Honululu – Hawaii

At a Glance


First off, Honolulu is a dense metropolis with skyscrapers and traffic jams, but it is one of the most laid-back urban centres claiming American citizenship. Then there are the sandy beaches, waving palms and balmy weather of Waikiki. A great mix of sunbathing and culture hopping is available in this tropical city best enjoyed with a multiethnic plate lunch.

It might be part of the USA, but tropical Honolulu is more laid-back than any mainland capital. With its blend of sunny charm and legislative gravitas, the downtown area is surprisingly fascinating to explore – make the effort to drag yourself away from the Gidget-and-mai-tai scene of Waikiki.


When To Go

Honolulu is a great place to visit any time of year. Although Hawaii's busiest tourist season is during winter (December to February), this has more to do with the weather elsewhere, since many visitors are snowbirds escaping cold winters back home. Average temperatures differ very little from winter to summer. June through October is the hottest period, while rainfall is heaviest between December and March – neither extreme is worth worrying over. Daily temperatures in Honolulu average a high of 84°F (29°C) and a low of 70°F (22°C). Hotel prices are lowest between April and mid-December.

If you're a surfer, you won't want to miss the Christmas-time action around O'ahu's North Shore, but if windsurfing or diving is more your thing, you'll find the waters at their calmest at the height of summer (July and August).



Fast Facts


Full Name

25 sq km
10 sq miles


-10 (Hawaiian Time)

Daylight Saving Start
not in use

Daylight Saving End
not in use

English (other)

US dollar ($) (US$)

110V 60Hz

Electric Plug Details
American-style plug with two parallel flat blades above a circular grounding pin

Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades



Hawaii's State Capital building, in Honolulu, was completed in March 1969. It features two legislative chambers shaped like volcano cones, and is surrounded by columns built to look like palm tree trunks.


Background Information


Honolulu is a harbour city at the southern end of O'ahu, the most visited island of the Hawaiian archipelago. Downtown Honolulu contains all O'ahu's state and federal government buildings, including the state capitol and 'Iolani Palace, once home to Hawaii's last few monarchs and still the only royal palace in the USA. Chinatown is a few blocks northwest of the palace; the Aloha Tower and cruise ship terminals are a few blocks west. Southeast of downtown, Waikiki is the epicentre of all things touristy: all the big resorts are found here. Just southeast of Waikiki stands the 760ft (230m) Diamond Head crater. All of these sites are within the boundaries of greater Honolulu.

H-1, the main south shore freeway, passes east-west through Honolulu, connecting it to the airport and all other freeways on the island. Interestingly enough, it's a US interstate freeway – no small achievement for an island in the middle of the Pacific.

Honolulu International (HNL) is a 15km (9mi), 25 minute drive northwest of downtown via Ala Moana Blvd/Hwy 92 (Nimitz Hwy) or the H-1. The Ala Moana Center, a bustling open-air shopping mall, on Ala Moana Blvd just northwest of Waikiki, is the central transfer point for TheBus, the island's public bus network.

Time Zone

GMT/UTC -10 (Hawaiian Time)

Daylight Saving

Start: not in use

End: not in use

Weights Measures System


Visas Overview

Canadians need proof of Canadian citizenship or a passport to enter the USA. All other visitors must have a valid passport, which should be valid for at least six months longer than their intended stay in the USA.

Travellers from countries such as Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom can enter the USA for up to 90 days under a visa-waiver program if they have a round-trip ticket that is nonrefundable in the US, and have a passport valid for at least six months past their scheduled departure date. All other travellers will need a visitor's visa. Visas can be obtained at most US consulate offices overseas; however, it is generally easier to obtain a visa from an office in one's home country.

The USA is regularly adjusting entry requirements in an effort to reduce the threat of terrorism. It is imperative that travellers double- and triple-check current regulations before coming to the USA, as changes will occur for several years. A procedure introduced in 2004 requires most visitors travelling on visas to the United States to have two fingerprints scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken by immigration officials upon entry at US air and seaports.

Under new regulations to be phased in toward the end of 2005, travellers from VWP-eligible countries will need to present a biometric passport or US visa to enter the country. You don't need a visa if: your passport was issued before October 26, 2005, but is 'machine readable'; if it was issued on or after October 26, 2005, and includes a digital photo as well as being machine readable; or if it was issued on or after October 26, 2006, and contains a digital photo and 'biometric data,' such as digital iris scans and fingerprints. Further details and information on the changes to the visa system can be found at www.travel.state.gov/visa.

