Although Oahu isn’t known for having quite as much rain as the other major Hawaiian islands, the tropical climate can sometimes make the weather unpredictable. While travelers may be disappointed to learn about some incoming unpleasant weather interrupting their well-planned vacation, retreating to the hotel room isn’t the only option.
Honolulu still offers a variety of activities to be enjoyed in almost any type of weather. Apart from the beach, a large number of museums, historic areas and indoor attractions draw visitors to the state’s most populated city, and rainy weather is just another excuse to enjoy it all.
You’ll find more than 50,000 pieces of art spanning over 5,000 years inside the Honolulu Museum of Art. Founded in 1927 by Anna Rice Cooke to house her immense art collection, this museum aims to celebrate the vast multicultural makeup of the islands of Hawaii from ancient times to the present. Guests are free to take a tour, see a film at the museum theater, or just wander the grounds discovering artistic treasures. The site’s most notable works include a collection of over 10,000 Japanese woodblock prints and an especially impressive collection of 19th century pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet.
You can also check out the museum’s monthly art-themed party, ART after DARK, held inside the grounds on the last Friday of every month.
Make a reservation at one of Honolulu’s many restaurants with incredible views such as the Hula Grill inside the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel; it is open-air but the protective screens come down during stormy weather. Or book a table at a fine-dining restaurant like the cavernous Vintage Cave Restaurant. Near Ala Moana, the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk is a unique experience with over 50 Japanese-inspired stores and restaurants.
With all of the Asian-influenced flavors of Honolulu, you can’t find a better place to enjoy a soup or noodle dish on a chilly, rainy day. If you’re in Waikiki, head to hole-in-the-wall Shingen for freshly made soba noodles served in broth or the popular (and cheap) Marukame Udon for some of the best handmade udon noodles in the city. For udon further inland, Jimbo’s in Mo’ili’ili is a great option as well. In Downtown Honolulu, Little Village Noodle House offers delicious Chinese food and Lucky Belly is a hip spot for incredible ramen.
Catch a Performance at the Blaisdell Center
If you find yourself in Honolulu at the same time as your favorite performer, chances are they’ll be playing at the Blaisdell Center. Within the whole complex you’ll find a multi-purpose arena, exhibition hall, galleria, concert hall, meeting rooms, and a parking structure. This opens the venue up to everything from concerts and sporting events to craft and trade shows and farmers markets. The facilities inside might be what you’d expect in a Hawaiian theater: sprawling fish ponds, fountains, green grass, and coconut trees that pre-date the structure itself.
A magic show isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind while planning a Hawaii vacation, but the Magic of Polynesia inside the Beachcomber Hotel in Waikiki puts on one of the best shows on the islands. The show’s host and creator, John Hirokawa, is an expert illusionist who worked with David Copperfield at the age of 12 and was a recipient of a Merlin Award for originality from the International Magicians Society.
Hawaii’s-own Bruno Mars got his start in the opening act of Magic of Polynesia as a high schooler, and even mentioned the show at the Grammy Awards in 2018.
Hit the Spa
A rainy day is the perfect excuse to spend some time pampering yourself while on vacation. With the heavy tourist population in the city, there are hundreds of hotels and resorts with on-site spas to enjoy. Along with any options within your accommodation, Honolulu has a variety of independent day spas such as Honolulu Spa & Wellness on Kapiolani Blvd. and LAKA Skin Care & Spa on Ward Avenue.
If you’re already staying in the Waikiki area, you’re in even more luck. Some of the best spas on the island are inside of Waikiki’s resorts, including the Moana Lani Spa at the Moana Surfrider and Spa Halekulani at the Halekulani Hotel.
Sing Along at Rock-A-Hula
Waikiki’s number one evening show, Rock-A-Hula, takes showgoers on a musical journey from the 1920s to present day. Experience the dances and music of Hawaii throughout the ages from classic hula performances to fire knife dancing and more. Rock-A-Hula keeps a repertoire of cover performers such as Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, and Elvis.
This Vegas-esque show has several packages, so guests can choose from a simple show-only ticket, a luau dinner combination, or an entire VIP experience. Seating for the show begins at 7:30 p.m. every night, so it can easily be combined with a daytime wet-weather activity in case of a 24-hour storm.
Although Ala Moana Center is famously open-air, the covered roof throughout makes it a pleasant place to do some shopping in the rain. The parking garage is also covered and connected to the mall, so no need to get wet walking back to your car after a shopping spree. Find everything from high-end brands like Gucci and Chanel to more budget-friendly shops such as Forever 21 and Macy’s, as well as local shops for grabbing souvenirs and made-in-Hawaii items. The top floor has a ton of eateries to choose from as well, making it easy to spend the entire day here.
Originally opened to house the late Princess Bernice Pauahi’s numerous family heirlooms, this space has since grown into a museum of more than a million different objects and photos documenting Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian Hall is the main attraction with three levels representing different aspects of Hawaii; ancient gods and legends, the importance of land and nature, and important moments in Hawaiian history. Make sure you plan time for a show at the J. Watumull Planetarium, with shows throughout the day and a special night showing on the first Saturday of each month.
Apart from being the only official royal palace in the United States, the 'Iolani Palace is an incredible piece of architecture full of Hawaiian history and culture. The building was once the royal residence of the rulers of Hawaii back when it was its own kingdom from the time of King Kamehameha III to King Kalakaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani. Take a tour through the iconic throne room and dining room, admire the classic staircase made of Hawaiian koa wood, and view the historical artifacts and portraits inside the palace.
If the weather has cleared up by then, take a short walk to some nearby Downtown Honolulu attractions such as the Capitol Building and the King Kamehameha statue.
Visit Waikiki Aquarium
Too rainy to snorkel? Spend some time with tropical fish (and stay dry) at the Waikiki Aquarium. First built in 1904, the aquarium at Waikiki is the second-oldest public aquarium still operating in the United States. It may be smaller than larger city residents may be used to in terms of aquariums, but what it lacks in size it makes up for it quality. A large collection of Hawaiian fish, live coral exhibits and animals found only in Hawaii, this spot is great for children and adults alike who are looking for something fun and educational to do in the rain.
Experience Pearl Harbor
While the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine aren’t ideal to visit in the rain, the Visitor Center has a number of free, indoor walk-through museums that will appeal to all types of travelers. Purchased tickets for the Pacific Aviation Museum or the USS Missouri Battleship include a bus ride to nearby Ford Island where both attractions are located, and both have interior areas that will keep you safe from the rain.