If you are arriving in Hawaii on a cruise ship, you will be entering Honolulu Harbor. The harbor is the main entry port for all shipping coming into Oahu. Honolulu Port is the busiest and most important port in Hawaii. Honolulu Harbor is located 4.6 miles from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
, 3.5 miles from the center of famous Waikiki Beach
, and 7.5 miles from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
For those arriving at Honolulu port each week by one of the cruses, Honolulu port located at Aloha Tower Market Place is the primary pick-up location for all Oahu tours company to pick up their clients and take them to one of their Oahu tours. Arrivals at Honolulu Port can take the Honolulu city tour, Oahu grand circle island tour, One of the VIP private Pearl Harbor tours
, Oahu tours, and many more tours from Honolulu port daily with prior arrangement.
The story of Honolulu Harbor is the story of the city of Honolulu itself. The city would not exist without the harbor. In fact, the name Honolulu translates to safe harbor in Hawaiian and is the origin of the name of Hawaii’s capital city. Ancient Hawaiians have occupied the area around what is now Honolulu Harbor for hundreds of years. In 1786, the first European ship to enter the harbor was a long boat from the English merchant ship King George. The harbor grew in importance as traders and whalers arrived in Hawaii in ever-increasing numbers. In 1850, King Kamehameha III formally declared Honolulu to be the Captial of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The city of Honolulu grew out of the surrounding port facilities. In fact, some of the largest concentrations of historical buildings are located in downtown Honolulu including Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church, The Mission Houses Museum, Washington Place, Aloha Tower, and many more. Honolulu Harbor handles 11 million tons of goods annually. The harbor is also the hub of the cruise industry in Hawaii. All of the major cruise lines have ships that stop off in Hawaii, including Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival, Cunard, and Norwegian, to name a few. Prior to COVID, cruise ships were making an estimated 113 stops in Hawaii in a year. While cruise ship visits had been drastically slowed during the COVID lockdowns, the ships are steadily returning. Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Pride of America” has resumed its weekly stops at Pier 2.
Aloha Tower is one of the most prominent buildings in Honolulu. When Aloha Tower was built on September 11, 1926, it was the tallest structure in Honolulu and managed to keep that title for decades. Originally it was built as a lighthouse, and while it is no longer needed in that role, it is still a welcoming site to visitors to Honolulu. Aloha Tower is 184 feet high with an additional 40-foot flag mast. During WWII, Aloha Tower was painted in camouflage to prevent the enemy from using it as a reference point for bombing or amphibious landing. The area around Aloha Tower contains cruise ship terminals at Piers 10 and 11. There are also additional berthing spaces around the tower. Notably, these are for the Star of Honolulu dinner cruise and the former museum ship Falls of Clyde. The area was once called Aloha Tower Marketplace, with shops and restaurants. Most of the shops and restaurants have closed over the years, and the facilities around Aloha Tower are now taken up by Hawaii Pacific University for classrooms and student facilities.
Berthed next to Aloha Tower is a large four-masted sailing ship. The Falls of Clyde is a clipper ship that is the last iron-hulled four-masted sailing ship and the last sail-powered oil tanker in the world. While she used to be a museum ship, she was allowed to fall into disrepair. Ownership has changed hands a few times over the years with plans to either let her sink at pier side, scrap her or refurbish her. The Hawaii Department of Transportation, which manages Honolulu Harbor, wants her out as she could become a hazard to navigation if allowed to deteriorate any further. Recently, plans were made to have her returned to Glasgow, where she was built in 1879, to be refurbished.
The US Coast Guard is based out of Honolulu Harbor, and its high-endurance cutters are a familiar sight in the harbor. In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, crewmen from the cutter Roger B. Taney were assigned to secure the area around Aloha Tower in case of invasion. Interestingly, the last warship to fight in Pearl Harbor is the USCGS Roger B. Taney which is a museum ship in Maryland.
An interesting, if possibly apocryphal, the story arose out of Honolulu Harbor during the Japanese attack in 1941. A Dutch merchant ship with the Holland Africa Line named the Jaegersfontein was entering Honolulu Harbor around 9:30 AM on December 7, 1941. She was arriving carrying a cargo of explosives and beer, bound for Burma (now Myanmar). She came under attack and began firing on the Japanese planes. The Jaegersfontein was armed because, at the time, the Netherlands was still at war with Nazi Germany, and while the Netherlands had fallen, her colonies were still in the war. After the attack, her passengers and crew donated blood for the victims of the attack. While there are records of the Jaegersfontain arriving in Honolulu Harbor on December 7, 1941, it is unclear whether she actually opened fire on Japanese planes on that day. If she did, then it means that the Netherlands was the first Allied Power to assist the United States in WWII.