Customs Overview

All incoming travellers must fill out customs declarations. Travellers must specifically disclose all agricultural products and all cash and cash equivalents worth US$10,000 or more.

Duty Free

Overseas visitors may bring in up to US$100 in goods or gifts duty free, together with 100 cigars, 200 cigarettes and a litre of alcoholic beverages. As of this writing, Cuban tobacco products are still prohibited in the USA.

Government Leaders

Mufi Hannemann – Mayor (city leader)

Doing Business Overview

It's little wonder that tourism is one of the main planks on which Hawaii's wealth is based. Its dominance and the limited availability of land means that property development and speculation are big business – there are more realtors per capita in Hawaii than most places. As a result, despite the laidback, party reputation the locals enjoy, the business climate here is best described as polished, aggressive and sophisticated.

In classic North American style, Honolulu's business area is downtown, where O'ahu's state and federal government buildings are also located.

Health Overview

Sunstroke, dehydration, leptospirosis (freshwater bacterial disease) and ciguatera poisoning (due to eating ciguatoxin-affected fish).

Dangers & Annoyances

Honolulu is a relatively safe destination for travellers, and locals go out of their way to ensure it stays that way. Overall, violent crime is lower in Hawaii than in most mainland US cities. Visitors have been known to be stung by scams involving fake activity-operator booths and timeshare booths. Salespeople at the latter will offer you all sorts of deals, from free luaus to sunset cruises, if you'll just come to hear their 'no obligation' pitch.

Rip-offs from parked rental cars are another common annoyance. It can happen within seconds, whether from a secluded parking area at a trailhead or from a crowded parking lot. Best not to leave anything valuable in your car at any time. Many locals leave their car doors unlocked all the time to avoid paying for broken windows.

Weather Overview

Honolulu's annual temperature graph resembles a ripple in a peaceful sea. Temperatures rarely fall beneath 19°C (67°F) and generally stay in the high 20s to high 30s (high 60s to high 80s) range – perfect sarong weather. Winters may be balmy, but they can get pretty wet.

Telephone Overview

Always dial '1' before toll-free and domestic long-distance numbers. Some toll-free numbers may only work within the state or from the US mainland, for instance, while others may work from Canada, too. But you'll only know if it works by making the call.

Pay phones are less prolific than the pre-cell phone days but you can still find public phones in shopping centres and other public places. Calls made from one point on an island to other point on that island are considered local and cost 0.50 or higher in some cases where the phone requires a pre-paid card.. Calls from one island to another are always long distance and more expensive. Hotels often add a hefty service charge of 1.00 for calls made from a room phone.

Private prepaid phone cards are available from convenience stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. Cards sold by major telecommunications companies such as AT&T may offer better deals than upstart companies.

Mobile Phone Overview

The USA uses a variety of mobile-phone systems, 99% of which are incompatible with the GSM 900/1800 standard used throughout Europe and Asia. Check with your cellular service provider before departure about using your phone in Hawaii. Verizon has the most extensive cellular network on the islands, but AT&T, Cingular and Sprint also have decent coverage.

Media Overview

Honolulu is well-endowed with media outlets. On top of the many radio stations available on AM and FM, there are all the major US TV networks, as well as cable channels offering tourist information and Japanese-language programs, among others. As for print media, there are a number of local publications to complement the mainland US newspapers, which are readily available.


Wall Street Journal (newspaper)

The Wall Street Journal, published weekdays, is required reading for financial types.

New York Times (newspaper)

Still the nation's premier newspaper, with more foreign bureaus and reporters than any other publication in the world. Its Weekend section is an invaluable guide to cultural events.

Los Angeles Times (newspaper)

One of the largest daily newspapers in the US, its daily circulation is 1.15 million. The Sunday edition includes an expanded calendar section, an excellent source for finding out about cultural events.

Washington Post (newspaper)

The Washington Post is one of the nation's best all-around newspapers. Its Friday 'Weekend' section is particularly useful for events listings.

Honolulu Advertiser (newspaper)

The Advertiser serves the entire state, with national and world news sections.


Honolulu Star-Bulletin (newspaper)

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin is another daily paper with a strong local focus.


Honolulu News (magazine)

The News is a monthly that focuses on features with a primarily local readership in mind.


