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Make the Most of Your Honolulu Vacation

It's hard to imagine a U.S. city that offers more delights than Hawaii's beautiful state capital, Honolulu. The weather -- perfect. Even the rain is gentle, and it usually ends with a rainbow. The beaches -- world class. Surfing was invented and perfected right here in Waikiki. The locals -- welcoming. You'll be greeted with a lei as soon as you step off your plane.

Needless to say, no matter how much time you plan to spend in Honolulu, it won't feel like enough. Here's an overview of a few of Honolulu's don't-miss attractions:

Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium was founded in 1904, making it the second oldest U.S. aquarium. Located at the foot of Diamond Head on the shores of Waikiki, the aquarium is part of the University of Hawaii system and houses more than 2000 living organisms representing 420 different species of tropical Pacific aquatic life.

Specializing in the propagation of live coral, the aquarium maintains a living coral farm and leads the world in coral conservation. Their coral reef exhibit allows visitors to get up close and personal with sea jellies, reef sharks, Hawaiian monk seals, octopi, and other residents of the living coral reef.

Located on the Diamond Head side of beautiful Queen Kapiolani Park, the Waikiki Aquarium is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Manoa Falls Trail

Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls Trail                                                                                      Photo: Daniel Ramirez


If walking the Manoa Falls Trail reminds you of a Jurassic Park movie, there's a reason: this was the location for some of Jurassic Park III. This is a tropical rainforest, located just a few miles outside Honolulu proper and easily accessible by car or city bus. Better yet, the trail is a pretty gentle 1.5 mile hike up the mountain and back -- just three-quarters of a mile each way.

Even on dry days, the rainforest is humid and frequently rainy, providing you with a sometimes muddy trail and lush surroundings of giant fern, bamboo, wild ginger, and guava. In about 45 minutes you'll reach your destination -- the Manoa Falls. This waterfall cascades down nearly 150 feet into a small mountain pool, although the amount of water in the fall varies from an explosion to a trickle, depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall.

Check ahead to find out what the weather's been like, and be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and insect repellent. The trail is open every day from dawn until dusk.

Kahala Beach

Kahala Beach

Kahala Beach                                                                                                  Photo: Alan Light


If you're looking to avoid the crowds while enjoying one of Honolulu's lovely beaches, try Kahala Beach. Just a short 5-minute drive from Waikiki, Kahala Beach is secluded and uncrowded, especially during the week. The water here is crystal-clear, shallow, and dotted with coral, making it a gorgeous place to relax and get some sun.

Walk east from Kahala Beach to visit the picnic areas -- and public rest rooms -- at Waialae Beach Park. Further down the coast you'll come to the Kahala Resort Beach and its dolphin lagoon.

'Iolani Palace

'Iolani Palace

'Iolani Palace                                                                                                   Photo: Kate Ure


The only royal palace in the United States, 'Iolani Palace was built in 1892 and was the home of America's last and only ruling queen, Queen Liliʻuokalani of Hawaii. The palace itself is fascinating -- full of valuable antiquities, furnished in tropical hardwoods, and decked out with the most modern innovations of the time.

But even more remarkable is the story of political intrigue and tragedy that the palace represents. The Queen's efforts to keep Hawaii separate and independent from the United States caused the U.S. government to arrest her and sentence her to five years of imprisonment, which the humiliated and powerless Queen completed within the walls of this palace. One hundred years later, in 1993, the U.S. government issued an official apology to the Hawaiian people for its violent annexation of the state of Hawaii.

Located in downtown Honolulu, the palace is now a museum and open to visitors Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Waikiki Beach Walk

Waikiki Beach

Evening Walk at Waikiki Beach                                                                           Photo: paul bica 


With almost eight acres of unique shopping, spirited entertainment, and tropical green space, Waikiki's Lewers Street scene has been completely transformed into something new, energetic, and exciting. On the Waikiki Beach Walk you'll find an outdoor plaza with regular live entertainment, a selection of local foods from casual to fine dining, and some of the best shopping in Honolulu.

From big time surf to romantic private beaches, lush rainforests to world-class shopping, Honolulu has it all. Take the time to savor it all -- and enjoy your stay in the capital of the Aloha State!