Fans of surfing will want to see a new Bishop Museum exhibit on Duke Kahanamoku, said to be the father of the ancient sport’s modern incarnation. The Honolulu-born waterman won five Olympic swimming medals in the 1910s and 1920s and popularized surfing while traveling the world. The display, up through Feb. 28, includes his surfboard and ukulele as well as photos and film. Details: www.bishopmuseum.org.
Riding on a new protected bike lane on King Street is a nice way to enjoy a less touristy part of Honolulu. You can rent a bike at The Bike Shop on King Stree (www.bikeshophawaii.com; a reservation will guarantee you a bike, but walk-ins are welcome).
Shortly before the lane begins at the South King/Alapai intersection, you’ll find Iolani Palace, home of Hawaii’s last reigning queen until U.S.-backed businessmen deposed the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. Heading east toward the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a good place to stop for beer is the gastropub Pint and Jigger (www.pintandjigger.com). Next door are excellent Japanese udon noodles at Jimbo. Farther down, a vegan restaurant called Peace Cafe (www.peacecafehawaii.com) is so delicious that meat-lovers are among its regular customers. Shortly after the path ends is Da Spot (www.daspot.net), which serves smoothies as well as tasty, reasonably priced Mediterranean and North African food.
The USS Arizona, a battleship that sank in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, tops many lists for places to visit on Oahu. A boat will take you from the National Park Service’s visitor center (www.nps.gov/valr) to the white memorial that sits atop the vessel’s submerged hull. The remains of nearly 1,000 Arizona sailors and Marines killed in the attack are entombed in the ship. A museum and video at the visitor center tell about those on board and the history of World War II. A few elderly survivors of the attack are sometimes around to meet visitors.
The nature preserve at Hanauma Bay (www.hanaumabaystatepark.com) offers white sands fronting aquamarine waters packed with coral and tropical fish. It’s a good spot for snorkeling or just enjoying the sun. Admission is $7.50; 12 and younger, free.
A hike inside one of Honolulu’s most recognizable symbols – the jewel-shaped volcanic crater called Diamond Head – provides dramatic views of Waikiki, Oahu’s green mountains and blue ocean. Much of the 1.6-mile path to the crater’s rim is made of stairs. The trail is hot, so bring water and use sunscreen. Admission is $1 for pedestrians and $5 per car. Details: www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp (type “Diamond Head” in the search window).
Across town, the trail to Manoa Falls takes you through a lush forest to a waterfall at the back of a verdant valley. The hike is less than a mile and good for families. Details: www.hawaii.com/oahu/hiking-manoa-falls-trail.
Explore the quiet end of Waikiki by strolling down Kalakaua Avenue to the Waikiki Aquarium, one of the few places in the world where you can see fish from the most remote atolls in the Hawaiian archipelago. A 4,000-gallon display tank has species abundant in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands but rarely found around Oahu, Maui and the other islands where most people live. The aquarium (www.waikikiaquarium.org) also has two Hawaiian monk seals, an endangered species.
Next door, you'll be able to peek at the ruins of a now-closed saltwater swimming pool that was built to honor the 101 people from Hawaii killed in World War I and the 10,000 others from the islands who served in the conflict. Duke Kahanamoku opened the pool with the first ceremonial swim in 1927. The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium (www.natatorium.org) has since fallen into disrepair and is the subject of a long-running debate over whether it should be demolished or restored to its former glory.
Across the street is the vast expanse of Kapiolani Park, which initially hosted horse races when it opened in 1877. Take a bag lunch to eat on the grass or at one of the picnic tables scattered under shady trees. If you prefer being served, try the Hau Tree Lanai restaurant at the nearby New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel (www.kaimana.com). It’s a great place to watch the sun set while you savor fresh ahi sashimi or sauteed mahimahi.
Stretch your dollars
Honolulu can be pricey, but there’s lots to enjoy for nothing. Beaches are free and open to the public, for example. Just bring a towel and picnic lunch. The Royal Hawaiian Center shopping complex near Waikiki’s hotels offers free live Hawaiian music and hula Tuesday through Saturday nights. During the day, it has free lessons in ukulele, lei making, hula dancing and lauhala weaving. Details: www.royalhawaiiancenter.com.