Honolulu Weekly (newspaper)

Aimed at a younger readership, the Weekly's features tend to be more incisive and it boasts a good wrap-up of entertainment options in the city.


Radio Stations

KTUH – 90.3FM

Obscure or innovative? Whatever your take, younger listeners can get their college music fix on KTUH.

KHPR – 88.1FM

Get your fix of 'A Prairie Home Companion', 'Morning Edition' and 'All Things Considered' at KHPR, one of Honolulu's two NPR affiliates.

KIPO – 89.3FM

Honolulu's second NPR affiliate carries 'Talk of the Nation', 'The World' and 'Car Talk'.

KCCN – 100FM

KCCN's playlist of classic pop and Pacific hits – a sure way to get into the local vibe.


Caucasian, Japanese, part-Hawaiian (less than 1% pure Hawaiian), many Pacific and Asian minorities.

Female Travellers

Honolulu is generally a fairly safe place. Common sense will be enough to keep solo female travellers out of trouble.

The Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children has a Sex Abuse Treatment Center at 55 Merchant Street. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline (tel: 524 7273).

Pre 20th Century History

Around the time the first Europeans laid eyes on the archipelago, the Hawaiian Islands were under the control of a handful of chiefs who were fighting for dominance of the island chain. One of the main contenders was Kamehameha the Great, chief of the island of Hawaii. In 1795, Kamehameha swept through Maui and Molokai, conquering those islands before crossing the channel to O'ahu. On the quiet beaches of Waikiki, he landed his fleet of canoes and marched to meet the king of O'ahu. Under Kamehameha's command, a handful of Western sharpshooters picked off the O'ahuan generals and blasted into their ridgetop defenses. Kamehameha's taking of O'ahu marked Hawaii's emergence as a united kingdom.

As foreign ships found their way to Honolulu, the port became a focal point for merchant ships plying the seas between North America and Asia. In 1809, Kamehameha moved his royal court from Waikiki to the Honolulu Harbor area, which by then was a village of almost 1800 people. Intent on keeping an eye on all the trade that flowed in and out of the harbour, Kamehameha firmly established Honolulu as Hawaii's centre of commerce.

By 1820, whaling ships plying the Pacific had begun to pull into Honolulu for supplies, liquor and women. To meet their needs, taverns and brothels sprang up around the harbour. Much to the ire of the whalers, their arrival was soon followed by that of Christian missionaries, who befriended Hawaiian royalty and made swift inroads. After Queen Kaahumanu became seriously ill, Sybil Bingham, one of the chief missionaries' wife, nursed the queen back to health. Kaahumanu showed her gratitude by passing a law forbidding work and travel on the Sabbath.

In time, the missionaries gained enough influence with Hawaiian royalty to have more effective laws enacted against drunkenness and prostitution. By the peak whaling years of the mid-1800s, most whaling boats had abandoned Honolulu, preferring to land in Lahaina on Maui, where life was not so wholesome. Back in missionary hands, downtown Honolulu soon became the headquarters for the emerging corporations that eventually gained control of Hawaii's commerce. It's no coincidence that their lists of corporate board members – Alexander, Baldwin, Cooke and Dole – read like a roster from the first mission ships.

In 1845, the last son of Kamehameha the Great, Kamehameha III, moved the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from Maui to Honolulu. Here, Kamehameha III established Hawaii's first national legislature, provided for a Supreme Court and passed the Great Mahele land act, which established religious freedom and gave all male citizens the right to vote. In an 1853 census, Honolulu registered 11,450 residents, a full 15% of the Hawaiian kingdom's population.

In the decades that followed, Honolulu began to take on a modern appearance as the monarchy erected a number of stately buildings in the city centre, including St Andrew's Cathedral, 'Iolani Palace and the Supreme Court building Aliiolani Hale. By the mid-19th century, Honolulu had a prominent foreign community comprised largely of American and British expatriates. As the city continued to grow, Westerners increasingly wrested control over island affairs from the Hawaiians.

King David Kalakaua, who reigned from 1874 to 1891, was Hawaii's last king. A great Hawaiian revivalist, he brought back the hula, reversing decades of missionary repression against the 'heathen dance', and composed the national anthem, Hawaii Ponoi, which is now the state song. To many influential whites, however, the king was perceived as a lavish spender, too fond of partying and throwing public luaus. As Kalakaua incurred debts, he became increasingly unpopular with the sugar barons whose businesses were now the backbone of the economy. They formed the Hawaiian League in 1887 and developed their own armies which stood ready to overthrow the kingdom.

