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Top 5 Things to Do in Downtown Honolulu, HI

11/22/2016

The Kahala Resort makes an absolutely ideal hotel near downtown Honolulu: close enough to easily take in the sights, yet perched alongside a blissful tropical shore that feels worlds removed from urban clamor.

Now, some leading landmarks of greater Honolulu—from Diamond Head to Waikiki Beach—are a hassle-free jaunt from our legendary grounds, but what about the attractions of the Hawaiian capital’s downtown proper?

Here are five of the top sights in downtown Honolulu, with the Kahala Hotel & Resort the perfect launch pad for taking them in!

King Kamehameha Statue

Among the best-known landmarks in downtown Honolulu, this regal statue in front of Ali’iolani Hale honors the great king who unified Hawaii. As a mere teenager, it’s said, King Kamehameha managed to overturn the massive Naha Stone—a superhuman feat that legend claimed foretold the one who’d conquer the whole archipelago. As it happened, that’s just what Kamehameha did.

Even beyond the leader it embodies, the statue has quite the backstory. King David Kalakaua commissioned it in 1878, and an American sculptor, Thomas Gould, based in Italy, did the job. But that first cast, after being bronzed in Paris, went down off the Falkland Islands en route to Hawaii. The statue in Honolulu is a second cast, delivered in 1883—shortly before the first turned up again, having been salvaged from the brine and sold back to King Kalakaua. (That original sculpture now stands on the Big Island, near King Kamehameha’s birthplace.)

You can pay your respects to King Kamehameha anytime, though the statue looks especially festive on the king’s holiday, Kamehameha Day on June 11, when it’s draped with leis.

Iolani Palace

Hey, how can you resist visiting the only royal palace in the U.S.? Another downtown Honolulu icon a short foray from our hotel, these stately digs hail from 1882, representing the former residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. Besides the palace itself, the grounds include such striking structures as the Iolani Barracks, the Coronation Pavilion, and a burial mound for monarchs that well predates the king’s quarters proper.

Aloha Tower

For the better part of a century, the Aloha Tower has been the beacon welcoming ships into Honolulu Harbor. The soaring Hawaiian Gothic lighthouse, 10 stories and 184 feet tall not counting the flag mast, long stood as the tallest building in Hawaii, and it remains—to say the least—a monumental structure along Honolulu’s waterfront.

Honolulu Museum of Art

Hawaii’s oldest art museum, perched on the edge of downtown Honolulu, has been going strong since 1922. It boasts a truly fabulous collection of artwork from East Asia and Oceania, but also a whole slew of masterworks from European, American, African, and other artists. Besides the fabulous galleries, the museum also hosts an Art School.

Chinatown

Downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown ranks among the oldest in the country, formally dating back to at least the 19th century. The neighborhood boasts some of Honolulu’s most alluring corners, from the Maunakea and Oahu markets to a rich array of restaurants—top-tier Chinese eateries, for sure, but also many other globe-spanning options. There’s also an impressive lineup of spiritual houses—the Kuan Yin Temple and the Izumo Taishakyo Mission (a Japanese Shinto structure) among them—plus one of the Aloha State’s greatest architectural monuments, the Hawaii Theater, the old “Pride of the Pacific” erected back in 1922.


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