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Most will stay in or around one of the most popular beaches in the world, the famed Waikiki. Between downtown and Diamond Head, it is busy morning to night with beach bums in bikinis and board shorts, novice surfers, families and lovers, tourists and locals alike and it's easy to see why. Warm, gentle waves lap a perfect white sand beach behind which numerous eateries on Kalakaua Ave feed the sun-kissed masses. Boutiques, bars and cafes round out the sun-drenched posh blocks otherwise dotted with high-rise condos and hotels as far as the eye can see.
Diamond Head Crater is Waikiki's defining landmark and a great morning hike. The trek up the ancient volcanic crater is about a kilometer long and once at the summit, breathless visitors are blessed with a stunning view of the beach below. On your way back to Waikiki, stop at the Honolulu Zoo or the Waikiki Aquarium or relax and watch the locals BBQ in lovely Kapiolani Park.
History buffs have a bevy of sightseeing to do here including Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri and the Arizona Memorial. Other popular excursions are dolphin and whale watching trips, a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, outlet mall shopping and feasting on classic kalua pork or a delicious dish in one of the many superb Chinatown restaurants.
As fun as Honolulu ultimately is, you would do yourself a disservice by not renting a car to explore the rest of Oahu, where many idyllic, near empty beaches and quiet coves can still be found, as well as the ultra laid-back cool of surf mecca, North Shore. The truth is that your ideal Hawaii is here and Honolulu just happens to be the perfect buffer.