Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect 24 hours in Honolulu, Hawaii. Admit it, when I say “dream vacation”, Honolulu is one of the first destinations that pops into your head. Don’t you just imagine kicking back on the beach in Waikiki, clamping your fist tightly around a mai tai, and lazing an entire week away?
Well, you can definitely do all those things in Honolulu! But Honolulu is also an extremely important place in American history, so I encourage you to do some learning and exploring with all that relaxing. On this 24 hours in Honolulu, we’re heading to Pearl Harbor to pay our respects, and then we’ll spend the rest of the day indulging and relaxing.
Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Honolulu is this excellent Pearl Harbor tour with tons of amazing reviews.
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24 Hours in Honolulu
Where to Stay?
There are so many hotels to choose from for your 24 hours in Honolulu, but I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach. It’s one of the most affordable places to stay that I found in Honolulu, but it still has an excellent location and great amenities. They have a coffee machine in the room, which wasn’t the case in every hotel I tried in Hawaii, wifi, and they’re right within walking distance of the beach.
If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here.
And if you’re looking for other hotel options in Honolulu, check out these fantastic prices on many other hotels in Honolulu here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your 24 hours in Honolulu. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.
24 Hours in Honolulu
Morning: Tour Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is one of the most famous sights you could see during your 24 hours in Honolulu. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked the naval base here, killing thousands of American servicemen. This attack finally brought America into World War II, which had already been raging for years.
I don’t think any visit to Honolulu is complete without stopping at Pearl Harbor and seeing the Arizona Memorial to the young men who were killed. However, many people agree with me, so it can be difficult and complicated to get tickets and transportation to all the areas of the Pearl Harbor historic site.
That’s why I recommend taking this excellent all day tour of the Arizona Memorial and other areas at Pearl Harbor. They’ll take care of all the tickets for you and give you the relevant historic background.
You can go ahead and book this fantastic tour by clicking here.
Then get ready for…
Approximately Top 5: Pearl Harbor
1) National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Before you get to Pearl Harbor, your guide will take you to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where many World War II veterans who served in the Pacific theater are buried. You won’t have time to get out and walk around, but your guide will tell you about some notable people who are buried here. I appreciated having the chance to visit this important place during my 24 hours in Honolulu.
One famous veteran who is buried in this cemetery is Hawaiian Senator Daniel K Inouye, who lost his arm fighting for the United States in WWII. He was part of the 442nd regiment, which was composed of young men of Japanese ancestry who fought for the US. It was the most decorated regiment in US history. (The fictional Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies served in this regiment.)
2) Driving Tour of Honolulu
Your guide will also take you past some important Honolulu landmarks on your way to Pearl Harbor. What is this unusually-shaped building you can see above? Can you guess? It’s actually the Hawaii State Capitol building.
It doesn’t look like any capitol building I have ever seen because they usually have cupolas and look more Greek. However, I think it makes sense for Hawaii to have a unique architectural style for its building, so I’m glad they don’t have the cupola.
Our guide said that there are eight pillars on the building, one for each major island in Hawaii. The statue you see in front of the building is of Father Damien, a priest who dedicated his life to helping lepers with their disease. That’s so noble! Truly, I cannot think of people who have historically been treated much worse than lepers.
3) Submarine Memorials
Finally we have arrived at Pearl Harbor. There will be some time for you to explore before your timed ticket to the small boat that will take you to the Arizona Memorial. That won’t be enough time to go to the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, but it will be enough time to see some of the memorials to the submarines and their servicemen that were destroyed during the attack.
For example, this hoop above is actually a ring that represents the diameter of the Columbia class submarine. There’s also a Lost Submarine Memorial, and I recommend stopping by to remember those who were lost at sea under such dangerous circumstances, defending their country.
24 Hour Tip
Bags aren’t allowed in Pearl Harbor for security reasons, but you can check any bags in a locker facility at Pearl Harbor. I suggest bringing your wallet with you, buying something right away at the store, and they’ll give you a bag you can use as a purse. Problem solved!
4) Visitor Center Exhibits
In the area outside of the line to get on the Arizona Memorial boat, you can see some exhibits on the events that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. These exhibits are free, so no need to pay an extra fee to see them.
The features include a giant map showing the major battles in the Pacific portion of World War II and a giant replica of a letter that Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent to Emperor Hirohito the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, requesting that Hirohito work him to avoid going to war. (This offer was not accepted.)
5) Arizona Memorial
Finally, it will be time to get on your little boat to head out to the Arizona Memorial, which is the most popular feature of the Pearl Harbor historical sites. Don’t worry because your guide will make sure that you get to the boat on time. This memorial is placed over the remains of the battleship USS Arizona, which was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Once you get to the memorial, you’ll be able to walk around inside and see the names of the servicemen who died on board the USS Arizona. Look to the side, and you’ll see the Tree of Life design, created to honor the memories of the dead. (There’s a larger Tree of Life sculpture at the Visitor Center, back on land.)
It’s a bit strange to visit such a solemn place in a crowded way with so many strangers. However, I’m glad that so many people want to remember the young men who lost their lives here. It must be especially hard for their families who don’t have any bodies to bury.
24 Hours in Honolulu
Afternoon: USS Missouri
After your boat returns from the Arizona Memorial, you’ll still have more time to explore on your own before your tour bus will leave to return you back to your hotel. So that’s plenty of time to take the free shuttle bus over to the USS Missouri, which is where the peace agreement between the United States and Japan was signed to end World War II.
