To Do on Oahu: Discover Central Honolulu

Regarded as the island’s main hub of activity, Honolulu has no shortage of things to do. Featuring bustling downtown business district and historic Chinatown, the urban core of Honolulu contains endless offerings, including places to shop, dine, drink, learn and explore. You’ll want to check out all of its hidden gems for yourself, but consider this a good place to start. 

Discovery Central 1Iolani Palace
As the only royal palace in the United States, Iolani Palace holds a very special place in the heart of Hawaiʻi. What once served as the royal residence of Hawaiʻi’s monarchs is now one of the most trafficked historical sites on the island, welcoming visitors and locals alike to explore its hallowed halls. The Palace is more than just a historical building—it’s a physical representation of Hawaiʻi’s rich and diverse history. Explore the Palace with a Self-Led Audio Tour, or opt for a Guided Tour with a Palace Docent. Iolani Palace is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (last tickets sold at 3:45 p.m.). Walk-ins are welcome. 

Discovery Central 2Kawaiahaʻo Church
The stunning Kawaiahaʻo Church was the first Christian church to be built on Oʻahu. Despite its nickname of “Stone Church,” Kawaiahaʻo is made not of stone but of coral, and took an arduous five years to be completed. The church was constructed through a process that required the quarry, raising and transporting of enormous slabs of coral from Hawaiʻi’s reefs. Workers moved over 14,000 coral slabs to the construction site over the five-year span, with each one weighing over 1,000 lbs. This architectural feat still serves as a place of worship today, with songs sung in both English as well as Hawaiian. Buried in the grounds of Kawaiahaʻo is William Charles Lunalilo, who’s last wish was to be laid to rest near his people of Hawaiʻi. Listed as a hsitoric site on the state and national registers, Kawaiahaʻo Church is open to visitors. 

Dining in Downtown 
As the heart of Oʻahu’s business operations, Downtown Honolulu has transformed into one of the island’s most popular food meccas, offering an eclectic mix of multicultural cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for Asian fusion, American, Mediterranean, Italian or French, the intersections of Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown offer up an unmatched gourmet paradise popular with residents, businessmen and visitors alike! Dining options include Brick Fire Tavern, Fete Hawaii, HASR Bistro, JJ Dolans, Lucky Belly, Livestock Tavern, Pig and the Lady, Square Barrels…the list goes on and on! 

Discovery Central 3Chinatown Explorations
Bordering Downtown Honolulu, Chinatown is another historic Hawaiʻi neighborhood with a rich, complex history and a thriving community scene. A town that was once populated heavily by Chinese laborers in the 19th century has evolved into what people now call a “destination,” melding the likes of visitors, residents, foodies, art aficionados and much more. Along the narrow, bustling sidewalks of Chinatown, passersby can enjoy steaming dim sum, manapua, pork hash, char siu and other tasty delights. Popular markets for fresh fruit and produce include Oahu Market on N King St. and Maunakea Marketplace along Maunakea St. Today, Chinatown is also home to Oʻahu’s trendy bar scene, with spots like Bar 35, Manifest, O’Tooles Irish Pub and Smith & Kings making up a big part of the island’s nightlife.

Check out the many gems that central Honolulu—and Oʻahu in general—has to offer! Visit our website to learn more about this small Hawaiʻi neighborhood with an expansive, rich history. 

Photo courtesy of HTA / Blake Bronstad

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