The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) draws almost one million visitors a year, making it the number one paid attraction in Hawaii. PCC is a 42-acre tropical paradise that immerses visitors in seven different Pacific cultures: Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand,) the Marquesas, Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Tonga. The center offers cultural demonstrations, educational exhibits, games and Polynesian activities, a cinematic journey through Hawaii, an excursion tour around Oahu, Polynesian dining, and numerous cultural performances.
The most popular attraction at PCC is the Ali’i Luau, which includes a Royal Court procession, a feast centered around traditional pork baked in an underground oven, and traditional Hawaiian entertainment. Many other snacks, lunch and dinner options are available on the PCC grounds during business hours.
Pearl Harbor is the historic site of December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on U.S. Naval ships and personnel, which led to U.S. entry into WWII. Visitors to Pearl Harbor can take a self-guided audio tour in which they’ll receive a thorough historical narration of that fateful day in American History. They can also walk through several museums (USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum, the Battleship Missouri Memorial), visit memorials to the servicemen who perished in the attack and tour some of the vessels that were sunk. As many survivors of the attack are still living today, visitors can often meet and speak firsthand to Pearl Harbor witnesses who are visiting the site.
The most popular attraction at Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona, a memorial pier by which visitors can walk the full length of the submerged vessel, viewing the wreckage.
Also known as “spouting waters,” this famed hotspot was initially established as a hangout for the upper-crust royals of Hawaii. Today, the south shore of Honolulu offers high-end dining and shopping, world-class hotels, and pristine white-sand beaches. It is also a terrific place to take surf lessons. After the sun sets, visitors can enjoy easy access to a vibrant nightlife scene, including many live music venues.
Visitors traveling with children - or who want a quick break from the hot and sunny beach - may enjoy a visit to the Waikiki Aquarium. This is the only place in the whole world individuals can view one of earth’s rarest fish, the Peppermint Angelfish.
The north shore of Oahu is where visitors come looking for the perfect wave to surf, especially during the winter season. Professional surfing fans gather during the months of November and December to watch what is known as the Super Bowl of surf competitions: Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Waves on north shore beaches can swell to 30+ feet, so it is important for even pro surfers to exercise caution and judgment when attempting to surf these waters.
Visitors also swarm to the north shore to enjoy world-famous Turtle Bay Resort and the many local condominium rentals in the area, where visitors can see a less touristy, more “local” side of Oahu.
Heiau (Hawaiian Temples) are historical sites that many Hawaiian residents still consider sacred. While some of these temples are closed to the public, many welcome visitors hungry to understand the Hawaiian culture on a deeper level. Ancient Hawaiian temples were often set apart for specific, specialized purposes such as: heal the sick, offer first fruits of one’s harvest, control the rain, or achieve success.
The Byodo-In Temple is the most popular amongst visitors to Oahu. Located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, this non-practicing Buddhist temple is open to people of all faiths for quiet prayer and reflection. It was established in 1968, as a commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants on the island.
Also known as Lʻahi, this volcanic tuff cone attracts visitors eager to hike the historic trail to the summit, which affords views of picturesque shoreline, historic military bunkers, and a large navigational lighthouse. During the winter season, visitors can also catch a glimpse of humpback whales passing through the area for their annual migration.
Visitors should know that the summit trail is a very steep and strenuous climb, which should only be hiked by those physically fit enough to withstand the rigors of the environment. Also, while guests can spend all day at Diamond Head, no one is allowed in the park after 6 pm.
The waters at Hanauma Bay are world-famous for the crystalline views of vibrant sea life they afford. On any given day, snorkelers can expect to see sea turtles, all manner of tropical fish, and even dolphins. The Turtle Canyon snorkeling adventure is one of the most popular draws in the area, as customers are taken out on a real sailboat to an area where sea turtles abound. The immersive experience swimming in the midst of sea turtles is considered by many to be a once-in-a-lifetime memory that should not be missed. The entire trip, including sailing time, is around 4 1/2 hours, and children are welcome.
Originally established in 1877 as the Queen Kapiolani Park, the modern-day Honolulu Zoo is a family-friendly attraction that exhibits species from around the globe. The exhibits are grouped according to ecological zones: Pacific Island, African Savanna, and Asian & American Tropical Forests.
The zoo also offers unique programs and exhibits. For example, the guided Twilight Tour begins just as the park is closing its doors for the evening and allows guests to enjoy two full hours of viewing nocturnal species in their element. Also, the Honolulu Zoo is the only place in the entire world to view one of the rarest fish on earth, the Peppermint Angelfish.
Located in the capital of downtown Honolulu, offers visitors a view into royal life from the Kamehameha Dynasty to the end of the Kalākaua Dynasty. This National Historic Landmark has been thoroughly restored to its original glory, and now offers daily tours - either with a docent or via a self-guided audio setup - of both the palace and the grounds. Following the tour, visitors are welcome to roam at their pleasure and to take in both the basement gallery and the video A King’s Vision, which is screened every half hour.
Established in 1889 to preserve Hawaiian and Pacific culture, Bishop Museum houses numerous exhibits comprised of over 24 million historical artifacts from Hawaiian antiquity. The museum also hosts various traveling exhibits from around the globe, for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy. These exhibits cover a broad range of topics and cultures, both ancient and modern.
Mobile audio tours make it easy for visitors to tune in on their own devices, and the museum’s planetarium offers nightly programs that help identify various constellations in the Hawaiian night sky. Bishop Museum has something for every age group to enjoy.
The Starlight Luau at the Hilton Beach Resort is a lavish feast that attracts visitors from around the globe. Guests are greeted with an extravagant Lei ceremony, then invited to dine on sweet potatoes, Hawaiian Fried Rice and Kalua Pig, Huli Huli chicken or fresh-caught fish. Ingredients are locally sourced and high quality. The feast takes place on the beach, beneath the warm starlit sky. While dining, visitors enjoy live music and various performances, including acrobatic fire dancers and Hula kahiko performers.
Interactive games are also available for interested guests, including the Pineapple Toss, and the Conch Shell Blowing Challenge.