You can't claim to have really gotten to know Oʻahu if you never even leave Waikiki. Venture downtown not just for its unmatched collection of historical sites, museums and gardens, but also to eat your way through the island's intoxicating blend of ethnic cultures, from the pan-Asian alleyways of Chinatown where 19th-century whalers once brawled, to hole-in-the-wall diners where local kids slurp saimin (local-style noodle soup), to bistros dishing up the freshest bounty from land and sea.
Then escape the concrete jungle for a hike up into the lush valleys nestled beneath the jagged Koʻolau Mountains, especially in the forest reserves around Mt Tantalus, traditionally called Puʻu ʻOhiʻa. At sunset, cool off with a breezy walk along Honolulu's historic harbour front or splash into the Pacific at Ala Moana Beach Park, a rare beauty in the middle of the city. After dark, migrate over to Chinatown's edgy nightlife scene. You won't even miss Waikiki, we promise.
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Honolulu Academy of Arts
Displays must-see collections of Asian, European and Pacific art. Phone to make reservations for tours ($25) of Doris Duke's former mansion Shangri La, a trove of Islamic art.
Kaka'ako Waterfront Park
South of downtown Honolulu and just off Ala Moana Blvd at the end of Cooke St, little Kaka'ako Waterfront Park is protected from much of the city noise by a small grassy rise. Roller bladers cruise along the rock-fringed promenade, which offers clear views of Diamond Head, Waikiki and Honolulu Harbor. The 28-acre park attracts experienced surfers in the morning and picnickers in the afternoon.
The 2-mile stretch of white sand commonly referred to as Waikiki Beach runs from Hilton Hawaiian Village in the west to Kapi'olani Park in the east. Along the way, the beach changes names and personalities. In the early morning, the surprisingly quiet beach belongs to walkers and joggers. Strolling down the beach toward Diamond Head at dawn can actually be a meditative experience.
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