Honolulu - Oahu Travel Guide
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30 Best Things To Do in Honolulu - Oahu
The island of O'ahu is composed of five distinct regions: Honolulu, the North Shore, the Windward Coast, Central O'ahu and the Leeward Coast. Each area has unique features to offer, from varying geography and activities to attractions and
- All Things To Do
Waikiki Beach Waikiki Beach free
U.S. News Insider Tip: In between surf sessions, refuel with a Banán bowl at its Waikiki Shack off Kalakaua Avenue. Its soft serve "ice cream" is made from locally grown bananas with toppings like macadamia nut honey butter, fresh papaya and dark chocolate. – Sharael Kolberg, Contributor, Travel
Nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty used to come to the Honolulu neighborhood of Waikiki to relax and surf, just as scores of tourists do today. That's because this area's famous beach (which is a string of several beaches dotting the island's southwest coastline) is the go-to spot for its soft, honey-colored sand and the high waves that lap the shores during the winter months. But you don't have to be a surfer to appreciate Waikiki Beach; just lie back on a beach towel, relax and gaze at the majestic, Le'ahi, or Diamond Head State Monument , in the distance.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial Pearl Harbor National Memorial free
U.S. News Insider Tip: Plan for a full day at Pearl Harbor. Even if you don't spend the whole day here, it's a lot to take in and you won't want to rush to another activity or dinner reservation. – Amanda Norcross, Content & SEO Strategist
Located less than 10 miles northwest of downtown Honolulu in the Central O'ahu region of the island, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is the final resting place of more than 900 sailors and marines killed during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. The sunken battleship is still visible from the memorial floating above it. Many visitors say this is a "must-do" attraction, and recommend reserving your free ticket well in advance since availability is so limited due to high demand.
Diamond Head State Monument Diamond Head State Monument
The Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le'ahi. It is a tuff cone (consolidated volcanic ash) crater that was created 300,000 years ago during a single volcanic eruption that spewed ash into the air. That ash settled over thousands of years, and today, Diamond Head State Monument's ridgeline is one of the most recognizable features of O'ahu's skyline, not to mention home to one of the island's most scenic hiking trails .
Though the 0.8-mile hike from the trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet, travelers say you'll be rewarded with a surreal view of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean once you reach the top. But keep in mind that this natural wonder is one of Honolulu's most popular attractions, so consider arriving early to beat the heat and the crowds. Also, remember to bring plenty of water, since no water fountains are available on the trail. For a different (less strenuous) perspective, consider opting for a helicopter tour . Many of the island's air tours fly directly over the crater.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Located about 10 miles east of Waikiki , the family-friendly Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the best places to snorkel with exotic fish and marine life. It is also a state park and is situated within a volcanic cone, which naturally protects it from the elements, such as wind and waves.
To reach Hanauma Bay, you can take an Uber or drive yourself (it costs $3 to park); tour buses are not allowed to enter the park. Be aware that the parking lot fills up quickly. Entrance to the park costs $25. Children 12 and younger, active military and kama'aina (Hawaiian residents) can enter for free with state ID. Tickets must be reserved online and paid for in advance through the Honolulu Parks & Recreation website. Since there is a restriction on how many visitors are allowed per day due to conservation efforts, recent travelers complained that it is difficult to get a reservation, and suggest booking well in advance. Once there, reviewers raved about the number and variety of reef fish.
Battleship Missouri Memorial Battleship Missouri Memorial
Launched in 1944, the USS Missouri (or "Mighty Mo") is best known for hosting a meeting between Allied and Axis representatives that led to Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. After the war, the ship served in the Korean War and the Gulf War before docking in Pearl Harbor and opening as a memorial. It holds the distinction of being the world's last active service battleship.
According to recent visitors, the Battleship Missouri Memorial's war artifacts and exhibits complement the displays at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial . Many past travelers also praised the attraction's knowledgeable tour guides. However, some wished bags/purses could be taken on board and suggested leaving personal items behind to avoid paying a $7 per bag storage fee.
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail free
Less than 6 miles northeast of the Koko Crater Trail lies the 2-mile round-trip Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. Easier to trek than the one at Koko Crater, this free trail overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for spotting seabirds and whales between November and May. The path also leads to the red-roofed Makapu'u Lighthouse, which was built in 1909.
Visitors love that the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail is paved and features ample benches, making it easy for travelers of all ages to explore. Many also rave about the trail's "amazing" views, adding that bringing a camera is a must. But remember, this path is mostly exposed to the sun and wind, so dress appropriately, wear sunscreen and pack plenty of water. Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources recommends allotting at least two hours to complete this hike.
Koko Crater Trail Koko Crater Trail free
U.S. News Insider Tip: Arrive to the trailhead by 5 a.m. to beat the heat and allow time for breaks so you can reach the summit by sunrise. You'll also want to bring a headlamp as you'll be traversing uneven steps in the dark. – Amanda Norcross, Content & SEO Strategist
The 1.6-mile round-trip hike to the top of Koko Head Crater features more than 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad ties. At the trail's summit, visitors will find panoramic vistas of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Diamond Head State Monument .
Lanikai Beach Lanikai Beach free
Travel about 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu to the Windward Coast and you'll discover two of the island's most popular beaches – Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai (or Ka'ohao) Beach. Of the two, Lanikai is more tranquil and offers relatively calm waters. This family-friendly beach is also within view of the postcard-perfect Mokulua Islands (or Na Mokulua), which is a popular spot to kayak to.
Beachgoers praise Lanikai Beach's beautiful water, adding that its location in a mostly residential part of Kailua makes it less crowded and more relaxing than Waikiki Beach . But the beach's Kailua address is also its biggest drawback: Several visitors warn that parking in the area is limited. Even with the limited parking, reviewers praise the beach's soft sand and brilliant water.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific free
In ancient Hawaiian times, the Puowaina (Punchbowl) Crater was used for human sacrifices to the Polynesian gods. Now, it's the final resting place for men and women who served in the U.S. military. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific stretches across much of the crater and contains several moving tributes, including the Honolulu Memorial, which is dedicated to armed forces who fought in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Notable veterans buried here include Ernie Pyle (the famous World War II correspondent) and Stanley Armour Dunham (the maternal grandfather of former President Barack Obama).
