Honolulu combines the buzz of a big city with all the trappings of a tropical playground. Waikiki, one of the most famous beaches in the world, makes an exciting base for exploring lush Hawaiian scenery, wild surf and romantic Polynesian heritage.
What to see and do
A vast range of hotels, shops, restaurants and bars lines the 1.5-mile length of Waikiki. The giant outline of Diamond Head, one of Hawaii’s most famous natural landmarks, provides a romantic backdrop.
Take a surfin’ safari to the north shore of Oahu, the island on which Honolulu stands. Daredevil surfers catch monstrous waves to prove this is not a sport for the faint-hearted.
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour recalls the Japanese bombing of naval ships that forced the US into World War II. The US National Park Service operates boat tours of the site.
Where to eat
The chic La Mer restaurant at the Halekulani (c) hotel (www.halekulani.com) is ranked among the best dining options in Hawaii. Overlooking the beach, it’s a romantic spot for enjoying fine French cuisine.
Hawaiian, Asian and European flavours are on offer at Hoku’s (c) at the Kahala (c) Hotel and Resort (www.kahalaresort.com). The beachside restaurant has an open kitchen with a wood grill, tandoori oven and wood-burning pizza oven.
Sample a traditional Hawaiian feast, or luau (c), at Paradise Cove (www.paradisecovehawaii.com) on the west coast of Oahu. Visitors can watch craft demonstrations in a thatched village before enjoying a Polynesian show.
Where to drink
What better place to enjoy Hawaii’s most famous cocktail than at the beachside Mai Tai Bar at the luxurious Royal Hawaiian hotel (www.royal-hawaiian.com) The legendary hotel is known fondly as the Pink Palace of the Pacific.
Bars don’t come more casual or relaxing than Duke’s Waikiki (www.dukeswaikiki.com). Right on the beach, Duke’s has a no-shoes-required policy. Local bands play Hawaiian music nightly.
Ryan’s Grill (www.ryansgrill.com) is popular with tourists and locals alike. It offers a wide selection of beers, tequilas and malt whisky.
Where to stay
The Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk (www.trumpwaikikihotel.com) is among the latest luxury properties to open in Honolulu. The stylish, 38-storey hotel has 464 rooms.
Hawaii’s only Holiday Inn property has opened after a $30 million refurbishment of the former Ohana (c) Waikiki Beachcomber. The family-friendly Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort (www.holidayinn.com) includes a bar with surfing memorabilia and a magic show in a 700-seat theatre.
The high-rise Ilikai (c) Hotel and Suites (www.ilikaihotel.com) is an iconic Waikiki landmark that may seem familiar. It featured in the opening shot of the hit television series Hawaii Five-O, with Jack Lord standing on the penthouse balcony overlooking the beach.