This is a very different Chinatown, at least it was to me. I’ve seen Chinatowns in some other US cities, but this one is unusual.
Chinese were among the first settlers on the island, so they’ve been there for a while already and most of them settled on Oahu. It is said that about one third of the entire population of Hawaii can trace their roots in China! Yep, they were there even before the missionaries. And although they do maintain their culture they’re still more Americanized (or should I say Hawaiianized) then the others.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants and the colorful market which you smell miles away. Go to the area before 3pm, by this time they already start closing the shops and the market gets empty of colors and smells.
Honolulu Chinatown is located in historical downtown, so pay attention to the architecture; there are some impressive structures not to miss.
The good thing in Honolulu is all the sights are in walkable distance. There are so many of them around the park that houses Iolani Palace.
We started at the corner of Punchbowl and S King St with the Kawaiaha’o church (pic 1), a historic congregational church which is the oldest church in Oahu. It was built in 1842 in new england gothic style with more than 14,000 coral slabs!! The old clock at the tower dates back from 1850 and it still shows the time!
The Honolulu Hale is very near too on 530 S King St. It is the City Hall that was built in 1927 as a spanish mission and that’s why it looks like a typical spanish colonial building and has some beautiful decorated balconies and a tiled roof.
Further down (on 553 S King St) you can visit the Misson Houses Museum. It is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00-16.00 and houses three of the original buildings of the Sandwich Islands Mission headquarters. There is a detailed tour that starts every hour and will show all the original furniture and stone fireplaces. We got bored but I got shocked that the Frame House (one of the three houses) was the one that the first missionaries packed with them when they came from Boston!
Going back at the other side of Iolani Palace we saw the Ali’iolani Hale. It was built in 1874 and now houses the Supreme Court of Hawaii. Check the stature of king Kamehameha the Great in front of it.
One of the best views of Honolulu can be had from the cemetary known as the Punchbowl, but more formally as the National Military Cemetary of the Pacific. It is also an interesting place in that it's a typical Hawaiian military cemetary in that the flowers on the grave stones are tropical. This is also one of the few places on Oahu where the misquitoes have really been aggressive, so be alert for those hungry bugs.
Right next to Honolulu’s downtown the Chinatown isn’t to be missed. Not far from the port the Chinatown was built upon the ashes of the old one! It was back in 1899 when more than 7000 people (from China, Japan etc) were cordoned off here till the state decided to burn their wooden buildings! But the fire went out of control and the final result was 4000 homeless people!
With no map in our hand we preferred to get lost in Chinatown’s streets. It was a real district not oriented to tourists and we came across many budget restaurants but also some interesting sights. The official entrance of Chinatown is at Chinatown Gateway Plaza where the white stone lions mark the spot. Walking down the N Hotel Street you will come up to some night clubs (the area was a red light district once) till you reach the corner with Maunakea street. There is the Wo Fat building (pic 1) You will recognize it by the octagonal corner tower) that was rebuilt two times after the fires of 1886 and 1900. Like a phoenix it’s rising, the upper floor must be rised in 1938 and recently it housed a club room! Before we got lost in the small side streets we visited Maunakea Marketplace (pics 2-3). The smell of fresh fish was unbelievable (some may go away but we liked the atmosphere so much). Oahu Market is another place to buy everything you need for Chinese cooking. It stands there since 1904. The red dragons outside the Bank Of Hawaii was something that captured some more space of memory cards in our cameras (pic 4)
On our way out of Chinatown we headed toward the Nuuana stream and checked the Dr Sun Yat-sen statue (pic 5) that stands in front of Chinatown Cultural Plaza. Sun Yatsen (1866-1925) was a political leader and revolutioner, known as the Father of modern China and he was one of those who fought for the Qing Dynasty fall in 1911. He attended a school in Honolulu for three years (1879-1882). At the corner of Kukui and River street (one block up the Cultural Plaza) is a Taoist Temple. It was founded in 1889 but it was closed during our visit.
