91 Interesting Facts About Honolulu

Interesting and fun Honolulu facts

Honolulu is famous for its tourist beaches, Pearl Harbor, and royal palace.

Find out what else “The Big Pineapple” is known for with these fun and interesting Honolulu facts! Also read these fun facts about Hawaii, the state in which Honolulu is found.

General Honolulu Facts

  • Honolulu is the capital and largest city in the US state of Hawaii.
  • Honolulu is technically the only city in Hawaii. All other communities are officially towns or villages.
  • With 350,000 residents, Honolulu is the 54th largest city in the United States, putting it between El Paso, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska in terms of population.
  • The Greater Urban Honolulu Area has a population of 1 million, similar in size to Bordeaux, France.
  • Around 70% of all Hawaii residents live in the Greater Honolulu Area.
  • Greater Honolulu, or Honolulu County, is essentially the whole island of Oʻahu, plus a few minor outlying islands.
  • Honolulu City proper is located on the south coast of Oʻahu, between Pearl Harbor and Makapuʻu Point (the island’s eastern tip).
  • The city sits at the same latitude as Cancún, Mexico.
Aerial view of the coast of Honolulu
The coast of Honolulu
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Honolulu was 107.3°F (41.8°C) in 2019, while the lowest was 52°F (11°C) in 1969.
  • Honolulu means “Calm Harbor” in Hawaiian. Other names for Honolulu have included Kou, Fair Heaven, and Brown’s Harbor.
  • The official abbreviation for Honolulu is HONO, while The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport code is HNL. The airport is named after the first US representative of the state, who was born in Hawaii but is of Japanese descent.
  • More than half of Honolulu residents are Asian, with the top one being Japanese (20%), followed by Filipinos (13%).
The official Honolulu city flag
The city flag of Honolulu
  • Some common nicknames for Honolulu are Crossroads of the Pacific, Sheltered Bay, The Big Pineapple, and Paradise.
  • The city’s motto is “Haʻaheo No ʻO Honolulu”, meaning “The Pride of Honolulu”.
  • People from Honolulu are called Honolulans.
  • The Honolulu flag shows a field of dark yellow, with the city seal in the center. The seal has two sections with the stripes of the Hawaii flag, and two sections show a white tabu ball on a staff, a traditional symbol of authority in Hawaii.
  • Honolulu has 30 sister cities, including Santiago (Chile), Mumbai (India), Toronto (Canada), and Seoul (South Korea).

