Weekend City Picks: Honolulu

With its combination of tropical, cosmopolitan and rustic outposts, Hawaii provides inspiration at every turn. Here are our picks for a great escape to Hawaii.

Honolulu Weekend City Picks

Arts & Entertainment

Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center

Opened in 1963, this 42-acre tropical paradise features six native villages and demonstrations of the arts notable in each of them. With luaus and entertainment every evening, the center has become Hawaii’s top paid attraction with more than a million visitors each year.

Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, these three restored 19th century homes – two of which are the oldest houses in Hawaii – offer a unique look into Hawaii’s history.

Honolulu Museum of Art

The museum’s permanent collection includes 50,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of history, with emphasis on Asian artists, American and European painting and decorative art and paper and textiles.

Hawaii Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1900 and located in downtown Honolulu, the orchestra is the second oldest west of the Rocky Mountains. In addition to its Masterworks series, it also revels in its MusicThatPOPS performances with a pop culture flair.

The Brewseum

A blend of a family owned museum and a brew pub, The Brewseum features a collection of military, beer and Hawaiian memorabilia. Beers include the Pilot Pale Ale and Remember Pearl Harbor Dark Lager, released on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. 

Hawaii Theatre Center

Built in 1922, the theater is the only one of its kind in Hawaii, highlighting musical acts, plays, comedy shows and other performances and is listed on both State and National Registers of Historic Places. 

Food & Drink

Roy's Hawaii Kai (The Original)

With a focus on fresh seafood, local ingredients, European sauces and bold Asian spices, this casually elegant restaurant also provides a stunning view of Maunaloa Bay.

Rainbow Drive In

Rainbow Drive In

Inexpensive lunch and breakfast plates are the staples at this restaurant, which has served Honolulu for 50 years. If you like them, you can also take home the restaurant’s popular Hawaiian-style Chili Seasoning and Rub and Buttermilk Pancake.

Eating House 1849,

Chef Roy Yamaguchi is credited with creating the Hawaiian fusion movement. Located at the International Market Place, Eating House 1849 shapes his visions (including a penchant for seafood) into a menu that blends Hawaiian plantation fare and and haute cuisine.

Stripsteak Waikiki

At this high-end modern steakhouse, hand-cut slices of Japanese, Australian and American beef are slow-poached in butter, then seared in Chef Michael Mina’s signature style. The same attention is paid to the cocktail menu, with all juices, syrups and bitters hand-squeezed and housemade.

Mahina & Sun’s

The fourth restaurant by Honolulu-born chef Ed Kenney, located in the Surfjack Hotel, Mahina & Sons focuses on home cooking and island cuisine, with an eye toward using local and organic ingredients.

Shirokiya Japan Village Walk

Under cherry blossom trees in the Ala Moana Center Mall, diners can experience a different sort of food court, with bistros and food stalls serving poke bowls, burgers, musabi and crepes. There’s a beer garden, a bakery and an outpost for the French restaurant the Vintage Cave.

Koa Cafe

Operated by the same family that runs Koa Pancake House, this casual spot puts a spin on breakfast favorites, such as a mocha waffle topped with guava puree or a spicy eggs Benedict.

Over Easy Hawaii

With a simple menu for comfort food, Over Easy serves breakfast all day with a few lunch options, emphasizing local ingredients.


Waikiki Aquarium

The second oldest public aquarium in the United States features more than 3,000 creatures in a variety of exhibits on Hawaiian marine life, including a coral farm and a habitat for the endangered monk seal.

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

Located on Ford Island, an active military base accessed by shuttle bus from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, this museum hosts multiple aviation exhibits, most of which concentrate on World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sea Life Park Hawaii

This marine mammal park and bird sanctuary near Makapu’u Point allows guests to experience exhibits with dolphins, penguins, seals, turtles, stingrays, sharks and sea lions.

Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo

Open every day except Christmas, the zoo sprawls across 42 acres between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki. It’s home to more than 900 animals, including Komodo dragons, elephants and primates.

Waiola Shave Ice

The staggering volume of flavor choices – including margarita, bubble gum, star fruit and lychee - makes these counter-serve shave ice and ice cream shop a local favorite. Blending flavors is almost a requirement.

Healthy Living

Aloha Juice Bar

Favorites at this colorful shack (with an adjacent produce stand) include pineapple and coconut juice, of course, but the acai bowls also earn raves. Transactions are cash only.

Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar

Family-run bakery and juice bar on the North Shore specializes in fresh baked goods and deli sandwiches, with ingredients grown on its own farm (or, if they can’t grow it, from another local source). 

Spa Pure - Honolulu Day Spa

Day spa offers customized packages for novice and experienced spa goers alike, with unique ocean massages set in a warm saltwater pool.

Beach Sunset Yoga

Beach Sunset Yoga

Daily morning and sunset yoga in group and private sessions are conducted for all levels. The more ambitious visitor can also sign up for a mindfulness hike. 


Maui Whale Watching

From December through March, northern humpback whales migrate to Hawaii’s warm tropical waters. Pride of Maui is so sure of where they’ll be its packages guarantee your cruise on a 65-foot Maxi Power Catamaran will result in a sighting.

Kauai Zipline

One of Kauai’s most popular adventures is ziplining, and Kauai Zipline offers five line or eight line packages that soar over three different valleys with mountain and ocean views.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach

White sand beaches and calm ocean waters are the hallmark of this quiet beach, where you can snorkel, swim or just enjoy the changing hues of blues and greens.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

Over 2,000 species can be found on this nature preserve and sanctuary, a 40-acre natural greenhouse that houses a true tropical rainforest.

USS Arizona Memorial

This memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 sailors and Marines who were killed on the USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Accessible only by boat, ticket packages are available at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Located on Kauia’s northern coast, this wildlife preserve is a habitat for some of Hawaii’s largest populations of nesting birds as well as home to spinner dolphins and monk seals.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Tour the heart of volcano country, including the Kilauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes, on the Crater Rim Drive, which also takes visitors to a viewpoint overlooking the Halema’uma’u Crater. There are also day hiking trails as well as back country hiking.

Diamond Head

For some of the best Pacific views in Hawaii, hikers head up this U.S. National Natural Monument – a volcanic “tuff cone” - for a moderate hike that takes about 1 ½-2 hours.


Barrio Vintage

At this eclectic Honolulu shop, you can buy or sell vintage wear, including muumuus and Aloha shirts.

Surf Garage

This shop carries a little bit of everything: surfboards and paddleboard (for rent as well as for sale), clothing and other surf accessories.

We Are Iconic

No colorful muumuus here. At this stylish boutique, the clothes are strictly women’s designer wear.

Ala Moana Center

The largest shopping mall in Hawaii is also the seventh largest mall in the United States, with stores including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

Hawaii’s largest open air flea market, open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, features 400 stalls and a wide variety of Hawaiian goods.

Waikele Premium Outlets

Outlet mall contains the usual suspects: Coach, Nike, Armani Exchange, Vera Bradley, Michael Kors and many more.

Royal Hawaiian Center

Royal Hawaiian Center

At this upscale mall, which has more than 110 shops and restaurants, the emphasis is on fine: fine dining, fine jewelry, fine apparel. 

Hotels featured in this article

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