Flights to Honolulu: Gateway to the Aloha State
Honolulu is your flight's first stop, no matter where you roam in the Hawaiian Islands. Step off the plane and find yourself a Waikiki 'beach boy' to teach you to surf. Dress to the holiday theme with a 'lei' flower garland, hand-made in Chinatown. Head to Hanauma Bay, Barack Obama’s hometown beach, or ponder the past at Pearl Harbor, where the infamous World War II attack is respectfully remembered.
Tour the gilt halls of Iolani Palace, a 19th-century Italian Renaissance building that bursts with polished Hawaiian woods and Chinese silks. The Hawaiian Islands' largest collection of natural and cultural artefacts fills the Bishop Museum, a building made entirely from lava rock. Look for feathered chieftain regalia and equally flamboyant pinned-and-mounted butterflies. The museum even showcases photos of topless hula dancers from less enlightened times. Stick around for the daily hula shows, considered Hawaii's best. Don’t get too excited – these dancers keep their tops on.
Back to nature
Diamond Head's dormant volcanic cone is Honolulu's most famous landmark, towering over Waikiki. Give your quads a workout and hike to the summit, exploring World War II gun batteries and tangled tropical foliage on the way. Honolulu's palm-fringed beaches provide a taster for the tropical wonderland beneath the waves. At Hanauma Bay, strap on mask and fins and feast your eyes on kaleidoscopic corals and fish.
Waikiki Beach is the quintessential Honolulu holiday spot. You'll be welcomed by the open arms of Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing, rendered in bronze. Test your own body-boarding skills, sculpt fancy sandcastles with the kids or just pity the friends you left back home. Tee off at one of three dozen Oahu golfcourses, their greens splashed with brilliant bougainvillea. After all that heady exercise, find a beachside bar and watch the sky glow tangerine in the sunset.
Where? Honolulu sits on the southern shore of the island of Oahu, one of hundreds of Hawaiian Islands gathered 3,200km south-west of the North American mainland.
Population: Almost a million people live in Honolulu, around 70 per cent of the entire population of the state of Hawaii.
Did you know? The temperature of Honolulu's waters rarely drops below 25 degrees, even in winter.
Getting about: The Bus transports people throughout Honolulu and much of Oahu, but most city attractions are within walking distance of downtown hotels.
Our Honolulu hotel picks are so good you might forget all about the beach. Think complimentary cocktail parties, hotel gardens you can lose yourself in, and 360-degree views from suites that soar 40 storeys above the ground.
Eurasian tapas anyone? If food fusion is your thing then multi-cultured Honolulu is your place. Tackle deep-fried taro puffs with chopsticks, try chic French-Vietnamese in Chinatown or get in line for the best pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) in Honolulu at To Chau.
Shopping in Honolulu
Shopping for presents can be great fun in Honolulu stores. Bamboo nose flute and hula skirt for the grandkids perhaps? Japanese woodblock print and silk aloha shirt for trendy grandparents? Treat yourself to a new surfboard too, with board shorts to match.
Keeping with tradition is easy when it means sipping Mai Tai cocktails at sunset under spiny kiawe trees, to the gentle strains of Hawaiian music. Or doing big steak and seafood on the beach at long-time favourite Duke's.
The beach might seem less interesting once you’ve climbed inside a volcano, or tunnelled beneath the sea at Bishop Museum. Spot spiral-shelled cephalopod molluscs at the Waikiki Aquarium, or see where the oil still seeps from bombed USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.