While the various Oahu neighborhoods listed in this chapter are often referred to collectively as “Honolulu,” this name most literally applies to the neighborhoods nearest the city center. Located on the southeastern shore of Oahu, Honolulu is the 12th largest municipal government in the U.S., with a population of approximately 905,000 residents.
As the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu is the largest city in the Hawaiian Islands and the main airport and seaport location. Previously named Kou, Honolulu means “place of shelter,” and evidence shows that the first settlement in the area was as early as the 12th century. According to history, after Kamehameha I conquered Oahu, he moved his court to Waikiki in 1804. In 1809, his court relocated back to what is now downtown Honolulu. Kamehameha III moved the permanent capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom to Honolulu in 1845, and in the years that followed the area was transformed as a modern city and the center of commerce in the islands. The introduction of modern air travel helped bring rapid growth in development and tourism to the city.
One of the area’s darkest historical events occurred in 1900, when the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire took place, in which fires set to incinerate garbage in response to the bubonic plague raged for 17 days, leaving 7,000 residents homeless.
The city of Honolulu is made up of various districts. Downtown Honolulu is known as the financial, commercial, and governmental center of Hawaii. The tallest building is the 438-foot First Hawaiian Center, located on King and Bishop Streets. The Hawaii Pacific University’s downtown campus is also located there. The Arts District is a 12-block area on the eastern edge of Chinatown, bounded by Bethel & Smith Streets and Nimitz Highway and Beretania Street. It is home to numerous arts and cultural institutions and part of the Chinatown Historic District. The Capitol District is the eastern part of downtown and is the current and historic center of Hawaii’s state government. It incorporates the Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu Hale (City Hall), Iolani Palace, State Library, and the King Kamehameha I statue.
Downtown Honolulu is also home to various cultural opportunities, such as the Honolulu Symphony, which was established in 1900 and is the oldest U.S. symphony orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains. The Honolulu Academy of Arts has the largest collection of Asian and Western art in Hawaii, as well as the largest collection of Islamic art, in the Shangri La estate. The Hawaii State Art Museum also boasts a collection of traditional Hawaiian art. Other attractions include the Honolulu Zoo, the main zoo on the Hawaiian islands, the Waikiki Aquarium, as well as many botanical gardens. Named the fittest city by Men’s Fitness in 2004, Honolulu is also home to the Honolulu marathon, and the NCAA football Hawaii Bowl and Pro Bowl.
Real estate in the city of Honolulu is diverse, with a wide range of architectural styles to choose from. From luxury high rise condos to modest inland homes to stylish estates, the city offers something for every budget and buyer.