Living in Honolulu

Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, has a bustling business district, thriving art scene, beautiful beaches, historic landmarks – and much more. This populous city may boast high rises and traffic, but it also showcases Hawaii’s natural beauty along with a strong sense of community, making it a great place to live. 

Like most major metropolitan cities, Honolulu has a variety of distinct neighborhoods where entertainment, dining, shopping, and living combine in close communities:

  • Downtown Honolulu is the political and financial center of the state filled with high-rise office and government buildings.
  • Chinatown is west of Downtown and is home to bars, restaurants, Chinese grocery stores, art galleries, and unique shops.
  • Kaka‘ako is the hip urban area near Downtown filled with new restaurants, shops, and condos – as well as incredible murals.
  • Ala Moana sits between Kaka‘ako, Waikiki, and McCully and has a beautiful beach park with surf spots and the largest outdoor mall in the United States.
  • Waikiki is the tourist mecca of Honolulu, boasting beautiful beaches, restaurants, and shopping as well as an array of condominium living options.

Greater Honolulu also encompasses the residential neighborhoods of Nu‘uanu, Punchbowl, Makiki, Manoa, Kaimuki, Diamond Head, Moili‘ili, Kalihi, Sand Island, Salt Lake, and Moanalua, which stretch from the mountains to the airport.

Interesting Facts

  • President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Honolulu, along with Hollywood icon Bette Midler.
  • Spam is a very popular cuisine in Honolulu, despite its international reputation. Spam musubi can be found at almost all grocery and convenience stores. Honolulu even hosts an annual Spam Jam street festival in Waikiki.
  • Billboards are outlawed in Honolulu, enabling beautiful views of the beaches and mountains surrounding the sheltered bay.

Transportation

Commute Time. If you live and work in Honolulu, you will have a quick commute to work – even possibly a walk or bike ride away. It takes 30 minutes to drive from Honolulu to Kapolei. 
Buses.
TheBUS run throughout Honolulu, offering service seven days per week to almost any area in Honolulu and around Oahu. Honolulu is currently constructing a rail to connect downtown Honolulu to Kapolei.

History

Honolulu means “sheltered harbor” in Hawaiian, and oral history indicates the original Polynesian migrants settled on Honolulu’s beautiful shores in the 11th century. After Kamehameha I conquered Oahu, he moved his royal court to Waikiki in 1804, later relocating to downtown Honolulu in 1809 for three years. In 1845, Honolulu became the permanent capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and iconic buildings, such as Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, ‘Iolani Palace, and Ali‘iolani Hale, were erected.

Throughout the 19th century, foreign merchant ships and American missionaries arrived in Honolulu harbor, establishing businesses and also contributing to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1983, leading to Hawaii’s annexation by the United States in 1898. However, Honolulu has remained – from then until now – as Hawaii’s capital, largest city, and main seaport and airport for the islands.

Restaurants

Ono Seafood. 747 Kapahulu Avenue. Eat Hawaii’s famous poke at this popular place tucked away off the road. They have great prices and their fish is always fresh – never frozen.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food. 1240 North School Street. A long-time, award-winning, mom-and-pop shop serving delicious Hawaiian food with heartwarming service.

Marukame Udon. 2310 Kuhio Avenue. With lines that often stretch out the door, this famous udon joint serves a variety of dishes – noodles and more.

Nico’s Pier 38. 1129 North Nimitz Highway. Located in the Koko Marina Center, this pizza place serves made-to-order pies with fresh ingredients. 

Salt and Pepper Cafe. 1341 Kapiolani Boulevard. This vegetarian friendly joint with locally sourced ingredients and a comfortable ambiance is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch.

The Pig & The Lady. 83 North King Street. This Chinatown restaurant serves mouthwatering Vietnamese fusion food. Try their pho and sandwiches.

Tonkatsu Tamafuji. 449 Kapahulu Avenue. A popular Japanese restaurant near Waikiki, enjoy lunch or dinner and be ready to wait to try authentic Japanese food in Honolulu.

Don e Don. 919 Keeaumoku Street, Ste 101. Honolulu has great food from almost every Asian country, including Korea. At this Korean BBQ place, the dishes are cooking in the kitchen and served to the table. Try the Pork Spare Ribs, Pork Neck Stew with Potato, and Kimchi Fried Rice. 

