Culture & History
Honolulu is the state capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Hawaii. It is the county seat of the City and County of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is the main gateway to Hawaii and the United States. The city is also a major hub for international business, military defense, as well as famously being host to a diverse variety of east-west and Pacific culture, cuisine, and traditions.
Honolulu is the most remote city of its size in the world and is both the westernmost and the southernmost major U.S. city. Honolulu is a major financial center of the islands and of the Pacific Ocean. The population of the city of Honolulu was 337,256 as of the 2010 census, while the population of the consolidated city and county of Honolulu was 953,207.
Honolulu means “sheltered harbor” or “calm port.” The old name is said to be Kou, a district roughly encompassing the area from Nuuanu Avenue to Alakea Street and from Hotel Street to Queen Street which is the heart of the present downtown district. The city has been the capital of the Hawaiian Islands since 1845 and gained historical recognition following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan near the city on December 7, 1941.
As of 2015, Honolulu was ranked high on world livability rankings, and was also ranked as the 2nd safest city in the U.S. It is also the most populated Oceanian city outside Australasia and ranks second only to Auckland as the most populous city in Polynesia.
The largest city and airport in the Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu acts as a natural gateway to the islands’ large tourism industry, which brings millions of visitors and contributes $10 billion annually to the local economy. Honolulu’s location in the Pacific also makes it a large business and trading hub, particularly between the East and the West. Other important aspects of the city’s economy include military defense, research and development, and manufacturing.
Among the companies based in Honolulu are:
- Alexander & Baldwin
- Bank of Hawaii
- Central Pacific Bank
- First Hawaiian Bank
- Hawaii Medical Service Association
- Hawaii Pacific Health
- Hawaiian Electric Industries
- Matson Navigation Company
- The Queen’s Health Systems
Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, and Aloha Air Cargo are headquartered in the city. Prior to its dissolution, Aloha Airlines was headquartered in the city. At one time Mid-Pacific Airlines had its headquarters on the property of Honolulu International Airport.
In 2009, Honolulu had a 4.5% increase in the average price of rent, maintaining it in the second most expensive rental market ranking among 210 U.S. metropolitan areas.
Since no national bank chains have any branches in Hawaii, many visitors and new residents use different banks. First Hawaiian Bank is the largest and oldest bank in Hawaii and their headquarters are at the First Hawaiian Center, the tallest building in the State of Hawaii.
The Bishop Museum is the largest of Honolulu’s museums. It is endowed with the state’s largest collection of natural history specimens and the world’s largest collection of Hawaiiana and Pacific culture artifacts. The Honolulu Zoo is the main zoological institution in Hawaii while the Waikiki Aquarium is a working marine biology laboratory. The Waikiki Aquarium is partnered with the University of Hawaii and other universities worldwide. Established for appreciation and botany, Honolulu is home to several gardens: Foster Botanical Garden, Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden, Walker Estate, among others.
Established in 1900, the Honolulu Symphony is the second oldest US symphony orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains. Other classical music ensembles include the Hawaii Opera Theatre. Honolulu is also a center for Hawaiian music. The main music venues include the Hawaii Theatre, the Neal Blaisdell Center Concert Hall and Arena, and the Waikiki Shell. Honolulu also includes several venues for live theater, including the Diamond Head Theatre.
The Honolulu Museum of Art is endowed with the largest collection of Asian and Western art in Hawaii. It also has the largest collection of Islamic art, housed at the Shangri La estate. Since the merger of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu (now called the Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House) in 2011, the museum is also the only contemporary art museum in the state. The contemporary collections are housed at main campus (Spalding House) in Makiki and a multi-level gallery in downtown Honolulu at the First Hawaiian Center. The museum hosts a film and video program dedicated to arthouse and world cinema in the museum’s Doris Duke Theatre, named for the museum’s historic patroness Doris Duke.
The Hawaii State Art Museum (also downtown) boasts pieces by local artists as well as traditional Hawaiian art. The museum is administered by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
Honolulu also annually holds the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF). It showcases some of the best films from producers all across the Pacific Rim and is the largest “East meets West” style film festival of its sort in the United States.
- Ala Moana Center
- Aloha Tower
- Bishop Museum
- Diamond Head
- Hanauma Bay
- Honolulu Museum of Art
- Honolulu Zoo
- ʻIolani Palace
- Lyon Arboretum
- National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
- USS Arizona Memorial
- Waikiki Aquarium
- Waikiki Beach
- Waikiki Trolley
Ancient voyagers crossed thousands of miles of ocean to find landfall on lush Pacific islands – the islands now called Hawai’i. Imagine their first breath – taking view of O’ahu, stretched from a perfect beach to the peak of Le’ahi (Diamond Head). The island offered all the resources the travelers needed. Voyagers continued to come, by canoe, by ocean liner and then by jet plane – always greeted with a warm welcome. Today that warm greeting is called aloha.
Getting Around: Driving Times from Waikiki
- Honolulu International Airport: 25 minutes
- Downtown Honolulu: 15 minutes
- USS Arizona Memorial: 30 minutes
- Hanauma Bay: 30 minutes
- Sea Life Park: 40 minutes
- Waimea Valley: 1 hour
- Polynesian Cultural Center: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Flower: ‘Ilima
- Color: Yellow
- State Capitol & County Seat: Honolulu
- As of 2012 Visitor Arrivals: 4,904,045
- Population: 909,863
- Area: 597 sq. miles (1,546 sq. kilometers)
- Legnth: 44 miles (71 kilometers)
- Width: 30 miles (48 kilometers)
- Highest Point: Mt. Ka’ala, 4,003 feet (1,220 meters)
- Coastline: 112 miles (180 kilometers)