There's much more to Honolulu than sun, sand, and surf. Hawaii's capital and largest city remains a dream destination because it offers such a diversity of delights, from stunning natural wonders to chic local fashions.
1. Explore the crystalline water at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, where landmark conservation efforts protect rich marine life. Snorkelers can rent equipment and venture into shallow coral reefs to view an extraordinary variety of sea creatures, including moray eels, octopuses, and reef triggerfish (aka humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, the state fish of Hawaii). Parking lots fill up early, but shuttles from the Waikiki area will get you there.
2. Posh replaces kitsch at Waikiki's International Market Place, renovated in 2016. Though some of its original mom-and-pop stands made way for nearly 100 upscale retailers and restaurants, a 160-year-old banyan still grows in the courtyard of the sleek, open-air mall, which hosts nightly Hawaiian and Polynesian performances. The first branch of B. Patisserie outside San Francisco serves its renowned black-sesame kouign-amanns.
3. A dazzling collection of local paintings, sculptures, and ceramics is housed at the free Hawaii State Art Museum downtown. Be sure to check out the gift shop, which sells distinctive made-in-Hawaii items such as tea towels, jewelry, and koa wood pens. In the museum café, enjoy bento boxes and desserts crafted by chefs from the acclaimed MW Restaurant.
4. Andrew Le, chef-owner of the wildly popular the Pig & the Lady, debuted his second restaurant in 2016 at the revamped Ward Village complex. The whimsically named Piggy Smalls serves dishes such as Laotian fried chicken heady with Kaffir lime leaves and pastrami brined with pho spices.
5. Hawaiian shirts and island-inspired clothing get a dose of contemporary flair at Roberta Oaks. The stylish boutique in the city's Chinatown also sells heavy cotton totes, tropical-scented candles, and pineapple-shaped copper shot glasses—among many other ways to remember a warm vacation.
Get more out of your vacation: Book through AAA Travel for exclusive Member benefits.
This article was first published in Summer 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.