Introduction to Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu, located on the southern coast of Oahu in Hawaii, is the state's largest, best-known and capital city. The Hawaiian islands were discovered by British captain James Cook in 1778 and annexed as a US territory by President McKinley in 1898. The capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii since 1845, Honolulu became the commercial hub of the Pacific and a strategic military center thanks to its geography (Honolulu in Hawaiian means "sheltered bay"). In the early 1900s, the US Navy established a Pacific headquarters at Honolulu's Pearl Harbor; Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the US into World War II. The US Army soon built Schofield Barracks in the mountains of Central Oahu. After the war, these bases expanded, making the military an important part of the city's economy.
When Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, tourism boomed. For years, visiting Hawaii meant visiting Honolulu; today, Honolulu remains the #1 tourist destination in Hawaii and one of the top vacation spots in the world. Nowhere but in Honolulu can you find a tropical paradise with a thriving metropolis (around 380,000 residents and almost as many visiting tourists at any one time) and the comfort of being in America.
Honolulu is the cultural center of the state, with many landmarks and museums celebrating the islands' rich history. Downtown, the Iolani Palace and the King Kamehameha statue honor the royalty of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Bishop Museum just north of downtown presents Hawaiian history with canoes, costumes, documents and live performances. Outside the city, the Polynesian Cultural Center near Brigham Young University presents an outdoor representation of villages from Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and other Pacific cultures, with native dancers and interactive demonstrations. Hula can be found everywhere; two festivals are held in June and July.
Honolulu Sports and Leisure
Spectator sports in Honolulu include basketball and football programs of the University of Hawaii warriors, college football's Aloha Bowl in December and the NFL's Pro Bowl in February. In October, Honolulu is the finish line of the championship outrigger canoe race that starts at the island of Molokai. In December, the Honolulu Marathon winds through Waikiki. For the couch potato during football season, the 6-hour time difference from the Atlantic allows nonstop channel surfing from 7AM to sundown.
For real surfing, Honolulu has the easy-to-ride waves at Waikiki and easy access to more challenging waters around Oahu. Less than an hour away on Oahu's North Shore, the 30-foot waves at Haleiwa Beach and the challenging formations of the Banzai Pipeline attract surfers from all over the world. In December, when the waves are especially high, professional surfing's Triple Crown of Surfing contest on the North Shore is the sport's showcase event. Oahu has everything, from swimming to sailing to snorkeling to skiing. Hanauma Bay (east of Honolulu, the best snorkeling on the island) and Fort DeRussy Beach (the west end of Waikiki, great boating and windsurfing) are all easily accessible. Inland, Oahu's awesome mountains, falls and rainforests offer hiking with fantastic scenery. Diamond Head, Honolulu's most recognizable natural landmark, allows hiking to the peak where a former army lookout affords great views of the city.
Honolulu at Night
Honolulu's nightlife is electric. Pineapple drinks, wine bars and brewpubs to suit all tastes can all be found in abundance, from the touristy Waikiki area to the local hangouts downtown, in Chinatown, near Schofield Barracks and on the North Shore. Hawaiian music and hula (both authentic and for-the-masses versions) add to the Aloha spirit. The city's diverse population, with large numbers of students, transplants from the mainland, Asians from several countries, and transient vacationers and businessmen, make Honolulu a fun place with many different things to do. With sunshine throughout the year, unmatched natural splendor, big city attractions and a party spirit, it's no wonder Honolulu is one of the world's most desirable places to live.