Honolulu is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and offers cruisers incredible ways to experience the culture and history of the island. From volcanoes and beaches to the historic devastation of war, there is no shortage of places to explore and things to learn during a Honolulu cruise.
Stroll along the famous Waikiki Beach, attend a traditional hula ceremony, and get up close with local wildlife at the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. If you want to spend extra time in the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu and explore even more of what the city has to offer, arrive a few days early before embarking on an unforgettable cruise around Hawaii.
The Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu is the epicenter of the city’s action and one of the state’s most iconic sights. It’s where you’ll find dining, nightlife, and shopping mixed among highrise hotels. No cruise to Honolulu is complete without an afternoon spent here.
At Pearl Harbor, you’ll learn about the history of one of the worst attacks on America soil when the naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, resulting in loss of life and thrusting America into World War II. During a visit to Pearl Harbor, you’ll also have the chance to tour the USS Arizona Memorial.
The Iolani Palace will take you on a journey through Hawaii’s past as you learn about the royal rulers who once governed the island. After it was built in 1879, the Iolani Palace served as the royal residence for the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii under the Kamehameha Dynasty until the Kalākaua Dynasty, when Queen Liliʻuokalani was in power.
This state park, frequented by Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s, is a beautiful piece of coastline where you can go snorkeling and swimming alongside sea turtles. There’s a small entry fee, and you can walk or take a tram to the beach.
At this free public park, you’ll find 100 acres of scenic nature that include a golden sand beach stretching along the waterfront for half of a mile. Ala Moana Beach Park is located between Waikiki and the downtown area of Honolulu.
A fun and memorable way to experience the culture of Hawaii during a Honolulu cruise is by attending the Kuhio Beach torch lighting and hula ceremony. The hour-long celebration occurs at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, which you’ll find by the Duke Kahanamoku statue. During the performance, you’ll see traditional hula dancing, hear Hawaiian music, and witness the sound and theatrics of conch shell blowing.
If you love animals, this family-friendly attraction is sure to delight you before you board one of our cruises from Honolulu. The Honolulu Zoo is home to over 900 animals, and many of its species are naturally found in the tropics. Animal highlights include the peacocks that roam the grounds and the Komodo dragon exhibit.
Learn more about the ocean surrounding the island of Oahu and the animals who call it home at the Waikiki Aquarium, where you’ll encounter a number of sea creatures. The aquarium is located next to a living coral reef, and within its facility, you’ll have the chance to see tropical fish, coral, reef sharks, squid, octopus, Hawaiian monk seals, and more sea life.
Travel to the east side of Honolulu to a town called Hawaii Kai for some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Hawaii Kai is home to Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous bay that has an impressive reef teeming with fish and coral located just a short distance offshore. The bay is also known for its white sand and shallow water, making it ideal for recreational swimmers and sunbathers.
Waikiki is famous with surfers for its waves, but surfing isn’t the only activity you can during a Honolulu cruise. Try windsurfing, boogie boarding, standup paddle boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, sea kayaking, and more. A shore excursion is an easy way to get an introduction to a water sport with equipment provided for you to give it a try.
Cruises from Honolulu provide many opportunities to hike before you board your ship. Popular places to hike on Oahu include Diamond Head Crater and Koko Crater, both of which provide great views and a volcanic landscape to explore. For a lush, tropical hike through the jungle, head to the Manoa Falls trail, which has a stunning waterfall to see.
The cuisine in Honolulu blends Polynesian, Japanese, and American influences to create delicious dishes that have a focus on seafood and local produce. Poke bowls combine chunks of raw tuna with other ingredients, like rice, seaweed, and pineapple. Lomi-lomi is a popular fish dish comprised of salmon served in chopped-up, raw pieces atop a side salad with tomatoes and onions. Another side dish you’ll commonly see in Honolulu and the rest of Hawaii is poi, which is made from fermented taro root that has been baked and turned into a paste.
For some delicious Chinese food, head to Honolulu’s energetic Chinatown. Hawaiians are big fans of spam, and you can try a traditional way of eating it in Honolulu with the spam musubi, a slice of grilled spam placed on top of rice and wrapped with nori. For a deliciously sweet dessert, try haupia, a custard made with coconut milk, or a Hawaiian shaved ice topped with tropical fruit syrup. Be sure to order a cup of coffee using locally grown Kona beans, and try some local craft beer or a tropical cocktail at one of the many bars in Waikiki.
Honolulu became the capital of Hawaii in 1845 after King Kamehameha III moved it from Lahaina, Maui. He felt the maritime economy of the islands, which was centered within Honolulu, would benefit from moving the capital there. Honolulu is the largest city of Hawaii and mixes beach culture with a bustling economy. Downtown Honolulu has gleaming skyscrapers housing local and international businesses and is home to a large university.
Whether you’re embarking on one of our cruises from Honolulu, or you’re stopped here on a cruise port of call, you’ll become acquainted with Aloha Tower, a historic lighthouse by Pier 9 at Honolulu Harbor. Aloha Tower and its Aloha Tower Marketplace serve as cruisers’ introduction to the great city of Honolulu and is adjacent to the cruise terminal where ships typically dock. Within the Aloha Tower Marketplace, you’ll find souvenir shops and eateries.
You’ll find taxis lined up outside Aloha Tower Marketplace, which is next to Pier 8 and Pier 9. This is also where rental car desks are located and provide shuttles between the pier and the car rental lot. Other ways to get around Honolulu include the local bus system (aptly named TheBus), which connects with most areas of the island. There is also a charming trolley that visits many of the area’s top sights.
There are many souvenir shops in Waikiki, and the downtown area has many shops selling made-in-Hawaii products. The Aloha Tower Marketplace, which has nearly 30 stores and restaurants, is located right by the Honolulu cruise pier. If you need a break from shopping, head to the top floor observation deck for a picture-perfect view of the Honolulu Harbor.
Popular Hawaiian souvenirs you can buy in Honolulu include handicrafts such as bowls and sculptures created with local wood; a woven bag or basket made with coconut fronds and hala tree leaves; Hawaiian shirts and dresses in colorful prints; chocolate-covered macadamia nuts; a bag of locally grown and roasted coffee beans; and a lei made with Niihau shells and seeds.
The official currency of Honolulu and the rest of Hawaii is the U.S. Dollar. You’ll find a number of ATMs throughout the city, with many of the banks located in downtown Honolulu. Several banks offer currency exchange services. In addition to cash, most businesses will accept credit cards.
Tipping in Hawaii is similar to the rest of the United States. A tip of 15% to 20% is expected for good service when dining out, ordering drinks at bars, or when hiring a taxi. Small tips are also appreciated if ordering a cup of coffee, and you’ll often see a tip jar at eateries with counter service.