Also, at this point on your 24 hours in Honolulu, you’re going to be hungry for lunch. We’ll take care of that at the USS Missouri too, I promise. And we’ll also find…
Three Fascinating Facts: USS Missouri
1) What was that about lunch?
The USS Missouri isn’t a gourmet dining destination, but you can get a decent lunch at Sliders Grill, the food truck just outside the Missouri. Will it be the best food you’ll ever eat during your 24 hours in Honolulu? No. But will it be the best food you’re going to get at Pearl Harbor. I say yes.
I had the firecracker chicken salad, and the best part by far was the chicken, which was spicy and crunchy and moist all at once. We’ll have more exciting vegetables for dinner tonight.
2) Are there good stories at the Missouri?
Yes, the docents were full of amazing stories about the adventures that this battleship experienced during World War II. The most interesting one is about this dent that you can see on the side of the Missouri. It was caused by a kamikaze pilot who crashed into the side of the ship.
His attack wasn’t successful because the ship ended up totally fine, but the young Japanese pilot was killed in the attack. The servicemen on board the Missouri gave him a proper naval burial at the captain’s assistance.
The Japanese government appreciated this gesture, and there is evidence of the strong contemporary relationship between the US and Japan, including a gift of 1000 paper cranes in memory of a little Japanese girl named Sadako who died of radiation-caused leukemia after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
3) What was life like on board the ship?
You can walk into many of the rooms that would have belonged to the servicemen. To this civilian, it seemed like there were about a grillion Lieutenant Commanders in charge of the various missiles and other weapons aboard the battleship.
You also get a sense of what ordinary life was like on board the Missouri from details like a sample Thanksgiving menu. I was especially interested in the examples of “trench art”, which are art objects created by servicemen from metal and other military objects. It’s amazing that people can try to create something beautiful out of something as ugly as war.
However, my favorite object that I saw on board the Missouri was this completely deranged jacket commemorating the USS Missouri world tour that it went on back in the 1980s. How Reagan-era is this jacket anyway? I half expect Rocky Balboa to burst out of this jacket and punch Ivan Drago in the face right now.
24 Hour Tip
At this point, your guide will collect you back at the bus and drive you back to your hotel. Those are all the secrets of this Pearl Harbor tour that I can share with you for now. You’ll have to book the tour for yourself if you want to experience it for yourself!
Check rates and availability right here!
24 Hours in Honolulu
Evening: Dinner at MW
After your tour is over, you should have some time on your 24 hours in Honolulu before your dinner reservation to relax. Just stroll on over to one of the lovely Waikiki beaches–I suggest Kuhio Beach–and enjoy the light on the water or a relaxing mystery novel.
If you’re feeling snacky, stop for a cup of ice cream at Il Gelato. It’s the perfect bite to take to the beach and it won’t fill you up for dinner. I recommend the Hawaiian coffee and dragonfruit flavors. (I promise the dragonfruit doesn’t bite; it just has a little tang.)
And for fine dining, I suggest heading to the glamorous MW Restaurant for dinner. You can try a fantastic tasting menu that will allow you to sample many amazing Pacific Rim dishes, or you can order a la carte. (I got the tasting menu, just so you could examine it, Internet Strangers.
The only hitch the entire evening was that my Uber driver dropped me off at the old address for this restaurant and then sped away, leaving me with no choice but to run for twenty minutes in the dark in heels. A pleasant looking gentleman stopped me to ask for directions and all I could do was scream, “NO!!!” and keep running.
Pleasant Looking Man, if you are reading this blog, I am sorry that I yelled at you. However, this dinner was worth it.
The first bite was an aromatic kabocha curry soup with fried basil. I would never have thought to fry basil or to pair it with a kabocha curry, so we are already off to an exciting start.
The next course was five scrumptious snacks in one: an ahi taco, arancini (which are stuffed rice balls), lobster salad, fried chicken, and tuna tartare. I enjoyed the variety of textures, tastes, and even temperatures, all on one little amuse bouche plate.
If you want an extra treat, you can order a supplemental course of egg with caviar. How clever! Because technically they are both eggs. Honestly, warm eggs with caviar are one of my favorite decadent treats.
Now we come to the house specialty, which is Kona Kampachi fish crusted with mochi. (You can order this on the ala carte menu.) Have you ever had a mochi crust before? I hadn’t, and I enjoyed the light texture, which was much less oppressive than fried fish can sometimes be.
Ready for some more decadence? How about this gorgeous Kona Lobster, served with a brown butter caper sauce. Everyone knows that lobster is better with butter, so I enjoyed the variation of having it with some scrumptious brown butter instead.
For the final main course, we have a perfectly-sized beef tenderloin with red wine-ume sauce. (Ume is a type of Japanese food, and as we will see on the rest of our Hawaiian travels, Japanese food is extremely popular in Hawaii.
Finally, the dessert specialty of the house! This is a lilikoi sorbet with custard, gummies, tapioca, and tropical fruit, with a brulee crust on top. The whole thing reminded me of a more gourmet version of a popular Filipino dessert called halo halo. But I don’t think you can find any dessert this beautiful at your local Jollibee’s, probably.
24 Hours in Honolulu
Tools For Travel
- A cell phone charger so you can take photos throughout your 24 hours in Honolulu
- My favorite guidebook to Oahu, including Honolulu
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
- The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds during our 24 hours in Honolulu
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
That’s 24 Hours in Honolulu!
What would you do with 24 hours in Honolulu? How 80s is that crazy jacket? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Honolulu now? And will Pleasant Looking Man forgive me? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Honolulu.