Luaus and leis are nice, but they’re only part of what Honolulu has to offer. You already know Hawaii’s capital (and largest) city has beautiful beaches, but what if you could experience amazing sights in Honolulu without brushing off a single grain of sand? When you’re ready for a break from the beach and the waves, check out these five standout spots that make Honolulu’s arts and culture scene what it is today.
After undergoing a pretty serious makeover, Honolulu’s 20-block Chinatown neighborhood is the go-to spot for strolling art galleries and enjoying live performances. From sculptures and paintings to local bands and street entertainers, this changing neighborhood has it all. The cheap rent prices for spacious lofts attract artists and musicians, and new shops, restaurants, and galleries attract visitors and locals alike. Get a taste of the tropics at the Oahu Market, or drop in on a First Friday or Second Saturday to experience special art events that are off the charts.
Honolulu’s Art District
Let your inner hipster loose with a stop in the Kakaako neighborhood. Long gone is the neighborhood’s history as a gritty warehouse district. In its place, high-rise condos, cool cafes, and art galleries make you wish you threw on a pair of Chuck Taylors and thick-rimmed glasses before coming. After all, Aloha magazine does call it “Honolulu’s hippest art district.”
It’s also the neighborhood that hosts Pow Wow Hawaii, a mural-based festival celebration of art, music, and culture. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for this week-long event, don’t miss the chance to rub elbows with artists from around the world at gallery shows, concerts, and mural projects.
The Bishop Museum
You could spend days browsing the 24 million stories waiting to be told at Honolulu’s famed Bishop Museum. Even if you’re short on time, it’s worth carving out a few hours to see the state’s largest museum and one of the world’s biggest natural history collections. Hands down, one of the coolest features is the planetarium, with its virtual star walk and cool info on ancient Hawaiian navigation. You won’t believe the distances they traveled across the water in canoes!
Honolulu Museum of Art
If you’re a fan of David Hockney, a stop at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s second location, Spalding House, is a must-see. Home to a permanent exhibit of Hockney’s stage designs for “L’Enfant et les sortilèges,” art galleries, and sculpture gardens, this spot offers plenty of culture and art. Heck, even if you aren’t a Hockney fan, it’s worth a visit just to take in the amazing views of Honolulu.
The main museum is enormous, with 50,000-plus works of art that span roughly 5,000 years. Interested in digging deeper? Go to one of the classes, workshops, film screenings, or concerts. Given all that, it’s pretty safe to say this is the place to be if you’re looking for the beating heart of Honolulu’s cultural scene.
Hawaii State Art Museum
If you love art, run — don’t walk — to the Hawaii State Art Museum for an up close and personal look at the history of Hawaii’s cultural and artistic scene. In addition to exploring the “Art of Hawaii” exhibit and its more than 350 works by more than 280 artists, take a self-guided tour of the museum’s “Art in Public Places” collection in the downtown area.
Do you like digs fit for a king (or a queen)? Take a spin through the halls of Iolani Palace. It’s hard not to feel connected to Honolulu and its history when visiting the restored residence that was once home to King Kalakaua and his successors. It’s over-the-top fancy with bits of history scattered throughout. This National Historic Landmark has guided, self-led, and basement gallery tours.
There’s nothing boring about arts and culture, and Honolulu is proof positive! Head over to Facebook for more inside scoop on other spots you want to explore.