Previous visitors raved about the cemetery's beautiful and peaceful setting, adding that its memorial markers are very informative. Many compared it to Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial . Others highlighted the spectacular views as reasons to plan a visit.
Bishop Museum Bishop Museum
U.S News Insider Tip: This should be a "must do" when visiting Oahu. Stop here early in your trip for a better appreciation of Hawaiian history and Polynesian culture. – Sharael Kolberg, Contributor, Travel
If you want to find out more about Hawaiian history and culture, then head to the Bishop Museum. It was founded in 1889, in honor of the wife of museum founder Charles Reed Bishop, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop – the last descendant of the Kamehameha royal family. The property houses more than 25 million historical, cultural and natural artifacts about Hawaii and the Pacific. Exhibits include the three-story Hawaiian Hall (where visitors can learn about Hawaiian gods, key events in Hawaiian history and more) and a planetarium. The planetarium features "Wayfinders," a full-dome projection program that puts viewers on the deck of the voyaging canoe, H o k u le'a, as it travels from Tahiti to Hawaii using traditional Polynesian navigation techniques.
Manoa Falls Manoa Falls free
U.S. News Insider Tip: Manoa Falls is located in Manoa Valley, home to the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. The university's football team, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, gets its name from the rainbows often spotted in the valley. – Sharael Kolberg, Contributor, Travel
This approximately 150-foot-tall waterfall, which sits 5 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, is easily accessible. All you need is proper footwear, insect repellant, drinking water and the stamina to hike about 1½ miles on a well-worn path. The rainforest scenery is otherworldly, with enormous prehistoric ferns and the snaking roots of banyan trees. It's no wonder why Steven Spielberg filmed scenes from "Jurassic Park" here. You probably won't see any dinosaurs but be prepared: The path to the falls can be quite slippery with mud, so wear sturdy hiking shoes that you don't mind getting dirty.
'Iolani Palace 'Iolani Palace
Completed in 1882, this 10-room historic house, museum and National Historic Landmark details the reigns of King Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Lili'uokalani, Hawaii's final monarchs. It is the only official state royal residence found in the U.S. Among its opulent features are a grand Hawaiian koa wood staircase, portraits of Hawaiian kings and queens, royal thrones and decorative objects from around the world.
Recent travelers appreciated the unique glimpse into Hawaii's culture that this attraction offers. However, you'll need to keep a few rules in mind when touring the property. Kids younger than 5 must be strapped into a child carrier or palace-provided stroller at all times. Wearing cloth booties to protect the palace's floors is also required.
Kailua Beach Kailua Beach free
U.S. News Insider Tip: Kailua Beach tends to be windy. For a nearby alternative, head over to picturesque Lanikai Beach , which is accessible off Mokulua Drive at Mokumanu Drive. – Sharael Kolberg, Contributor, Travel
If you like to kite surf or windsurf (or watch others participate in the sports), head to Kailua on the Windward Coast and find a perch at Kailua Beach. This 2 1/2-mile stretch of white, shaded sand and warm, turquoise-hued water appeals to both families and adrenaline junkies thanks to its gentle waves and ample facilities, including picnic tables, restrooms and free parking.
Polynesian Cultural Center Polynesian Cultural Center
This is a must-see attraction to learn about the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti. The 42-acre property features "villages" representing six different islands, with traditional music, art, food, dance, games, architecture and plenty of hands-on activities for the kids. Admission starts at $79.95 for adults and $63.96 for children ages 4 to 11 – these prices include a self-guided tour of the villages and a digital photo.
After visiting the attractions, stay for an authentic lu'au dinner and show. Lu'au packages cost $189.95 for adults and $151.96 for children ages 4 to 11. It also includes a guided tour through the villages, among other perks.
O'ahu Diving & Snorkeling O'ahu Diving & Snorkeling
The Hawaiian Islands boast more than 1,200 miles of coral reef, so it's hardly surprising that two of O'ahu's most popular activities are snorkeling and scuba diving. Dive into the island's surrounding turquoise water and you'll likely find an array of colorful fish (think: bright yellow tang, rainbow runners and Hawaii's state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua'a, or rectangular triggerfish), plus bigger marine creatures like dolphins and sea turtles.
Past travelers loved snorkeling for free at public beaches like Sans Souci Beach Park on the south end of Waikiki and Shark's Cove on the North Shore (don't let the name scare you – it's a great place for spotting sea turtles), citing the ample marine life and clear water as reasons to return. If you don't have your own snorkel equipment, your hotel or resort may provide gear. If not, you can rent some; fees vary by shop and rental period. Popular locations include Snorkel Bob's, Aqua Zone Scuba Diving & Snorkeling and Hawaii Beach Time. If you'd prefer a guided snorkeling tour , try traveler-approved Hanauma Bay Tours, which provides round-trip transportation between Waikiki and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve , as well as snorkel equipment.
Waimea Valley Waimea Valley
U.S. News Insider Tip: The hike to Waimea Falls is about 3 ½ miles of flat, paved road with breathtaking scenery. Pack a picnic, take a swim and enjoy the surroundings. Also leave time to visit Waimea Bay Beach across the highway. – Sharael Kolberg, Contributor, Travel
Not only is Waimea Valley a beautiful place to explore, with lush landscaping, 52 themed botanical gardens, native ecosystems, native birds and a waterfall, but it is also, more importantly, a sacred Hawaiian historical and cultural site. Waimea Valley is rooted in Hawaiian history and continues to be a steward for Hawaiian spirituality and traditions. On the property, you'll find six significant cultural sites, including traditional Hawaiian shrines, houses and agricultural terraces. Resident artisans share their knowledge of Hawaiian history, artistry and craftsmanship.
