer you the very best deals.

FIND SOMEONE TO HELP YOU GET AROUND!

Want to have some company as soon as you land? Through Welcomepickups.com, you can find a local to meet you at the airport and help you find your way around the new city. They can also set things up for you, give you some useful tips and be helpful in general. The whole project is a great idea and very well executed, so do go and see how these people can make your trip a more pleasant one.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED

Here are some of the top travel items you must bring to your next trip. These items will make your trip a lot more relaxing and you’ll surely get rid of some extra hassle.

Make sure to travel light, safe and stylish following our travel item guide for 2019.

Anca One Day Itinerary

Anca B.

Travel writer at

Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).

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