You’re on a whirlwind cruise through the Hawaiian Islands and the ship is scheduled to dock at Pier 2 or Pier 11 on Oahu for 36-hours or so. You’ve got time to explore, but you don’t want to venture too far from the comforts of your floating hotel. You can obviously type “what’s near honolulu cruise ship terminal” and watch the red pins unfold on your smartphone’s Google Map. The problem with following those crimson pointers is that they will point you in the wrong direction more often than not. Thankfully, you’ve clicked or tapped on the one result that will steer you towards better things to see and do. Let’s review!
6 Interesting Places to Go Near Honolulu Oahu’s Cruise Ship Port
Chinatown (sort of)
Author Chuck Thompson described the concept of Chinatown in his book “Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer”:
”It doesn’t matter which one – San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, New York, wherever. Every Chinatown in the world distills the worst of the obligatory tourist trap. Most of these brochure institutions are either no longer vital or were fakes in the first place. They’re loaded with worthless trinkets that look even more worthless once you remove them from the context of reeking fish markets and Chinese calligraphy. Chinatowns have stolen more time from weekend vacations than the weather at O’Hare.”
Chuck wasn’t wrong, and Honolulu’s Chinatown is no different. That being said, there are some hidden island gems to coincide with its convenient proximity to Oahu’s cruise ship terminal. Our favorite shops are located on Nuuanu Avenue, including Roberta Oaks Hawaii where you’ll find modern “aloha” attire. Nuuana Ave is also disproportionately packed with antique and vintage shops such as Single Double where you’ll find Hawaiiana and surf culture memorabilia. For more of the same, stop by the Tin Can Mailman.
If you want to soak up Hawaiian culture while on break from your sea voyage, a 20-minute walk to Iolani Palace will do the trick. The royal residence is a physical embodiment of an era in Hawaiian history when King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani (sister and successor) ruled the Kingdom. Within is a palatial collection of antique furnishings and decor that will transport you to a time when the island’s elite congregated for grand balls and other important gatherings. That is, until the American Minister to Hawaii (in representation of the United States of America) illegally overthrew the rightful ruler. When that happened, Iolani Palace became Liliuokalani’s prison. If you want to learn more (we hope you do) be sure to visit and take a tour of Iolani Palace while on your cruise ship layover.
Kaka’ako is a hip urban community that’s a 10-15 walk from the Pier 2 terminal. SALT at Kaka’ako is the retail hub, featuring a wide assortment of eateries and boutique shops. We recommend trying some authentic nourishment at Highway Inn Hawaiian Food. If your ship comes in on a Saturday between 8 AM to 12 PM head on over to the Kakaako Farmers Market which is loaded with locally grown, sourced, and prepared island cuisine along with delectable treats. Once your belly is full, burn sugary calories by going on the self-guided art walk of the famous Kaka’ako murals followed by treasure hunting at Idea’s Music and Books.
Another 5-minute walk from Kaka’ako is Ward Village. The perpetually growing live-work-play community is fairly standard on the surface, with a Nordstrom, TJ Max, Dave & Busters and Consolidated Theaters with TITAN LUXE. Disregard the things that you left the mainland by boat for, and instead pop into shops like Na Mea Hawaii, Savage Public, and Mori by Art and Flea before sampling shave ice and other goodies at Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks.
Ala Moana Center
Did the sheen of the tacky gift shops on your cruise ship wear off after three days on the sea? Hawaii’s largest shopping mall will make you forget all about it. Ala Moana Center is “next door” to Ward Village above, but if heading straight to Ala Moana from the Pier 2 or Pier 11 terminal opt for a 5-minute Uber over a 35-minute hike. View more on Ala Moana Center.
Sunset at Magic Island
Admittedly, we’ve sent you on a bit of a shopping expedition with the recommendations above. Let’s wind down the day conveniently across the road from Ala Moana Shopping Center (above) with an idyllic stroll around one of the Top 5 Most Romantic Places on Oahu.
Magic Island is where everyone on the South Shore goes for sunset. The winding walking path will escort you from Ala Moana BLVD through to the peninsula’s picturesque lagoon. Along the way you’ll delight at the site of dozens of adorable feral cats which call the beach park home. You will also enjoy the bustling scene of rollerbladers, joggers, beachcombers, frisbee-throwers, BBQers, and more. More often than not there will be a wedding or two taking place in the evening. Join in on the fun before hopping an Uber back to the cruise ship terminal for your all-inclusive buffet.
Do you have any questions about the recommendations above? Feel free to leave them in the comment box below. We reply!