Kap'lolani Regional Park Kap'lolani Regional Park free
On the south end of Waikiki , you'll find Kap'Iolani Regional Park, which includes the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Shell (a venue for outdoor concerts). It is one of the largest public parks and the second-oldest park on O'ahu. Facilities include tennis courts, soccer fields, an archery range and a 3-mile jogging course. It is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Recent visitors say it is a wonderful place to take a stroll and recommend pairing it with a stop at the Honolulu Zoo if you're traveling with kids. Others recommend the park for its views of Diamond Head and its quiet atmosphere.
Metered and free parking are available along the streets bordering the park. Across the street from the park is Kap'Iolani Park Beach and Kaimana Beach, as well as the Waikiki Aquarium and the traveler-approved Barefoot Beach Café. The park, which is free to access, is open daily from 5 a.m. to midnight. For more information, visit the Honolulu Parks & Recreation website .
Kualoa Ranch Kualoa Ranch
If horseback riding, e-bike tours, zip lining or a jungle Jeep excursion are on your vacation to-do list, a visit to Kualoa Ranch is a must. Not only is the lush landscape stunningly beautiful, but it is also an adventure-lovers dream. Movie buffs will also dig it since it was the filming location for the "Jurassic Park" franchise, among other films. The 4,000-acre property on the Windward Coast is a private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, and is located about 20 miles from central Honolulu and 30 miles from the North Shore. The ranch is located just across the highway from the ocean (with picturesque views of Mokoli'i), which means water sports activities like catamaran tours and kayak and paddleboard rentals are also an option. All tours are guided and range in activity level. Tour lengths range from 90 minutes to three hours.
Breathtaking scenery and movie memories are what some recent visitors liked most. Many reviewers recommended the e-bike and all-terrain vehicle tours.
O'ahu Surfing O'ahu Surfing
It's no secret: O'ahu is home to some of the world's best surfing spots. Every winter (when surfing conditions are at their best), professional surfers from across the globe flock to O'ahu's North Shore to shred some gnarly waves in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Basically, the Super Bowl of surfing, the Triple Crown is held during the winter months when massive swells roll in from the stormy northern Pacific Ocean. But you don't have to be a pro to hang 10 on O'ahu. There are plenty of surf schools that will take you from a grom (local slang for a surfing newbie) to a "Big Kahuna" (or master surfer) in the course of a day. Best of all: No one will laugh if you wipe out (and you will).
Previous first-timers loved surfing Waikiki Beach 's calm waves, while the most experienced surfers tackled the large swells found at Waimea Bay on the North Shore. If you plan on taking surfing lessons, consider traveler-approved surf schools like Ohana Surf Project , Polu Lani Surf Lessons & Adventures and Hans Hedemann Surf School . Most will teach anyone who's willing to learn, no matter their skill level.
Lyon Arboretum Lyon Arboretum free
Managed by the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, the Lyon Arboretum is a 200-acre arboretum and botanical garden located at the upper end of Manoa Valley about 5 miles north of Waikiki . In addition to more than 6,000 plants, the arboretum features more than 7 miles of hiking trails.
Past visitors recommend wearing shoes with sturdy soles as many of the paths are very rocky, but many say they enjoyed the beautiful gardens. Despite its close proximity to downtown Honolulu, reviewers said the arboretum felt world's away.
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is spread across 400 verdant acres and features plants from major tropical regions around the world grouped geographically. Regions represented include Malaysia, Polynesia and Africa, among others. Opened in 1982, the garden was designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for Kane'ohe.
The scenic view of the cliffs, lush gardens and a lake full of fish were just some of the highlights enjoyed by recent visitors. Reviewers recommend wearing sturdy walking shoes to make use of the many trails. Others said a stop here is a great way to spend a day away from the beach and recommend bringing supplies for a picnic.
Honolulu Museum of Art Honolulu Museum of Art
In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Arts joined forces with The Contemporary Museum to create the Honolulu Museum of Art. This museum features an art collection that spans across seas, styles and centuries. Along with pieces by Europe's great painters (Picasso, Gauguin and van Gogh, to name a few), the Honolulu Museum of Art showcases one of the world's best Asian art collections. The museum is also home to the Doris Duke Theatre, which screens independent, documentary and international films.
Many visitors praise the property's Asian art, but for a truly unique experience, several recommend checking out the Arts of Hawai'i collection, where you can view Georgia O'Keeffe's Maui landscapes, along with indigenous feather capes. Several reviewers noted that admission to the museum is included with your purchase of a tour of Shangri La , the former home of philanthropist and heiress Doris Duke.
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
Like the Battleship Missouri Memorial , the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park sits in Pearl Harbor . This historic vessel, which went on nine patrols during World War II, is one of only 15 U.S. World War II-era submarines that still exist. It now serves as a walk-through exhibit alongside a museum with various war artifacts, including battle flags and a submarine bell. Additional items, such as a cruise missile, a torpedo and a submarine rescue chamber, are on display in the surrounding park.
Some former travelers lamented the limited elbow room offered inside, but overall, many appreciated getting a firsthand look at the tight living quarters sailors had to endure while stationed on this submarine. Others enjoyed the self-guided audio tours covered by museum and submarine admissions.
Byodo-In Temple Byodo-In Temple
For a scenic and serene alternative to the beach, head to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, where you'll find the Byodo-In Temple, a Hawaii State Landmark that was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple that welcomes visitors of all faiths to worship, meditate or simply admire its beauty. The lush grounds are located at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains on the Windward Coast, about 15 miles north of downtown Honolulu. Along with the temple, the stunning grounds include a large reflecting pond, meditation niches, small waterfalls, the golden Amida buddha, bon-sho sacred bell and koi ponds. If you visit, you'll want to keep a few things in mind: Be respectful and quiet while in the Valley of the Temples – it is a solemn, religious area. Remember to remove your shoes before entering the Byodo-In Temple.
