21 Fun Facts About Honolulu, Hawaii, That Will Surprise You

Updated 8 min read
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There's a lot to learn about the popular destination of Honolulu

Located on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Honolulu is one of the most popular travel destinations in the US. You can enjoy a range of activities when here, from hiking and snorkeling to relaxing on the beach and visiting incredible museums.

There's also a lot to know about this bustling and beautiful city, from what Honolulu means to which world-famous landmarks are found there.

Whether you're from Honolulu or have it as a favorite vacation destination, these 21 fun facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, are sure to be of interest to you! Continue reading to learn more about this top tourist hotspot!

  • 21 Honolulu facts

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21 Honolulu Facts

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The first foreigner to see Honolulu was Captain William Brown

Captain William Brown was the first foreigner to reach Honolulu

Britain’s Captain William Brown was the first foreigner to ever sail into Honolulu Harbor. In 1794, the captain reached Honolulu and established it as a port.

Since William Brown’s arrival, the port became a major destination for merchant ships, especially those following routes between Asia and the Americas.

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Honolulu is home to the Pearl Harbor naval base and memorial

The WWII Pearl Harbor attack occurred in Honolulu

The 1941 attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base remains one of the worst attacks in the United States. This attack was also the reason for US forces joining World War II in order to fight with the “Allies” in Europe. The devastating Pearl Harbor attack occurred in Honolulu at a naval base of the same name.

Today, you can visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. When at this North American landmark, you can learn more about the tragic attack and those affected.

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The USS Arizona Memorial pays respect to those lost in the Pearl Harbor attack

The USS Arizona Memorial is the final resting place for many soldiers

Another of the historical facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, is that the USS Arizona Memorial marks the final resting place of many of those killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. A total of 2,403 lives were tragically lost, and approximately 1,102 soldiers who perished still rest below the attack site, now marked by the memorial.

The USS Arizona Memorial is part of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial site. You can visit this location during a trip to Honolulu to learn more and pay respects.

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Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the US

The only royal palace in the US is in Honolulu

Before becoming a US state, Hawaii was the “Kingdom of Hawaii” and had a royal family. Due to this, royal residences were constructed. Iolani Palace in Honolulu remains today and is known as the only royal palace in the United States.

This iconic Oahu landmark was constructed in the 19th century. It was inhabited by the royal family until they were overthrown in 1893. Exploring the palace is a must when in Honolulu and is one of the many romantic things to do in Oahu.

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Living in Honolulu is very expensive!

Honolulu is one of the most expensive places to live in the US

If you’ve considered moving to Honolulu, you may not want to learn this fact! Honolulu ranks as the third most expensive city to live in in the United States. Only New York City and San Francisco are more expensive to live in.

Notable expenses include utilities, which cost 102% more than the national average, and groceries, which cost 70% more than the national average. Average wages in Honolulu, however, are not much above the US average.

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Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii

The Hawaii State Capital is Honolulu

One of the Honolulu, Hawaii, fun facts that you may know is that Honolulu is the state capital of Hawaii. Honolulu has been the only state capital since Hawaii gained statehood in 1959. Previous capitals of the Kingdom of Hawaii include Maui, Lahaina, and Kailua-Kona, as well as Honolulu.

The Bishop Museum is the largest museum in Hawaii

One of the most famous Honolulu landmarks is the Bishop Museum. This museum is also notable as one of Hawaii’s largest and the biggest museum in the state dedicated to Hawaiian history. In addition, the museum houses the biggest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural artifacts in the world.

The museum was opened in 1889 and is officially known as the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Exhibits to see cover Hawaiian culture and the history of Oahu. There’s even a planetarium!

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A building with a Honolulu Museum of Art sign and sculptures in front of it
The largest art collection in Hawaii is at the Honolulu Museum of Art

The largest collection of Asian and Western Art in Hawaii is in Honolulu

The Honolulu Museum of Art is home to the biggest collection of Asian and Western art in the world, and the largest collection of art in Hawaii. This cultural attraction features an array of unique pieces from Hawaiian, American, and international artists. In total, there are 60,000 artworks at the museum.

One of many fun facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, is that there are 90 rainy days a year
One of the fun facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, is that it sees 90 rainy days a year

Honolulu sees 90 rainy days per year

Another of the cool facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, that you may not know is that the city sees an average of 90 rainy days each year. While the temperature often remains high, there’s no guarantee you’ll see all dry days when visiting.

December is noted as the rainiest month, with an average of ten days of rain. August is the driest month, with an average of six rainy days.

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The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific pays homage to US soldiers

There is a large military cemetery in Honolulu

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a military cemetery located in Honolulu. This cemetery honors those who perished and are still missing due to various US conflicts, including WWII and the Vietnam War. The cemetery also houses around 25,000 graves of soldiers.

Another important feature is the homage to Ellison Onizuka, a Hawaiian astronaut that was part of the Challenger crew. Visiting this significant landmark should be added to your Oahu itinerary.

Turquoise ocean water with a beach, skyscrapers, and a mountain behind it
In Hawaiian, Honolulu means "sheltered harbor"

Honolulu means Sheltered Harbor

Another Honolulu, Oahu, fact is that the name Honolulu means “Sheltered Harbor” or “Calm Port” in Hawaiian. This name was likely given due to the port surrounding the city. Honolulu is known even today as the principal port of Hawaii, and the scenic and peaceful harbor area is a major tourist attraction.

