Everyone knows Waikiki, but if you had to name another neighbourhood in Honolulu, would you be able to do it? Probably not. Which is a shame, because Honolulu is a diverse, exciting city with so much more to offer than just fruity cocktails and floral leis. So next time you find yourself on Hawaii’s most popular island, and you’re wondering where to go in Honolulu, just remember this handy guide and you’ll score yourself an instant itinerary.
When you think of Honolulu, you automatically think of Waikiki; this palm-fringed hub is what Hawaiian holiday dreams are made of. And while many are quick to say Waikiki is nothing more than a vapid, tourist-filled neighbourhood, we disagree. Waikiki beach is one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. Perfect turquoise waves crash upon powder-soft white sand, and if you jump aboard one of Waikiki’s many sunset cruises, the vista from the water is even more breathtaking. A row of five-star resorts, such as the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian, sit right on the Waikiki shore, and bars such as Duke’s become standing room only as people flock to enjoy a cheeky Lava Flow while the sun puts on a spectacular show. Meanwhile, luxury brands mingle with chain stores on Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki’s main shopping strip. If that’s not enough to convince you to visit, we’re not sure what is.
Want to know where the cool kids of Honolulu hang? Drum roll… Chinatown! Chinatown has shed its slightly sleazy past (it was once a gambling den with a thriving red light district) to become the place to eat, drink and be seen in Honolulu. Wander around the 15 blocks, where 100-year-old buildings still stand, and you’ll discover a mix of boutique stores, tattoo parlours, Chinese grocers and art galleries – Chinatown is the centre of Honolulu’s arts precinct. But it’s the dining scene that makes Chinatown so intoxicating. Asian fusion restaurants serving a drool-inducing blend of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Korean fare have hungry patrons queuing to enter certain establishments, one of them being The Pig and the Lady, which plates up the best pho this side of Hoi An.
Giving Chinatown a run for its money in the cool department is the industrial area of Kaka’ako. This up-and-coming neighbourhood is wedged between Waikiki, the shopping zone of Ala Moana and Downtown Honolulu, and has emerged as a major entertainment sector, hosting raucous rave and EDM parties in local warehouses and outdoor music gigs on the grassy amphitheatre at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. It’s also the stomping ground of a group of street artists called POW! WOW! who create vibrant, Hawaiian-inspired murals on the walls of buildings and alleyways. Their annual festival sees hundreds of creatives descend upon Kaka’ako to showcase their artistic talents. And the events don’t stop there; the Honolulu Night Market and Eat the Street (a monthly gathering of food trucks) are just two more tasty reasons to check out Kaka’ako and see what all the hype is about.
Where LA has Beverley Hills and New York has the Upper East Side, Honolulu has Kahala – the wealthiest neighbourhood on the island of Oahu. Home to the most expensive real estate in Hawaii, a cruise along the coastal road of Kahala Avenue reveals a jaw-dropping array of multi-million-dollar properties, all with exclusive access to Kahala’s stunning beaches. Located 15 minutes from Waikiki, Kahala resides in the shadow of the Diamond Head Crater, and is an elite part of the island accustomed to the odd celebrity guest (Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama are just a few of Kahala’s A-list visitors). But that’s not to say Kahala isn’t a welcoming spot to explore for regular travellers – the famous KCC Farmers’ Market is based here, and the Kahala Mall offers a sophisticated shopping experience.
Somewhere that probably doesn’t score a mention in many Honolulu travel guides is the neighbourhood of Kapahulu. Now a mostly residential area, Kapahulu actually used to be the main tourist point in Honolulu, before the resorts, shops and bars popped up in Waikiki. So it’s thanks to a steady stream of top-notch restaurants and eateries popping up that Kapahulu is slowly making its way back onto the radar of Honolulu visitors. From sushi to burgers, ramen to steaks, there’s not much you can’t order in Kapahulu, but it’s the traditional Hawaiian delicacies – dishes like kalua pork, ahi poke or shrimp plates – that stand out as being some of the most delicious food in Honolulu. And don’t leave without a pitstop at Leonard’s Bakery; it may not be Hawaiian, but the malasadas (Portuguese-style doughnuts) are legendary. Just one word of advice: visit on an empty stomach.
Find, search and book flights to Honolulu with Webjet and be on your way to discovering these incredible the treasures of these neighbourhoods today. Or to have your flights and accommodation taken care of in the one go, book one of Webjet’s great-value Hawaii holiday packages.