Ringing the bell is a must-do, according to recent visitors. Many enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful backdrop for snapping pictures. Reviewers recommend arriving early to avoid the tour bus crowds that descend on the grounds by midday.
Fort DeRussy Beach Park Fort DeRussy Beach Park free
Located at the north end of Waikiki , Fort DeRussy Beach Park is 71-acre beachfront military reservation that is almost entirely open to the public. The park is bordered by a section of Waikiki Beach and features a playground, workout stations, picnic tables, barbecue grills, pickleball courts, racquetball courts, volleyball courts and the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii.
Past visitors said this is a great place to go for a relaxing stroll thanks to its beautiful trees and well-groomed lawns. Others said the park and its section of Waikiki beach are ideal for children as the waters are calm and shallow.
Shangri La Shangri La
The philanthropist and American tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent her winters living in this opulent oceanfront home near Diamond Head State Monument . Today, it's a museum of Islamic art, culture and design. Duke began building it in 1937 and then spent nearly 60 years filling its walls and rooms with art and furniture from Egypt, India, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey. By the end of her life, she had amassed approximately 4,500 objects, which are now available for you to see on a tour of her home.
Art lovers should definitely make plans to stop by Shangri La, but you should also consider visiting the home if you're just a teensy bit curious about the enigmatic heiress. Many recent travelers were more than impressed with this museum, describing its collection as "unbelievable" and well worth a visit. Several also pointed out that the property itself – which is often compared to grand estates like Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India – can't be missed.
Honolulu Zoo Honolulu Zoo
If you're looking for a kid-friendly outing, plan a visit to the 42-acre Honolulu Zoo (which sits across the street from the southern end of Waikiki ). It is home to a variety of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, including black rhinoceros, Asian elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, lions, primates, zebras and more. The zoo is divided into the following sections: African Savanna, Reptiles, Birds and Primates. There is also a Keiki (Kids) Zoo, a picnic lawn, a playground, several gardens, a snack bar and restrooms.
Families who visited said it was nice to have an alternative to the beach and shopping, and were impressed with the wide variety of animals. However, a few noted that the zoo is small.
Dole Plantation Dole Plantation free
For all things pineapple, visit the Dole Plantation. About 10 miles inland from the North Shore and 20 miles northwest of Honolulu, the plantation offers activities and tours that are fun for the entire family. Hop aboard the narrated Pineapple Express Train, stroll through the Plantation Garden, get lost in the Pineapple Maze Garden, learn how to cut a pineapple, watch a chocolate-making demonstration or feed the fish in the pond. The on-site Plantation Grille serves island favorites, including teriyaki chicken plates, kalua pork plates and loco moco (white rice topped with a hamburger, a fried egg and brown gravy), as well as the must-try Dole soft serve.
Many visitors complained that the Dole Plantation is an overcrowded tourist trap, but most agreed that the Dole Whip was the highlight.
Ala Moana Center Ala Moana Center free
There are many places in Honolulu to put down some cash and pick up some souvenirs, but none are as extensive as Ala Moana Center. Located northwest of Waikiki Beach and roughly 2 miles southeast of the city center, this behemoth open-air shopping center boasts a collection of high-end stores like Chanel and Gucci, department store staples like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, and tourist-kitsch shops like Jams World. Its 350-plus shops and restaurants can take as little as an hour or as much as a whole day to explore.
Although some visitors warn that items sold at Ala Moana Center can be quite pricey, many enjoy shopping here, especially on rainy days. Others rave about the on-site dining options, especially the poke bowls at Foodland Farms and the Japanese snacks and prepared foods at Nijiya Market. Reviewers also say the free, 20-minute evening hula show cannot be missed.
Halona Blowhole Halona Blowhole free
U.S. News Insider Tip: Hold on to your hat if you make a stop here – it's quite windy on this side of the island. – Ann Henson, Assistant Managing Editor
For a glimpse of a natural wonder, plan a visit to the Halona Blowhole, considered O'ahu's own Old Faithful. Situated less than 15 miles east of Waikiki , the blowhole was formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions that occurred thousands of years ago. Depending on the size of the ocean waves, water can shoot up to 30 feet in the air. Aside from observing the natural phenomenon, you may also be able to see the islands of Moloka'i and Lanai on a clear day.
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The island of Oahu in Hawaii is best known for its Waikiki Beach, stunning mountains, and gorgeous beaches. But it can also feel like a crowded, big city. Let us show you the best things to do on Oahu, Hawaii so you can escape from Waikiki to visit the country of this Hawaiian paradise.
Most things to do on Oahu lists take you randomly around the island. Here, I’ll show the best things to do starting in Waikiki, greater Honolulu, and then clockwise around Oahu.
With maps, directions, and why we love the activity, you can start planning your trip to Oahu easily.
My wife Erica and I lived on Oahu and now visit Oahu two to three times a year with our kids (sometimes with our dog Hattie ). We are constantly exploring to find the new, best places to eat, things to do, and tours.
Our free Oahu Travel Guide has more to help you plan your trip to Oahu.
Things to Do on Oahu Video
One of our most popular videos is 21 Things to Do Around Oahu. This article contains even more things to do but we’ve found a video is the best way to show you what you can expect with the best things to do on Oahu.
If this video doesn’t get you excited about your Hawaii vacation , I don’t know what will.
After all these amazing things to do on Oahu, you may be asking yourself how many days do you need on Oahu?
If your a family traveling to Oahu, see our 23 Things to Do on Oahu with Kids !
Best Things to Do on Oahu in Waikiki
Waikiki is a neighborhood in the city of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. As the most popular part of Oahu to stay in, Waikiki has a lot to do but also can feel crowded. We always recommend taking a day during your Oahu vacation to relax around Waikiki to walk the main avenue, Kealakakaua Avenue, and sunbathe and swim on Waikiki Beach.
Here are the best things to do while you enjoy Waikiki.
Check out the map below for a list of all our things to do in Waikiki. Then, see our 7 Best Family Hotels on Oahu for ideas on where to stay .