Interesting Facts about Honolulu Places

  • Greater Honolulu (or Oahu Island) has more than 125 beaches, which include Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach, Sandy Beach, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Pupukea Beach.
  • Waikiki is also a neighborhood of Honolulu and is the main tourist zone, accounting for nearly half of the Hawaii’s tourist income. Besides Waikiki Beach, it has five other main beaches.
Coastline of Waikiki, with many buildings by the sea
Waikiki Beach viewed from Diamond Head
  • Waikiki area was originally wetlands. Waikiki Beach is almost totally human-made, and the area was drained of water by the Ala Wai Canal.
  • Other places in the world with beaches named “Waikiki” include Peru, Spain, and Australia.
  • Diamond Head is a dormant volcano right next to Waikiki. Its Hawaiian name Lēʻahi means “tuna promontory” because it resembles a tuna’s dorsal fin. It is a popular attraction and offers the classic view of Waikiki.
  • The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is just west of Honolulu’s city limits. It marks the spot where 2403 people were killed during the Japanese attack that caused the US to formally enter World War II.
  • The site includes the USS Arizona, a memorial above the sunken ship where 1102 soldier and marines were killed.
Aerial view of the sunken USS Arizon ship and a memorial structure above it.
Memorial above the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor
  • Other National Historic Landmarks in Honolulu include Falls of Clyde (the only remaining sail driven oil tanker in the world), Hickam Field (field next to Pearl Harbor which was also attacked), ʻIolani Palace, Kawaiahaʻo Church and Mission Houses, Palm Circle (AKA the “Pineapple Pentagon”), Washington Place, and Wheeler Field.
  • The ‘Iolani Palace was home to the last two rulers of Hawaii. After the monarchy was overthrown, the palace was used as the capitol until 1969. It is considered the only royal palace in the US.  
  • Washington Place was a palace built by an American sea captain. It was named so in honor of the US president’s birthday. Later, Queen Liliʻuokalani lived and was arrested there during the overthrow of the kingdom, then it became the house of the Hawaii governor.
  • Kawaiahaʻo Church is often known as Hawaii’s Westminster Abbey. It was once the national church of the Hawaiian kingdom and the official church of the royal family.
  • The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in downtown Honolulu is the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the US.
Palm trees and exterior of Iolani Palace in Honolulu
Iolani Palace, the country’s only royal palace
  • The tallest building in Honolulu is The Central Ala Moana, which has 43 floors and stands 435 ft (133 m) tall.
  • The Aloha Tower is a significant Honolulan landmark that was heavily protected during WWII. The 184 ft (56 m) structure was originally constructed as a lighthouse in 1926. Today there is a marketplace there.
  • Hanauma Bay in East Honolulu is famous for its resident green sea turtles, but it has suffered from overtourism and coral bleaching.
  • The Koko Crater Railway Trail follows an abandoned, steeply uphill railway track to Koko Crater. It was originally built by the military for transporting supplies to the peak during WWII.
  • Greater Honolulu is home to a living cultural museum: The Polynesian Cultural Center. Six villages are featured in the museum which are dedicated to the unique cultures of different Polynesian islands, including villages representing the islands of Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori), Tahiti, and Fiji.
A stepped railway track going up a hill at Koko Crater
Hiking trail up the former railway line to Koko Crater
  • Ala Moana Center bills itself as “the world’s largest open-air shopping center”.
  • The north shore of Oahu in Greater Honolulu is known for having some of the largest surfing waves inthe world. The largest recorded one measured 12 m (40 ft)!

Honolulu Economy and Society Facts

  • The Greater Honolulu area has the 50th largest economy in the United States, similar to the Greater Memphis area in Tennessee and the Greater Louisville area in Kentucky.
  • Blue Planet Software, which created NES versions of games like Tetris and Yoshi’s Cookie, was founded in Honolulu.
Buildings of the University of Hawaii with mountains behind them
University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Honolulu’s crime rate is lower than the national average. It has around half the violent crime rate of Riverside, California, or one quarter that of Chicago, Illinois.
  • The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport served 18.3 million passengers in 2022. This is not quite a full recovery to pre-COVID figures (22 million) or the peak figure (24 million in the late 90s).
  • The top route from anywhere to Honolulu is from Los Angeles (over 1 million visitors per year). The other top 10 are all from the US. The top international route is from Vancouver, Canada, followed by Sydney, Australia, Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan.
  • Honolulu has the highest cost of living of any capital city in the US.
  • Utilities in Honolulu cost double what they do on the mainland of the US.
Wing of a plane with Honolulu city and the coast of Hawaii visible below
A plane approaches the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
  • Honolulu only has one billionaire: Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. He has a net worth of 23.8 billion USD.
  • 62.5% of Honolulu residents voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Honolulu has one daily newspaper and one magazine: the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Honolulu Magazine respectively.
Back of a red umbrella and crowds of people in background at Aloha Festival in Honolulu.
Crowds at the Aloha Festival
  • Movies filmed in Honolulu include 50 First Dates, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pearl Harbor, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Aloha.
  • TV shows filmed in Honolulu include Lost, Hawaii Five-0, and some scenes from Baywatch.

