- Things to do
- Beaches on Oʻahu
- Visiting Maunakea
- Like a local
- Poke and food spots
Points of interest
An interactive map with key conference locations and other points of interest can be found below.
The most popular and accessible State Park sitting gloriously on the eastern edge of Waikīkī’s coastline. An easy paved hiking trail leads to the edge of the 300,000 year old crater and 360 degree view of eastern Oʻahu. Reservation Required
Admission: $5 per pedestrian and $10 per noncommercial vehicle
Hours: 6.00am – 4.00pm (Last entry at 4.00pm, Gates close at 6.00pm)
Beautiful snorkeling <30 minutes from Waikīkī. Reservations required.
Pearl Harbour National Memorial includes a Visitor Center, and two museums, it is also home to the USS Oklahoma Memorials (located on Ford Island), and the final resting place of hundreds of crew members of the USS Arizona and USS Utah who made the ultimate sacrifice in the greatest loss of life during a single event in US Naval history.
Reservation Highly recommended due to popularity
Admission: Visitor Centre, two museums and USS Arizona Memorial program are free
Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States and is an enduring symbol of Hawaiian independence. It was the official residence and capitol of the last ruling monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawai’i - King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Lili’uokalani until the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1893.
Reservation required online or by phone only. No walk-ups.
Admission: Various depending on tours
Hours: 9.00am – 4.00pm, Tuesday – Saturday
Attire: Iolani Palace is a sacred place; please dress in a manner that is respectful of its cultural and historical significance.
Founded in 1889, it is the largest museum in Hawaiʻi and has the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. Besides the comprehensive exhibits of Hawaiian cultural material, the museum’s total holding of natural history specimens exceeds 24 million, of which the entomological collection alone represents more than 13.5 million specimens (making it the third-largest insect collection in the United States).
Reservation required online or by phone only. No walk-ups.
Admission: $26.95 Weekday, $28.95 Weekend
Planetarium: $3 with valid Bishop Museum admission
Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm daily
The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art
Named after the idyllic town in James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon, is the former residence of Doris Duke—the famed tobacco heiress and philanthropist, once known as “The Richest Girl in the World”. It is now an opulent and astonishing museum of the art and antiquities Duke collected in her travels to Syria, India, Iran, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, and Southeast Asia.
Advance Reservation required online.
Tours begin and end at the Honolulu Museum of Art
Hours: 9:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm, Thursday - Saturday.
Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA)
HoMA is a unique gathering place where art, history, culture and education converge, right in the heart of Honolulu. Whether you’re exploring our galleries, catching a film, or reawakening your love of art through a class, HoMA strives to be a vital part of Hawai‘i’s cultural landscape.
Advance Reservation required online.
Hours: 10am-6pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10am-9pm on Friday and Saturday; closed on Monday and Tuesday
Kualoa is a 4,000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location (Jurassic Park!) on the windward coast of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi.
Main activities: zipline; horseback riding; bike tours; movie sites tours
Hours: 7:30am-6pm every day
Beautiful sandbar off the coast of Kāneʻohe Bay. Great for kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. 45 minute Kayak to the sandbar.
- Lili’uokalani Botanical Gardens
- Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
- Koko Crater Botanical Gardens
Hours: 9am-4pm every day
Things to do
Surf lessons / Board Rentals
Ohana Surf Project
Highly recommended by one of our own activity junkies, Ohana offers everything from lessons to board rentals.
Lessons / Board Rentals include: Surfing, Stand Up Paddle boarding, Body boarding
Friday Night Fireworks
This weekly fireworks bonanza has been a long-standing tradition since 1988. The 10-minute show can be seen from various parts of the neighborhood and along Waikīkī Beach. For the best view, head over to Hilton Lagoon and watch the spectacle. The show is free and open to the public.
Where: on Duke Kahanamoku Beach
When: Every Friday 7.45pm in winter, 8.00pm in summer.
Hiking on Oʻahu
There are numerous state-maintained trails accessible in Mānoa Valley, as well as further afield via car or bus. Official trails can be found here. Be prepared for strong sun and rain on all hikes regardless of the weather forecast, and be aware that most hikes are steep and can be very slippery when wet. The hikes on Oʻahu have a much larger range of difficulties than typical hikes you may have encountered in the western US, so it’s worth checking websites like alltrails.com for crowd-sourced reviews and advice on conditions. The hikes listed here are local favorites but also have minimal exposure.
Note that many of the following sites are sacred to Native Hawaiians. Sacred places in Hawaii are places with significant historical and cultural meaning. At many of these sacred places important historic events, such as the births of kings and other major events took place in the past. Today, these places are considered a very important part of Hawaiian culture. Please be respectful of these sites while enjoying your adventures!
Pu’u Pia: A short, low-key Mānoa Valley favorite, with excellent views of the back of the valley at the top.
Waahila Ridge Trail: Another Mānoa favorite, which can be accessed from the Pu’u Pia Trailhead if you’re looking for a serious climb, or from a parking lot in Wa‘ahila Ridge State Park atop the ridge if you’d like nice views with less climbing. The trail follows the ridge but is well-maintained and well-trafficked with excellent views of the valley and Honolulu.
