11 Best Honolulu Museums (that are Perfect for a Rainy Day!)

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Are you on the hunt for the best Honolulu museums to add to your itinerary?

This guide covers some of the top museums in Honolulu… from cultural museums to religious ones and, of course, military museums.

Are you planning your trip to Honolulu last minute?

If you’re traveling to Honolulu last minute, you want to ensure you have lodging/tours ahead of time! Below are some of our top picks on Oahu!

Best Tours and Activities on Oahu:

  1. Full-day Oahu island tour (my top recommendation to see the island!)
  2. Waikiki afternoon glass-bottom boat trip (a Honolulu bestseller!)
  3. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Tour (essential!)
  4. Paradise Cove luau (a luau that is great for families!)
  5. Diamond Head morning hike from Honolulu

Best Hotels and Lodging in Honolulu:

  1. Hotel Renew (budget option in HNL)
  2. White Sands Hotel (budget – I stayed here many nights!)
  3. Laylow (mid-range and stylish)
  4. Moana Surfrider Hotel (famous place & affordable luxury)
  5. Espacio the Jewel of Waikiki (luxury living in Waikiki)

Traveling to Oahu independently? Be sure to book your rental car ahead of time to ensure availability!

These museums are some of the top sights to visit in Honolulu, particularly on a rainy day or if you just feel like staying in Honolulu for some duration throughout your trip.

Best Honolulu museums
Best Honolulu museums

Did we miss any fantastic museums in Honolulu (or nearby)? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Best Honolulu Museums

1. Iolani Palace

Address: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

One of the best museums in Honolulu that you can’t leave the city without visiting is the Iolani Palace.

It was built as the royal home for the rules of the Kingdom of Hawaii that started with Kamehameha III and ended with Queen Lili’uokalani.

The palace was built by King Kalakaua who wanted to be buried here, but he died before it was completed. It’s now a museum where you can see how royalty lived in this beautiful house.

Today, you can walk through the first and second floors which have been renovated and are open to the public (with a guided tour).

On the first floor, you will see the Grand Hall, State Dining Room, Blue Room, and the Throne Room. 

Iolani Palace in Honolulu-2
Iolani Palace in Honolulu

On the second floor, you will find private areas such as the King’s and Queen’s suites, the Music Room, and the Imprisonment Room.

The Imprisonment Room holds great significance as it is where Queen Liliuokalani was put on house arrest for 8 months after her government was overthrown.

Iolani Palace visiting hours are 9:00am-4:00pm daily except Sundays and Mondays.

Admission for the docent-led tour is $33 per person and the self-led tour is $27. Tours run daily when open.

2. Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, & Design

Address: 4055 Pāpū Cir, Honolulu, HI 96816

Most are marveled by the presence of this Islamic Museum and cultural center in the islands, however, it undeniably brings its unique touch, making it a special place.

The Shangri La estate was built by the heiress in the 1930s. Home to the American Heiress Doris Duke who hails from New York. The museum’s collection houses pieces that were collected over a 60-year period.

Shangri La Estate - Phillip B. Espinasse - Shutterstock.com
Shangri La Estate – Phillip B. Espinasse – Shutterstock.com

Fountains, a playhouse, stunning mosaics, tiles, and luxurious spaces are just some of the things you will find here. It is no wonder it is considered to be an inspirational goldmine for interior design and architecture enthusiasts!

3. Hawaii’s Plantation Village

Address: 94-695 Waipahu St, Waipahu, HI 96797

This outdoor museum preserves the rich history of those who migrated to Hawaii from other parts of the world as workers on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations.

Sugar cane plantations in Hawaii changed the entire culture and landscape of the state which thrived from the work of immigrants. The recreated village shows how immigrant workers lived in the early 20th-century.

Hawaii's Plantation Village
Hawaii’s Plantation Village

Hawaii’s Plantation Village features antiques, as well as replicated and restored buildings of some of the ethnic groups including a community bathhouse, a barbershop, a medical clinic, photographs, documents, and even a shrine.

4. John Young Museum of Art (UHM)

Address: Krauss Hall, 2500 Dole St, Honolulu, HI 96822

Located on the University of Hawaii campus at Mānoa, the John Young Museum of Art contains a diverse art collection from Africa, Southern Asia, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South America.

The majority of the displayed pieces were donated by the Hawaiian-American artist John Chin Young who the museum is named after.

The museum is made up of two galleries, an Asian art gallery, and a tribal art gallery. Pieces in the museum are representative of the history of the different cultures.

Some of the works include a ceramic kendi from the early Ming Dynasty and Neolithic pottery jars from 3000–2000 B.C.E.

5. The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii

Address: 2131 Kālia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii is located in Battery Randolph, a former weapons battery located at the Fort DeRussy Military Reservation.

The grounds became a museum in 1976 and preserve the history of the Hawaiian military especially from World War I to the Vietnam period.

The exhibits have audio and visual effects that showcase what the soldiers experienced in battle. Artifacts in the museum include weapons and military paraphernalia.

