If you’re visiting the island of Oahu and you have some extra time on your hands, then take a ride to Downtown Honolulu. There are a number of historic buildings, museums, and marketplaces waiting to be explored. Following are just a few of the highlights you might want to visit.
We start with Aloha Tower. This is one of Hawaii’s most iconic lighthouses. It has served as a form of welcome to all the immigrants coming to the islands over the years. The lighthouse is still operational today and is also accessible to the public during the day. You can enter the lighthouse and take the elevator to the 10th floor which overlooks the harbor below and gives you views of all the downtown area.
Aloha Tower Marketplace surrounds the area around the lighthouse. The Marketplace has a number of uses including classroom and meeting spaces for Hawaii Pacific University (HPU). There’s also residential lofts, business offices, and a few restaurants for your downtown dining pleasure.
Fort Street Mall
Just a few blocks inland from the Harbor, you’ll find Fort Street Mall. This pedestrian-only street walks you through some of Honolulu’s first ever retail stores. There are lots of historical buildings here dating back to the 19th century. HPU also uses some of the empty spaces for their classrooms and offices.
If you schedule your trip just right, try to visit Fort Street Mall on a Tuesday or Friday morning. That’s when it’s more lively with their open farmer’s market featuring a number of local vendors from around the island. You’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, pastries, handmade gifts, and collectibles.
Honolulu has one of the oldest Chinatown’s in the US. It covers about 36 acres and is generally located between Beretania St and the harbor from east to west, and between River St and Nuuanu Ave from north to south. You’ll find a ton of shops and galleries to explore.
Chinatown is also a great place to get some of the local food. There’s a number of vendors selling anything from fresh fruits, a variety of fish, noodles, and pork. There’s also plenty of restaurants serving not only Chinese, but also Korean, Thai, and Filipino foods.
Make your visit on the First Friday of the month and Chinatown’s nightlife comes alive. Oahu’s arts and entertainment are celebrated at this time. The galleries will put on special exhibits. And the best bars present special live entertainment.
Be sure to stop by the Kamehameha Statue to give tribute to the greatest King of all Hawaii. It was King Kamehameha who unified all the islands under one rule. And his statue stands in front of the Judiciary Building located on South King St.
The only royal palace located on US soil is right here in Hawaii. Iolani Palace served as the royal residence of the Kings and Queens of Hawaii before the Kingdom was overthrown and annexed into the United States.
The palace is open to the public for guided tours. Purchase tickets at the barracks just outside the palace. Then, enjoy a brief history including the overthrow of the last Hawaiian monarchy. And learn more about the different pieces and furnishings throughout the first and second levels.
Downtown Honolulu also has a number of museums worth browsing around in.
Bishop Museum has different exhibits and photos teaching you more about the culture here in Hawaii and throughout the rest of the Pacific. Hawaii State Art Museum houses works of different Hawaiian artists. Honolulu Museum of Art has an exceptionally large collection of artwork from different cultures around the world. And the Hawaii Mission Houses explores the life and times of the first missionaries who settled in Hawaii.
If you plan your trip just right, you might be able to visit some of these museums for free. Bishop Museum offers free admission on or around Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s birthday on December 19th. Hawaii State Art Museum is always free. Honolulu Museum of Art offers free admission on the first Wednesday of each month, but double-check this with the museum as dates can always change. And the Mission Houses offers free entry on Open House, which is September 30th this year.
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