It would be easy to fill our list with 10 different beaches since there are so many gorgeous stretches of sand. However, folks enjoy doing other things too. Here are the top ways residents of the Crossroads of the Pacific spend their free time.
1. Relax on the beach: You can’t spend any time in Honolulu without sinking your feet in the sand. The top beaches according to the locals are Kaimana Beach, Diamond Head Beach Park, Kahala Beach, Ala Moana Beach Park, Waikiki Beach, Point Panic Beach and Lanikai Beach.
2. Get into the water: Some visitors to Oahu will simply want to read a book on the beach and watch the amazing blue waves roll in. Others will only be satisfied with the whole experience. You can surf, windsurf, kayak, scuba dive or fish. Outfitters in abundance will set you up with equipment and lessons.
3. Combine hiking with spectacular vistas: The terrain of the area offers hikes for those at all ability levels. They get you up above the city, beach and water where the views are nothing short of breathtaking. You can bike your way to the top of some trails, and horseback riding is available too. To gain elevation more quickly, consider hang gliding, parasailing or a helicopter tour.
4. Enjoy Pacific cuisine: Honolulu offers a wide array of fabulous eateries. Adventurous foodies will want to sample Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai foods. Highly rated local favorites are Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Kalihi, Rainbow Drive-in in Kaimuki, Marukame Udon in Waikiki, Sushi Sasabune, Me’s Korean BBQ in Waikiki, Pho To-Chau Vietnamese Restaurant in Chinatown, Tatsuo’s in Kalihi, Sweet Home Café (Taiwanese) in Mo’ili’ili, Ahi & Vegetable downtown and Eggs'n Things.
5. Smell the orchids and hundreds of other native flowers: While you can do this almost anywhere in Honolulu, the city’s gardens afford the best opportunity to appreciate the native species. The best gardens are the Foster Botanical Garden, Ho'omaluhia, Lili'uokalani, Koko Crater, Queen Kapiolani Hibiscus Garden and Wahiawa.
6. Browse and buy in Ala Moana: This outdoor shopping area is one of the largest in the world. Locals love to spend a lazy afternoon or Saturday morning strolling among the shops and stalls looking for little treasures. More than 240 stores make up the bazaar. Food and entertainment are also a part of what Ala Moana has to offer. Fort Street downtown has also been made into a walking mall.
7. Be festive: Many think of life in Hawaii as one long festival, and in some ways, it is. A long list of festivals dot the calendar. Chinese New Year in January/February brings the Narcissus Festival with lion dances and fireworks. The Cherry Blossom Festival lasts more than a month in late winter. Other popular festivals are the Honolulu Festival in March celebrating ethnic harmony, the Hawaii Invitational International Music Festival in April, the Pan Pacific-Matsuri Festival in June celebrating Hawaiian and Japanese culture, the Hawaii International Jazz Festival in July, the Aloha Festival in September and the International Film Festival in December.
8. Cheer for college sports: There are no major professional sports in HI, so the locals support their college teams. The U. of Hawaii plays football, basketball, softball, soccer, tennis and many more sports. The football team is very competitive year in and year out and has sent many players to the NFL.
9. Head from the beach to the bar: Locals like to unwind from a relaxing day at the beach by chilling out in a local club. That’s how laid back things are in paradise. Good choices include Brasserie du Vin with its French flare, Mai Tai Bar known as a party palace, Indigo where the professionals gather after work and stylish Uncle Bo’s with its hip clientele.
10. Photograph your favorite subjects: The area is ripe with opportunities for the photographer or artist. We’ve mentioned the flowers, mountains and beaches. Birds are in abundance in the Lyon Arboretum, Kapiolani Park and Sand Island. Historic architecture is found in the Iolani Palace built in 1862 by King Kalahaua, the Kawaiaha'o Church from 1841 and many other buildings more than 150 years old.