In January 1893, Kalakaua's sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, was preparing to proclaim a new constitution strengthening the throne when a group of armed US businessmen occupied the Supreme Court and declared the monarchy overthrown. They announced a provisional government, led by Sanford Dole, son of a pioneer missionary, and immediately appealed to Washington for annexation, while the queen appealed to the same powers to restore the monarchy. Democrat president Grover Cleveland ordered that the US flag be taken down and the queen restored to her throne. However, the provisional government turned a deaf ear, declaring that Cleveland was meddling in 'Hawaiian' affairs.

Modern History

The Spanish-American War of 1898 and the acquisition of the Philippines marked the arrival of American expansionism in the Pacific. In short order, the annexation of Hawaii was adopted by the US Congress and, in 1900, US President McKinley appointed Sanford Dole the first governor of the Territory of Hawaii. Soon after annexation, the US Navy set up a huge Pacific headquarters at Pearl Harbor and in central O'ahu built Schofield Barracks, the largest US military base anywhere. The military quickly became the leading sector of O'ahu's economy.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that sank or seriously damaged 21 ships, killed more than 2300 people and catapulted the USA into the war. After the smoke cleared, Hawaii was placed under martial law and O'ahu took on the face of a military camp. Already heavily militarised, vast tracts of O'ahu's land were turned over to the US armed forces for expanded military bases, training and weapons testing. Much of that land has yet to be returned.

On August 21, 1959, after 61 years of territorial status and following a currently contested plebiscite in which 90% of islanders voted for statehood, Hawaii became the 50th state of the USA, with Honolulu as its capital.

Recent History

Today, Honolulu is home to people from throughout the Pacific – it has no ethnic majority. It's also the state's centre of business, culture and politics, in addition to being one of the world's prime tourist destinations.


Honolulu's downtown is hostile to cars, friendly to pedestrians – so consider walking or riding the bus rather than driving your way around its attractions, which include the grandeur of Hawaii's royal past and a clutch of worthwhile museums.

Bishop Museum

museum ; observatory/planetarium

1525 Bernice St

The Bishop Museum is considered to be the best Polynesian anthropological museum in the world. Its Hawaiian Hall has three floors of exhibits documenting the islands' cultural history and includes among its treasures a feather cloak made for Kamehameha I, the king who first united the Hawaiian islands.

Other halls brim with masks, weapons, musical instruments and artwork from Pacific cultures, as well as Asian and European items brought to the islands by traders.

The Bishop is also home to Hawaii's only planetarium, a natural history hall, and an area where craftspeople demonstrate traditional Hawaiian quilting, lauhala mat weaving and lei making.

Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm

Web: http://www.bishopmuseum.org

Contemporary Museum


2411 Makiki Heights Dr

Occupying an estate with 3.5 acres of tropical and meditative gardens, the Contemporary Museum is an engaging modern art museum, with views of Honolulu below. The main galleries feature changing exhibits of paintings, sculpture, and other contemporary artwork by local, national and international artists.

This estate house was constructed in 1925 for Mrs Charles Montague Cooke, whose other former home is the present site of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. A fervent patron of the arts and an influential newspaper heiress, she played a founding role in both museums. A newer building on the lawn holds the museum's most prized piece, a vivid environmental installation by David Hockney based on sets for L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, Ravel's 1925 opera. An excellent courtyard cafe serves lunch.

Hours: Tue-Sat 10:00am-4:00pm, Sun 12:00pm-4:00pm

Web: http://www.tcmhi.org

Diamond Head

views ; mountain


Diamond Head is a tuff cone – a hill composed of compacted volcanic ash – formed by a violent steam explosion deep beneath the island's surface long after most of O'ahu's volcanic activity had stopped. Its peak provides a majestic backdrop to the flair of Waikiki.

The Hawaiians called the hill Le'ahi, and at its summit they built a luakini heiau, a type of temple used for human sacrifices. But ever since 1825, when some British sailors noticed calcite crystals sparkling in the sun and quickly mistook themselves for rich men, the hill's been known as Diamond Head.

The best reason to visit Diamond Head is to hike the trail to the crater rim, where those who persevere are treated to a showstopping 360° panorama of the entire southeastern coast of O'ahu.

