The long flight across the Pacific Ocean always pays big dividends for those who come to Honolulu. The abundant beaches, crystal clear water, and Aloha attitude are the envy of many on the mainland. While most of us have to settle for a quick visit to the Island Capital, the 400,000 permanent residents of Honolulu will tell you that there’s far more than just sand and sunshine.
This multi-ethnic community includes international businessmen, military personnel, Asian and Polynesian descendants, American retirees and their AWOL grandchildren. The population of Honolulu is markedly older than the mainland, and over 50 percent of the city’s residents are of Asian heritage. Descendants of the early Hawaiians claim less than 5% of the population.Tourism reigns supreme in Hawaii, contributing $10 billion annually to the local economy. Banking is also big business in Honolulu, as national banks from the Continental U.S. have no presence on the Hawaiian Islands. The workforce is less educated than the average American, but Forbes has ranked Honolulu as the #3 happiest city to work in the country.
Traffic in Honolulu is notoriously bad, but public transportation is a bright spot for the Islanders. The Transit system has been honored twice as the best in America. Honolulu ranks 4th highest among American cities in per capita use of public transit. The city plans to add a rail system in 2018 to allow visitors and residents an easy option to visit the natural landscape of greater Oahu. Downtown Honolulu serves as the financial and governmental center of all the Hawaiian Islands. Waikiki is home to many condos, hotels, lively beachfront bars, and plenty of surf shops. The Capital District lies on the eastern border of the city and serves the historic center of state government, paying tribute to King Kamehameha I and the political infancy of the island.
Oahu is paradise for surfers. Several of the most famous waves in the world are on Oahu, and Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is atop any surfer’s bucket list for its endless longboard waves. Legendary surf competitions, like the Eddie Aikau Invitational, occur on Oahu’s North Shore only if the waves reach towering heights. If 30-50 foot waves aren’t your thing, a stand-up paddleboard or snorkeling with sea turtles is the next best thing. The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet offers locals and visitors the best deals in town on merchandise from over 400 local vendors. The market, open Wednesdays and weekends, is more than just a large flea market—it’s a social event where families and friends come together. Honolulu is home to the country’s oldest symphony orchestra west of the Rockies, along with top-notch museums paying tribute to Hawaiian art and history. The Hawaiian International Film Festival delights visitors every April, and patrons return all year for free monthly outdoor screenings of film debuts.