attractions destinations oahu things to do

Exploring Downtown Honolulu

Exploring Downtown Honolulu on a 2.3 mile self guided walk

Downtown Honolulu is more than just the state’s main business center and financial district. In and around this small jungle of office buildings and bank towers are some of Hawaii’s significant and cherished treasures—all within comfortable walking distance of each other.

Ariel view of Honolulu
Iolani Palace and other important Honolulu landmarks by Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson

7 Must-See Landmarks:

Experience these 7 must-see Honolulu landmarks yourself on our suggested 2.3 miles Honolulu walking route. View map and suggested walking route

1) Aloha Tower

A tour of downtown might begin at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, a harborside complex of shops and restaurants surrounding historic Aloha Tower. When it was erected in 1926 to welcome passenger ships arriving at Honolulu Harbor, this 10-story tower was the tallest building in the state.

2) Hawaii Maritime Center

Next door is the Hawaii Maritime Center, which traces Hawaii’s colorful ocean history from the ancient Polynesian voyagers and rowdy whalers to the luxury liners of the 1920s and ’30s.

3) Chinatown

Walk mauka (towards the mountain) and west, and you’ll come to Chinatown bustling area filled with ethnic eateries, lei stands, fresh produce vendors, herbal shops and more. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii offers weekly guided walking tours of Chinatown.

Tip: Make a quick stop at the Aloha Market for fresh local produce.

4) Iolani Palace

Heading east on King Street, walk through the main business district until you reach Iolani Palace, the only royal palace standing on American soil. The palace served as the royal residence for Hawaii’s last two monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Guided tours are available here five days a week.

5) State Capitol Building

Behind the palace is the State Capitol Building, where the governor and state legislature fight their political battles. The building opened in 1969 and remains a unique work of architecture. The cone-shaped chambers symbolize Hawaii’s volcanoes, and the building columns are reminiscent of palm trees. The large pool of water surrounding the building symbolizes the fact that Hawaii is the only island state in the U.S.

6) King Kamehameha Statue

Across the street from Iolani Palace is the Kamehameha statue, which fronts Honolulu’s old judicial building. The bronze statue stands eight feet and six inches high (not including the 10-foot-high base). Every June 11 on King Kamehameha Day, the statue is adorned with beautiful floral leis, some as long as 18 feet in length.

7) Mission Houses Museum

Cross Punchbowl Street to find the Mission Houses Museum, where the first American Protestant missionaries established their headquarters in 1820. The structures you see here include the oldest surviving Western-style buildings in the state. They house a treasure trove of original artifacts, including furniture, books, quilts and other household items that once belonged to missionary families.