Popular Honolulu Shore Excursions
Honolulu's Chinatown district is roughly bordered by King, Smith, Beretania and River streets. The Hawaii Heritage Center offers tours on Wednesday and Friday at 9:30 a.m. Cost is $20 per person (no reservations are needed; groups of 20 or more can book any day of the week by calling 808-521-2749). The Chinese Chamber of Commerce conducts tours on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Cost is $5 per person (808-533-3181).
Foster Botanical Garden (50 North Vineyard Boulevard, 808-522-7066) is an urban oasis featuring 4,000 species of tropical flora. The venue is often used as a site for weddings and other special events. Guided tours are available Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, $1 for children aged 6 through 12 and free for visitors under 6.
Hawaii State Art Museum (No. 1 Capitol District Building, 250 South Hotel Street, Second Floor, 808-586-0900) features select works from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts' eclectic collection are displayed in changing themed exhibits.
Dubbed the "Carnegie Hall of the Pacific," Hawaii Theatre (1130 Bethel Street) opened on September 6, 1922, as the most lavish venue in Honolulu. Tours, usually offered Tuesday at 11 a.m., include a mini organ concert. Cost is $10 per person. Call 808-528-0506 for general information about the theatre and current performances.
Reflecting the opulence of the royal courts of Europe, Iolani Palace (364 South King Street, 808-522-0832) was the residence of Hawaii's last reigning monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Construction was completed in 1882; 11 years later, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown. Tours -- self-guided and guided -- are available Tuesday through Saturday. Guided tours cost $27 for adults and $6 for children aged 5 through 12. Kids younger than 5 are allowed on the guided tour for free, as long as they are "well-behaved." Audio-guided tours are $20 for both adults and children.
Dating back to 1842, the stately Kawaiahao Church was built with more than 14,000 coral blocks quarried from reefs off Honolulu. It has been the site of numerous notable events, including the marriage of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. Services in English and Hawaiian are held at 8 and 10:30 a.m. every Sunday (957 Punchbowl Street, 808-522-1333).
Learn how Hawaii's first missionaries lived at Mission Houses Museum (553 South King Street, 808-447-3910), a complex of original 19th-century dwellings, including a white frame house that was pre-cut in Boston, shipped around Cape Horn and assembled in 1821. Tours are set Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (every hour on the hour). Cost is $10 for adults, $6 for kids age 6 to college (with ID) and free for children under 5.
Washington Place (320 South Beretania Street, 808-586-0240) is the former home of Queen Liliuokalani. It's been the official residence of the governor of Hawaii since 1921. Free tours of the historic mansion are scheduled Thursdays at 10 a.m.; among the treasures visitors can view is the Queen's koa piano (she was a gifted musician and composer). Reservations for the tour must be made 48 hours in advance.
Farmers' Market: Produce, flowers, baked goods, beef, seafood, cheese, fruit preserves, snacks, seasonings and more -- all made or grown in Hawaii -- draw huge crowds to the Farmers' Market, held on Saturday mornings at Kapiolani Community College in Kaimuki, 4303 Diamond Head Road.
Celebrate First Friday: On the first Friday of each month, more than a dozen galleries in downtown Honolulu stay open until 9 p.m. to celebrate local art in all mediums. Be on hand for new exhibit openings; meet the artists; watch hands-on demonstrations; and enjoy refreshments, talks and live music. Free maps are dispensed at participating venues.
Make a feather lei: Although it was practiced throughout Polynesia, the ancient art of featherwork reached its zenith in Hawaii. At Aunt Mary Lou's Na Lima Mili Hulu Noeau (762 Kapahulu Avenue, 808-732-0865), you not only can purchase hatbands, hairpieces and other lovely feather items, you can learn how to make them. Cost applies for an initial two-hour lesson; supplies are extra. First-timers should call in advance to schedule their lesson.
Visit the home of an heiress: Built in the late 1930s on five gorgeous acres, Shangri La was the home of the reclusive heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke. Striking architectural features and more than 3,500 treasures from throughout the Islamic world (including marble screens, tile panels, ceramics, textiles, carpets and paintings) are the highlights of tours which are offered Wednesday through Saturday at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Reservations are required. Cost is $25 per person; this tour is not appropriate for children under 12. (Note: Shangri La will be closed to the public from September 24 - November 22, 2018)
Getting face-to-fin with sharks: North Shore Shark Adventures (808-923-3483) whisks you three miles from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu's North Shore to meet Galapagos, sandbar, gray reef, hammerhead and tiger sharks ranging in size from four to twelve feet. You'll descend into the sea for a close look at these fearsome creatures, all the while perfectly safe within the confines of a seven-foot-tall barred cage. Tour times are 6, 8 and 10 a.m. and noon. Cost is $96 per adult, and $60 for kids ages 3 to 13 and. If you prefer, you can just ride along in the boat and observe other tour participants' shark encounters for $60/$35. Kids under three can ride in the boat for free.
Catch some jazz at Blue Note: The world's famous jazz and blues club has expanded to the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Blue Note Hawaii features international musicians and local talent in a large, handicap-accessible venue, which seats more than 300 people twice a night, 365 days a year. This meant we had no trouble booking a Christmas performance by a homegrown artist singing Hawaiian favorites as well as classic blues tunes, while enjoying cocktails and a light meal. It's a mixed crowd of young and old jazz lovers and people who are experiencing the genre for the first time. There's no dress code and tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office (808-777-4890). Depending on the caliber of the act, bar seating is usually priced from $15 to $25 and table seating costs $25 to $45 per person. Doors open at 5pm for the first set, with food and drinks available (an additional minimum spend of $10 per person is required). Before or after the show, grab a drink with a view at the legendary Duke's Waikiki bar on the beach.