Aloha Hawaii: 12 Highlights of Honolulu

Posted on October 1, 2013

This trip was my first time in Hawaii on September 5, 2013. We started off in Honolulu on the Oahu island – the most populated island. We managed to cram a lot into five days!

Before the trip, I was overwhelmed with where to go or what to do in Hawaii so I thought I’d share my highlights in Honolulu!


Polynesian Cultural Center


We made the mistake of arriving later than we planned and boy, did we miss out! There are a TON of “villages” to check out, it’s a really big park. Each represent a different Polynesian culture and have a different activity. There’s a lot to learn and soak up!

Luckily, we were able to get on one of the last canoe rides that takes you around the entire center to see the sights and enjoy the ride. There are also lots of different shows and dance performances so use the schedule and plan out your day carefully so you don’t miss anything!

We got tickets for the buffet dinner and show – not cheap but a great experience. The different buffets have different food and ours had American type food.

The show, HA: The Breath of Life, was a beautiful dance performance representing all the different Polynesian cultures. There was very little talking involved – only narration from the speakers. But the story came together from the silent acting and dancing. I really enjoyed it.


Aulani: Disney Resort & Spa


A family friend was attending a conference at the hotel with one night’s stay so I was lucky enough to tag along and enjoy the resort. My experience at Aulani was good but it didn’t have the Disney feel that I was expecting. It has about 80% relaxing, Polynesian resort feel (which was beautiful) but only a 20% Disney feel.

However, they had Mickey and Minnie walking around all day so people could take pictures with them. The photographer gives you a PhotoPass card to check your pictures online after but they also offer to take pictures for you with your own camera! I was very impressed with this!

I went in September so kids were back to school. There were lots of chairs to lay on, tubes to go down the slide in and the lazy river was peaceful. Perfect!

Read my full review


International Market Place


Great place to go if you like shopping for necklaces, clothes and other Hawaii souvenirs and it’s conveniently situated in the heart of the tourist shopping area in Waikiki.

Unfortunately, we were told that International Market Place will be torn down soon. The locals are sad to see such an iconic place be torn down. Try to go before it’s too late!


Diamond Head


I’m not a hiker so I was happy we just drove up the mountain! It started raining when we got to the top – didn’t get to take too many photos. But it’s a very iconic postcard view so you should check it out!


Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

TripAdvisors Traveler’s Choice 2013 Winner

AMAZING place to go snorkelling! The beach is beautiful, the water is shallow even when you go pretty far in, the fish aren’t scared of you, there’s a ton of variety and it only costs $7.50 to get in! $1 for all day parking!

Be careful when the tides are low because you’ll be super close to the coral and risk scratching up your knees. But you get to go up close and personal with the fish. The trick is to just float, don’t kick or splash or you’ll scare away the fish. Sucks when it’s busy and other people around you scare the fish away.

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La’ie Hawaiian Temple Visitors’ Center


Our family friend drove us to this temple to show us how nice it is inside. At first, I didn’t know what kind of temple it was, then I realized it was for Mormons. It is the fifth oldest Mormon temple in the world (oldest outside of Utah). They has very nice young girls – mainly Asians – as missionaries that came from other parts of the world. There were so many of them and they were all standing around not doing anything.

It was an odd place but everyone was nice and they didn’t make us learn anything. The Polynesian Cultural Center is also owned and run by Mormons so there must be a big Mormon presence in that city.

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I love the blend of Asian cultures in Hawaii. Their Chinatown actually includes Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Japanese, Thai, Filipino and Korean.

Chinatown is not very big but it’s quite lively and it’s interesting to walk around. It’s cleaner and more colourful than other Chinatowns I’ve been to. I loved the colours and the exotic looking fruits and vegetables. Avocados in Hawaii are HUGE and mangos taste completely different – so juicy!

Read more in my blog post about Hawaii food.


Pearl Harbour and WWII Memorial


Since my mom doesn’t understand English, we figured it wasn’t worth it to buy tickets for the tour. We opted to just go in (free to enter), walk around and take pictures. There is a pay option to walk onto a docked ship to look around or go into the museum (both have pay options to get a headset for a self guided tour). Or you can buy $55 tickets to take a ferry to the actual memorial.

I enjoyed seeing the bombs, missiles, ships and machinery used back then but it’s too bad I didn’t get a full understanding of the tragedy. I would recommend anyone going to not be like me and get the tickets!


Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park

TripAdvisor – Certificate of Excellence 2013

Out of the following two lookouts below, I would recommend this one as the best. It’s a gorgeous panoramic view – you can see all Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head! Picture perfect.


Nu’uanu Pali Lookout State Park


In Chinese, they call this, “Big Wind Mountain” and it seriously is! It’s hard to get a photo with your hair whipping all over the place. Be careful if you’re wearing a dress – you might pull a Marilyn Monroe. It was so windy that there were tons of bees clinging onto the floor for dear life.

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National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific


Also called, the Hill of Sacrifice, this is a very solemn and quite place. There are beautiful fields – very well groomed – with over 25,000 graves as far as the eye can see.

It is a very peaceful and humbling place to pay respect to the fallen soldiers of three American wars, who sacrificed their lives for their country.

When you get to the top, you’ll see a gorgeous view overlooking downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head.

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Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort


Located on a prime spot for the best beach in Hawaii, the hotel is known for being the backdrop for TV and movie filming. In fact, they were shooting Hawaii 5-0 in front of a food truck when I was there!

The hotel has its own lagoon (calm water, good for kids) next to the Duke Kahanamoku Beach, which was recently named #2 beach in America 2013. It also has its own village so you can walk around the shops and restaurants. And I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked by the penguin and turtle habitat! PENGUINS IN HAWAII?!


What Others Are Saying

  1. Salina Siu November 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Haha yeah, thanks for reminding me to start promoting my posts! I’ve been trying to get the website ready.

  2. Chris November 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I didn’t know you had a blog about your trip to Hawaii! That’s awesome!

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