Do you need a rental car to do all these things on Oahu? Oahu is the only Hawaiian island that we don’t say a rental car is a must-have. See How to Get Around Oahu: Car, Bus, Bike, and More (a full guide) to decide if you need a rental car and what to do if you don’t get one.
Additional Hawaii planning resources:
- What to Pack for Your Hawaii Vacation
- Oahu vs Maui (from someone who has lived on both)
- Oahu vs Maui for Kids
1. Where to Escape the Crowds on Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is a 2-mile-long, gold sand beach lined with highrise hotels. I love Waikiki Beach for the beautiful, clear water and views of the iconic Diamond Head.
There is so much that makes Waikiki Beach famous , hence the crowds flock to this beach. Half of all visitors to Hawaii stay near Waikiki, usually for their first visit (see our first time to Hawaii guide for planning tips! )
Here is how to find a secluded section of Waikiki Beach. Waikiki Beach is divided up into multiple sections or beaches. The far sides of the 2-mile stretch of beach have far fewer people than the areas in the middle, like in front of the Royal Hawaiian or Moana Surfrider hotels.
To escape the crowds in Waikiki, go to Kahanamoku Beach ( click for directions ) near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort. Kahanamoku Beach has been rated the best beach in the country by Dr. Beach for its wide, sandy beach and its great spot for swimming. You will also get epic views of Diamond Head. And a good place to see the fireworks, see below!
Our second favorite secluded spot in Waikiki is on the Diamond Head side of the beach. Go to Queen’s Beach ( click for directions ) to find a place for your towel. We like this part of the beach as there is the Waikiki Wall (small jetty), volleyball courts, and shade near the park side of the beach.
2. Surf Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is well known for its surf break. The long, slow rolling waves are perfect to learn how to surf. You can take surf lessons ( Erica was so much better at surfing than me ) or grab a board for $20 for three hours from dudes on the beach.
The surf breaks, starting on the Diamond Head side, are Publics, Queen’s, Canoes, Populars, Threes, Fours, Kaisers, and Rockpiles. You will easily see where everyone is surfing once you are on Waikiki Beach.
If you have never surfed before then a surf lesson ( our favorite surf school is at Publics ) is highly recommended to get you started safely.
A good surfboard rental location is between the banyan tree and the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound and the Duke Kahanamoku statue. You will find local vendors renting out surfboards. Bring cash and look for the surf racks.
Directions: Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI
Grab our favorite reef-safe, mineral-based sunscreens before you head into the water for surfing and swimming at the beaches below.
3. Friday Fireworks
The show is back! Every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village has a 4-minute fireworks show. From June to September, the show starts at 8:00 PM. The show switches to a 7:45 PM start in the fall.
You don’t have to be a guest at the resort to see the show. Find a nice place on the beach near the hotel. The best viewing will be from Fort Derussy Beach Park ( click for directions ) to Kahanamoku Beach.
4. Acai Bowls at Tropical Tribe
Our favorite acai bowls in Waikiki are at Tropical Tribe. The small cafe with counter service has the best Brazilian acai bowls with fresh fruit in Waikiki. Located on the Ewa Side, near the Hilton Hawaiian Village, look for the small cafe at street level.
Directions: 1778 Ala Moana Blvd #101, Honolulu, HI 96815
5. Fresh Poke at Sato Seafood
There is nothing more authentic than fresh poke when you are in Hawaii. While we love getting poke at local grocery stores like Foodland, Sato Seafood serves up unique and delicious poke bowls right in Waikiki.
Order the Hawaiian Munchies or Spicy Maui Maui. You can’t go wrong with their generous portions and quick service. Eat there or take it a block to the beach.
Directions: 2310 Kūhiō Ave. #215, Honolulu, HI 96815
If Muragame Udon has too long of a line, Sato Seafood is right next door.
6. Japanese Noodle House
Sure the line can be long at Muragame Udon, but it is worth the wait in our opinion. Watch them make the noodles and cook your udon right in front of you.
Grab a tray, order your udon, and then pick up additional bites like tempura or spam musubi in this cafeteria-style restaurant.
Directions: 2310 Kūhiō Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815
7. Hula and Happy Hour
If you don’t have time to attend one of Oahu’s best luaus, then House Without a Key is a good substitute.
Directions: 2199 Kālia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
Located in the luxury Halekulani hotel, House Without a Key is an open-air patio lounge serving up amazing mai tais, pupus (appetizers), and a light dinner fare. But we come for world-class hula performances and live Hawaiian music.
With views of Diamond Head and the Hawaiian band playing under a 100-year-old kiawe tree, this happy hour shouldn’t be missed.
If you’re on Oahu now searching for things to do on Oahu or you are just starting your Hawaii vacation planning, then check out our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary .
Let two professional Hawaii travelers show you the best things to do around Oahu on planned excursion days. No need to write these all down, download our itinerary and you’re off! Learn more below.
Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary
Get the oahu itinerary.
The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. You’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.
Get all the details on our itinerary and download it for a memorable and easily planned trip to Oahu.
Things to Do on Oahu: Honolulu
Let’s escape from Waikiki to explore things to do in Honolulu. Honolulu is called the Manhattan of the Pacific with its highrise offices and apartment buildings. We love Honolulu for its culture, nightlife, and food. Such amazing food options due to the Pacific island cuisine.
Our favorite neighborhoods are Kapahulu, Kaka’ako, and Chinatown. We have things to do in each. Plus, don’t forget the culture with trips to ‘Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum.
But our first thing to do is to beat jetlag with a hike.
See the map below for all these things to do in Honolulu.
Free Oahu Itineraries for more things to do on Oahu!
- Oahu Travel Guide
- The Best 5-Day Oahu Itinerary
- 7-Day Oahu Itinerary Without a Rental Car
- Your 10-Day Oahu and Maui Itinerary
The free itineraries are great but our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary is world-class (not just our biased opinion).
We are going to Oahu, Maui, and Big Island over the course of 21 days, so I have loved your itineraries–seriously they are a must-have lifeline for planning a trip to Hawaii! Kim S.