Liliha Bakery. 515 North Kuakini Street. Try their famous poi donuts and cocopuffs, or sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to eat at this popular diner-style restaurant and bakery. 

Alejandros Mexican Food. 2831 Kalihi Street. Great for take out or eating in, contrary to some rumors, there is delicious Mexican food in Honolulu. This off-the-beaten-path restaurant in Kalihi has excellent customer service and music too.

Shopping and Entertainment

International Market Place. 2330 Kalakaua Avenue. This recently opened shopping center features over 80 stores and restaurants, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Fabletics, Eating House, and Swarovski. Multiple events – like yoga, lei-making, and hula – add to the bustle of beautiful center.

Royal Hawaiian Center. 2201 Kalakaua Avenue. Spot celebrities while enjoying the many restaurants and shops – from luxury brands to local boutiques. 

Ala Moana Center. 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard. As the largest outdoor shopping mall in the United States, Ala Moana Center is a mecca for shopping and entertainment – from large department stores to local boutiques, a bowling alley to a spa, many sit-down restaurants to a food court with a beer garden.

Ward Village Shops. 1240 Ala Moana Boulevard. Ward Centre offers delicious restaurants for nearly every palate, shops for luxury or bargain buyers, and festivals for fun-goers. Like Kaka‘ako, the construction continues, with a recent addition of Whole Foods Marketplace. 

South Shore Market. 1170 Auahi Street. Located next to T.J.Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and Pier 1 Imports, South Shore Market displays a variety of cute boutiques with spaces to sit and relax and enjoy a bite to eat. 

Honolulu Zoo. 511 Kapahulu Avenue. Elephants, tigers, and lions – enjoy a day at this well-maintained zoo with a variety of animals, both large and small.

Ward Entertainment Center. 1030 Auahi Street. With reclining seats and Titan LUX sound, Consolidated Theatres Ward is a great place to relax and watch a movie. Ward Entertainment Center also houses Dave & Buster’s and Buca di Beppo along with several other restaurants to ensure a fabulous night out.

SALT At Our Kakaako. 691 Auahi Street. Be pampered at a beauty salon, divulge in ice cream, sip a latte, go to happy hour, or be inspired at a gallery – SALT is a modern shopping complex located in the heart of Kaka‘ako. SALT also host various events such as POW! WOW!, Yoga and Brunch, and Mom Made Market. 

Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center. 111 Ohe Street. With interactive exhibits exploring senses, cultures, and more, the Discovery Center is a great place for keiki and the “young-at-heart.”

Neal S. Blaisdell Center. 777 Ward Avenue. Cultural offerings abound at the Blaisdell Center with frequent concerts, comedies, operas, symphonies, and ballets. 

Golfing

Ala Wai Golf Course.404 Kapahulu Avenue. A well-priced public course that is one of the most golfed courses in the world. The 18-hole mini course is decently maintained and also offers club rentals.

Oahu Country Club. 150 Country Club Road. This private club with pristine course also offers a restaurant with famed plantation iced teas. Make a day at this country club; enjoy a round of golf with views of downtown Honolulu’s buildings and the ocean and then enjoy a delicious meal. 

Waialae Country Club. 4997 Kahala Avenue. This beautiful country club hosts the world-famous Sony Open. The course is properly manicured and adjacent to the beach while the club offers delicious food and an envious event space.

Parks

Kapiolani Park. 2840 Paki Avenue.

Park in one of the many spots on both sides of the park to enjoy a few hours or an entire day in this picturesque park. Festivals and fairs are held almost weekly. There are tennis courts, workout equipment, many open fields, and an abundance of clean restroom facilities. Walk across the street to take a dip in the pristine Waikiki waters.

Fort DeRussy Beach Park. 2161 Kalia Road.This park is open to both military members and civilians. Soft sand and an array of amenities for rent along with restroom facilities. The shallow water makes it a nice place for the whole family to enjoy.

Kuhio Beach Park.2453 Kalakaua Avenue. In the center of Waikiki, this beach park is home to beautiful sunsets, surfers, restroom facilities, and more.

