So many things to do in Honolulu, it’s hard to choose! Two mountains overlook the city, Punchbowl and Tantalus. Their Hawaiian names are Puowaina and Pu’u Ohia. Makiki Heights are in this part of the city. Let’s explore Honolulu attractions!
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is in the Punchbowl crater, the remains of a volcano. This Oahu Punchbowl memorial was developed after the end of World War II and honors the servicemen of WWII Pacific, Korea, and Viet Nam. It is a beautiful and majestic spot with amazing views of Diamond Head and the city. At one end of the cemetery is an imposing staircase which leads you to the chapel and the sculpture of Columbia. (You may recognize her from the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O.) She stands on the prow of a ship and the quote carved below her comes from a famous wartime letter from Abraham Lincoln to a grieving mother. The chapel is designed to honor many faiths and has beautiful glass art. If you wish to honor or remember someone, be sure to bring a lei to leave as a tribute.
Honolulu Museum of Art – Spalding House is on Makiki Heights below the Tantalus peak. The Cooke family donated the site of their home downtown for the Honolulu Museum of Art. This is the home they built after that and it is now the contemporary art branch of the museum. The drive to get here is beautiful and the Spalding House has a lovely, peaceful sculpture garden and killer views. Be sure to see the permanent David Hockney exhibit. Open Tuesday through Sunday, admission is $10. Check the website for free admission days and hours.
Tantalus and Roundtop Drive is on the National Historic Register. This 9-mile loop gives amazing views of the city from west to east (leeward to windward). There are parks and hiking trails along the way. You may want to try this for sunset views or Honolulu city lights.
Punchbowl and Tantalus map
Grabbing a bite
At the museum, the Spalding House Café serves food midday Tuesday through Sundays. Casual Mediterranean fare is available, including an option for a picnic for two to enjoy in the gardens.
For more food options, check Yelp, Urbanspoon, or your favorite app for the South King Street neighborhood, down the mountain from the museum.
From Waikiki, take Ala Wai Boulevard to McCully Street. Turn left on Beretania, then right on Ward Ave. Watch carefully for street signs. Go left on Prospect Avenue and circle around the crater. Turn right on Puowaina Drive. Watch out for Puowaina taking a sharp right. When you enter the memorial park, stay on the left through the circle. You should be able to park on the Outer Drive to walk up to the memorial and chapel.
Next, leave the cemetery on Puowaina Drive and turn right on Tantalus Drive. Turn right on Makiki Heights Drive and watch carefully for the entrance to the museum on your left.
Next, go back north on Makiki Heights Drive to go right on Tantalus Drive and begin the Tantalus – Round Top Drive loop.
If using The Bus, take route 13 or 42 to the Alapai Transit Center. Route 15 will get you to the Punchbowl memorial and the Spalding House.
- Pu’u Ohia Trail to Pauoa Flats from Morgan Hiking in Hawaii
- National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific from US Veterans Affairs
- Honolulu Museum of Art – Spalding House
- Driving tour of Mount Tantalus and Round Top Drive from About Travel
- Punchbowl National Cemetery from Jerry Bourn
- The Bixby letter from Civil War.net
The Bus information for Honolulu
Let’s talk story
Most folks make a point to visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial on their first trip to Oahu. Remembering their sacrifice is important. I find the beauty and peacefulness of the Punchbowl draws me back many times and feels like a sacred space to give honor to those who have served.
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