Tantalus Ridge Trail Complex: A network of trails on the Tantalus ridge with some nice views of Mānoa Valley, some particularly pleasant breezy forest sections, bamboo forests, and some views of the Pali pass and windward side. You can start at the lower Makiki Loop if you want a long hike, or park further up the ridge if you want to skip right to ridge views
Mānoa Falls: a short hike to a waterfall. This is a busy trail, so go very early or just before sunset for the nicest experience. Those looking for a full day hike with some elevation gain can connect this trail to the Tantalus Ridge trails.
Koko Head: Very steep all the way, short, difficult. Great for sunrise. Bring a flashlight if you go early in the morning!
Pali lookout: Not so much a hike as it is a lookout spot, provides excellent views over Kāneʻohe, Kailua, and Mokoliʻi.
Maunawili: A long but relatively flat trail along the base of the windward facing ridge. Locals like to park at one end, take an uber to the other, and hike back to their cars. The trail can be accessed from Waimanalo or just off the Pali Highway.
Kuliouou: A short but steep trail with spectacular views of the windward side at the top.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail: An easy, paved stroll up to the Makapuu lighthouse, with great views of the windward (Eastern) coast of the island. Hot during the day but very pretty near sunset. Parking: Closes at dusk.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike: moderate short hike; great views of the windward side of the island; great for sunrise! Parking: will have to park on the street somewhere.
Ka’ena Point Trail: A flat walk along the coast at the very northwestern tip of the island, with a seabird sanctuary. By late July, the Layasian albatross should be fledgling and leaving, so there may still be some stragglers. Endangered monk seals are a common sight along the coast. Can be accessed either from the North Shore or West Side, but there is no road that actually rounds this particular corner of the island. Parking: Park outside this spot because they close the road after dusk.
Beaches on Oʻahu
Nearby (within 30 min drive from Mānoa):
- Queen’s Beach - great for snorkeling
- Waikīkī Beach - great for surfing
- Kaimana Beach - you might be able to see seals and their pups here!
- Diamond Head Beach - great for surfing
- Ala Moana Beach & Magic Island
- China walls - great for sunsets
- Hanauma Bay - great for snorkeling! Reservation required.
- Halona Beach Cove: great for sunrises
- Sandy Beach
Windward side (within 30-45 min drive from Mānoa):
- Lanikai Beach
- Waimanalo Beach (Local favourite, large and not crowded)
- Makapu’u Beach
- Kailua Beach
- Kualoa Beach
- Ka’a’awa Beach
- Kahana Bay
Leeward side (within 40-60 min drive from Mānoa):
- Ewa Beach
- Nanakuli Beach - great for sunsets!
- Makaha Beach
- Makua Beach
- Keawaula Beach
North Shore (within 1.5h drive from Mānoa):
- Turtle Beach
- Sunset Beach - check out the chocolate haupia pie at Ted’s Bakery right next to this beach!
- Shark’s Cove - great for snorkeling
- Mokule’ia Beach
- Waimea Bay Beach
- Hale’iwa Beach
- Hawaiian Monk Seal Beach
- Kahuku Point
- Laniakea Beach
The observatories on Maunakea are located on Hawaii Island, a short flight from Honolulu. Visitor information can be found here. Standard rental cars can make the trip to the visitor’s center. You will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to drive the road above the visitor’s center, and most rental car companies do not allow their vehicles past that point. Hiking trails are available, but be aware that the summit is at 13.9k ft (4200m) and subject to high-altitude mountain conditions and is deeply significant to Native Hawaiians, so please be mindful. Stargazing is best done from the lower Visitor’s Center elevation (our eyes don’t function as well on the summit!). Observatory tours and viewing centers have not yet recovered to their pre-pandemic capacity.
Like a local
- Pupu – Small Dishes, appetizers
- Ahi – Yellowfin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna
- Tako – Octopus
- Poi - cooked taro thinned with water and pounded into a paste
- Shoyu – Soy Sauce
- Lilikoi – Passionfruit
- Ube – Purple Yam
- Li Hing Mui - Hawaii dried plum treat that comes in the form of a seed (for snacking) and powder (for sprinkling on anything from shave ice to fresh fruits and cocktails). It is sweet, salty, and sour.
- Aloha - Meaning love and fellowship in Hawaiian. Used as both hello and goodbye.
- Mahalo - “Thank you”.
- Windward vs. Leeward - Windward: Eastern Shore of Oahu. Leeward: Western Shore of Oahu
- Makai vs. Mauka - Makai: Ocean Side Mauka: Mountain Side
- Ewa vs. Diamond Head - Ewa: Northwest
On bathroom doors
- Wahine - Female
- Kane - Male
Poke and food spots
Poke; pronounced poh-KAY, diced and seasoned raw fish served either as an appetizer or over rice (Poke Bowl).
Off the Hook
Fantastic poke, popular with the IfA community.
Must try: spicy ahi
Paradise Poke Hawaii at Ilikai
Convenient Location, and small menu
Award Winning Flavour – Hawaiian Alaea Ahi
Must try: Truffle Ponzu Salmon
Fresh Catch on Kapahulu
Old School Island Style Poke, close to UH lower campus.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Best garlic shrimp on the island