Chinatown at a Glance
Put on some good walking shoes and explore one of the most fascinating parts of Honolulu. Chinatown is just a few blocks away from downtown, between Nuuanu, Beretania and River Street. Exotic scents fill the air and the atmosphere is that of a huge oriental market. There are little stores everywhere, from bakeries, fruit and fish markets, clothing and gift stores to lei stands.
Chinatown is a great place to visit; at the same time it is not overrun by tourists. This 15-block large neighborhood is the home to many Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Koreans, Vietnamese and people from other parts of Asia. It is a cultural and economic center. You’ll also find a Buddhist temple and a Japanese shrine, Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists as well as many art galleries in the area.
In the middle of the 1800s large numbers of Chinese arrived on Oahu to work on the sugar plantations. They began forming a community, living close together and building small mom-and-pop-shops. The name Chinatown was first used around the year 1870.
Locals love to shop here for the freshest fruit and vegetables at the lowest prices on the island. Some of the items seem very exotic to visitors and you might feel a little bit weak in the knees when you come across the sections with the meat, live birds and marine creatures.
If you like porcelain, oriental household items and artwork, now you have the chance to shop until you drop! Also check out the lei and flower stands! And if you want to eat authentic Chinese food, you won’t find it anywhere better than here!
A visit to Chinatown feels like immersing yourself into a different world, filled with new scents, images, sounds and tastes. This microcosm is a feast for your senses and a great opportunity to learn about the past of this fascinating island.
Diamond Head Crater at a Glance
Be the early bird and catch one of the most amazing views you’ll ever see. Watching the sunrise from the top of Diamond Head Crater is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Too early for that much exercise? A hike up Diamond Head, the most famous crater in the world, is always an amazing adventure … and a good workout!
Diamond Head is located at the eastern end of Waikiki, proudly overlooking the deep blue sea. It is one of the most photographed spots on the island and with its distinct shape a favorite subject for painters.
Some of the early sailors who came to Oahu saw glittering rocks along the slopes and mistook the calcite crystals for diamonds. This is how the old crater got its name. Diamond Head has been extinct for more then 150,000 years and measures 3,520 feet across and 760 feet in height.
When you hike up the slopes, be prepared for climbing some steps. There are two stairs, one with 99 steps and another one that has 76 steps. You’ll also find a 225-foot unlit tunnel, a remnant of the former military use of Diamond Head.
The hike along the four foot wide meandering trail can make couch potatoes lose their breath, but it’s definitely worth the effort! The view is amazing and didn’t you always want to dance on top of an old volcano? There are many scenic lookouts along the way that are good reasons to take a little rest. By the way, don’t forget to bring your water and some sunscreen.
Dole Pineapple Plantation at a Glance
On the way to the North Shore between Mililani and Haleiwa, you’ll find one of the old treasures of Oahu. Pineapple fields as far as your eyes can reach. You’ve had them in desserts, in cakes, in shakes and even on pizza. Now you can see where they come from!
The Dole Plantation is open to the public to come and see how this enterprise grew from a tiny farm and fruit stand to the largest producer of pineapple in the world.
Take a ride on the Pineapple Express. The small train takes you to highlights of the plantation during a 20-minute fully narrated tour. Here you can learn everything about the history of the pineapple, its cultivation and the man who was a pioneer in the industry, James Dole. You’ll also find out what life was like on the plantations in the early days.
On the Plantation garden tour, you will find much more than pineapples. This is a selection of other agricultural crops and plants that grow on the Hawaiian Islands.
A lot of fun for big and small kids is a walk through the huge maze! According to the 2001 Guiness Book of World Records, it is the largest maze in the world. There are more than two acres that have 1.7 miles of trails for you to get lost in and more than 11,000 Hawaiian plants for you to admire.
The Dole Plantation is a fun stop and excursion for the whole family. You will never look at canned pineapple the same way!
It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Admission to the plantation is free, but there are small fees to get into the maze, to take the train and the self-guided garden tour.
Honolulu Zoo at a Glance
If you think the wildest place in Waikiki is on the beach, then you have not yet experienced the Honolulu Zoo. The largest zoo within a 2,300-mile radius attracts more than 750,000 visitors per year and is home to hundreds of animals from around the world.
It is the only zoo in the United States that had its origins in a grant given by a King. In 1876 King Kalakaua made 300 acres of land available for a lease. The marshy land was later named Queen Kapiolani Park. In the early 1900s the first animals found their home here. Among the first new residents was a monkey, a few lion cubs and a honey bear. Soon they were joined by an African elephant called Daisy.
Today the Honolulu covers an area of 42 acres and is dedicated to serve as a center for environmental education and research, combining recreation and conservational activities in order to contribute to the preservation of our natural surroundings and ecological balance.
There are different educational programs for adults and children. A real fun and unique event is the monthly “Snooze at the Zoo.” Camping out on the zoo grounds, sleeping under the stars and listening to the voices of the night together is a great bonding experience for families.
If you don’t want to wake up next to the tigers of the hippo, but still want to find out what the animals do after dark, come to the Zoo by Moonlight tour, where you can get a real look behind the scenes and into the lives of the zoos nocturnal residents.
The Honolulu Zoo is located next to Kapiolani Park on the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenue. It is open every day between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Iolani Palace at a Glance
The only royal palace in the Unites States is located right in downtown Honolulu. The majestic building was constructed as seat of the government in 1882 by the “merry Monarch” King David Kalakaua and his wife Queen Kapiolani. The architecture and design show definite European traits for which the King found inspiration on his travels to the other side of the world. The Palace was not just an architectural masterpiece. It had electricity and telephone four years before the White House did.
In January 1893 the monarchy was overthrown and the Iolani Palace became the prison of Queen Kapiolani, the successor to King Kalakaua. She was held captive for eight months. To avoid further bloodshed of her people, the Queen surrendered to the United States and Hawaii became a territory. The palace was used as the capitol for this new territory and then after 1959 for the state of Hawaii. In 1969 a new state capitol was built and the neglected palace was restored.
For Hawaiians, Iolani Palace is a reminder of the royal heritage of the island and a symbol for the restoration of Hawaii’s independence and sovereignty.
You can take a tour of the palace Tuesdays or Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. On the property around the palace you will find the royal tomb, the coronation pavilion, Iolani Barracks and a gift shop.