Hours: 6:00am-6:00pm

Foster Botanical Garden


180 N Vineyard Blvd

At the north side of Chinatown, this is O'ahu's main botanical garden. In 1850 German botanist William Hillebrand purchased five acres of land from Queen Kalama and planted the trees now towering in its centre. In 1867 Captain Thomas Foster bought the property, continuing to plant the grounds. In the 1930s the garden became the property of Honolulu.

This impressive tropical garden is laid out according to plant groups: palms, plumeria and poisonous plants. The economic garden has nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon, a vanilla vine and more. The herb garden was the site of the first Japanese-language school in Oahu where many Japanese immigrants sent their children to learn Japanese, hoping to maintain their cultural identity. During the bombing of Pearl Harbor a stray artillery shell exploded in a room full of students. A memorial marks the site.

Among the garden's many amazing plants is a tree so rare it has no common name – the East African Gigasiphon macrosiphon. With white flowers that open in the evening, it is thought to be extinct in the wild. Oddities include the cannonball tree, the sausage tree and the double coconut palm capable of producing a 22kg (50lb) nut.

Trees are labelled, and a free self-guided tour booklet is available.

Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm

Hawaii State Art Museum

art gallery ; museum

250 S Hotel St

Visitors to O'ahu have a new not-to-be-missed highlight: the Hawaii State Art Museum, which opened in November 2002, after years of work by artists, cultural organisations and the state government. Its remarkable displays showcase the work of artists who have lived in the islands since Hawaii became a state in 1959.

The museum is superb not just for its fine collection, but also its overall design. Works are displayed around themes that include island traditions, social issues, Hawaiian heritage and the beauty of the land and sea. Hawaii's confluence of Asian, Pacific and American cultures is evident throughout and the curators have done an excellent job of capturing the soul of the islands and the heart of the people.

Hours: Tue-Sat 10:00am-4:00pm

Web: http://www.hawaii.gov/sfca

Honolulu Academy of Arts

art gallery ; museum

900 S Beretania St

An exceptional museum with solid Asian, European and Pacific art collections, this is Hawaii's only comprehensive fine arts museum, housing nearly 40,000 pieces of artwork. The museum has a predominantly classical facade, with some 30 galleries branching off a series of garden courtyards.

The splendid Asian gallery is considered one of the finest Asian art collections in the USA. It gives almost equal weight to both Japanese and Chinese works, ranging from scenes of Kyoto, painted by Japanese master Kano Motohide, to the extensive Ming dynasty collection, which includes pivotal works by Shen Zhou.

A gallery of European art of the 19th and 20th centuries exhibits paintings by Matisse, Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin, van Gogh and Pissarro. The museum also contains works of 16th- to 18th-century European artists, and a number of Madonna-and-child oils from 14th-century Italy.

Pacific art collections include ceremonial carvings, war clubs and masks from Papua New Guinea, and Micronesian body ornaments and navigational stick charts. The museum owns some fine eclectic pieces, sculptures and figurines from India, and fertility figures and ceremonial carvings from Africa.

Hours: Tue-Sat 10:00am-4:30pm, Sun 1:00pm-5:00pm

Web: http://www.honoluluacademy.org

'Iolani Palace

castle ; royal

S King St & Richard St

There's simply no other place that evokes a more poignant sense of Hawaii's history than 'Iolani Palace, a place where royalty feasted, the haole (foriegn) business community made deals, and plots simmered. So much happened within the palace walls, amongst monarchs and by those who overthrew them, that you can almost sense the presence of their spirits.

The palace was the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani from 1882 to 1891, and of Queen Lili'uokalani for two years after that. Following the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893, the palace became the capitol – first for the republic, then for the territory and later for the state of Hawaii.

You can explore the palace independently with their audio tour or join one of the guided tours.

Hours: Tue-Sat 8:30am-3:30pm

Kuan Yin Temple


170 N Vineyard Blvd

Kuan Yin Temple is a bright red Buddhist temple with a green ceramic-tile roof. The ornate interior is richly carved and filled with the sweet, pervasive smell of burning incense. The temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, Goddess of Mercy, whose statue is the largest in the prayer hall.

Devotees burn paper 'money' for prosperity and good luck. Offerings of fresh flowers and fruit are placed at the altar. The large citrus fruit that is stacked pyramid-style is the pomelo, considered a symbol of fertility because of its many seeds.

Honolulu's multiethnic Buddhist community worships at the temple, and respectful visitors are welcome.

