Honolulu: The Glittering Capital of Hawaii
When one hears the name “Honolulu,” a tropical vacation is the first thing that comes to mind. But this Hawaiian city has depth and history far beyond the miles of beautiful shoreline and sky-rise resorts.
The word Honolulu comes from the Hawaiian term for “sheltered” (hono) and “bay” (lulu). The world-famous state capitol building in Honolulu is one of the most visited tourist destinations in all the Hawaiian Islands.
Historical and Fun Facts about Honolulu:
Honolulu is not only the most populated city in Hawaii, but is also the most expensive city to live in the United States, following Anchorage, Alaska.
Queen Lydia Liliʻuokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, who reigned from 1891 to 1893, was born in Honolulu.
Honolulu was occupied by the French, Russians and British on different occasions before finally being annexed as a territory by the United States in 1898. Hawaii did not become a state until 1959.
Honolulu is home to the oldest symphonic orchestra in the western United States, and was established in the year 1900. Concerts and performances are a popular attraction for those vacationers lucky enough to be in town when they are scheduled.
Le’ahi more popularly known as Diamond Head, is one of Hawaii’s most famous attractions and natural landmarks, as it is an extinct volcanic cinder cone. Because of its strategic prominence, it once had five military batteries and fortified observation points built within the crater between the years 1910 to 1943 that are still visible today.
Waikiki’s resorts Moana Surfrider Hotel (famously known as the “First Lady of Waikiki”) and the The Royal Hawaiian (called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific”), were popular recreation locations for soldiers during WWII. In January of 1942, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was leased exclusively to the United States Navy, as a rest and recuperation center for those serving in the Pacific.
The Hawaii International Film Festival is hosted in Honolulu annually, and draws many vacationers and film fanatics to the capitol city.
Honolulu was once ranked as “America’s Fittest City,” (Men’s Fitness magazine, 2004) since it hosts three large road races every year, and offers innumerable outdoor sports and activities . Families who enjoy staying active while on vacation, will love traveling to Honolulu.
Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu, and together with the other islands in the Hawaiian island chain, is part of the largest mountain range in the world, though most of it is underwater.
Though there is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Hawaii, Honolulu can uniquely boast of being surrounded by nearly 100 beaches, making it one of the most beach-dense cities in the world.
Being that Hawaii has a strong Asian influence and a diverse culture, it is not surprising that Honolulu has over 30 Buddhist temples, making it one of the largest concentrations of practicing Buddhists in the US.
The climate is semi-tropical and the trade winds keep Honolulu fresh and cool until the warm southern winds called the “kona” blow during summertime. Honolulu produces the least amount of seasonal variation of all the cities in the USA, making Hawaii a prime honeymoon and vacation destination for those seeking warm weather year round. Temperatures vary only a few degrees in winter and in summer (the average being between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit in January).
There are some notable districts within Honolulu. Downtown Honolulu is the financial, commercial and governmental center of Hawaii. Also within the downtown area are The Arts District and Chinatown and is a 12-block area of local culture and arts. The Ala Moana district has the world’s largest open-air shopping center. Waikiki is the tourist and beach district of Honolulu. Manoa and Makiki are residential districts. President Barak Obama used to live in Makiki with his maternal grandparents when he grew up in Hawaii. Waialae and Kahala are the affluent districts of Honolulu, located just east of Diamond Head, where there are many highly priced homes, the Waialae Country Club and a five-star resorts.
Honolulu Attractions and Must-Sees:
Downtown Honolulu is the State’s political, financial, commercial and historical center. Downtown Honolulu houses Washington Place, the governor’s residence; Honolulu Hale, home to the City Council and mayor’s office; and Kawaiaha’o Church, the 19th century missionary landmark considered to be the “Westminster Abbey” of Hawaii. Another Downtown must-see is Iolani Palace–the only royal palace in the entire United States and a great destination to visit on your trip to Hawaii.
Foster Botanical Garden is located not far from Iolani Palace, was established in 1855 and is the oldest botanical garden in the state.
Bishop Museum is Honolulu’s largest museum, containing artifacts of indigenous history from the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific.
Mission House Museum highlights artifacts from the 1820’s to 1860’s during Hawaii’s missionary period. The museum is comprised of 3 notable buildings: the Oldest Frame House, a communal missionary home that was crafted in New England and brought to Oahu to be reconstructed on site; the Chamberlain House, a missionary home built from coral blocks cut from local reef; and Print House, a reef-block covered porch and balcony next to the Chamberlain House.
Chinatown Art-Walk is a must-do for all art-lovers on their trip to Hawaii. Tours start from 5-9 PM on the first Friday of every month. Chinatown also hosts a dynamic art walk featuring unique galleries, boutiques, cafes, trendy bars and restaurants in this popular Honolulu district.
The Hawaii Theatre was opened in 1922, painstakingly restored in 2005 and has been recognized as one of the outstanding historic theaters in America.
Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese navel aircraft on December 7th, 1941 during WWII, rendering Honolulu’s name “sheltered bay” horribly ironic. Several notable sites in Pearl Harbor honor this day, and draw many visitors and war history aficionados to this major tourist attraction. The primary places to visit are: the USS Arizona Memorial (where 1,100 soldiers died in the bombing at Pearl Harbor), Battleship Missouri Memorial (where the Japanese representatives signed “The Instruments of Surrender” in 1945), USS Bowfin Submarine (one of only 15 WWII submarines to have survived into the 21st century), the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the National Cemetery of the Pacific. (More details can be viewed at the Official Pearl Harbor Historic Site page.)
The US Army Museum of Hawaii showcases warfare artifacts and Hawaiian history from King Kamehameha in 1738 to the present day.
Kapiolani Park is a 500-acre park created by King Kalakaua in the 1870’s and is the largest of Honolulu’s parks. It contains a zoo, an aquarium and the Waikiki Shell where the Honolulu Symphony performs.
Honolulu is the ideal city to travel to on your vacation to Hawaii. Being rich in American and native Hawaiian history, having a variety of culture, arts, and entertainment and being surrounded by over 100 beaches –makes it one of the world’s premier vacation destinations.
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