Walking in Honolulu downtown was really easy as most of the sights are in walkable distance. You don’t need really much time to walk from Chinatown to the State Capital.
We made a small break at Fort St Mall is a nice pedestrian street (pics 3-4) that houses a lot of small and cheap restaurants and cafes (with very good prices). It was very useful during our walking tour in Honolulu’s downtown.
We also spend some time at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace (pics 1-2 the entrance is from Bishop str but check also the back side at Fort St Mall) which is the epicenter of Catholic Church in Hawaii. It was built in 1843 and we liked it much more that the cathedral church of St.Andrew.
St. Andrew cathedral (pic 5) was built in 1867 in French gothic style with glass and stones that came from England. It was nine years after the king Kamehameha the 4th founded the Anglican church of Hawaii. The king had died four years before that date at St Andrew’s day so the church took the name by this.
It is open daily 9.00-17.00 and the sunday services are:
7.00am Eucharist; 8.00am Hawaiian Eucharist; 10.00am Choral Eucharist There are also some evensong at 19.30 the first Sunday (september through May).
State Capitol (pic 1) is an ugly building that was built in 1960 with columns that look like coconut treets! The pool next to it symbolises the ocean that surrounds Hawaii! There are two circular legislative rooms (in shape of a volcano!) and you can see part of them if you walk through the open air rotunda. If you to up the the 5th floor you will be rewarded with a nice view of the city.
In front of the building opposite the War Monument (the eternal torch burns for the dead soldiers of WWII) stands the statue(pic 2) of Father Damien(1840-1889) made by M.Escobar. Father Damien was a belgian priest that became famous because of his volunteer work with people that was suffering from Leprosy and were in quarantine on Molokai island. He died of leprosy after 16 consecutive years of been there and helping these people.
Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in USA! I know that you came to Hawaii for the beaches but if you can spend an hour inside, you will be rewarded with so much local history from 19th century. The Hawaiian Monarcy felt in 1893 and the palace turned into Capitol. When the legislators moved to the new State Capitol the palace was in bad shape so a big restoration took place. Today it is a museum of course with many interesting corners like the original thrones of the kings. The entrance fee is $20 but you can wonder around the gardens for free. The general area is great for taking pictures anyway with some really high trees etc (pics 3-4)
The palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Lili’uokalani (1838-1917). You can see her statue at the back side of the building (pic 5) between the palace and the capitol (who ever choosed the spot knew about symbolisms). By the way two years after her dethronment she came back to the palace for trial and she stayer there as prisoner in her old house!
Aloha Tower is one of the landmarks in Honolulu although it’s not so popular and charming anymore. The 10story building was built in 1926 next to the shore at the edge of downtown. The word Aloha that is written on the wall of the tower was the first thing the tourists were seeing upon their arrival here the old times before the flights start to come here. Of course, even today still the cruise ships arrive at this area (pic 4), if you have some time you can walk at the dock and see some interesting murals of the daily life at that times. It used to be the tallest building of Honolulu
There is no entrance fee but the security guard will insist to open every little purse of bag you carry with you before you’re allowed to enter the elevator. It is open 9.00-17.00, just take the elevator to the top floor where the observation deck is (pic 1) and you will have a great panoramic view of Honolulu and the harbour (pic 2).
We took several photos from the tower (it’s a 360 degree view anyway) and then we visited the Tower Marketplace (pic 3), a shopping center with more than 100 stores and restaurants, we checked a bit the stores and we enjoyed a coffee at one of the cafes.
Right next to Aloha Tower is the Maritime Museum (pic 5). What you can see here is the naval history of Hawaii that spreads from a section dedicated to wind surfing, with many displays to a section about Captain Hook! There also a replica of a delux cabin that Matson company had in boats that cruising to Honolulu the first days of tourism when in Waikiki you could see only two hotels and nothing else. Don’t miss the Falls Of Clyde, a big ship 80 meters long with 4 masts that was built in 1878 to carry sugar from Hawaii to SF. You can check and walk on the deck. The museum is open daily, 9.00-17.00
I just love these trees! They are pretty unique, I would say. I see them everywhere in the islands. I found these trees when I went to Lanai and Maui. You can't miss them because they have huge trunk and the roots are hanging on its branches. I sometimes have the urge to grab one of its roots, wrap it around my waist and swing! Wouldn't be fun to do it? But, hey, do as the Hawaiians do. They don't even touch them!
