Compared to most tropical island cities, small, laid-back affairs mostly used as transport hubs to other more remote, exotic locations, Honolulu is a bona fide metropolis. Its metropolitan area has a population of over 1 million, and the city sports a skyline not unlike those of its mainland cousins. In fact, it is one of the most populated cities in Polynesia.
Like any major city, Honolulu has a great deal to offer the interested tourist. From the usual beach and surfing fare common to tropical island paradise cities in the Pacific region to uniquely Hawaiian experiences including luaus, cultural events, museum visits and more.
Visitors interested in the stunning natural scenery that Hawaii has to offer will not be disappointed by their flight to Honolulu. A minutes-long car ride out of the city proper in any direction offers gorgeous natural beauty – from Pu'u Ualaka'a Park in the hills above the Makiki area to the Nu'uana Pali Lookout just north of Downtown Honolulu.
Travelers visiting Honolulu for its surfing and beaches will also be pleased with the options the city offers. By far, the most famous beach in Hawaii is Waikiki. Here, you can take surf lessons from locals, or sign up for snorkeling and scuba diving. As a major tourist destination, Waikiki beach is often crowded, however, so you will want to have a Plan B ready in case the beach is simply filled to capacity.
Honolulu has consistently been ranked as one of the United States' most livable cities, and has even earned the distinction of being the second safest city in the country. However, it is still metropolis-sized city and has the same issues that large cities around the world all have – traffic congestion for instance.
Traffic in Honolulu is among the most congested in the nation. One million people live in a relatively small area and must make do with equally small roads – there have been cases where a single traffic incident has provoked traffic gridlock across the entire island. The municipal government has put some rules in place to take the load off of drivers' shoulders:
This information is only important for travelers that rent cars during their trip to Honolulu, but despite the traffic congestion issue, it is nonetheless highly recommended. The bus system of Oahu – imaginatively named TheBus – offers regular service for traveling around the island but does not cater to tourists traveling with luggage. This can get in the way of even a simple trip to the beach if you want to take snorkeling or scuba gear with you.
Another important traffic-related truth about Honolulu relates to the speed of Honolulu drivers – it is almost always well below the speed limit. Honolulans simply aren't in a rush, and almost never honk their horns or spur other drivers to action, even in situations that call for it. The most popular Hawaiian bumper sticker explains local driving culture succinctly: "Slow down brah, this ain't the mainland."
While Hawaii is not lacking in natural scenery, and you can visit the other islands for even more remote and exotic experiences, the city of Honolulu is one that stimulates the imagination. Consider shopping at the Ala Moana shopping center, one of the most successful malls in the United States.
We also encourage you to visit the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum – the state museum of natural and cultural history, which contains the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts. You should also visit some of Oahu's popular tourist destinations such as Hanauma Bay, located in the eastern part of the city.
The first thing that visitors to Honolulu's primary international airport notice is the lei greeting. Visitors who fly into Hawaii between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM are greeted with fresh flower garlands made and offered in traditional Hawaiian fashion.
After receiving your lei greeting, you are ready to proceed to the airport's departure zone and visit the island. If Honolulu is your destination, you'll want to rent a car and take the H-1 Freeway eastbound, towards Waikiki beach and the rest of the city.
Hawaii's largest airport features four major runways, and includes a special runway for the Space Shuttle which is its overseas terminal service international destinations from across the entire Pacific Ocean. BYOjet can provide you with reduced prices for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, and more while you visit Hawaii's largest city.
Honolulu International Airport offers a small collection of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. The international terminal also features several airline club lounges. The Qantas and Jetstar lounge is located near Gate 26 on Level Three. The Hawaiian Airlines Premier Club is located near Gates 54 and 55 on Level 2. The Air New Zealand Lounge is mid-terminal, near the food court on Level 3.
While most international airports provide free Wi-Fi services, Honolulu does not. Visitors must purchase a 2 hour or 24-hour plan. Wi-Fi service is only available in the gate areas of the departure level.
Passengers should arrive as early as possible for their departing international flight as the small and outdated airport facilities at HNL can cause delays for check-in and security.