Who doesn’t like a good city skyline? Granted, Honolulu’s skyline isn’t as famous as others such as Seattle with it’s Space Needle or New York City with the Empire State Building (and countless other buildings). Honolulu does have Diamond Head, a natural landmark, which is famous in it of itself and lets’ not forget Waikiki Beach. Honolulu wraps around in a near perfect harbor to get some of the best views of the skyline at all different angles, including Diamond Head.
From the Air (Helicopter Tour)
A helicopter tour of O’ahu is definitely on my list of things to do before I leave Hawai’i. The land and the water is just too beautiful to come here and not do that! Take off and spend nearly an hour in the air with views of not only the city but depending on the package, views of the rest of O’ahu as well. There are several different companies to choose from, and all have different price ranges. Some even offer a military discount. Most will have pick up areas in the airport (bus 42 stops there from the highway while 19 and 20 stop in the airport).
If you’re looking for a great view of Diamond Head along the blue-green waters of Hawai’i then Waikiki is the place for you. Several lookout spots in areas where you can stay dry (such as along the stone wall with the walkway) or staying on the grass or right on the sidewalk if you wish. If you have your bathing suit ready go ahead and jump in the water! Be careful about getting the camera wet though. If you’re not staying in Waikiki buses 2, 8, 13, 42 (and several others) all stop in this neighborhood.
Fort Derussy Beach Park
Just west of Waikiki you can sneak between the Hilton and Ilikai Hotels to Fort Derussy Beach Park. There’s a board walk you can enjoy and get an amazing view of Diamond Head. Also while you’re there a Army Museum is right there and can explain to you the history of the area (for free). This is also where fireworks go off every Friday to celebrate Aloha Friday after sunset.
Magic Island Lagoon
This beach is right next to Ala Moana Beach Park. If you walk further down the parking lot you’ll notice more of a picnic and jogging area. Head toward the wall with the cliffs and on both sides you’ll get views of skyline and Diamond Head. It’s also a great beach with usually less crowds than Waikiki (and more sand space) if you want to have a picnic with your family. 8, 40, 42, 52, and several other buses stop at the Ala Moana Center, just cross the street and you’ll see the beach!
Sand Island Beach Park
Away from the busy Downtown and Waikiki life is Sand Island. Although I’ve heard interesting things about this beach. Nevertheless it’s a great place to see Diamond Head in the distance along with the tall buildings. It’s a great place to view the sunset in the winter. Unfortunately buses don’t go to Sand Island. The closest you can get is in Kalihi and you have to walk the rest of the way (numbers 19 and 20 go there). The best bet is to drive there yourself, or take a taxi.
Kaka’ako Waterfront Park
If you don’t like sand and prefer to stay away from the ocean, Kaka’ako Waterfront Park is the place for you. At first it won’t seem like much, but as you walk east along the path to the very end is a great view of Honolulu and Diamond Head. This is also a great place for surfers so you might see a few wipe outs while you’re there as well. Stand on the rocks or the wall and you’ll get a great photo. Bus 42 at Ala Moana and Cooke is the stop you want.
This is my favorite place in Honolulu. Why you might ask? No one is ever there and it’s completely free! If you hate crowds this is the place to go. There is a whole marketplace with several restaurants to choose from as long as a few places for souvenirs but that’s it. At the tower itself someone with security will check your bags and then you’ll ride the elevator to the 10th floor for some awesome views. Did I mention it’s free? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to this place, morning, noon, and afternoon and it’s always quite empty. It’s hours are 9-5 everyday. Any bus that goes through downtown is a great place to stop (A, C, E, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 19, 20, 40, 42, 43, 52, 56, 57, 62, etc.) no matter what direction you’re coming from. From the top of the tower you can see where the ocean and city meet.
Diamond Head Crater
If you’re kind of into hiking but not really this is a great place to start. Bus 9 goes to the base of Diamond Head (which you can catch behind the Ala Moana Center on Kapiolani Blvd.). From there you can walk up the road and get a good shot to the east before going through the tunnel to Diamond Head’s Crater. After that is a 1/8 mile hike where you can see all of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. I haven’t done the hike myself and I’d heard hit or miss things about how easy or hard this hike is. Wear hiking shoes and bring bug spray is what I suggest.
Either you can hike up this trail if you’re into that or you can drive up and see the view. Although, parking spaces are hard to come by so it might be worth the hike. The roads are a bit narrow also so be wary of that. Once you’re up there though it’s a million dollar view to see. Everything from Diamond Head, the skyline, and even Pearl Harbor in the distance. Unfortunately the buses don’t really go up there. Buses 5 and 17 stop but you’d have to walk or bike the rest of the 2.3 miles in order to get to the lookout. Worth it? It’s up to you!
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Many times cemeteries are given some of the best views (even in the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe this is true). This cemetery is no exception. After you’re done honoring those who have passed away, you can take a look at the amazing city and mountain views around Honolulu. Also, no hiking required! Bus 15 goes right up to the place and after that it’s about a 1/2 mile walk to the center. The parking is free if you’re using a car to get there.