Shangri La

significant house

4055 Papu Circle

In 2002 the Honolulu Academy of Arts began conducting small group tours of Shangri La, the 1930s-era home of wealthy heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke, who transformed five acres of property overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head into a serene palace of graciousness and beauty.

Duke's palatial home incorporates architectural features from the Islamic world and houses Duke's extensive collection of Islamic art, ranging from glazed ceramic paintings to silk suzanis, intricate needlework tapestries that were part of young women's dowries. Throughout the estate, gardens and courtyards weave in and out of cool interiors and symmetrical fountains.

Advance reservations are required, and no children under 12 are admitted. Small-group tours begin at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and last around two hours, including transportation.

Hours: Wed-Sun

Web: http://www.shangrilahawaii.org

Waikiki Aquarium


2777 Kalakaua Ave

Located next to a living reef on the Waikiki shoreline, this modern university-managed aquarium dates from 1904, and includes an impressive shark gallery where visitors can watch circling reef and zebra sharks through a window 4m (14ft) wide.

This is an ideal place to identify colourful coral and fish that you might have seen while snorkelling or diving. Tanks recreate various Hawaiian reef habitats, including those of a sheltered reef, a deep reef and an ancient reef. You'll see rare Hawaiian fish with names such as the bearded armorhead and the sling-jawed wrasse, along with moray eels, giant gropers and flash-back cuttlefish wavering with pulses of light.

The aquarium's outdoor tank is home to a pair of rare Hawaiian monk seals.

Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm

Web: http://www.waikikiaquarium.org

Events Overview

Hawaiians love to shake a leg, and you can join in at a merry clutch of festivals. New Year's Eve is jump-started (literally) with explosive street parties and parades in Honolulu, as is Chinese New Year in late January or early February. The Japanese community shines throughout February with the Cherry Blossom Festival, then the Irish get their turn with a Waikiki St Patrick's Day parade on 17 March. One of Honolulu's quirkier festivals, the International Bed Race, sees some offbeat four-wheeling in late April. All Hawaiians get 'lei'd' on 1 May, Lei Day, and again on 11 June, King Kamehameha Day – the latter is a state holiday.

Honolulu has two hula festivals in June and July: the King Kamehameha Hula Competition and the Prince Lot Hula festival. In August, the Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar Festival and Ka Himeni Ana – an old-style Hawaiian singing contest – celebrate Hawaiian contributions to the world of music. Sports nuts get an eyeful with the Surf Aloha Kayak Surfing Competition in June, the Transpacific Yacht Race in July, and major women's and men's outrigger canoe races in September and October, respectively. The Honolulu Marathon is run in mid-December, and the Aloha Bowl, a nationally televised collegiate football game, takes place on Christmas Day.

Several big surf-related blowouts take place every year, drawing the world's top wave riders to beaches across the island. Exact dates depend on when and where the surf's up.

Getting There


Honolulu is a major Pacific hub and an intermediate stop on many flights between the US mainland and Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Passengers on any of these routes are usually allowed to make a stopover in Honolulu, and because of Hawaii's central Pacific location, Honolulu can be included on most round-the-world and Circle Pacific tickets. There are frequent flights from Honolulu to the Neighbor Islands of Maui, Kaua'i, the Big Island, Moloka'i and Lanai.

There are several Hawaii-bound cruises that dock in Honoluu: the Royal Caribbean International operates Rhapsody Of The Seas from Ensenada, Mexico, and Radiance of the Seas from Los Angeles, California; Norwegian Cruise Line operates Pride of America and Pride of Aloha, both inter-island cruises; and Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II, which sets sail from San Francisco, California.

Would-be smugglers should know that all luggage and carry-on bags leaving or entering Honolulu for the US mainland are checked by an agricultural inspector using an X-ray machine. You can take out pineapples and coconuts, but most other fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are banned. Seeds, fruits and plants that have been certified and labelled for export aren't a problem. There are no departure taxes to pay when leaving Hawaii.


Honolulu International Airport is about 25 minute drive west of Waikiki via Ala Moana Blvd/Hwy 92 (Nimitz Hwy) or the H-1. You can also catch a ride between the airport and Waikiki on a public bus (about an hour), a shuttle bus (45 minutes) or a taxi. Many of the larger resort hotels offer free shuttles to their guests.

Getting Around


TheBus is Honolulu's public bus network. Its routes branch across the island, with each line's destination written above the bus' windshield. The Ala Moana Center is the central transfer point.

