Honolulu, Hawaii

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Honolulu, Hawaii
Location of Honolulu, Hawaii
Location of Honolulu within the City & County of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Political Charateristics
    City & County
United States
Physical Characteristics
272.1 km²
     222.0 km²
     50.1 km²
     Total (2004)
     377,260 (estimate)
Time zone
     Summer (DST)
Hawaii-Aleutian (UTC−10)
     [Not observed] (UTC−10)
Latitude 21°18'32" N
Longitude 157°49'34" W

Honolulu is the capital and largest community of the U.S. State of Hawai‘i. In the Hawaiian language, honolulu means "sheltered bay" or "place of shelter." The census-designated place (CDP) is located along the southeast coast of the island of O‘ahu. The term also refers to the District of Honolulu (see Geography below). As of July 1, 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau estimate for Honolulu puts the population at 377,260 and that of the city and county (essentially, the Island of O‘ahu) is 900,000. In Hawai‘i, municipal governments operate only at the county level, and the City & County of Honolulu encompasses all of the Island of O‘ahu (approximately 600 square miles).



It is not known when Honolulu was first settled by the original Polynesian migrants to the archipelago. Oral histories and artifacts indicate that there was a settlement where Honolulu now stands in the 12th century. However, after Kamehameha I conquered O‘ahu in the Battle of Nu‘uanu Pali, he moved his royal court from the Island of Hawai‘i to Waikīkī in 1804. His court later relocated, in 1809, to what is now downtown Honolulu.

Captain William Brown of England was the first foreigner to sail, in 1794, into what is now Honolulu Harbor. More foreign ships would follow, making the port of Honolulu a focal point for merchant ships traveling between North America and Asia.

Rainbow over Honolulu skyline with Diamond Head behind.
Rainbow over Honolulu skyline with Diamond Head behind.

In 1845, Kamehameha III moved the permanent capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom from Lāhainā on Maui to Honolulu. He and the kings that followed him transformed Honolulu into a modern capital, erecting buildings such as St. Andrew's Cathedral, Iolani Palace, and Ali‘iolani Hale. At the same time, Honolulu became the center of commerce in the Islands, with descendants of American missionaries establishing major businesses in downtown Honolulu.

Despite the turbulent history of the late 19th century and early 20th century, which saw the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, Hawai‘i's subsequent annexation by the United States, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu would remain the capital, largest city, and main airport and seaport of the Hawaiian Islands.

An economic and tourism boom following statehood brought rapid economic growth to Honolulu and Hawai‘i. Modern air travel would bring thousands, eventually millions (per annum) of visitors to the Islands. Today, Honolulu is a modern city with numerous high-rise buildings, and Waikīkī is the center of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i, with thousands of hotel rooms.

Geography and climate

Honolulu is located at 21°18'32" North, 157°49'34" West (21.308950, -157.826182)1. While this is clearly in the tropics, the climate (temperature and humidity) is moderated by the mid-ocean location and some cooling achieved by the California Current that passes through the islands much of year. The average daily low and high temperatures in January are 65/80 °F (18/27 °C) and in July are 74/88 °F (23/31 °C). Temperatures exceed 90 °F (32 °C) only rarely, with lows in the 50's °F (15 °C) occurring perhaps once or twice in a year. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Honolulu was 95 °F (35 °C) on September 19, 1994 and the coldest temperature ever recorded was 53 °F (11.6 °C) on January 31, 1998, 1972 and 1948 and on January 20, 1969 and on February 1 and 2, 1976 and on February 9, 1981 and on February 12, 1983.

Honolulu as seen from the International Space Station
Honolulu as seen from the International Space Station

The Honolulu District is located on the southeast coast of O‘ahu between Makapu‘u and Hālawa. The District boundary follows the Ko‘olau crestline, so Makapu‘u Beach is in the Ko‘olaupoko District. On the west, the district boundary follows Hālawa Stream, then crosses Red Hill and runs just west of Āliamanu Crater, so that Aloha Stadium, Pearl Harbor (with the USS Arizona Memorial), and Hickam Air Force Base are actually all located in the island's ‘Ewa District.

Most of the city's commercial and industrial developments are located on a narrow but relatively flat coastal plain, while numerous ridges and valleys located inland of the coastal plain divide Honolulu's residential areas into distinct neighborhoods: some spread along valley floors (like Mānoa in Mānoa Valley) and others climb the interfluvial ridges. Within Honolulu proper can be found several volcanic cones: Punchbowl, Diamond Head, Koko Head (includes Hanauma Bay), Koko Crater, Salt Lake, and Āliamanu being the most conspicuous.

