Honolulu (hŏn´əlōō´lōō, hōnō–), city (1990 pop. 365,272), capital of the state of Hawaii and seat of Honolulu co., on the southeast coast of the island of Oahu. The city and county are legally coextensive, and both are governed by the same mayor and council. With ship and air connections to the U.S. mainland, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Honolulu is the crossroads of the Pacific, as well as the economic center and principal port of the Hawaiian Islands. The city is famous for its beauty and the variety of its ethnic groups. It lies on a narrow plain between the sea and the Koolau Range and climbs the slopes of Punchbowl.
Bypassed by Capt. James Cook when he explored the islands in 1778, Honolulu's harbor was entered in 1794 by William Brown, an English captain. Honolulu's history from 1820, when missionaries arrived on the islands, is much the same as that of Hawaii. Growing from a settlement of mud huts into the main residence of Hawaiian royalty and later of foreign consuls, Honolulu became the permanent capital of the kingdom of Hawaii in 1845. In the 19th cent., American and European whalers and sandalwood traders visited its port, and Honolulu was occupied successively by Russian, British, and French forces. It remained Hawaii's capital when the islands were annexed by the United States in 1898 and achieved statehood in 1959. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the naval base at Honolulu, on Dec. 7, 1941, and during World War II the port became a strategic naval base and a staging area for U.S. forces in the Pacific.
Since the war, a rise in tourism, diversification of industry, and construction of luxury hotels and housing developments have made Honolulu the business and population center of Hawaii. Increased peacetime defense activity at the many military installations in the area (Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Schofield Barracks, and Camp H. M. Smith, headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command), expansion of harbor facilities, and the completion of an international airport further aided the city's growth. Honolulu's other industries include jewelry, printing and publishing, clothing, food and beverages, rubber products, construction materials, and electronics and computer equipment. Major redevelopment of the Honolulu Harbor area was undertaken in the 1990s.
The largest of Honolulu's parks is Kapiolani, containing a zoo, an aquarium, and Waikiki Shell, where the Honolulu Symphony gives concerts. The Honolulu Botanical Gardens consists of four gardens in and around the city. Also in Honolulu is the Arizona Memorial for the 1,100 who died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Notable institutions are the Univ. of Hawaii; the Bishop Museum, noted for its studies of Polynesia; the Honolulu Academy of Arts, known for its Asian and Hawaiian collections; and Kawaiahao Church (1841), where funerals for Hawaiian monarchs and nobility were held. Iolani Palace, the former home of Hawaii's kings, is the only royal palace in the United States. The beach at Waikiki is especially noted for bathing and surfing. The famous Diamond Head crater is nearby.