While Honolulu might be famous for its gorgeous beaches and the ocean activities (or in some cases non-activity i.e. sunbathing) that take place on their shores, Honolulu is also renown for adventures and cultural experiences of their own that promise an unforgettable Honolulu visit even if you never set foot on the sand. From an internationally inspired historic home to eye-popping street art, here are five fun ways to experience Honolulu beyond the beach. Be there.
1. Diamond Head Summit Trail
The trail to the summit of Leʻahi (Hawaiian name for Diamond Head Crater) was built in 1908 as part of Oʻahu’s coastal defense system. Completed in 1911, the Fire Control Station at the summit directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger outside Diamond Head crater. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of this volcanic crater. Much of the trail is a natural tuff surface with many switchbacks traversing the steep interior slope of the crater wall. The ascent continues up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel. At the summit, you’ll see bunkers on the crater rim and a navigational lighthouse built in 1917 along the coast outside the crater. The postcard view of the shoreline of southeastern Oʻahu from Koko Head to Wai’anae is stunning, and during winter, may include passing humpback whales.
2. Street Art in Kaka’ako
To capture some of Honolulu’s best Instagram opportunities, take city bus 19, 20, or 42 (or your drop-top rental) to Kaka’ako, an industrial neighborhood and creative haven between Waikiki and Downtown. The up-and-coming neighborhood’s myriad garages, warehouses, and body shops are emblazoned with Technicolor murals, put in place every February during the week-long street art festival Pow! Wow! Hawaii. The event brings hundreds of local and international artists-along with a slew of parties and exhibits-to Honolulu in celebration of art. If you can’t get there in February, don’t worry; visitors to Hawaii’s capital city can enjoy the murals all year long, until the next Pow! Wow! comes along, bringing a whole new crop of colorful art with it.
3. Doris Duke’s Shangri La
Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art at the Nasher Museum marks the first time works from Doris Duke’s Islamic art collection have traveled to North Carolina.
Shangri La, which began as a secluded place of rest, was energized by Doris’ restless imagination, aesthetic drive and seriousness of purpose. In her will, Doris opened the house’s doors by establishing the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which owns and manages the site and collections for the purpose of promoting the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. Doris Duke’s Shangri La is the first exhibition to allow audiences, beyond visitors to the house, the opportunity to experience Shangri La’s distinctive blend of architecture, landscape and Islamic art. To achieve this purpose, 60 works of Islamic art are featured alongside architectural sketches, archival photographs and videos and large-scale color photographs of the estate. In addition, eight artists who have participated in Shangri La’s artist-in-residence program have contributed new work to the exhibition. Created in a variety of media, this art captures their different responses to Shangri La’s site, its collections and Doris Duke’s enduring legacy as a collector. Visitors can take guided tours (but few photos) of the home exclusively through the Honolulu Museum of Art.
4. The Honolulu Museum of Art
The Honolulu Museum of Art (formerly the Honolulu Academy of Arts) is an art museum in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. The museum is largest of its kind in the state, and was founded in 1922 by Anna Rice Cooke. The museum has one of the largest single collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the United States, and since its official opening on April 8, 1927, its collections have grown to more than 50,000 works of art. While you won’t be charged a museum admission fee if you visit simply for lunch, you should plan to reserve a table in advance. If you can’t score a spot, opt for the museum’s second location, Spalding House, which is home to its own popular cafe, where you can BYOB and order a picnic lunch to enjoy on its sprawling lawn.
5. Really Good Restaurants
In Honolulu, you can toss a bar of surfboard wax in any direction and hit a drool-worthy restaurant serving anything from upscale Asian dishes to more approachable comfort food. The Modern Honolulu is home to Morimoto Waikiki, but you don’t have to be a hotel guest to tuck in to a plate of the Iron Chef’s crunchy Hamachi tacos or a piping-hot stone bowl filled with ishi yaki buri bop. At locavore chef Ed Kenney’s Mud Hen Water in Kaimuki, nouveau Hawaiian comfort food and craft cocktails are served up in a cozy but lively dining room that would fit in equally in a hipster-friendly pocket of Brooklyn or San Francisco. Order liberally, as dishes like the Lup Cheong Madeleines with Miso Whipped Lard, the Yaki o Pa’i’ai, and the I’a Lawalu are ideal for sharing. If you’re looking for a spot to refuel while wandering around Downtown, grab a table at the light-filled Fresh Cafe, which opened in Chinatown in July, 2014, and uses local farm-sourced ingredients in everything from kimchi pizzas to Kauai beef burgers. The cafe’s freshly made, frosty iced teas do much to combat killer temps on some of Honolulu’s hotter, humid days.