If you’re headed to Hawaii, chances are, you’re going for the beach. But these islands are so much more than their beaches. The perfect example? Honolulu’s Chinatown. A bustling and energetic cultural center like no other, if you’re visiting Honolulu, you definitely need to include the city’s Chinatown on your list of places to see.

Rich Cultural History

fotohunter / Shutterstock

fotohunter / Shutterstock

Chinese immigrants first arrived in Hawaii in 1789, but the largest concentration came in the late 1800s when they were brought to the island en masse to work on sugar plantations.  Honolulu’s Chinatown developed organically as the majority of the immigrants lived, ate, and did business with other Chinese immigrants. Chinatown was the bustling center of Chinese activity, and numerous enterprising Chinese people started their businesses in this city core.  A large fire destroyed much of this original Chinatown, but it’s been slowly rebuilt over time.

Today, Honolulu’s Chinatown is a hub for a diverse community of immigrants—including not just Chinese people, but also Vietnamese, Laotian, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Filipino expats. The blending of these Asian cultures, as well as a recent revitalization of the economy and development of Chinatown, make a visit to this cultural center a must.

Incredible Food

The 15 blocks that span Chinatown are easily walkable. You can even hop on a free walking tour to learn more about the history of the area! As you’re touring the neighborhood, be sure to taste the free samples at the local fruit and vegetable markets. Beyond the freebies you can find on the street, the area is teeming with authentic eating opportunities. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just Chinese fare! The food in this district ranges throughout the entire Pacific Rim. We hope you’re hungry!

Art and Festivals

Patricia Hofmeester / Shutterstock

Patricia Hofmeester / Shutterstock

There are tons of art galleries featuring Asian art in this district, so be sure to explore! If souvenirs are what you’re after, keep an eye out for Chinese treasures and kid-friendly knick-knacks like fans, umbrellas, or traditional qi pao dresses.

And of course, don’t forget about the festivities! The first Friday of every month, Chinatown galleries and museums are open to the public, free of charge. If you happen to be in town for the Chinese New Year, you’re in luck! Chinatown throws a huge, month-long celebration with events including parades, live music, dancing, exhibitions, street food, fireworks, and much more.

What are your favorite spots in Honolulu‘s Chinatown? Let us know in the comments!

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