Spend a week seeing the old Hawaii, from the sacred and cultural sites where priests once healed people and where members of royalty were born, to the historic sites of the missionaries, the old plantations, and World War II. The highlights include Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, downtown Honolulu, Chinatown, Central Oahu — all a vivid reminder of the past.
Day 1: Waikiki Beach
To get an overview of Waikiki's past, start off with the 2-mile Waikiki Historic Trail, marked by a 6-foot-tall surfboard explaining the history of today's favorite resort area. Next, hop on a Segway Personal Transporter with Segway of Hawaii. After a lesson to make sure you are competent, head off for a tour of Waikiki, Kapiolani Park, and Diamond Head. At sunset, wander along the sand at Waikiki Beach and listen to the Hawaiian music coming from every hotel. Plan dinner at either Hula Grill or Duke's.
Day 2: Pearl Harbor
Unfortunately, no trip to Honolulu would be complete without a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where 1,177 U.S. sailors died in a bombing attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Get there early, preferably by the 7:30am opening — otherwise face long lines (waits up to 2 hr.). After spending a couple of hours here, go next door to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, one of just 15 World War II submarines still in existence. If you're ready for more, wander down to the USS Missouri Memorial, where the Japanese signed the surrender agreement on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. Definitely take the tour to get the full impact of this historic vessel. Finish with the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, where you can sit behind the controls of a simulated plane that flew in World War II. To get a feel for that fateful day in 1941 that propelled the U.S. into the war, sign up for the unforgettable Island Seaplane Service's tour of the entire island. Finish the day by wandering through the (Punchbowl) National Cemetery of the Pacific to see the true cost of any war. For an evening activity to cheer you up, try a stand-up comedian or a show in Waikiki.
Day 3: Honolulu
If you really want to "understand" Hawaii, take the 45-minute tour of the Iolani Palace, where you'll see how Hawaiian royalty lived. When sugar planters and descendants of missionaries overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893, Hawaii's last queen, Liliuokalani, was put under house arrest and this palace also became a jail. Next, wander down the street to the crowning achievement of the missionaries, Kawaiahao Church, which holds its Sunday service in Hawaiian at 9am. To learn more about the missionaries who traveled from New England to Hawaii (via Cape Horn) to spread the gospel, stop by the Hawaiian Mission Houses Museum. Make one last call at the Royal Mausoleum, the final resting place of both royalty and missionaries, and then relax over dinner at Hau Tree Lanai, which offers ocean views.
Day 4: The Bishop Museum & Polynesian Cultural Center
Head to Hawaii's premier cultural and historical museum, the Bishop Museum, where you could spend days. Limit this visit to a couple of hours before heading out to the North Shore via Haleiwa town. Grab a terrific burger or sandwich at Kua Aina, and then head over to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Try to get there as close to the noon opening time as possible to avoid crowds. Allow at least 2 hours to tour this 42-acre lagoon park (and more time if you have kids). It's pricey to get in (tickets start at $50), so stay as long as you like. At sunset, drive back toward Haleiwa and watch the sun set behind the mountains at the Hawaiian sacred temple, Puu O Mahuka. Plan to enjoy a leisurely dinner at Haleiwa Joe's.
Day 5: The Plantations
Take the hour-long tour of Hawaii's Plantation Village, a restored 50-acre settlement that depicts what life was like on the plantations of 1852 to 1947. The chief mode of transportation at that time was the railroad. You can experience the Old Oahu Railway trains at the Hawaiian Railway. And to see what a plantation looks like today, stop by the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Take the afternoon off and go to the beach.
Day 7: Shopping
Culture hounds will be mesmerized by the gift shops at the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Spencer House, and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center's Little Hawaiian Craft Shop. Artists and collectors could spend an entire day at Native Books & Beautiful Things, Nohea Gallery, and Bishop Museum's Shop Pacifica. So many things to buy and so little time. At least pick up a book so you can start planning your next trip to Hawaii.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.