This guide to the best things to do off the beaten path in Honolulu includes hidden gems away from the typical attractions that bring people to the capital of Hawaii. With some of the most striking sunsets in the world and vibrant culture, Honolulu is a great city to add to your bucket list. Because the weather is beautiful year-round, there are tons of activities to take advantage of outdoors.

    While most people who head to Honolulu enjoy beach days at Waikiki, hiking up Diamond Head, and historic visits to Pearl Harbour, there are a few unusual places that you should check out. From statues and food markets to waterfalls and gardens, here are some of the best things to do off the beaten path in Honolulu.

    1

    Maunakea Marketplace

    Grab a bite to eat in this open-air market

    Maunakea Marketplace is a lively flea market located in Chinatown in downtown Honolulu, at the corner of Maunakea and North Hotel Streets. With almost 70 vendors, you can buy fresh produce, souvenirs, and even beauty products here.

    The market is a local favourite for the bustling food court, with vendors serving everything from authentic Chinese and Japanese dishes to classic American and Italian snacks. Because it’s in the heart of Chinatown, the market is easy to get to from anywhere in downtown Honolulu. There’s plenty of nearby street parking, which is free on Sundays, and a few parking garages in the area, making it a breeze to get in and out of quickly.

    Location: 1120 Maunakea St #200, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Daily from 5.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 808-524-3409

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    photo by boaski (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    2

    Izumo Taishakyo Shrine

    A beautiful Shinto shrine in downtown Honolulu

    The Izumo Taishakyo Shrine is one of very few active Shinto shrines in the US. It can be easily found in downtown Honolulu, at the corner of North Kukui Street and College Walk. Located along the canal just off the beaten path, this white wooden A-frame shrine is a beautiful religious structure nestled in the centre of the city.

    While the local Chinatown area is known for its hustle and bustle, the Izumo Taishakyo Shrine offers a peaceful oasis. You can simply walk around the temple or take part in the rituals for a unique experience in the city.

    Location: 215 N Kukui St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 808-538-7778

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    photo by Bittercup (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    3

    Manoa Falls

    Hike up a sweat on the way to a scenic waterfall

    Manoa Falls is a 150-ft waterfall about 6 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu. You can find it by tackling its namesake trail, which is just shy of 2 miles long. The beautiful walking path leads you to the base of the waterfall. Because this area is known for receiving significant rainfall, you’ll want to bring a good pair of hiking shoes.

    For a small fee at the end of Manoa Road, you can park close to the Manoa Falls trailhead and head off on your hike. Bring your camera for some beautiful pictures but make sure to carry water to cool off as the waterfall isn’t cleared for swimming, let alone drinking.

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    4

    Le’ahi Millennium Peace Garden

    Relax for a while at this small, serene park

    Le’ahi Millennium Peace Garden is a hidden gem in downtown Honolulu, which you can enjoy for free. Located just around the corner from the KCC Farmers’ Market along Diamond Head Rd, this peace garden is a beautiful place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. With plenty of trees and a manicured garden, many locals bring their lunch and enjoy a beautiful picnic in the shade.

    If you’re travelling with your pup, there’s a nearby dog park to check out after a stroll through the garden. Hop on a bus to the Diamond Head State Monument bus stop or park at the parking lot on Diamond Head Road, right next to the garden for easy access.

    Location: 4180 Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 10 pm

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    5

    Lyon Arboretum

    Explore Hawaii’s natural beauty at this expansive park

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    The Lyon Arboretum is a unique park and public botanical garden managed by the University of Hawaii. Located about 6 miles north of downtown Honolulu, this arboretum is near dozens of trails and nature centres. Because it’s a research unit for the University, the grounds are in impeccable shape and, with over 200 acres, there’s plenty of room to explore.

    Bring your hiking shoes and spend some time wandering the trails where you can take a closer look at their 6,000+ species of tropical and sub-tropical plants. Admission to the arboretum is free but they do accept donations.

    Location: 3806 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 3 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +1 808-988-0456

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    6

    Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives

    Discover the unique historic Christian missionary homes

    The Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives is a massive complex in downtown Honolulu, just a few blocks east of the arts district. Western-style houses from the 19th century are preserved on this 1-acre historic site, which is one of the most unique places to visit in the city.

    Take a walk through the museum to learn more about the unique lifestyle of Christian missionaries in the 1800s. Then check out the oldest house on the complex, the Mission House, which was built in 1821. Make sure to reserve a tour in advance if you want a more in-depth experience.

    Location: 553 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10.30 am to 2.30 pm (closed on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays)

    Phone: +1 808-447-3910

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    7

    Foster Botanical Garden

    Spend the afternoon wandering through nature

    The Foster Botanical Garden is 1 of 5 botanical gardens on Oahu. It’s a hidden gem located in downtown Honolulu, just a few minutes’ walk north of Chinatown. This 14-acre garden is home to some of the most unique plants, flowers, butterflies, and birds.

    Some of the highlights in the garden include the conservatory, outdoor butterfly garden, and prehistoric glen cycad collection. For a low admission fee, you can visit the garden and even join a free guided tour, which is offered daily at 10.30 am.

    Location: 180 N Vineyard Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 808-768-7135

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    photo by KlausVonVilver (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Makiki Arboretum Trail

    Wander through this picturesque hiking trail

    The Makiki Arboretum Trail is one of the many trails surrounding Honolulu. Located adjacent to the Hawaii Nature Centre, just a few miles north of downtown, this unique 2.5-mile trail is good for any skill level and is a great hike for the whole family. The Makiki Arboretum trail is a beautiful path that’s dog-friendly, making it a great place to spend the afternoon for those travelling with their pups.

    Because this peaceful trail is shaded the whole way and features several streams, it’s ideal for travellers who want to stay active while avoiding the hot Hawaiian sun. If you’re looking for a longer hike, there are plenty of branches off the Makiki Arboretum Trail that wind through the nearby foliage.

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    9

    National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

    Visit Hawaii’s historical resting grounds for fallen soldiers

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    The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a huge memorial located at Punchbowl Crater, just north of the city centre. This cemetery is kept in pristine condition and is the honourable resting place for men and women who died serving in the US Armed Forces, including over 13,000 who fell in the Pacific Theater of WWII.

    With a dramatic setting and impeccably kept grounds, the National Memorial Cemetery is a great place to learn about the history of those who have sacrificed their lives for their country. Of course, it is a rather morbid attraction, putting it firmly among the things to do off the beaten track in Honolulu. However, it’s an essential addition to your itinerary if you are visiting to learn more about Pearl Harbor and the attack it suffered in WWII. Admission is free and parking is plentiful just outside the information centre.

    Location: 2177 Puowaina Dr, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 808-532-3720

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    10

    Koko Crater Botanical Gardens

    Embark on a journey through these charming gardens

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    The Koko Crater Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to experience colourful plants from across the globe. Located 14 miles from downtown Honolulu in the Koko Crater, on the eastern side of the island, these gardens are known as some of the most stunning in Hawaii.

    The terrain can be a bit tricky to wander through, so make sure to bring great hiking shoes if you want to explore. Bring your own drinking water, especially on hot days, and if you’re visiting in spring, make sure to head to the plumeria grove to experience these stunning flowers in full bloom. Grab a map at the entrance and enjoy the scenic 2-mile loop through the garden.

    Location: 7491 Kokonani St, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 808-522-7060

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    Victoria Zelefsky | Contributing Writer

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