Until the Europeans came, there was no significant settlement on the site of modern HONOLULU; soon so many foreign ships were frequenting its waters that it had become Kamehameha’s capital, and it remains the economic centre of the archipelago. While the city covers a long (if narrow) strip of southern Oahu, downtown is a manageable size, and a lot quieter than its glamorous image might suggest. The tourist hotels are concentrated in the skyscrapers of the distinct suburb of Waikiki, a couple of miles east.
While its setting is beautiful, right on the Pacific and backed by dramatic cliffs and extinct volcanoes, most visitors are here simply to enjoy the sheer hedonism of shopping, eating and generally hanging out in the sun. It’s also the centre of an exemplary public transportation system that covers the whole island.