All About Downtown Oahu

Considered to be Oahu’s historic center for government and business, Downtown Honolulu is home to most of the island’s historic places and landmarks. Just 15 minutes west of Waikiki, the downtown Oahu destination is the seat of Hawaii’s government as well as the home to many important cultural landmarks. Whether you are visiting Oahu or are here to stay, here are some of the things you need to know about this gem of the islands.

The Districts

Downtown Honolulu consists of four districts: the Capital District, the Central District, the Business District and the Waterfront. Each of these districts has its own unique style and landmarks. The Capital District, for example, is characterized by towering skyscrapers next to historic landmarks such as Iolani Palace and Kawaiaha’o Church. The Capital District is also home to Washington Palace, which is the Governor’s mansion, and Honolulu’s City Hall.

Meanwhile, the Waterfront district is home to Diamond Head and Aloha Tower, which is a large Hawaiian Gothic lighthouse built in the 1920s. Aloha Tower Marketplace, which features a harborside complex of shops and restaurants, is also located in Downtown Oahu.


Located in the region of North Beretania and Nu’uana streets, Oahu’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the country. Restaurants and eateries within Chinatown range from Chinese to Vietnamese and Malaysian, while vendors offer fresh produce, herbs, teas, and seafood for sale. Chinatown is also home to Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners as well as shrines and temples. The Hawaii Theater, which opened in 1996 and almost single-handedly transformed the area into the Honolulu Arts District, can also be found on the eastern edge of Chinatown. Chinatown is also home to underground wine bars and jazz clubs along with an active urban art and live music scene.

Art and Culture

Downtown Oahu is filled with art and culture for you to explore. Aside from those attractions previously mentioned, the Hawaii Art Museum boasts sculptures, paintings and more within a gorgeous vintage building. As part of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the museum can be accessed and enjoyed for free. Founded in 1927, the Honolulu Academy of Arts is also located in Downtown Oahu. The museum boasts more than 50,000 works in 30 galleries.

If your idea of experiencing culture is closely linked to food, then you might want to take a chocolate making class at Madre Chocolate. Make reservations in advance to participate in one of the weekly workshops, where you get to make your own chocolate bar including nuts, flavors, and spices of your choosing. You can also enjoy a chocolate flight tasting. Later, you can wash it down with a milk tea creation at Teapresso.

Get Closer to Nature

While the beauty of Hawaii is all around you while exploring Downtown Honolulu, you can take your nature experience to the next level by visiting the 13.5-acre botanical garden just outside of the downtown area. Featuring shady trees and vibrant flora, Foster Botanical Garden is located at 18 North Vineyard Boulevard.


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