8. Diamond Head Crater Hike
Diamond Head Crater Hike starts inside a 300,00-year-old volcano, about a 15-minute drive from Waikiki. A reservation for the Diamond Head hike is now required. The moderate 0.8-mile hike rises up 560 feet to an observation deck overlooking Waikiki and the east coast of Oahu.
Explore an old military bunker inside the volcano and take amazing photos of Waikiki. Rainbow views are possible with a morning hike. The gates open at 6:00 AM so come on over for those jetlagged travelers.
Directions: Diamond Head Crater Trailhead
Diamond Head Crater Hike made our list of the 7 best easy hikes on Oahu .
9. Leonard’s Bakery for Malasadas
Leonard’s Bakery makes it onto all things to do in Honolulu lists and for good reason. Their large, fluffy malasadas live up to the hype. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts with a fruit or chocolate filling.
The doughy pastries are light, warm, and delicious in the morning with a coffee. The line does get huge at their original location on Kapahulu Avenue just outside of Waikiki.
Directions: 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
See if you can order online to skip the line (they discontinue the online service at times) or plan on arriving early.
Another way to skip the line is to visit one of the many MalasadaMobiles they have conveniently located around Oahu. Bring cash for those and they only serve three types of malasadas at them.
10. Ono Seafood
The colorful red building with an art mural on the side is hard to miss from Kapahulu Avenue. Locals flock to this seafood restaurant for poke and more fresh seafood dishes. The no-frills place is relaxing and delicious.
There are a lot of great restaurants on Kapahulu Avenue such as Rainbow Drive-In and Kono’s. You won’t go hungry on this avenue on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki.
Directions: 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
11. Waiola Shave Ice
Shave ice is a must when you visit Hawaii . The fluffy ice and the flavors are a must when it is hot out and it is always a nice, hot temperature in Hawaii.
Waiola Shave Ice is a classic. While there are few around Honolulu, the one below is the original and a short drive from Waikiki.
Directions: 2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826
Shave ice made our 5 Unforgettable Hawaii Foods You Have to Try video.
12. Honolulu Nightlife
Honolulu is the place to go (the only place to go) in Hawaii for nightlife. The Hawaiian Islands can feel sleepy as most bars and lounges hardly make it to midnight on the neighbor islands. But in Honolulu, you can find hip lounges, wine bars, and even some clubs.
For a little bar hopping in Waikiki, check out Lewers Street for Roy’s, Yard House, and some dive bars.
Our favorite area to go to in Honolulu is the hip and trendy restaurants and lounges in Chinatown. These award-winning restaurants, like Fete who is a 2022 James Beard winner, have great food and even better drinks.
Head to North Hotel Street in Chinatown to find the likes of Lucky Belly, The Manifest, Little Village Noodle House, O’Kims, The Dragon Upstairs, Bar 35, The Tchin Tchin! Bar, and so many more.
Directions to North Hotel Street: 35 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817
13. Ala Moana Beach
Ala Moana Beach is the place where locals go in Honolulu for the beach. The large beach park has its own L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Magic Island Lagoon, and a well-protected beach for kids (keiki).
Located in front of the Ala Moana Shopping Center, an upscale shopping center with a great food court, and next to Waikiki, Ala Moana Beach doesn’t have the Waikiki crowds and is a good place to take the kids for a beach day.
Directions to Ala Moana Beach Park
For those families out there exploring Oahu, read our 23 Things to Do on Oahu with Kids for more ideas!
14. Kaka’ako Street Art
Kaka’ako is an old neighborhood of Honolulu that has been re-developed with condo towers, restaurants, and breweries. We like the breweries for dinner and drinks. But, you can make an evening out of this neighborhood by walking the murals.
Kaka’ako has murals everywhere. Start at Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park and just follow the murals. You can’t miss them.
Directions: Cooke St, Honolulu, HI 96813
Watch our Escape from Waikiki video for our day out exploring unique things to do around Honolulu.
15. ‘Iolani Palace
The ‘Iolani Palace was the royal residence of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The palace had electricity and running water before the White House. Come to learn about the royal family, the forced overthrow of the kingdom, and Hawaiian history in this well-preserved, stately palace in the heart of Honolulu.
Directions: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813
‘Iolani Palace is located in Historic Downtown Honolulu. Across from the palace, you will find Ali’iolani Hale, home to the state supreme court and the famous King Kamehameha The Great Statue. You can take a historical bike tour of this area or our favorite Pearl Harbor guided tour includes a tour of historic Honolulu.
Historic Downtown Honolulu gets bedazzled for Christmas. From parades to Christmas craft festivals, you will love Honolulu in December. See our Things to Do in Hawaii During Christmas .
If you’re thinking of visiting Hawaii for a Christmas vacation, then you gotta read our 19 Tips to Plan Your Hawaii Christmas Vacation .
16. Historic Chinatown and the Arts District
As I mentioned in the Honolulu Nightlife thing to do, Chinatown is a fun part of the city to explore. A Chinatown walking tour is a wonderful way to hear the rich history and taste the food or go out and explore yourself.
The area has unique architecture and great food from Vietnamese to Chinese to Hawaiian and everything in between. There are also a lot of shopping and art galleries.
The first Friday of the month is home to a lively street festival. The art galleries turn into lounges and street performers fight for your attention. It is the place to be for First Friday .
Directions to Chinatown Parking Lot: 888 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817
17. Best Honolulu Sunset Spot
Tantalus Look is the place to come for the sunset and amazing views of Waikiki and Diamond Head. Located 25 minutes (6 miles) from Waikiki, drive up a windy road to Pu’u Ualakaa State Park. Bring a picnic and a picnic blanket to sit on the lawn overlooking the grandeur of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
The sunset view is best during the winter but even during the summer, this is worth visiting.
Directions: Nutridge St, Honolulu, HI 96822
18. Kamehameha Bakery
While everyone is lined up at Leonard’s Bakery just outside of Waikiki, drive over to Kahili Neighborhood for another famous bakery. Get their maladas or one of their many amazing donuts and freshly baked bread.