Honolulu Sports Facts

  • There aren’t any major league professional sports teams in Honolulu.
  • The Aloha Stadium in Honolulu has hosted the Pro Bowl several times. The event showcases the best and brightest players in the NFL.
  • Once a year, Honolulu is home to the Sony Open in mid-January. The golf tournament takes place at Waialae Country Club. Some of the tournament’s champions have included legends such as Jimmy Walker, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Jack Nicklaus, and Vijay Singh.
A row of surf boards lined up on a beach in Honolulu
Surfing is the most popular sport in Greater Honolulu
  • The Honolulu Triathlon takes place every mid-May at Ala Moana Beach Park. It follows the Olympic Triathlon format, featuring 1.5 km of swimming, 40 km of cycling and 10 km of running.
  • The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing takes place from mid-November to late-December on the north shore of Oahu, considered part of Greater Honolulu. Three events are spread out across three of the most famous beaches: Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park, O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach and the Billabong Pipeline Masters at Banzai Pipeline.

Famous Honolulu People

  • The most famous person from Honolulu was the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama.
  • Actors Jason Momoa, Darin Brooks, Timothy Olyphant, Mark Dacascos, and Don Stroud were born in Honolulu.
A mosaic of famous people from Honolulu
Famous Honolulans Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Bruno Mars, and Barack Obama (clockwise from top-left)
  • Actresses Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Lauren Graham, Kelly Preston, and Maggie Q were born in Honolulu.
  • Musicians/Bands Jasmine Trias, Jack Johnson, Bruno Mars, Go Jimmy Go and Kalapana are from Greater Honolulu.
  • Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was a world-class surfer and Olympic swimmer. He lived in Honolulu for most of his life and has been referred to as the “Father of Modern Surfing.”
  • Rabbit Kekai, another of the founders of modern surfing, was born in Honolulu.
A statue of the founding father of surfing with a surfboard and flowers on the beach in Waikiki
Statue of Duke Kahanamoku on Waikiki Beach
  • Akebono Tarō, born just outside of Honolulu, was the first non-Japanese-born sumo wrestler to ever reach the rank of yokozuna.
  • Olin Kreutz, one of the best NFLs centers of all time, was born in Honolulu.

Honolulu History Facts

  • The last eruption of Diamond Head in Honolulu was around 150,000 to 200,000 years ago.
  • The Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands were the original inhabitants of the area of Honolulu. The earliest settlement in the area goes back to the 11th century.
Diamond Head volcano viewed fro across a bay of water
Diamond Head, a dormant volcano in Honolulu
  • In 1794, Captain William Brown from England became the first foreigner to sail into Honolulu Harbor. He established a port there, hence one of the city’s early names, “Brown’s Harbor”.
  • In 1795, Kamehameha I from the Big Island arrived in Oahu and became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
  • In the early 1800s, the Hawaiian rulers moved to the port area in Honolulu, and the city developed as a center of trade for ships between America and Asia.
  • As early as 1820, the US already had an interest in the Port of Honolulu and had an appointed agent to manage American business there.
  • The port became known for its brothels, which Christian missionaries tried to make the king crack down on.
Close up of a black statue of Kamehameha with gold clothing in front of a building in Honolulu, Hawaii
Kamehameha I statue in Honolulu
  • In the 1850s, the city’s population reach 10,000.
  • In 1870, the first post office was built in Honolulu.
  • The ʻIolani Palace was constructed in 1879.
  • There was a coup against Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893, and in 1898, Hawaii was annexed by the United States. The US subsequently developed and expanded its naval base there.
  • In 1900, Hawaii formally became the Territory of Hawaii, with Honolulu as its capital.
  • Streetcars began operating in Honolulu in 1901.
  • Honolulu city was incorporated in 1907.
Exterior of Kawaiahaʻo Church
Historic Kawaiahaʻo Church, the “Westminster Abbey” of Honolulu
  • In the 1910s, the city’s population surpassed 100,000.
  • In 1927, the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport opened in Honolulu.
  • The First Hawaii Cherry Blossom Festival began in 1953.
  • The Waikiki Beach Press newspaper began its publication in 1955.
  • In 1969, the state capitol was moved from Iolani Palace to the current building.
Exterior of the state capitol building in Honolulu
The modern Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu
  • In 1971, TheBus (Honolulu’s public transport system) was established.
  • Honolulu reached a peak population of 380,000 in 1990. Tourism to the city also peaked in the late 1990s.

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