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Must Visit Attractions in Honolulu

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Famed for its beautiful horseshoe-shaped sandy beach and clear, calm turquoise waters, this natural marine sanctuary is home to thousands of colorful tropical fish. The waist-deep water inside the reef is perfect for novice snorkelers to explore. More experienced snorkelers might want to check with the lifeguard before venturing beyond to deeper waters to see sea turtles and other marine life. The Bay is least crowded in the early morning or late afternoon.

On December 7, 1941, the battleship USS Arizona was sunk, taking 1100 sailors with it. In 1961, a solemn white monument was erected above the midsection of the ship. The deck of the Arizona lies now six feet (1.83 meters) below the surface of Pearl Harbor and is clearly visible from the monument. Take the shuttle launch from shore to the monument and view the dark shape of a once-great ship with its silent crew. Free guided tours are offered 8a-1p daily. Visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial afterward.

This is the final resting place for 34,000 veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as Challenger casualty Ellison Onizuka. Marble walls flanking the monumental staircase list the names of American heroes. A 30-foot statue of Lady Columbia symbolizes all grieving mothers. There is a sweeping view of Diamond Head to the glistening bays of Pearl Harbor. In ancient times, the crater of the long-dormant volcano served as a site of human sacrifices. Admission is free.

Also known as Le'ahi, this crater of an extinct volcano got its name when Western explorers mistook calcite crystals they found there for diamonds. Framing the fabric of the island, the crater is riddled with a tracery of vents and volcanic remnants. The historic trail to the 761-foot (231.9 meter) summit starts inside the crater and is an easy, but steep, 0.8 mile (1.3 kilometers) hike to the top. Adorned with craggy corrugations and tufts of sun-bleached grass, Diamond Head affords astounding views of Oahu's charming landscape, including some exceptional views of its beaches and locales.

Built in 1882 by Hawaii's last king, David Kalakaua, this stately three-story building is a real treat to explore. After the overthrow of the King's sister Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, the structure served as the territorial and state capitol until 1969. The Palace Galleries showcase jewels and regalia from the days of Hawaiian royalty. Guided tours are offered every 30 minutes and reservations are suggested.

Stand on the deck of this imposing old structure that has been painstakingly cared for and extensively renovated. The "Mighty Mo" is where General Douglas MacArthur proclaimed the end of World War II in September of 1945. The great vintage battleship now sits at permanent anchor across from the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. You can visit the Arizona Memorial first to get a sense of the complete story.

Tucked in the back of lush Manoa Valley is Manoa waterfall, which is commonly thought to be one of the most beautiful sights of O'ahu. It rushes over a precipice and drops 100 feet to the pool below. The briskly cold water makes a refreshing change from the Hawaiian air. The hike to the waterfall takes approximately an hour and is not particularly difficult. The trail can get slippery during the rain, but on sunny days, it's clearly marked and easy to follow.

Koko Crater Railway Trail is a trail for every nature enthusiast. The old railway tracks here, which were used once for transporting goods, are now defunct and used as stairs to head up to the mountain. The trail covers a large part of the Koko Head and offers spectacular views of the Honolulu shoreline. The panorama is a major highlight and is definitely worth the challenging climb. Visitors can also explore the Botanical Garden located at the top of the Koko Crater.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, Makapu'u Point is the southeastern most point of Oahu. The Makapu’u Lighthouse was constructed in 1909 and automated in 1974. A cylindrical brick tower, with a balcony and a lantern, the lighthouse has a masonry basement foundation. Equipped with a hyper radiant Fresnel Lens, it has the largest lens of any lighthouse in the United States. Sitting atop a volcanic point, the lighthouse is ideal for whale watching. The surrounding rocky cliffs are popular with hang gliders.

Few beaches have been as fabled as Waikiki. Since the 1950s, this beach has been a tourist destination. Upon seeing the white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, there won't be any question why this beach is so popular. If that wasn't enough, the beach is also one of the best places to surf on the island. During the night, visitors strut their clubwear on the beachwalk, and lovers find peaceful little nooks under the cover of sweeping palm trees. Affording scenic views of the Diamond Head, the beach exists quite in tandem with Hawaii's laid-back spirit.

When an unexpected military attack initiated by the Japanese Navy Air Service on America's naval base in Pearl Harbor jolted the entire nation, it spurred the United States' entry into World War II, thus changing the history of the world as people knew it. The attack caused subsequent world-changing events, and rendered this naval base in Hawaii a crucial part of American history and heritage. Today, Pearl Harbor is dominated by five historic sites that serve as solemn reminders of this day in American history. The USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Park, USS Oklahoma Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum are all part of the site of this war incident. The USS Arizona Memorial in particular pays homage to the sunken vessel.

Located just a few short blocks from Waikiki Beach, this is a great place to learn about Hawaii's amazing ocean world. You can see 400 different species of aquatic life at this small but mighty museum, including monk seals, sharks and sea turtles. A knowledgeable staff is on hand to narrate tours and answer questions. The aquarium has a good gift shop where you can ask about special events and excursions. It offers some terrific educational and community outreach programs.

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