Directions: 1284 Kalani St Unit D106, Honolulu, HI 96817
19. Bishop Museum
The Bishop Museum showcases exhibits on Polynesian culture and natural history. This is our favorite museum in Hawaii. Our kids love the science center where they can go inside a volcano and get hands-on with science. I enjoy the Polynesian voyaging exhibits and then heading to Highway Inn Cafe for a Hawaii plate lunch.
The Hawaii Hall alone is worth checking out with three wood floors featuring Hawaiian history. It reminds me of the great museums in London.
Directions: 1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817
20. Honolulu Helicopter Tours
While we don’t always recommend a helicopter tour in Hawaii due to the weather, the team at Honolulu Helicopter Tours has the best safety record on Oahu. They offer tours for different budgets too. From an 18-minute flight over Honolulu and Diamond Head to a 60-minute circle island tour, you should check them out to get above Honolulu for a fresh perspective.
Save 5% on all their tours with promo code HVG, learn more and book here: Honolulu Helicopter Tours .
21. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Welcome to one of the most popular sites on Oahu ( this is the other one ). Pearl Harbor National Memorial brings thousands of visitors a day to pay their respects, learn about the air raid, and visit the historical sites.
Pearl Harbor is 25-minutes away from Waikiki so it isn’t in Honolulu but I’ll keep it simple for this list.
Directions: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
Hop in an Uber, Taxi, Lyft, or drive yourself to the visitor center. But, before you arrive make sure you make a reservation for t he USS Arizona. Reservations can be tough to get, especially during the busy holiday season and summer.
You can skip the hassle of driving and getting a reservation by booking a guided Pearl Harbor and Historic Honolulu City Tour with our favorite local tour group. They will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
Bags are not allowed in the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Also, make sure to hop on the free shuttle to take you to Ford Island. Home of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum .
Things to Do on Oahu: Ko Olina and Waianae
We lived in Ko Olina, on the leeward side of Oahu, for a couple of years. Ko Olina is at the start of Waianae, the West Side of Oahu.
Waianae is a residential area of Oahu. Therefore, it is not a place visitors go often and we support that. But, there are some places of note and tours to explore.
22. Ko Olina Lagoons at Ko Olina Resorts
Ko Olina Resorts are known as the home of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, but Ko Olina is better known to us for the lagoons. One of the 10 best beaches on Oahu is the Ko Olina lagoons.
We love these lagoons for the calm waters for our kids, proximity to the resort restaurants for lunch and snacks, and the big, empty beaches.
The lagoons are man-made. Blasted from the volcanic rock as part of the Ko Olina Resorts development, the lagoons are open to the public and ready for your vacation. Arrive before 9:00 AM for a free, public parking spot. See our Oahu itinerary for details.
Stay in Ko Olina (see our Ultimate Ko Olina Guide ) or stay in Waikiki, you can hop over to this dry and sunny side of the island for amazing beaches.
While you are over here, book a tour with our favorite Oahu snorkel tour to see dolphins and sea turtles. Or stay till sunset for their Ko Olina Sunset Sail .
23. Electric Beach for Snorkeling
Electric Beach made our #1 spot for the best snorkeling on Oahu . The beach’s namesake is due to being located in front of a large power plant (Hawaii Electric or HECO). The snorkel spot is abundant in fish as the fish congregate around the hot water discharge from the power plant.
This snorkel spot is only for advanced swimmers and snorkelers. It is risky because you have to swim out over 100 yards to the snorkel spot, it is in water that is over 30 feet deep, there can be currents or rough surf, and there are no lifeguards on duty. It is not an easy snorkel spot so swim with a buddy and understand the ocean conditions.
You will be greeted by a lot of fish making for beautiful snorkeling.
Directions: 92-301 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei, HI 96707
I park at Kahe Point Beach Park. Car break-ins are common in this parking lot so don’t leave valuables or anything in the car.
24. Maili Pillbox (Pink Pillbox) Hike
Pillbox hikes are very popular on Oahu. These are bunkers from the military defenses built to protect the island before and during WWII. We share the history of many of them in this video: All of Oahu’s Pillbox Hikes Explained (plus the history): 5 Honolulu Pillbox Hikes .
Most of Oahu’s great hikes are located on the windward and east side of Oahu so this one is special. Located on top of Pu’u O Hulu, you can hike the 45-minutes to the pink pillbox, up a steep trail. Beautiful, sweeping views of the Waianae coast will reward you. It is hot and sunny on this part of the island so bring water and sun protection.
Directions: Pink Pillbox Trail, Waianae, HI 96792
25. Oahu’s Best Whale Watching
The best locations for whale watching on Oahu are on the North Shore and Waianae. Waianae is my favorite as you can expect better weather and calmer seas during whale seasons. The annual humpback whale migration to Hawaii is from December through March,
While Maui is our favorite island for whale watching , Oahu has some excellent viewing also.
Our favorite whale-watching tour leaves from Waianae Small Boat Harbor. Head out on a power raft for up-close encounters with majestic humpback whales. We like this tour for the fast rafts increase your chances of seeing them (they don’t chase but cover more ground) and their staff of marine biologists that are full of knowledge. Learn more and book here – Waianae Whale Watching .
Directions: Waianae Small Boat Harbor at 85-491 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96792
26. Dolphin and Snorkeling Tour
If you can’t make it to Oahu during whale season then a dolphin excursion is your best option. Located at Waianae Small Boat Harbor, the team from Dolphin Excursions Hawaii will take you out to see Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, and to epic snorkel spots on the Waianae Coast.
Click to learn more about their Dolphin Excursion Tour or their Afternoon Snorkel Safari .
Things to Do on Oahu: North Shore
Time to leave Honolulu and the resorts to get out into the countryside of Oahu. Honolulu is considered town and the North Shore is considered country. Hence, Oahu-founded surfboard company called Town & Country.
