What to Do in Chinatown Honolulu, Oahu

Call it a makeover or a facelift, but after undergoing such, the Chinatown of Honolulu is now an urban locus of commerce and fun. This 140-year old attraction covers a twenty-block section and is a very busy site particularly in the mornings. Vendors shout out their products, and their various wares would dazzle you the first time you set foot in the place.

Things you can do at Chinatown Honolulu

First, go to the Oahu Market and check out the watermelons, pineapples, and a multitude of other exotic and tropical fruits that will definitely tease your taste buds. From there, go to the fish sellers displaying their eels, crabs, fresh fish, and other produce. Then, there are the pork vendors with their char siu and ducks. If you are a noodle lover, then your vacation would not be complete without a visit to the Yat Tung Chow Noodle Factory. Did you know that in this place, they have a total of 9 varying sizes of noodles, from thin strands to udon noodles?

Take a peek at Shun Chung Yein, where you could have your fill of cookies and mooncakes. If you love sweets, buy some candied ginger and other delicacies. Dimsum restaurants are very popular, and if you are worried that you would not be able to pronounce the name of the dishes, you don't need to worry. The vendors are friendly, and all you need to do is point at the dish you want, and you'll get it. If you love any of the following kinds of cuisine: Filipino, Korean, Chinese, and Thai, then go to the Maunakea marketplace.

Seafood delicacies are a common fare and are actually a pride of the place. Shop for fresh moi (that is white meat fish), crabs, and if you want, frozen specialties, as you would find that many vendors have froglegs and escargots. Want to try something really exotic that you could boast to your friends way back home? Try out the crawfish tail meat. Even if you don't like it, you could always claim that you have sampled it. You can then proceed to selected stalls and buy some local shrimps known for their sweet flavor.

Well, you probably would not spend all of your holiday hours eating, so you need to reserve some time for your shopping. Countless fresh flowers (such as maile and orchids) are made into the world-famous Hawaiian leis. Are you looking for silk brocade garments or antiques? Then visit the Lai Fong Department store and be in "shopping heaven."

Another thing to do that should be included in your itinerary would be to check out the art galleries. Every 1st Friday of the month, at least fifty galleries for art are in business. Cafes are present just across (or beside) many of these art venues.

After all the art viewing and shopping, chances are, you would get hungry again. Try dining at the Indigo Restaurant, or simply meet new friends in Thirtynine Hotel's rooftop lounge.

Sightseeing by joining a tour

When planning on a sightseeing tour in Chinatown, join a tour to make the most of your time and budget. As the streets can get pretty crowded during certain times of the day, it's best to stick to a tour group especially if it's your first time to visit Honolulu's Chinatown. Plus, having a tour guide means there's someone who can lead you to some of Chinatown's most popular shops, dining places, and attractions.

Strolling at the plazas and courtyards

Honolulu's Chinatown offers several plazas and courtyards that are teeming with life and culture. If you don't mind the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, take a stroll along its plazas and courtyards and gawk at locals and tourists making their way into the place. You can also watch checker players as they battle it out using their strategies and skills.

More food shopping at Chinatown

If you want Chinese dry goods, the place to go to is Bo Wah (take note, there are still others). For Vietnamese dry goods, there are many shops situated on King Street. What about cookware? Search for China Arts at King. It has cookware made of carbon steel and the stainless varieties.

More dining

The place is a mix of dining possibilities, and whatever your budget may be, you would find something to suit your budget. Mexican, Cuban, and Indian foods could be found here too. Check out the Eastern Food Center, which is a BBQ house that runs early for breakfasts. They also serve congees to those who are partial to this kind of food. The Pho 97 is one of the Vietnamese pho houses. It is patronized by many for their spring rolls, crepe, and buns with BBQ pork.


The Chinatown in Honolulu is definitely a melting pot of cultures, as can be seen in the architectural structures, attractions, buildings, delicacies, fresh produce, and products found here. Another activity you can do here is to take lots of pictures and capture every moment through your camera. Whether you're an amateur or a professional photographer, you'll certainly find plenty of interesting subjects here. From herbal shops with jars of mysterious ingredients to restaurants with colorful dishes that reflect both Asian and Hawaiian cultures, ending up with plenty of photos is not uncommon when visiting this place.

Watching performances at the Hawaii Theatre Center

Vaudeville, musical productions, and plays are just some of the performances you'll be able to watch at the Hawaii Theatre Center. Immerse yourself with the rich culture of Hawaii as you marvel at stunning performances that'll leave you asking for more.

Looking at artworks at the Ramsay Chinatown Gallery

If you're an art buff, you'll definitely enjoy your visit at the Ramsay Chinatown Gallery. A place that boasts plenty of detailed drawings done with ink and quill, this is a favorite hangout of photographers and art lovers.

Joining festivals and celebrations

The best time to probably visit Honolulu's Chinatown is during the Chinese New Year. During this time of the year, lots of celebrations and feasts are held in Chinatown to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Aside from the usual delicious dishes, feast your eyes on parades and dragon dances that cover the streets of Chinatown.

Other fun activities

To make your trip to Chinatown Honolulu more memorable, include the following specific activities in your itinerary:

* Check out an auction house near the King and Nuuanu streets.
* Visit an acupuncture store or herbalist. The Chinatown is the perfect place to go looking for herbal shops and acupuncture facilities. An example would be the "Acupuncture and Herbs from China."
* Engage in incense burning at the shrine of the Kuan Yin Temple (this is in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza).
* Watch true masters as they play checkers or mahjong throughout the plazas and courtyards.
* Give your nose a treat and take in wafts of fresh leis, delicious delicacies, and fresh flowers throughout the place.
* Visit the statue of Sun Yat-Sen and have your picture taken with the statue as the backdrop.
* Have your fortunes told by a fortune teller.

Tips when doing your stuff at Chinatown

Be aware that Chinatown Honolulu has its share of one-way lanes and streets, such as the King Street and Beretania Street. If you want to drive to Chinatown, bring an updated map.

Regarding parking areas in Chinatown's zones, be aware that street parking is actually limited, usually with one-hour slots. During Sundays and holidays, they are usually free. Municipal garages are found on Smith (Nimitz area), Maunakea (King area), and Nuuanu (past King area).

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