Kaimana Beach.2863 Kalakaua Avenue. A clean beach near the Natatorium. The park is more peaceful than central Waikiki beaches and attracts local residents for BBQs on the weekends.

Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park.102 Ohe Street. Walk along the promenade and enjoy the scenic ocean view – or throw a fishing pole in the water to try to catch ‘the big one.’ This park also has an amphitheater and areas for picnics. 

Kewalo Basin Park. 1125 Ala Moana Boulevard. This beautiful oceanfront park is a great place to have a BBQ, fish, or take a boat tour. There is plentiful parking along with bathrooms. 

Ala Moana Regional Park. 1201 Ala Moana Boulevard. This 100-acre park with a calm beach also boasts tennis courts and a pavilion. Cycle, skate, swim, frisbee, run, BBQ or have a wedding!

Hiking

Diamond Head Crater. Park at Diamond Head State Monument. This popular beginner’s hike for locals and tourists alike offers an incredible view of Waikiki and the Diamond Head area at the top. Bring water because the sun can heat up the asphalt on your ascent. 

Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park. Drive through Makiki and then up Round Top Drive to arrive at this vista point over the city of Honolulu. There are various hiking trails around this area known as Tantalus, transgressing through the beautiful flora and fauna of the Honolulu mountains.

Manoa Falls Trail. End of Manoa Road. Walk through the jungle to arrive at a beautiful waterfall at the end. This popular hike is doable for the whole family and is where parts of Jurassic Park were filmed. 

Surfing

Kaisers. Park at Ala Moana Boat Harbor.This consistent reef break draws both locals and tourists. It is a crowded wave that holds in small to overhead waves. Beware of the shallow rocky bottom, especially during low tide.

Ala Moana Bowls. Park at Ala Moana Boat Harbor.South shore surf contests are typically held at Bowls. This world-class wave is known for its barrel in the shallow rocky waters. Beware of urchins and pollution from the Ala Wai Canal.

Threes. Park in the Fort DeRussy lot. Paddle out to the right of Halekoa Hotel.Due to the long paddle out and stronger undertow, this right and left, long break is not as crowded. Fast, hollow waves form during a south swell with southeast winds.

Queens. Immediately past the Duke statue.Paddle out in front of the main rental board area to be greeted by this consistent right-and-left fun wave. The break hosts professionals to beginners and is fun for longboarding.

Walls. Park at the zoo.This break is located off the pier-like structure near the zoo. Jump off the wall and into the water to surf wedging waves. For experienced surfers only.

Tonggs. Park near Kapiolani Park and walk through neighbor to find beach access between houses.This reef wave breaks right and left and typically does not have the learn-to-surf crew. It is in front of the Gold Coast housing.

Kewalos. Parking at Kewalo Basin Park or at the for-pay lot near Ala Moana Boulevard. Paddle out to this high performance right and left break, and you may spot professional surfers Carissa Moore, Zeke Lau, Alessa Quizon, or Seth and Josh Moniz. Many call this wave “man-made,” as it has evolved over the years with dredging of the harbor. The reef is shallow, and south swells can produce a two to six-foot clean wave.

Biking

Hawaii Department of Transportation Bike Map Oahu
Oahu Bicycling League Bike Map

Schools 

In addition to numerous private schools in Honolulu, like Punahou, ‘Iolani, Maryknoll, Mid-Pacific Institute, Hawaii Baptist Academy, Saint Louis, Sacred Hearts, and more, there are a number of public schools in every neighborhood:

