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Chinatown in Old Honolulu, Oahu

Best Hidden Places in Hawaii

Chinatown is hidden in the old section of downtown Honolulu. A walking tour of this historic area is punctuated by a Buddhist temple, a Japanese shrine, art galleries, and a large open-air market. Walk on your own, or try the Chinese Chamber of Commerce walking tour. Allow at least an hour.

Chinatown is home not only to many Chinese, whose families have lived here for generations, but also Filipinos, Hawaiians, and newer arrivals from Viet Nam and Laos. The Chinese started arriving in Hawaii in large numbers in the mid-1800s as plantation workers. Over time, many became successful merchants. Some of the early architecture from this period is still standing, despite the government’s drastic policy of burning many homes in 1900 in an effort to rid the community of bubonic plague.

At night Chinatown presents its racier side, as the once-booming district is still home to pool halls, neon lights, and an entertaining collection of characters.

Locals come here to buy leis and eat truly authentic Chinese food. Visitors can watch leis being strung. Shopping is a unique experience where you’ll find unusual fruits and vegetables, herbs, porcelain, fresh fish, and traditional hanging ducks. Many of the shops have been family-owned for generations.

The nearby 125-year-old Foster Botanical Garden is a 14-acre urban Eden overflowing with orchids, coffee trees, palms, and poisonous plants.

Chinatown, hidden just a few blocks from central downtown Honolulu, offers a buffet for the senses with its parade of people, sights, sounds, and exotic smells and tastes.

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