O'ahu is not a big island, and few places are more than an hour's drive from Honolulu. If you plan on spending all your time in the resorts of Waikiki, forget about renting, but if you plan to get beyond the city limits, a car is the easiest way to do it.

Taxis wait at most major downtown hotels and at the airport. Otherwise, you'll need to phone for a cab. Bikes are available for rent in Honolulu and Waikiki, and most bike shops provide maps, helmets and locks.


Overall, the buses are in excellent condition – clean and air-conditioned – though buses on popular routes tend to be packed and their pace is always dawdling. Setting your watch by this system gives you nothing but a good sense of Hawaiian time.

TheBus runs frequent routes in Waikiki. Most of the Waikiki bus stops are along Kuhio Ave. Bus Nos 8, 19, 20 and 58 run between Waikiki and la Moana Center. It's hardly worth checking timetables; one comes by every few minutes. If you're heading to the 'Iolani Palace area from Waikiki, the most frequent and convenient bus is No 2. To go directly to Aloha Tower Marketplace or the Hawaii Maritime Center from Waikiki, take bus No 19 or 20. To get to Chinatown by bus from Waikiki, you can take bus No 2 or 13 to N Hotel St in the centre of Chinatown, or bus No 19 or 20 to River St on the western edge of Chinatown.


The Waikiki Trolley is an expensive, tourist-laden open-air bus geared primarily for sightseeing shopaholics. The attraction-lined route between Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and downtown Honolulu is narrated.


The minimum age to rent a car in Hawaii is 19 years, and most car rental agencies add a daily surcharge if you're under 25. Gasoline is about 25% more expensive on the island than on the US mainland. Driving is on the right.


Thanks to the student population at University of Hawaii, Manoa, there are lot's of bike and moped riders. In order to bike around the entire island, you'll want some savvy touring skills as roads can be narrow and winding.


Parking cheaply in Waikiki can be a challenge. Many hotels charge a fistful for parking . Many hotels charge a fistful for parking, but Waikiki Banyan at Kuhio St charges 8.00 per day for in and out privileges. However, there is free parking on the outskirts of Waikiki, and parking lots at Ala Wai Yacht Harbor at the west end and, at the east end, along Montserrat Ave at Kapiolani Park.


Urbanites will find mopeds a good way of getting around Waikiki.


Preferred Form

If you can't use your credit card in the US then you probably can't use it anywhere. ATMs are hard to miss, well networked and offer an even cheaper option if your card is set up to use them. Otherwise travellers cheques are almost as good as cash; you'll save yourself hassle and expense if they are in US dollars.

Changing Your Money

Major credit and debit cards, including the Visa Cash Passport Card, are widely accepted. You can also access your bank account using US ATMs which are ubiquitous. Travellers cheques are easily converted to cash at any bank. You'll probably need to take your passport along to prove your identity.


In restaurants, good waiters are tipped at least 15%, while dissatisfied customers make their ire known by leaving 10%. There has to be real cause for not tipping at all. Taxi drivers and hairstylists are typically tipped about 10% and hotel bellhops about US$1.00 per bag.

Money Tips

If you camp or stay in hostels, catch buses and cook your own food, you could feasibly explore the country on around US$50.00 a day. Staying in motels and eating at modest cafes will mean you'll hit the US$100.00 mark, and enjoying the convenience of a rental car will push your daily budget up to US$150.00.

Currency Notes

American banknotes (bills) often confuse visitors: they're all the same size and the same colour. Be especially careful not to hand over too much cash, and always check your change carefully. Be careful not to accept incomplete or severely torn notes, as they can be refused; small rips are usually not a problem. Bills come in denominations of 1, 2 (rare), 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars.

Currency Coins

Coins come in 1 (penny), 5 (nickel), 10 (dime), 25 (quarter) cent and 50 cent denominations; there is also a dollar coin.


WorldGuide Index Prices

Item Price
small bottle of water US$1.75
small bottle of beer US$4.00
movie ticket US$10.00
souvenir t-shirt US$15.00
manapua (pork bun) US$1.00
cup of Kona coffee US$2.00
US gallon of gas US$2.90
authentic aloha shirt US$60.00
surfing lesson US$85.00

Average Room Prices

Low Mid High Deluxe
US$40-80 US$80-180 US$180-350 US$350+

Average Meal Prices

Low Mid High  
US$6-14 US$15-25 US$25-35

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