Whether you're an American or not, chances are you'd like to go to Hawaii. I mean, who wouldn't? It has beautiful beaches, a warm climate year-round, plenty of palm trees and some jaw-dropping landscapes.
But this just means that planning your first trip to Hawaii can be a bit daunting. With so many islands and beaches and vistas to choose from, how do you decide where to begin?
Call me predictable, but I always tell people to start in the state capital: Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu.
Yes, the traffic can be terrible. And yes, there will be lots of tourists. But you know what? Honolulu is still a great place to explore in Hawaii.
Here are six things you should make sure to do on your first trip to this beautiful state capital.
Visit Pearl Harbor
Easily the number one attraction in Honolulu (and in all of Hawaii, for that matter), Pearl Harbor should definitely be on your must-see list. It was here, on December 7, 1941, that the Japanese launched a merciless attack that catapulted the U.S. into WWII. You can visit the USS Arizona Memorial here for free (just be sure to arrive early to make sure you get a ticket), and browse museum-type exhibits, as well as tour military ships and submarines.
Pay Your Respects at the Punchbowl Cemetery
After your visit to Pearl Harbor, consider heading up to the Punchbowl, a crater of an extinct volcano that is home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The cemetery is very serene and well-kept, and offers some nice views out over Honolulu.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Just a 15-minute bus ride from downtown Honolulu, Hanauma Bay is a protected bay and nature preserve popular with snorkelers. The shallow, clear water is filled with fish, coral, and even green sea turtles. Since Hanauma Bay is protected for marine conservation, there IS an entrance fee here, but it's definitely worth it.
Hike Diamond Head
If you want a bit of a challenge in Honolulu, wake up early one morning and climb the trail up to the top of Diamond Head, the famous volcanic cone that overlooks Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. The hike isn't very difficult, and takes roughly 2 hours to complete. Just be sure to take sunscreen and plenty of water with you for the climb.
Watch a Sunset at Waikiki Beach
Touristy as it is, there's no denying that Waikiki Beach offers up some great Hawaiian sunsets. Even if you decide to head elsewhere for your sunbathing or beginner surfing lessons, make sure you spend at least one evening at Waikiki Beach for sunset. Even better, stay for dinner at the classic Dukes restaurant for a true Honolulu experience.
Take a Day Trip to the North Shore Beaches
Lastly, pick one day and hop in your rental car (or take TheBus) and head up to Oahu's North Shore. The island isn't really that big, yet there's so much to see beyond Honolulu. The drive will take you along the coast, which itself is impressive. Once you get to the North Shore, do some beach hopping. Laniakea Beach is known for its green sea turtles; Waimea Bay is a favorite spot for cliff jumpers; and Sunset Beach is the place to go to watch the surfers ride the big waves.
What is the first thing YOU want to do in Honolulu?