Honolulu Off the Beaten Path Travel Guide

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Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii is one of the most recognized cities within the Hawaiian Islands, and it’s the most saturated city with locals and tourists, due to its extreme popularity and limitless options of things to see and do. With Waikiki Beach being the epicenter of tourism on the island, it’s easy to get drawn into the more touristy activities, which there is nothing wrong with, since they are all great things to do, but for those visiting Honolulu looking to check out something to see or do that is a bit more unique, our list below has some out of the box options that wouldn’t make the typical itinerary.

JetLev Flight

Have you ever wanted to strap a jet pack to your back and take off? Ok, it might not be everyone’s fantasy, but it is possible to safely ease up to thirty feet above calm and picturesque Maunalua Bay. The personal JetLev Flight is made a reality using the power of controlled water pressure. Certified instructors will train you and then will direct your movement in the air. The experience lasts anywhere from 10-15 minutes but the memories and bragging rights will last a lifetime. Included in the activity is a safety video and face-to-face instruction. Thrill seekers taking part will learn how to properly steer the pack as well as elevation control, deep-water landings and even walking on water techniques. Photos and GoPro video services are also offered.

Honolulu Jetpack

BOB Adventure

BOB (breathing observation bubble) is a different way to experience some under the water action. It’s a way to see some of what scuba divers see, without having to actually scuba dive. Prior to going under, a 30-minute briefing on the equipment and safety is provided to all customers. After the briefing, a shuttle vessel sails out to Maunalua Bay where one final briefing will take place that reinforces diving procedures before any dive is initiated. A master diver accompanies each dive, which typically last between 15 to 18 minutes and reach depths of 18 to 22 feet deep. The tour also offers swimming and snorkeling opportunities.

BOB Oahu Hawaii Travel

Zipline Tour – Climb Works at Keana Farms

This is by far one of the most exciting zipline tours on the island. Guests can learn about Hawaiian history and culture while exploring a tropical farm operation on a state of the art zipline course. The side-by-side zipline course features sky bridges, boardwalks and even some sections where guests will rappel, with the help of an automatic belay device. The zip over Keana Farms provides a bird’s eye view of a working commercial farm that produces over one million pounds of produce each year.

Zipline Honolulu Tours

Shark Encounters

Swimming with sharks might not be for everyone, but with the help of a shark cage by Shark Encounters, it’s become an in-demand activity. The shark cage can accommodate up to six people and has built in hand rails, a ladder and 2’x6’ wide Plexiglas windows for viewing. During the encounter, it’s possible to see Sandbar Sharks up to 7 feet in size, Grey Reef Sharks up to 6 feet, and Galapagos Sharks up to 12 feet. There are at times rare appearances by Tiger Sharks up to 14 feet. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins are usually always around during the tour as well.

Shark Cage Diving Hawaii

Honolulu Chinatown

Just like every other Chinatown in the world, Honolulu’s Chinatown is always bustling and energetic. Even though it’s a lot smaller than others, it still has the same rushed market feel to it that provides a sense of thrill. Fruits and vegetables dominate the markets and come at a great price, as does fresh fish and meat. But if you prefer to not have to cook, there is an abundance of restaurants throughout the entire Chinatown area. In addition to Chinese food, there are Thai, Filipino and other Asian cuisine options.

Honolulu Chinatown Guide

Diamond Head

For the active traveler, or for those looking to get a little exercise in during their vacation, hiking is a recreational activity that is not only popular on the island in Honolulu, but also readily available both outside the city limits and even within. Diamond Head is the iconic former volcano that stands proudly at the far eastern side of Waikiki and is somewhat of a landmark emblem of Honolulu. Diamond Head makes for a stunning backdrop from the beach, but has an even better photo opportunity from the very top of the volcano. The crater itself was formerly used as a military base but is now open to the public. The hike to reach the summit takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes and is just under a mile in length. The trail appears easy at first but after reaching a series of switchbacks with elevation increases; it proves to be more challenging than expected. The final stretch has hikers passing through an old military tunnel, up a flight of stairs and emerging to the top through a bunker. This is by far the best view of Honolulu.

Diamond Head Honolulu Hiking Guide

Iolani Palace

This beautifully restored palace that is decorated with an abundance of luxurious interior designs and furnishings provides a glimpse into the history of what once was royal Hawaii. The historical landmark in downtown Honolulu was built in 1879 by King Kalakaua, and was constructed in an effort to elevate Hawaii to a more prestigious level and so that the island nation would be more recognized around the world. Iolani Palace is open to the public for both self-guided and guided tours. Visitors to the palace can view elegant rooms such as a grand hall, a throne room, the King’s private suites and also the suite of Queen Kapiolani.

Honolulu Iolani Palace

Honolulu Fish Auction

If the smell of fish isn’t a red flag, then the Honolulu Fish Auction, compared to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, but on a much smaller scale, is a different type of activity that one might not think to include during a vacation. Go in the mornings to see the auction in full swing. The process of moving fish is rhythmic and hypnotic as the workers toss the fish around without skipping a beat. It’s not a bad way to start the day, and will leave you hungry.

About the Author: David Duran is a Brooklyn-based luxury, hospitality, culinary, and overall freelance travel writer who contributes to such publications as Fodor’s, Travel + Leisure, Destinations Weddings & Honeymoon, and Caribbean Travel + Life, among others. When not traveling 20-25 days a month for his work, he spends his free time planning more travel! To read some of his work, check out his online portfolio, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @mrdavidduran.