Honolulu welcomes visitors with glimmering blue waters and picturesque beaches. The city’s attractions extend far beyond its pristine shores, though. During your trip, learn about Hawaiian history at the Iolani Palace, or dive deep under the ocean on a submarine ride with Atlantis Adventures. These exciting activities, which are situated an easy drive from most waterfront Honolulu vacation rentals, will serve as memorable additions to your itinerary.

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1. Explore Waikiki Beach

No trip to Honolulu is complete without a visit to Waikiki Beach, a stunning strip of white sand located southeast of downtown. Don’t worry about lugging bulky beach blankets; stop by Hawaiians Oceans Beach Gear to rent umbrellas and lounge chairs. On windy days, pick up a boogie board or a surfboard to ride the waves. Between dips in the ocean, pop over to the Hula Grill for fresh fish tacos and refreshing mai tais.

2. Hike the Diamond Head Summit Trail

Lace up your walking shoes for the hike up Diamond Head Summit Trail, one of the city’s most popular attractions for active travelers. After navigating switchbacks, climbing stairs, and walking through an underground tunnel, you’re rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in Honolulu. Bring your camera to capture the scene, which stretches from Koko Head to Wai’anae. At the top, reward yourself with one of the legendary blueberry scones from Diamond Head Market and Grill. The hike takes about two hours round-trip, and is accessible for kids.

3. Explore the Honolulu Zoo

Spot more than 900 animals at the Honolulu Zoo, which covers 42 acres near Queens Beach. Watch as giraffes and zebras meet at the watering hole in the African Savanna exhibit, and see adorable elephants in the Elephant Habitat. Don’t miss the unusual sun bears, and be sure to listen for the booming call of the male orangutans. The Picnic Lawn and playground are a great place to let your kids work off their energy, and the Plantation Cafe keeps everyone happy and full.

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4. Visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Learn about the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Start in the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, where you can see photos of the bombing and its aftermath. Then, hop aboard a US Navy boat for the ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over a battleship that was struck by a Japanese bomb. Tickets are free but available in limited quantities; reserve them ahead of time on Recreation.gov.

5. Explore the Iolani Palace

See how Hawaiian royalty once lived at the spectacular Iolani Palace, which was built by King Kalakaua in 1882. Now a National Historic Landmark, the palace welcomes visitors on affordable guided and self-guided tours. Marvel at the lavish crimson decor in the throne room and stop into the Imprisonment Room, an upstairs bedroom where Queen Liliuokalani was held captive for eight months. Outside, check out the Royal Guard barracks and the Sacred Mound, a one-time burial site for ancient Hawaiian chiefs.

6. Ride a Submarine

Bring your family on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure aboard a submarine tour with Atlantis Adventures. After your boat shuttle heads into the open ocean, you can watch as the Atlantis submarine surfaces dramatically. Inside huge portholes offer a clear view as you dive more than 100 feet past shipwrecks, schools of tropical fish, and sharks. Keep an eye out for the wreckage of huge airplanes that have gone down in hurricanes.

7. Visit a Rainforest at the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum

Lose yourself in a tropical rainforest at the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, which is located in the lush Manoa Valley. Let your kids dig in the dirt in the Children’s Garden, and enjoy an aromatic tour of the Herb and Spice Garden. Feel like a jungle explorer as you hike the challenging trails to the Economic Section; alternatively, head up to the Second Valley to check out a stunning stand of Royal Palms.

8. Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art

Experience Hawaii’s long artistic tradition at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Arts of Hawai’i Collection. Be sure to check out the museum’s excellent collection of historic Japanese wood block prints and the artifacts in the Antiquities area. If Medieval art is more your style, view paintings such as the Adoration of the Magi or the Portrait of a Young Man by Francesco de’ Rossi. Take advantage of the free daily guided tours, which offer a fascinating in-depth look at each collection.

9. Take a Sail and Snorkel Catamaran Tour

See the dramatic Honolulu coast from the water aboard a sailing tour with Makani. Lounge on the over-water sunbathing nets of the company’s catamaran and take in the views of Diamond Head and Koko Head as they rise from the ocean. Then, head to Turtle Canyon to snorkel alongside graceful sea turtles. Makani also offers sunset dinner sails and frequent nighttime fireworks cruises, which make for a romantic date-night activity.

10. Watch Seahorses at the Waikiki Aquarium

Escape the occasional Honolulu rain shower at the Waikiki Aquarium. Small and filled with fantastic exhibits, the facility is easy to navigate with little ones. Head straight for the Amazing Adaptations Gallery, where you can watch Australian seadragons, pipefish, and tiny seahorses through a 60-foot tank wall. Watch otherworldly jelly fish drift by in the Ocean Drifters Gallery, and peer at zebra sharks and giant grouper in the Hunters on the Reef tank.

 
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