Downtown Honolulu Sights
Downtown Honolulu is the central part of the county of Honolulu, which is the capital of the state of Hawaii and home to almost a million people as well as being a major global tourist destination.
Honolulu Capital Historic District
It is a place where old meets new: right next to towering skyscrapers, a significant slice of Hawaiian history is preserved in important structures such as ‘Iolani Palace, Kawaiaha’o Church and the King Kamehameha I Statue. These historic landmarks are situated in the Honolulu Capital Historic District, which has been the economic and governmental part of Honolulu since the days of the Hawaiian Monarchy. Washington Place (the Governor’s mansion) and Honolulu Hale (Honolulu’s City Hall) are places of interest that contain a lot of history and cultural significance.
Downtown Honolulu comprises of four districts – the Capitol District, Chinatown, the Central Business District, and the Waterfront. Each neighborhood boasts its own unique cultural, historical and social features.
Honolulu Waterfront Area
The Waterfront area is a great place to begin a tour of Downtown Honolulu, with the main landmark in that area being Aloha Tower - a large lighthouse built in the Hawaiian Gothic architectural style. Built in the 1920’s to ensure safe passage for vessels arriving into Honolulu Harbor, this clock tower was once the tallest building in the state.
Now, standing alongside the skyscrapers of the Central Business District, it appears to be less significant. Still, it is a popular tourist attraction with sweeping views of Diamond Head, greater Honolulu, Honolulu Harbor and the Koolau Mountains. Admission is free and it is open to the public 9.30am – 5 pm daily. It is encompassed by Aloha Tower Marketplace, which boasts a harborside complex of shops and restaurants. An interesting feature of Honolulu Harbor is the Falls of Clyde, which is the last surviving four-masted, iron-hulled, rigged ship. It is now a museum ship but it is not currently open to the public.
Honolulu Chinatown District
Chinatown, a bustling area on the western side of the financial district, is known for its Chinese American community and is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States. The area is filled with fabulous restaurants and eateries, ranging from incredible Chinese Dim Sum to Vietnamese, Malaysian and an array of international fare. Fresh local produce vendors, herbal and tea shops, as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, can be found in this area. The Mauna Kea, Oahu or Aloha marketplaces boast exotic fruits, seafood and all kinds of Chinese vegetables. Shrines and temples abound and will transport you back in time to historic Japan and China.
On the eastern edge of Chinatown, you will find the Hawaii Theatre, which was restored and re-opened in 1996. The area surrounding the theatre has been transformed into the Honolulu Arts District, largely due to the restoration of the theatre. The Chinatown art walk on the first Friday of each month, which takes place around Nu’uanu and Bethel Streets, brings many aspects of the district alive, including some of Oahu’s best nightlife. There are underground wine bars and jazz clubs, as well as urban art and live music at the bustling night markets.