Greater Honolulu on O‘ahu keeps me busy for days with a wealth of first-rate cultural diversions. Don’t miss the exceptional collection of Pacific anthropology and natural history at the Bishop Museum to get a feel for the forces that have shaped modern Hawai‘i. The 16-block Chinatown and its vibrant markets are a historic potpourri of the Asian cultures blended so extensively into Hawaiian life. The ‘Iolani Palace, the only royal residence in the United States, flaunts a 19th-century, European-inspired grandeur. Manoa Valley, light years away in spirit from other neighborhoods in Honolulu, offers hiking trails, a great botanical garden, and rich university life.
Waikiki is America’s original romantic resort. In the 1920s and ’30s, Hollywood and social registry celebrities made it their favorite hideaway. Today’s urban vibes do not reflect your grandfather’s Waikiki. Although Diamond Head still beckons. Within a 1.5-mile-long and 0.5-mile-wide stretch of high-rises, you’ll find hundreds of restaurants and tens of thousands of hotel rooms. That’s a lot of people – enjoying the nightlife, loud and crowded beaches, inexhaustible shopping, and their package tours. It’s Hawai‘i’s only metropolitan tourist center, and it’s proud of it. Thanks to the jet-setters and jet-lagged. — Kim Grant