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uss arizona memorial

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument -- better known as the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor -- is one of Hawaii's most visited (and most moving) sites. Informative exhibits and a video presentation set the stage for a boat ride out to the wreckage of the USS Arizona, where you can still catch a glimpse of the doomed battleship. A white memorial marks the site.

Reflecting the opulence of the royal courts of Europe, Iolani Palace was the residence of Hawaii's last reigning monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Construction was completed in 1882; 11 years later, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown. On display in the basement are the Hawaiian crown jewels as well as a collection of ancient Hawaiian regalia. On the upper floors are state apartments and private quarters.

Star of Honolulu offers whale-watching excursions and sunset dinner cruises off the coast of Waikiki.

Colorful, spice-scented Chinatown is roughly bordered by King, Smith, Beretania and River Streets. It's one of Honolulu's most fun neighborhoods to wander, with its open-air markets, historic buildings and mishmash of Asian cultures.

Thousands of species of tropical flora thrive in the 14-acre urban oasis known as Foster Botanical Garden, which often is used as a site for weddings and other special events. Some of our favorite spots include the Lyon Orchid Garden and the Butterfly Garden. Guided tours are available.

The Honolulu Museum of Art houses more than 50,000 works, including collections from Hawaii, Asia and Europe.

Select works from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts' eclectic collection are displayed in changing themed exhibits at the Hawaii State Art Museum, located on the second floor of the No. 1 Capitol District Building. Admission is free.

Dubbed the "Carnegie Hall of the Pacific," Hawaii Theatre opened on September 6, 1922, as the most lavish venue in Honolulu. Tours, usually offered Tuesday at 11 a.m. for $10, include a mini organ concert.

Visit the Mission Houses Museum to learn how Hawaii's first missionaries lived. This complex of original 19th-century dwellings includes a white frame house that was precut in Boston, shipped around Cape Horn and assembled in 1821.

Dating back to 1842, Kawaiahao Church was built with more than 14,000 coral blocks quarried from reefs off Honolulu. This stately house of worship has been the site of numerous notable events, including the marriage of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. Services are held in English and Hawaiian.

The former home of Queen Liliuokalani, Washington Place has served as the official residence of the governor of Hawaii since 1921. Fill out the online form at WashingtonPlaceFoundation.org to request a tour of the historic mansion; among the treasures visitors can view is the queen's piano (she was a gifted musician and composer).

Celebrate First Friday. On the first Friday of each month, more than a dozen galleries in downtown Honolulu stay open until 9 p.m. to celebrate local art in all mediums. Be on hand to check out new exhibit openings, meet the artists, and enjoy refreshments, talks and live music. Free maps are dispensed at participating venues.

North Shore Shark Adventures whisks you three miles from Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu's North Shore to meet Galapagos, sandbar, hammerhead and tiger sharks up to 12 feet long. You'll descend into the sea for a close look at these fearsome creatures, all the while perfectly safe within the confines of a seven-foot-tall barred cage.

Built in the late 1930s on five gorgeous acres overlooking the ocean and Diamond Head, elegant Shangri La was the home of the reclusive heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke. Striking architectural features and more than 3,500 treasures from throughout the Islamic world (including furnishings, tile panels, ceramics, textiles, carpets and paintings) are the highlights of the collection. Advance reservations for tours are highly recommended.

One of the area's most popular hikes, Diamond Head State Monument offers sweeping views of the island and the sea from the top. Prospective hikers should be reasonably fit; consider going early or late in the day to avoid heat and crowds.

Honolulu's famous Waikiki Beach is the perfect spot to take a surfing lesson or simply sprawl out in the sand.

Everything you want to learn about Hawaii you can probably learn at the Bishop Museum, whose collections include everything from Polynesian artifacts to cultural treasures of the Hawaiian royal family. There's also a planetarium.


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