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A bronze statue of a man with a surfboard behind him, holding pink flowers
Honolulu's Duke Paoa Kahanamoku popularized the sport of surfing

The “Father of Modern Surfing” was from Honolulu

One more of an array of interesting facts about Honolulu, Hawaii, is that the sport of surfing was made popular by a Honolulu resident.

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku lived in Honolulu for most of his life and was an Olympic swimmer and world-class surfer. Many refer to him as the “Father of Modern Surfing.”

As a homage to the surfing legend, there is a statue of him on Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu. Visiting the statue is one of the best free things to do in Oahu.

Aerial view of a city with many skyscrapers, surrounded by greenery
By physical size, Honolulu is the biggest city in Hawaii

The largest city in Hawaii by size is Honolulu

Honolulu is physically the largest city in Hawaii, covering a total area of 177.2 km squared, or 68.4 square miles. Oahu, the island Honolulu is located on, is the third-biggest of the Hawaiian Islands by size. Therefore, it’s no wonder one of the island’s cities is Hawaii’s most expansive!

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More residents live in Honolulu than any other city in Hawaii

Honolulu has the largest population in Hawaii

Along with being Hawaii’s largest city by size, the Honolulu population is the greatest of any city in the state. Honolulu is home to approximately 337,250 residents.

The majority of other cities in Hawaii with a large population are found in Honolulu County. Of the top 20 cities by population size, just four are not in Honolulu County.

Barack Obama was born in Honolulu

Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was born in Honolulu in August 1961. This means that he is the only president to date born outside of the contiguous United States. Obama’s family was living in Hawaii at the time but moved out of the state a few months after his birth.

Blue ocean water with a beach, high rise buildings, and a mountain to the side
Hawaii's most well-known beach is Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

Waikiki Beach is Hawaii’s most famous beach

Hawaii is known for its breathtaking beaches, and if looking for the best beach, this is one of the Honolulu, Hawaii, interesting facts you won't want to miss! Waikiki Beach, in the Honolulu neighborhood of Waikiki, is the most famous beach in Hawaii.

It's one of the most visited beaches too, welcoming about 10 million people annually. When in Honolulu, hanging out on Waikiki Beach is a must-do activity! It's also one of the best places in all of Oahu to watch the sunset and a famous Waikiki landmark.

A large greenery-covered mountain with buildings to the side, surrounded by ocean
The Diamond Head Mountain sits proudly on Honolulu's skyline

A 300,000-year-old mountain overlooks Honolulu

One of Oahu and Honolulu’s most iconic natural features is Diamond Head Mountain, also known as Diamond Head State Monument or Diamond Head Crater. This volcanic mountain is at least 300,000 years old, with other estimates putting it at 500,000 years old.

The mountain is visible from various places around Honolulu. You can visit the Hawaiian landmark to hike, watch the sunset, and stargaze.

A gold statue on the grass in front of a palace building with palm trees surrounding
A Kamehameha I statue remains outside his court of Iolani Palace

The court of Kamehameha I was in Honolulu

One of many Honolulu history facts is that the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha I, moved his royal court to present-day downtown Honolulu in 1809. After winning the Battle of Nu’uanu, the ruler moved the court to Waikiki in 1804 and then to Honolulu five years later.

Despite moving to Kailua-Kona in 1812, Kamehameha I’s successor, Kamehameha I, made Honolulu the permanent capital and location of the royal court in 1845.

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A green sign that says "Queen Emma Summer Palace" and "Museum" and "Gift Shop"
The Queen Emma Summer Palace was the Hawaiian royal family's summer residence

You can visit a royal summer residence when in the city

Along with visiting the renowned Iolani Palace while in Honolulu, you can explore the Queen’s former summer residence. The Queen Emma Summer Palace acted as the royal family’s summer residence between 1857 and 1885.

Tropical plants and manicured gardens surround the beautiful building. Exploring this landmark is a must when in Honolulu!

Hawaii Five-O was produced in Honolulu

The original version of the police drama Hawaii Five-O was set, produced, and filmed in Honolulu. While most filming took place in Honolulu, some scenes were shot elsewhere in Oahu.

A handful of scenes were filmed outside of Hawaii, in Singapore, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. The 2010 remake of the show also featured many scenes filmed in Honolulu.

A royal palace with grass, palm trees, and a gold statue in front of it
The Hawaii State Supreme Court is housed in the Ali'iolani Hale Building

Honolulu houses the Hawaii State Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii is located in Honolulu in the Ali'iolani Hale Building, also known as Iolani Palace. The court was established in 1841 and includes five justices who serve for ten years.

The court's role is to review decisions made in Hawaii's courts and offer a final verdict. The nearby Honolulu Hale building is also home to the Honolulu County seat of government and the mayor's chambers.

In Summary

Visiting Honolulu is on many traveler's bucket lists, and for good reason! Along with being a top tourist hotspot, there's a lot to learn about this Hawaiian city.

These 21 Honolulu facts should have taught you something new and sparked your curiosity in wanting to visit this unique and beautiful destination!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on Dec 8, 2021 14:03 UTC.

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell WRITER Currently based in Canada, I've also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and travelled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I love finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever I go!


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