Hike a volcano
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The volcanic cone of Diamond Head bookends the eastern end of Waikiki’s beach (Punchbowl Crater is the western bookend). It’s an easy walk to the base of the volcanic hill, and then a 1.3 kilometre hike to the summit for stunning views over the city and the Pacific Ocean. Go in the early morning (gates open 6am), when it’s cooler and less crowded.
Pay your respects at the palace
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It’s the ultimate trivial pursuit poser: which US state is home to a royal palace? Hawaii is the answer, and Iolani is the palace. An Italian Renaissance pile built in the late 19th century as the residence of King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani, the islands’ last monarchs, it’s open daily except Sunday for self-guided and guided visits.
Take High Tea with the First Lady of Waikiki
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The Moana Surfrider, Honolulu’s oldest hotel, has graced the shores of Waikiki since 1901. Its broad, shaded verandahs host a daily afternoon tea of pastries, petits fours, finger sandwiches and a choice of six locally blended teas, served with blue skies and sunshine.
Explore cool Chinatown
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Honolulu’s newly hip Chinatown now harbours a range of cool places such as the lively mod-Viet bistro The Pig & The Lady, Lucky Belly ramen, Nextdoor bar and the wacky Wing Ice Cream Parlour where frozen flavours range from tea ‘n’ cookies to tom kha (coconut, lemongrass and Thai ginger).
Hit the North Shore
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Oahu’s North Shore beaches are the spiritual and cultural heart of the island. Just an hour’s drive north of the airport lie some of the world’s most renowned surf breaks – Banzai, Sunset, Waimea – and a tempting line-up of food trucks selling everything from shrimp (prawns) to pizza
Shop the strip
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Waikiki’s glossy retail zone, Kalakaua Avenue, features a line-up of luxury brands to rival Paris or London. Expect all the big names, from Tory Burch to Jimmy Choo. Opening August 25 is the flagship mall International Market Place with dozens of retailers, nine restaurants and the island’s first Saks Fifth Avenue department store.
Visit a millionaire’s mansion
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Doris Duke’s dazzling seafront mansion Shangri La is an incredible museum of Islamic art set in gorgeous gardens. The Mughal Suite, once the tobacco heiress’s bedroom, recently opened to the public for the first time since her death in 1993. Public tours are organised through the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Brush up on military history at Pearl Harbor
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This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the devastating attack that prompted America’s entry into World War II. Today the Pearl Harbor historic sites are one of Hawaii’s top tourist attractions. The extensive displays include the USS Arizona Memorial commemorating the attack, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Set aside a whole day.
Try the water sports at Waikiki
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Island activities don’t come more clichéd but the truth is, signing up for stand-up paddleboarding or an outrigger canoe lesson at Waikiki can be great fun. Any excuse is a good excuse to get on the water and the views back to Honolulu’s skyscraper strip are staggering.
Toast sunset at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
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This pink Moorish palace is Waikiki’s most beautiful beachfront address. It’s home to storied beachfront Mai Tai bar where cocktail lovers can indulge in the 1944 original (Pyrat XO rum, Myers’s Jamaican dark rum, dry curacao, orgeat syrup and fresh lime juice) or try a modern twist on the classic, such as the Choco-tai with coffee and chocolate foam.