It is very special to visit the King Kamehameha building with the statue of King Kamehameha on the front of the building.
I am not sure who put the leis around the neck of the statue of King Kamehameha, but it looks really Hawaiian!
Located in downtown Honolulu, it's the historical sites that capture the visitor's attention because it's here that you’ll find the Iolani Palace, Kamehameha I statue, Queen Liliuokalani statue, the State Capitol, and other notable sites. A docent led tour of the Iolani Palace is also a must do while in Honolulu.
Note: Tip originally written for Jan. 2003 visit to Oahu.
To gain a more cultural and historical perspective to your already fun-filled Hawaiian vacation, from Waikiki hop on a bus and visit the Bishop Museum. Built in 1892, the museum houses the treasures of the Kamehameha dynasty. And after your museum visit continue on to Chinatown for a different look at Oahu and possibly grab a bite to eat there.
Note: Tip originally written for Jan. 2003 visit to Oahu.
Aloha Tower is one of Oahu's most famous landmarks. The tower sits within the Honolulu Harbor, standing over 184 ft tall (ten storys) and was was the tallest building in Hawaii until 1960.
The Tower was built in 1929 and has two clocks located just below the upper dome. One facing the harbor, and the second facing the city.
Many do not know that it is free to visit the top floor of the tower, which allows you a birds eye view from all 4 sides of the tower. It is never crowded, and a great place to get some shots of the Honolulu Harbor.
Aloha Tower is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Okay, you're in Waikiki and you walk past the Honolulu Zoo every time you head towards Kuhio Beach or Kapiolani Park or just visit the Starbucks at the end of Kalakaua. I'm sure you wonder if it's worth spending the money ($8.00 for tourists, $4.00 for kama'aina rate) and the time (about 2 hours) to take a look.
Of course, the answer depends on how much you like zoos and animals. If you were to go inside, you'll see some well-presente exhibits housing endangered animals like golden lion tamarins, ring-tailed gibbons, orang-utans as well as the standard elephants, giraffes, tigers and lions. Though small, most of the exhibits seem to mimic the animal's natural habitat and I haven't heard of them poisoning their critters like they've done in Washington. Unfortunately, there are only two native Hawaiian animals on display -- the nene and the hawaiian hawk. with so many birds (more than most zoos) why weren't there more indigenous species there?
So, on the whole, you could spend your time more poorly than the Honolulu Zoo, but I wouldn't make it a point to visit here until you've hot some of the special spots on Oahu.
The famous 184 ft clock tower was built in 1926 and used to be the tallest structure on Oahu. It is open free to the public. It is certainly one of the most recognisable landmarks in Oahu.
It was built to symbolise the hospitality and friendliness of the Hawaiian Islands and fond remembrances of `Boat Days.` You can take the elevator to the 11th floor, and get great views overlooking the harbour and right back to Diamond Head.
Honolulu is the business district of Oahu and there are many good restaurants, cafe's and bars found here as well as such places as The Academy of Arts, City Hall and the Iolani Palace.
The arrival of the Chinese in Honolulu can be traced back to 1788 and Chinatown was established in the 1800s. But it wasn't until 1852 that the Chinese became the first contract laborers to arrive in the islands. With the growth of the sugar industry, the need for plantation laborers became very important and China was selected as the best source of immediate cheap labor due to proximity and the interest of the Chinese in coming to Hawaii to work.
By 1884, the Chinese population in Honolulu reached 5,000, and the number of Chinese doing plantation work declined. As a group they became very important in business in Hawaii, and 75% of them were concentrated in the 25 acres of downtown called Chinatown where they built their clubhouses, herb shops, restaurants, temples and retail stores.