U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii - Michael Gordon - Shutterstock.com
U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii – Michael Gordon – Shutterstock.com

There is also a gift shop for visitors at the Honolulu museum.

Visitors to the museum can learn about Hawaii’s contribution to events at Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, and Korea.

6. Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

Address: 319 Lexington Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96818

Situated on Fort Island, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is home to two preserved seaplane hangars from World War II and is one of Honolulu’s original aviation fields.

Aircraft including the Mitsubishi A6M2 and a Japanese Zero fighter, which are famously known from the Doolittle Raid after the Pearl Harbor attack are some of those preserved in the museum.

Pacific Aviation Museum - Jordan Tan - Shutterstock.com
Pacific Aviation Museum – Jordan Tan – Shutterstock.com

Also in the museum is a combat flight simulator for visitors to enjoy. The museum is located on an active base, so guests should expect serious security protocols.

7. Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi

Address: 2454 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96826

One of the best Honolulu museums to visit in order to understand the Japanese heritage on the island is the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i.

This non-profit organization is a cultural center that is brimming with Japanese history and many cultural exhibits… including a souvenir shop, teahouse, and martial arts memorabilia.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (By Mcampany - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (By Mcampany – CC BY-SA 4.0)

There are many interactive displays and activities going on there at all times and it is a great place to visit to understand the history better.

Some of the exhibits and places to visit inside are the Okage Sama De Exhibit, the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center, the Honouliuli Education Center, the JCCH Ballroom, Seikoan Tea House, and Kenshikan Dojo (promotes kendo and martial arts).

The center is closed Sundays through Tuesdays and is open from Wednesday until Saturday from 9am until 1pm.

8. Mission Houses Museum

Address: 553 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

The Mission Houses Museum is a building complex commemorating Christian Missionaries on the islands and their influence.

The museum features original structures dating back to the early 19th century during the time New England settlers came to the island to spread the Gospel.

Mission Houses Museum
Mission Houses Museum

The buildings preserve what western life looked like on the island in earlier times. Some of the buildings visitors will find here include a printing house, a storehouse, a frame home, and a coral-stone home.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours, as well as visit the gift shop and library.

9. Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA)

Address: 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814

Known for being one of the most comprehensive museums in America, the Honolulu Academy of Arts is home to Asian, Pacific, African, Japanese, and Western art.

Some of which include Japanese woodblock prints and Italian Renaissance paintings. The museum is representative of Hawaii’s rich and diverse cultures.

Honolulu Academy of Arts - Phillip B. Espinasse - Shutterstock.com
Honolulu Academy of Arts – Phillip B. Espinasse – Shutterstock.com

The museum hosts temporary and permanent exhibits and features a café, a theatre and visitors can even take art classes in the studio.

Admission to the museum costs $10 for adults and is free for children ages 12 and below.

10. Bishop Museum

Address: 1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Founded in the year 1889, the Bishop Museum preserves Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s family artifacts.

The museum is today one of the foremost exhibition sites that documents the broad variety of culture and history of the locals.

Bishop Museum - 7maru - Shutterstock.com
Bishop Museum – 7maru – Shutterstock.com

Some of the pieces in the museum include anthropological as well as archaeological relics.

The museum also has a planetarium which visitors are sure to enjoy. The standard admission fee for adults is $33.95.

11. USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park

Address: 11 Arizona Memorial Dr, Honolulu, HI 96818

The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is a remarkable World War II Balao-class submarine belonging to the United States Navy.

It was named after the Bowfin fish. The submarine has been exhibited in the museum since 1981 and visitors can access the passageways and rooms within the vessel.

Visiting Pearl Harbor from Honolulu
USS Bowfin at Pearl Harbor

A war memorial commemorating over 3500 servicemen along with other artifacts commemorating the submarine are also found in the park and museum.

Visitors will find posters, photos, models, missile displays, a gift shop, and a food kiosk within the museum and park grounds. The standard admission fee for adults is $10.

What are your favorite Honolulu museums? Let us know the best museums in Honolulu in the comments. Thanks!

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Looking to visit some of the best museums in Honolulu? This guide details the top Honolulu museums - perfect for a rainy day (or a lazy one!) | Things to do in Honolulu | Honolulu itinerary | What to do in Honolulu | Honolulu history museums | History of Honolulu | Honolulu cultural sights | Honolulu military museums | Honolulu plantations | Hawaiian history in Honolulu | Honolulu Hawaiian sights | Honolulu landmarks | Honolulu attractions

2 thoughts on “11 Best Honolulu Museums (that are Perfect for a Rainy Day!)

  1. Zita says:

    I am delighted to see Iolani Palace, where I work, listed first! I laughed out loud because the photo labeled Iolani Palace is the Aliiolani Hale, on the other side of the street. Change the picture, please. Mahalo.

    • Next Is Hawaii says:

      Ahhhh! Changed! I literally had to scour through my most recent photos to see distinctions (besides statue in front) between buildings but feel like an idiot because I spent quite some time around the area!) 😀 Thanks and have a great weekend!

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