  • Aina Haina Elementary
  • Ala Wai Elementary
  • Aliiolani Elementary
  • Anuenue School
  • Central Middle
  • Dole Middle 
  • Farrington High
  • Fern Elementary
  • Hahaione Elementary
  • Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School
  • Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Hokulani Elementary
  • Jarrett Middle
  • Jefferson Elementary
  • Kaahumanu Elementary
  • Kaewai Elementary
  • Kahala Elementary
  • Kaimuki High
  • Kaimuki Middle
  • Kaiser High
  • Kaiulani Elementary
  • Kalakaua Middle
  • Kalihi Elementary
  • Kalihi Kai Elementary
  • Kalihi Uka Elementary
  • Kamiloiki Elementary
  • Kapalama Elementary
  • Kauluwela Elementary
  • Kawananakoa Middle
  • Koko Head Elementary
  • Kuhio Elementary
  • Lanakila Elementary
  • Liholiho Elementary
  • Likelike Elementary
  • Linapuni Elementary
  • Lincoln Elementary
  • Lunalilo Elementary
  • Maemae Elementary
  • Manoa Elementary
  • McKinley High
  • Myron Thompson Academy Public Charter School
  • Niu Valley Middle
  • Noelani Elementary
  • Nuuanu Elementary
  • Palolo Elementary
  • Pauoa Elementary
  • Puuhale Elementary
  • Roosevelt High
  • Royal Elementary
  • SEEQS (School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability)
  • Stevenson Middle
  • University Laboratory School
  • Voyager Public Charter School
  • Waialae Elementary Public Charter School
  • Waikiki Elementary
  • Washington Middle
  • Wilson Elementary

Hospitals and Health Centers

The Queen’s Medical Center
1301 Punchbowl Street
Open 24 hours
808-691-1000

Straub Medical Center
888 South King Street
Open 24 hours
808-522-4000

Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children
1319 Punahou Street
Open 24 hours
808-983-6000

Kaiser Permanente Honolulu Medical Office
1010 Pensacola Street
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
808-432-2000

Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center
3288 Moanalua Rd, Honolulu, HI 96819
Open 24 hours
808-432-0000

Emergency Hurricane Shelters

The following hurricane evacuation shelters are provided by the City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management to offer some protection from high winds, flying debris, storm surges, and flooding. If possible, the Department of Emergency Management recommends the public to “Shelter-in-Place.” Note that more information about shelters will be broadcast over local media and official social media sites during an emergency. Also, you should bring a three-day supply of food, water, clothing, medication, personal hygiene items, and a mat or cot for sleeping, since the shelters are not stocked with supplies. 

Aina Haina Elementary 
801 West Hind Dr 

Aliiolani Elementary 
1240 7th Ave 

Central Middle 
1302 Queen Emma St 

Dole Middle 
1803 Kamehameha IV Rd 

Farrington High 
1564 North King St 

Fern Elementary 
1121 Middle St 

Hahaione Elementary 
595 Pepeekeo St 

Jarrett Middle 
1903 Palolo Ave 

Kaahumanu Elementary 
1141 Kinau St 

Kaewai Elementary 
1929 Kamehameha IV Rd 

Kaimuki Middle 
631 18th Ave 

Kaiser High 
511 Lunalilo Home Rd 

Kaiulani Elementary 
783 North King St 

Kalakaua Middle 
821 Kalihi St 

Kalani High 
4680 Kalanianaole Hwy 

Kalihi Elementary 
2471 Kula Kolea Dr 

Kalihi-Kai Elementary 
626 McNeill St 

Kalihi-Uka Elementary 
2411 Kalihi St 

Kalihi-Waena Elementary 
1240 Gulick Ave 

Kamiloiki Elementary 
7788 Hawaii Kai Dr 

Kapalama Elementary 
1601 North School St 

Kauluwela Elementary 
1486 Aala St 

Kawananakoa Middle 
49 Funchal St 

Koko Head Elementary 
189 Lunalilo Home Rd 

Kuhio Elementary 
2759 South King St 

Lanakila Elementary 
717 North Kuakini St 

Liholiho Elementary 
3430 Maunaloa Ave 

Likelike Elementary 
1618 Palama St 

Linapuni Elementary 
1434 Linapuni St 

Maemae Elementary 
319 Wyllie St 

Manoa Elementary 
3155 Manoa Rd 

McKinley High 
1039 South King St 

Niu Valley Middle 
310 Halemaumau St 

Noelani Elementary 
2655 Woodlawn Dr 

Nuuanu Elementary
3055 Puiwa Ln 

Palolo Elementary 
2106 10th Ave 

Pauoa Elementary
2301 Pauoa Rd 

Puuhale Elementary 
345 Puuhale Rd 

Roosevelt High 
1120 Nehoa St 

Royal Elementary 
1519 Queen Emma St 

Stevenson Middle 
1202 Prospect St 

Waialae Elementary PCS 
1045 19th St 

Waikiki Elementary 
3710 Leahi Ave 

Wilson Elementary 
4945 Kilauea Ave