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Destination Guide

 
 
Honolulu is an ultra-modern city full of enormous diversity. This port is home to many ethnic groups that live, work and play amid modern skyscrapers, rugged mountains and tropical beaches. The heart of the city is directly across from the historic port area, which ships of all kinds have called for more than 150 years. Honolulu has government offices and historic buildings going back to the days of Hawaiian royalty and a Chinatown with a mix of Pacific Rim cultures. The main tourist draw is famous Waikiki, four miles to the east.

Honolulus International Airport is located about 10 minutes from downtown and 15 minutes from the beach at Waikiki. Honolulu city and county is home to 800,000 people of all races and cultures. It is, as the island of O'ahu is known, "The Gathering Place."

Chinatown

Chinatown is one of Honolulus most colorful and exciting neighborhoods. Located in the historic downtown district, this unique area has long been a popular gathering place for visitors and locals. The Chinese were originally brought to Hawai'i in 1852 as indentured laborers for the pineapple and sugarcane plantations. After their three to five year contracts were up, many opened shops and restaurants in the area of Honolulu now known as Chinatown. The area has been a major gateway for immigrants to Hawai'i for over 120 years. Chinatown is an eclectic mixture of Asian and Southeast Asian peoples boasting a unique range of food, art, and social relationships.

As you stroll though Chinatown, you will find Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Filipino, Thai, Korean, and local stores and restaurants, selling their wares and proudly displaying their cultural traditions. Chinatown is one of the most popular places to buy fresh produce, fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables. The list of Asian delicacies here goes on forever including tea, noodles and duck eggs. At lunchtime, the downtown business community crowds the area for Cantonese, Shanghai-nese, Mandarin, dim sum, pho and other Asian fare at mostly inexpensive prices.

Shopping is a rich experience here, and Chinese medicine flourishes. Religion is also ever-present with Taoist, Buddhist and Shinto temples sandwiched between the herbalists, shops, and restaurants. Great places to visit include the Maunakea Marketplace. With entrances on both Hotel and Maunakea Streets, this colorful shopping area has fresh produce, meat, and fish in a traditional Asian market environment. There is also a wonderful food court here with every kind of Asian delicacy. Another good bet for fresh produce is Paradise Produce Company on King Street. For specialized ethnic foods, visit Sun Fat Cheong, also on King Street. If you're looking for Vietnamese items, head to Than Lan on Kekaulike Street.

Other worthwhile restaurants include Legend Seafood Restaurant on Beretania Street, Indigo Eurasian Cuisine on Nuuanu Avenue, and a great Vietnamese place called Pho 97 on Maunakea Street.

Waikiki

The name Waikiki means spouting water' in Hawaiian. The area was literally once a man-made swamp, a highly productive agricultural and aquacultural site with an elaborate irrigation system built by native Hawaiians. The swamp was filled in; however, to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever, and Waikiki became one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Waikiki Beach stretches from the slopes of Diamond Head to Ala Moana and the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. Millions of guests visit this beautiful white sand beach to enjoy the Hawaiian sun, sand, and especially the surf. The beach is a great spot for the whole family. There is a near-shore break for the children, while the more experienced swimmers surf the waves outside. Take a surfing lesson and an outrigger canoe ride, or rent a surf or body board and teach yourself. Catamarans sail right up to the beach and offer wonderful cruises.

As for accommodations, Waikiki hotels are some of the best in the world. You can find everything from upscale, five-star establishments such as the Halekulani Hotel, Sheraton Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian Hotel to much more modest and less expensive places to stay. All of the hotels are either right on the beach or no more than two short blocks away.

The main thoroughfare of Waikiki is Kalakaua Boulevard. Most of the hotels, shops, and restaurants are gathered along this well populated strip. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is a must-see for anyone who likes to shop. With nearly 200 specialty shops, designer boutiques and restaurants, this mega-complex offers hours of retail therapy. For inexpensive souvenirs, haggle your way around Dukes Lane, a cramped and raucous gathering place for local vendors and tourists on the bargain prowl.

Manoa Valley

Manoa Valley, where the University of Hawaii is situated, is typical of the valleys resulting from the erosion caused by lava flows in Hawai'i. Some of the island-chains most spectacular scenery is found in such valleys. One of the most spectacular places to view Honolulu and the Koolau mountain range is from the Manoa Cliff Trail. This trail follows the upper edges of the cliffs around a portion of the west wall of Manoa Valley. The main attraction of the valley itself is the University of Hawaii, a research university founded in 1907 and the only one of its kind in the state. Considered the premier institution of higher learning in the Pacific region, it belongs to an international community of research universities offering a comprehensive array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees through the doctoral level, including law and medicine. It carries out advanced research programs through its colleges, schools, and organized research units. Located in the middle of the entrance to Manoa valley, the campus is attractive and has a number of well-equipped theatres and meeting rooms. The East/West Center at the university regularly brings together people of Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific for conferences and events.

Manoa is also a very desirable bedroom community for Honolulu. Its a lush, green area with lots of trees, making it a very nice and cool place to live. You can find all sorts of dwellings here from plantation-style to bungalow to colonial revival. Many of the homes date back to early part of the last century, around the time when the university was getting started. The lovely shopping center in the middle of the valley has a supermarket, shops of all kinds, and great restaurants and bistros. Manoa Falls, at the very end of the valley, is a popular visitor location. The Manoa valley has the feel of a college town mixed with a relaxed suburban neighborhood set in a tropical garden.

Ala Moana/Downtown

This a very diverse area that contains world-class hotels, hostess-bars, many corporate headquarters, and of course, the world famous Ala Moana Shopping Center, the Hawaiian Islands' premier shopping mall. There are also older Honolulu neighborhoods that are quite well maintained as well as a vast collection of ethnic shopping and dining establishments. The two main thoroughfares are Ala Moana Boulevard and Kapiolani Boulevard. Both run from Waikiki through Ala Moana to downtown. The Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island are a favorite place for locals and visitors alike. The long stretch of beach is considered to be one of the best and safest natural swimming areas in the world due to the fact that an equally long natural reef protects it. Restaurant Row, stomping ground for the corporate lunch and Happy Hour crowd, is known as the 'gateway' to downtown Honolulu. The Ala Moana Shopping Center, which has just gone through a major renovation, faces the sea and has every conceivable shop and food choice on three beautifully laid-out levels. The Ala Wai boat harbor and famous Ilikai/Hotel Nikko Waikiki are on Ala Moanas southern border as is The Westin Hawaii Prince and several other major tourist accommodations. Another popular shopping destination is the Victoria Ward Center, which is comprised of five individual shopping centers spanning a block of Ala Moana Boulevard.