The most popular streets in Honolulu are living exhibits of everyday life in the Hawaiian capital. From calm oceanfront roads to bustling inner-city boulevards, these charming streets encapsulate every facet of the tropical metropolis – they’re also top spots to indulge in some people-watching.

    Once you’re done sunning yourself on the beach and checking out the city sights, take the time to wander along these enticing streets. After all, a leisurely afternoon stroll is the best way to appreciate everything Honolulu has to offer.

    1

    Kalakaua Avenue

    The main road by Waikiki Beach

    Kalakaua Avenue straddles Waikiki Beach, the touristic epicentre of the entire archipelago. Awash with retail outlets and blessed with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, it’s the first port of call for most new arrivals – and chances are you’ll frequently return throughout your trip.

    On the southern end, there’s the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District, Waikiki Aquarium, and recreational spaces catering to locals and visitors. As it winds its way northwest, the avenue passes Honolulu’s glitziest highrise hotels plus a smattering of chic designer stores and fine-dining digs. The full stretch is too long to explore, so stick to the beachfront boulevard to soak up the best vibes.

    Location: Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

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    2

    Kuhio Avenue

    A cost-effective alternative to Kalakaua

    Kuhio Avenue is one of Honolulu’s major touristic thoroughfares and a fierce competitor to its twin brother, Kalakaua Ave, down by the beach. Boasting cut-priced shopping, dining, and lodging options, it’s a hit with budget-savvy holidaymakers happy to forgo the ocean view. Hotel rooms cost much less than on Kalakaua, so base yourself here to save.

    Various mega projects have brought new life to Kuhio Avenue, the most notable being the 4.5-acre International Market Place. Start your stroll at David Kalākaua Statue and take a breather at other effigies of Haiwaan royalty – Princess Kaʻiulani and King Kalākaua, to name a few.

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    Open: Kūhiō Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

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    3

    Ala Wai Boulevard

    A waterfront road with a wonderful footpath

    Ala Wai Boulevard lines a tranquil artificial canal of the same name about a half-mile north of Waikiki. Boasting waterfront views without the bustle of the beach, it’s a pleasant spot to wander when you want to escape the crowds. Local joggers and cyclists flock here for their daily exercise regime because the well-maintained footpath seldom sees much traffic.

    Keep an eye out for the traditional Hawaiian outrigger crews as they paddle to and fro. And at the western end, stop to admire the humungous Hawaii Convention Centre, which hosts everything from sporting events to beauty pageants and political shindigs. If you’re feeling peckish, several tempting eateries line the stretch.

    Location: 2211 Ala Wai Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

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    4

    Ala Moana Park Drive

    Access road to the tranquil Ala Moana Park

    Ala Moana Park Drive circumnavigates Ala Moana Park, a favourite local hangout and family-friendly recreational space. Honolulans adore hosting barbeques at the shady picnic area, while facilities like tennis courts and a yacht club keep active visitors amused. If it’s shopping and dining you’re after, the enormous Ala Moana Center sits adjacent to the park.

    Venture off the road to plod along the golden sands of Ala Moana Beach before taking a detour down Magic Island, a gorgeous artificial peninsula. Its pristine sheltered lagoon has calm water for the kids to frolic in, and there’s ample green grass to laze away the day.

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    Location: Ala Moana Park Dr, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

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    5

    Ala Moana Boulevard

    The second busiest thoroughfare in the city

    Ala Moana Boulevard runs from the CBD through to Waikiki, passing plazas, parks, and the Pacific along the way. Highlights include the 10-storey Aloha Tower lighthouse, the busy berths of Honolulu Harbour, and the leafy Ala Moana Regional Park – the adjacent mall is a must if you’re looking for retail therapy.

    It’s a long stretch, so we recommend observing from a car rather than on foot. Or, pick out a small section of the boulevard to explore, be it the CBD and harbour or Waikiki and Kahanamoku Lagoon. Wide footpaths and shady trees make for pleasant walking along most of the strip.

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    Location: Ala Moana Blvd #1105, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA

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    6

    King Street

    A downtown street home to grandiose government buildings

    King Street is worth a wander for its eclectic collection of stately government edifices. The highlight is Iolani Palace, the luxurious 19th century home of the last Hawaiian monarchs. Next door is the Hawaii State Library, a striking early 20th-century building home to half a million books. The Honolulu City Hall, the Kawaiahaʻo Church, and the Aliʻiolani Hale are also worth a look.

    While you’re still downtown, take the time to check out Bishop Street, the city’s central financial hub. Unlike elsewhere in Honolulu, suits and ties outnumber boardshorts and plastic leis – it’s mostly a locals-only affair. The Hawaii Pacific University and Aloha Tower mark the southern end.

    Location: King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

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    7

    North Beretania Street

    The main strip of Honolulu’s Chinatown

    North Beretania Street runs through Honolulu’s Chinatown, a 15-block expanse brimming with Asian eateries and stores. Chinese migrants first settled in Hawaii in the 19th century to work the sugar plantations. Upon completing their contracts, they created a merchant community in the vibrant district. Japanese, Malaysians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Vietnamese also now live and trade in the area.

    Even though 2 separate fires levelled most of the original buildings, the lively neighbourhood still retains its original Far Eastern flair. The Chinatown Cultural Plaza is the epicentre of it all, complete with steamy Asian dishes, aromatic incense vendors, and herbal tea stalls. Keep an eye out for the brightly coloured Buddhist shrines.

    Location: N Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

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    photo by Mike (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Waikiki Beach Walk

    A popular promenade and upmarket open-air strip mall

    Waikiki Beach Walk is a bustling open-air retail space right by the Wyndham hotel in Honolulu. The upmarket 2-floor mall spans 2 buildings on either side of Lewers Street and boasts a wide array of boutiques and restaurants. Weekly yoga classes, hula sessions, and musical performances make this the most social retail space in the city.

    Visitors on the hunt for souvenirs will enjoy what’s on offer along the strip. Everything from Hawaiian handicrafts to cute ukuleles and Polynesian art is for sale – you can even nab yourself a traditional Hawaiian quilt. Head down Beach Walk Street at the back to get to (you guessed it) Waikiki Beach.

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    Location: 227 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

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    9

    Merchant Street

    The best selection of historic buildings in Hawaii

    Merchant Street is an open-air museum showcasing Honolulu’s intriguing architectural history. The stretch once served as the city’s financial hub and still showcases the stately architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Italianate, Mission Revival, and Richardsonian Romanesque are just some of the unique styles on display.

    Its historic buildings tell how Honolulu evolved over the years, with century-old edifices overshadowed by a series of modern high-rises. Numerous charming old buildings await exploration, the best of which are the Melchers Building and the Kamehameha V Post Office.

    Location: Merchant St # 1910, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

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    photo by Paul Sableman (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    Nu’uanu Avenue

    The bohemian soul of Honolulu

    Nu’uanu Avenue lies at the heart of Honolulu’s thriving arts district, a cool cultural hub that highlights the city’s bohemian side. Once a seedy hotbed of crime, it’s now among the most fashionable areas in the capital, complete with gorgeous galleries, beautiful boutiques, and chic cafes.

    The Hawaii Theatre Center is your best bet for a live show, or pop into the ARTS at Marks Garage for community arts. Try high tea at Tea at 1024, a somewhat Honolulu institution – think Victorian-era décor, kitsch crockery, and sweet scones. If you're here on the first Friday of the month, don’t miss the artsy open-air street party for performances, promotions, and plenty of late-night drinks.

    Location: Nu’uanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

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    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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