Honolulu and Juneau, Alaska are the only two US state capitals that cannot be reached by road from the rest of the United States, or from the majority of the land area of their respective states.


Main article: City & County of Honolulu

Originally governed by a Board of Supervisors, the City & County of Honolulu is administered under a mayor-council system of governance overseeing all municipal services: civil defense, emergency medical, fire, parks and recreation, police, sanitation, streets, water, among others. One of the largest municipal governments in the United States, the City & County of Honolulu has an annual operating budget of $1 billion.

The current mayor of Honolulu is Mufi Hannemann (term ends January 2009).

Neighborhoods and special districts

View of downtown Honolulu at Bishop and King streets with First Hawaiian Center building (left) and Bank of Hawai‘i (right)
View of downtown Honolulu at Bishop and King streets with First Hawaiian Center building (left) and Bank of Hawai‘i (right)
  • Downtown Honolulu is the financial, commercial, and governmental center of Hawai‘i. On the waterfront is Aloha Tower, which for many years was the tallest building in Hawai‘i. Currently the tallest building is the 438-foot-tall (134 m) First Hawaiian Center, located on King and Bishop Streets ([1]).
  • The Capitol District is the eastern part of Downtown Honolulu. It is the current and historic center of Hawai‘i's state government, incorporating the Hawai‘i State Capitol, ‘Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hale (City Hall), State Library, and the statue of King Kamehameha I, along with numerous government buildings.
  • Kaka‘ako is a light-industrial district between Downtown and Waikīkī that has seen a large-scale redevelopment effort in the past decade. It is home to two major shopping areas, Ward Warehouse and Ward Centre. The John A. Burns School of Medicine, part of the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa is also located there. A Memorial to the Ehime Maru Incident victims is built at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park.
  • Waikīkī is the world famous tourist district of Honolulu, located between the Ala Wai Canal and the Pacific Ocean next to Diamond Head. Numerous hotels, shops, and nightlife opportunities are located along Kalākaua and Kuhio Avenues. World-famous Waikīkī Beach attracts millions of visitors a year. Just west of Waikīkī is Ala Moana Center, the world's largest open-air shopping center. A majority of the hotel rooms on O‘ahu are located in Waikīkī.
Downtown Honolulu as seen from the Capitol District
Downtown Honolulu as seen from the Capitol District
  • Mānoa and Makiki are residential neighborhoods located in adjacent valleys just inland of downtown and Waikīkī. Mānoa Valley is home to the main campus of the University of Hawai‘i.
  • Nu‘uanu and Pauoa are middle-class to upper-middle-class residential districts located inland of downtown Honolulu. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located in Punchbowl Crater fronting Pauoa Valley.
  • Palolo and Kaimukī are neighborhoods east of Mānoa and Makiki, inland from Diamond Head. Palolo Valley parallels Mānoa and is a residential neighborhood. Kaimukī is primarily a residential neighborhood with a commercial strip centered on Wai‘alae Avenue running behind Diamond Head. Chaminade University is located in Kaimukī.
  • Wai‘alae and Kāhala are the upper-class districts of Honolulu located directly east of Diamond Head, where there are many high-priced homes. Also found in these neighborhoods are the Wai‘alae Country Club and the Kāhala Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
  • East Honolulu includes the residential communities of Āina Haina, Niu Valley, and Hawai‘i Kai. These are considered upper-middle-class neighborhoods.
  • Kalihi and Pālama are working-class neighborhoods with a number of government housing developments. Lower Kalihi, toward the ocean, is a light-industrial district.
  • Salt Lake and Āliamanu are (mostly) residential areas built in extinct tuff cones along the western end of the Honolulu District, not far from the Honolulu International Airport.
  • Moanalua is two neighborhoods and a valley at the western end of Honolulu, and home to Tripler Army Medical Center.


As of the census2 of 2000, there were 371,657 people, 140,337 households, and 87,429 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,674.4/km² (4,336.6/mi²). There were 158,663 housing units at an average density of 714.8/km² (1,851.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 19.67% White, 1.62% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 6.85% Asian, 55.85% Pacific Islander, 0.89% from other races, and 14.93% from two or more races. 4.37% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the 140,337 households, 23.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size is 3.23.

In Honolulu in 2000 the population was spread out with 19.2% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city proper was $45,112, and the median income for a family was $56,311. Males had a median income of $36,631 versus $29,930 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $24,191. 11.8% of the population and 7.9% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 14.6% of those under the age of 18 and 8.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Notable Citizens


Located on the western end of Honolulu proper, Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is the principal aviation gateway to the state of Hawai‘i.

