Surrounded by a sumptuous array of tropical beaches, all strewn with soft silky sands, the sophisticated, cosmopolitan city of Honolulu is the buzzing heart of Hawaii.
The rolling honkers (large waves) rushing into the world renowned Waikiki Beach still attract surfers from around the globe, but as Hawaii’s centre for business and politics, as well as art and entertainment, this laidback city on the island of Oahu has more to offer than sun, sea and spectacular aloha shirts.
Head downtown for the best architecture, taking in the glorious Iolani Palace, the former residence of the Hawaiian monarchy. Poke around the fascinating Bishop Museum, a space dedicated to Hawaii’s rich history, or discover the oeuvres of Picasso, Monet and Modigliani in the Honolulu Museum of Art.
You won’t be able to miss Diamond Head, the magnificent volcanic cone that frames the city, or want to overlook Honolulu’s beautiful harbour, a port which once welcomed the merchant ships that sailed between Asia and North America.
Those links helped this sprawling city meld into a cultural melting pot, something reflected in the diversity of Honolulu’s cuisine. Visit its farmers’ market to sample specialities like macadamia pesto pizza and barbecued abalone (sea snails), or dine in a Hawaiian Regional Cuisine movement restaurant, which trumpets Hawaii’s best food.
For shoppers, it’s not all hula skirts and Hawaii Five-O aloha shirts. Try on heritage jewellery, take home designer quilts or rustle for souvenirs, art and oddities at Honolulu’s hip night market, the eclectic Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.
There are few cities in the world that mix an enchanting urban setting with the paradise of pristine waters, endless sunshine and stunning coves as well as Honolulu. So whether you’re here for the surf, its diverse museums or its superb cuisine, your postcards home are bound to make everyone you know jealous.