Chill out: the best things to do in Honolulu

Surf’s up, sun’s out – Honolulu is a blissful buffet of breezy good times.

Surfboards in the rack at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • Jetstar
  • February 2022

The second you land in Honolulu, you can feel your cares melt away. The beaches are broad and golden, the waters are bright turquoise and the pace of life is set to low stress. But there’s so much more to this laidback Hawaiian surf city than Mai Tais and beachside luaus. There’s lush landscape to explore, a vibrant art and dining scene, knock-out shopping and cultural, architectural riches.

Hike up Diamond Head

The hike to the summit of Diamond Head, a 232-metre-high 'tuff cone' (a massive ring of hardened volcanic ash), is incredibly popular for its unforgettable ocean views. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the peak, along a paved path with some stairs and rest benches along the way. And while it’s not a long hike, it is steep, so wear sensible shoes and plenty of sunscreen, and keep well hydrated. For added fun, catch the Waikiki Trolley to Diamond Head to start the trail.

Aerial view of circular volcanic ring at Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hawaii.
A hike to the top of Diamond Head gives you unforgettable views.

Learn to surf at Waikiki

Waikiki Beach is the iconic Hawaiian beach experience in a nutshell. The two kilometres of Waikiki Beach is collectively made up of seven smaller beaches, so choose the one that suits you and your crew best. Kahanamoku Beach in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a very calm and family-friendly beach, as is Kuhio Beach. Sans Souci Beach is best for snorkelling, and if you’re looking for surf lessons, Royal Hawaiian Beach (in front of that famed pink palace) offers a whole host of them.

Back view of two people in bathers, carrying surfboards and looking at the water at Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head in the background, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Waikiki Beach offers surf lessons for people of all levels.

Go shopping at Ala Moana Shopping Center

Honolulu is a shopper’s paradise. Wander down towards the beaches and you’ll pass all manner of stores, especially along Kalakaua Avenue. But for a concentrated hit of retail therapy, catch the shuttle bus to the epic, open air Ala Moana Shopping Center. Home to almost 300 shops, you’ll want to set aside a day. Oh, and if you’re looking to kit yourself out in a signature Hawaiian shirt, head to Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts. Be warned – they stock thousands!

Close-up of a tightly packed rack of colourful Hawaiian shirts on hangers.
If you don’t come home wearing one of these, did you even go to Hawaii?

Scout Honolulu’s food scene

With its blend of bright, tropical produce and old-school Hawaiian comfort food, you’re bound to discover your new favourite dish here in Honolulu. Explore the farmers markets or book a food tour and get straight to the culinary hideaways. Signature dishes to try include Shave Ice – airily shaved, fluffy ice drenched in zingy syrup – and Loco Moco, which is rice topped with a meat patty, fried egg and gravy. Obviously, a poke bowl is a must. For baked delights, try the pork-filled manapuas or the pudding-filled coco puffs from Liliha Bakery.

A person holds a green plastic bowl of Shave Ice, drenched in strawberry and mango puree, at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Shave Ice is a signature dish, often taken to artisanal levels.

Explore the Honolulu Museum of Art

The beautiful, airy Honolulu Museum of Art is Hawaii’s largest fine arts museum. It showcases Hawaiian art as well as hosting international exhibits and offering visitors art classes and workshops. The Museum is also the only way you can visit Shangri La, a phenomenal museum of Islamic art and design. It was initially built in 1937 as the home of philanthropist Doris Duke, who took inspiration from her extensive travels. It’s a sprawling mansion of rich tiles and artworks, sitting right on the water’s edge. Don’t miss it.

The entrance to the Honolulu Museum of Art, with lawn and statues. Image credit: Jeff Whyte –
The Museum and Shangri La offer a unique, art-filled experience. Image credit: Jeff Whyte –