Two freeways serve Honolulu:

Other major highways that link Honolulu proper with other parts of the Island of O‘ahu are:

  • Pali Highway, State Rte. 61, crosses north over the Ko‘olau range via the Pali Tunnels to connect to Kailua and Kāne‘ohe on the windward side of the Island.
  • Likelike Highway, State Rte. 63, also crosses the Ko‘olau to Kāne‘ohe via the Wilson Tunnels.
  • Kalanianaole Highway, State Rte. 72, runs eastward from Wai‘alae/Kāhala to Hawai‘i Kai and around the east end of the island to Waimānalo Beach.
  • Kamehameha Highway, State Rte. 99, runs westward from near Hickam Air Force Base to ‘Aiea and beyond, paralleling the H-1.

Like most major American cities, the Honolulu metropolitan area experiences heavy traffic congestion during rush hours, especially to and from the western suburbs of Kapolei, ‘Ewa, ‘Aiea, Pearl City, Waipahu, and Mililani. Land for expanding road capacity is at a premium everywhere on O‘ahu.

Established by former Mayor Frank F. Fasi, Honolulu's public transit system has been twice honored by the American Public Transportation Association bestowing the title of "America's Best Transit System" for 1994-1995 and 2000-2001. O‘ahu Transit Services' "TheBus" operates 93 routes with a fleet of 525 buses.

Currently, there is no fixed-rail mass transit system in Honolulu. However, in 2004, the City & County of Honolulu and the State of Hawai‘i approved development of an action plan for a fixed rail mass transit system to be built in several phases. The initial line could link Kapolei in West O‘ahu to Iwilei near Downtown Honolulu (port area). Several attempts had been made since the 1980s and 1990s to construct a fixed rail mass transit system but stalled during Honolulu City Council hearings.

Also in 2004, construction had started on a bus rapid transit (BRT) system using dedicated rights-of-way for buses. The system, proposed by former Mayor Jeremy Harris, was expected to link the Iwilei neighborhood with Waikīkī. However, current Mayor Mufi Hannemann has largely dismantled the BRT system and deployed its buses along other express bus routes.

Cultural institutions

Performing arts

Established in 1900, the Honolulu Symphony is the oldest 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 Neal Blaisdell Center Concert Hall, the Waikiki Shell, and the Hawaii Theatre.

Honolulu also includes several venues for live theatre, including the Diamond Head Theatre and the Manoa Valley Theatre.

Visual arts

Located near downtown Honolulu, the premier venue for visual arts in Hawai'i is the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The Honolulu Academy of Arts features the largest collection of Western and Asian art in Hawai'i and also hosts a year-round film and video program dedicated to the presentation of arthouse and world cinema in the museum's Doris Duke Theatre. The Contemporary Museum in Makiki is the main museum of contemporary art in the state.

Other museums, aquariums, zoos, and cultural centers

  • The Bishop Museum is the largest museum in the State of Hawaii and houses thousands of natural history specimens and cultural artifacts relating to Hawai‘i and the Pacific.
  • The Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo are both located at the eastern end of Waikīkī in Kapi‘iolani Park.
  • The Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM) (official site) is located in the downtown district in the old YMCA building and features local artists. Blessed with both a great collection and a competent house staff.


Currently, Honolulu has no professional sports teams. However, Honolulu hosts the NFL's annual Pro Bowl each February in addition to the NCAA football Hawaii Bowl. Fans of spectator sports in Honolulu generally support the football, volleyball, basketball, and baseball programs of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Highschool sporting events, especially football, are especially popular. Venues for spectator sports in Honolulu include:

Honolulu's mild climate lends itself to year-round fitness activities as well. In 2004, Men's Fitness magazine named Honolulu the fittest city in the U.S. Honolulu is also home to two large road races:



Honolulu is served by three daily newspapers: the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and "Ka Leo O Hawai‘i". Ka Leo is a newspaper published by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It is one of the few remaining cities of its size in the U.S. to have more than one daily newspaper.


Main article: List of television stations in Hawaii

(from hawaiiradiotv.com)

Full power TV channels

Low-power TV channels

Digital TV channels

Radio stations

Main article: List of radio stations in Hawaii

17 AM radio stations

20 FM radio stations

Cable and satellite television

Oceanic-Time Warner Cable (a division of Time Warner Cable) is the primary cable television carrier in the Honolulu metropolitan area. Satellite television (DIRECTV, Dish Network, some C-Band) is also available as an alternative.

Tourist attractions

See also: Oahu

Colleges & universities


  1. Geographic references.
  2. Honolulu Advertiser, Section B. Monday, June 7, 2004. Estimated student body size and annual tuition for selected colleges on O‘ahu.

External links

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State capital: Honolulu
Largest communities: Hilo | Honolulu | Kahului | Waipahu | Lihue
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