Our favorite area to visit on Oahu is North Shore. Make sure you leave one or two days in your itinerary to see everything. We sure do in our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary !
Finally, time to head to North Shore Oahu. The home of Jack Johnson, big wave surfing competitions, waterfall hikes, and the best food trucks on the island. North Shore is also home to 10 Free Things to Do on North Shore Oahu and the Ehukai Pillbox Hike . If you still haven’t had your fill, we have another 21 Amazing Things to Do on Oahu’s North Shore .
27. Haleiwa Town
Haleiwa Town is the unofficial home base for the North Shore. We love this town for the food trucks, shave ice, and coffee shops. The art galleries and kayak and SUP in the river are also worth checking out.
Directions: Haleiwa, Oahu
Leave Waikiki in the morning so you can stop in Haleiwa for coffee at Haleiwa Cafe, Coffee Gallery, or Island Vintage Coffee (a chain but they have Kona coffee and good food). Then continue up the coast to do the things below. Come back to Haleiwa for lunch or dinner at a shrimp truck or food truck.
Stop at Kaimana Shave Ice and say, “ The Hawaii Vacation Guide brought you here .” You will save 10% on the freshest shave ice in Haleiwa. See our full list of coupon codes here .
28. North Shore Food Trucks
Did I mention the food on the North Shore? Giovanni’s was the original shrimp truck serving up spicy and buttery shrimp from their signature-covered truck in Kahuku, North Shore.
Check out one of the many shrimp and food truck parks in Haleiwa. You can’t miss them off the main road. Kaimana Shave Ice is located near a large food truck park, so you get two birds with one parking spot.
You will also find more trucks in Pupukea near Waimea Bay (across from Shark’s Cove) and in Kahuku, at the northern tip of Oahu.
29. Waimea Bay for a Beach Day
Waimea Bay is hard to miss as you drive up the North Shore on Kamehameha Highway. The road turns to present the beautiful bay with the bell tower in the background.
Waimea Bay is probably the best beach on the North Shore. The bay has two drawbacks. Parking is limited in the public parking lot and along the road. Waimea Valley and the church charge for parking which I’ve found very helpful. The other drawback is the bay is calm from May to September but should be avoided during the winter. Big waves and strong currents make it a dangerous place to swim.
Pack a lunch and enjoy a day of swimming and relaxing on the beach at Waimea Bay. You will find lifeguards on duty, showers, and restroom facilities.
Directions: Waimea Bay Beach, North Shore, HI 96712
30. Waterfall Swim
If you’re looking for a waterfall swim on Oahu, this is the place to go. With many waterfalls being on private land, hard to reach, or dangerous, the 40-foot Waimea Valley waterfall is the place to go.
Waimea Valley is a botanical garden and Hawaiian cultural immersion area. You can spend half a day here at the arts and crafts booths, walking the valley’s gardens, exploring the Hawaiian villages, and swimming in the waterfall. This is a perfect spot for strollers and kids. It is also home to one of the best luaus in Hawaii .
Reserve your Full Day General Admission to Waimea Valley ticket here. This is a direct booking with Waimea Valley!
Directions: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
31. Shark’s Cove Snorkeling
Shark’s Cove made our list of the best snorkeling on Oahu . From May to September, the waves settle down for some epic snorkeling in the lava rock-protected lagoon.
Lifeguards are on duty and there are restroom and shower facilities. A snorkel rental shop is across the street along with food trucks for lunch.
We like Shark’s Cove for the clear water and the protected lagoon. Make sure the conditions are good for snorkeling before you go out by talking to the lifeguard and checking lifeguard flags. Grab our favorite reef-safe, mineral-based sunscreens before you head into the water.
Directions: Shark’s Cove at Pupukea Beach Park, Oahu
32. Romy’s Kahuku Shrimp Hut
As we continue up the North Shore, it may be time to stop for fresh shrimp. Just past Turtle Bay Resort are Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp and Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp Hut. These two serve up fresh shrimp from their shrimp ponds directly behind their huts.
Romy’s is our favorite as we describe in the video below. Stop for a garlic butter shrimp plate before you move on down the road.
Directions: 56781 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731
North Shore Oahu is full of fruit stands and food trucks. You won’t be hungry as you spend the day up here.
33. Polynesian Cultural Center Lu’au
For many visitors to Oahu, this is the must-see thing to do on Oahu. Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the Polynesian Cultural Center attract more visitors than any other sites on Oahu.
Located near the northern tip of the Oahu in La’ie, the Polynesian Cultural Center is known for its luau dinner but we like it for the Islands of Polynesia. Walk past the luau area and into six island nations of Polynesia. Learn about the culture, games, songs, and stories of Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and Fuji.
We recommend you arrive when they open at 12:30 to spend the afternoon there and then go to the Ali’i Luau or Gateway Buffet . Stay late for the HA: Breath of Life Show. Book below and save 20% on their luau packages as it is a direct booking link with the Polynesian Cultural Center.
If you’re on Oahu frantically searching for things to do or you are starting your Hawaii vacation planning, then check out our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary .
Let two professional Hawaii travelers show you the best things to do around Oahu on planned excursion days. Download our itinerary and you’re off! Learn more below.
Things to Do on Oahu: Windward
As we drive over the northern tip of Oahu, past Kahuku and La’ie, we enter windward Oahu. On the windward side, you will be greeted with lush rainforest and towering cliffs of the Ko’olau Range, the remnants of one of Oahu’s two distinct volcanoes.
After North Shore, windward Oahu is my favorite part of the island to visit.
34. Kualoa Ranch Tours
When we lived on Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center and Kualoa Ranch felt too touristy to be worth my time. I regret that decision because they offer such great tours. They are both good places to learn the history of the islands.
Kualoa Ranch is known as the Jurassic Valley as Jurassic Park and Lost World movies were filmed in part here, plus dozens of other movies. The ranch is a working cattle ranch and farm full of wonderful employees who like to share their stories.
Visitors to Hawaii make the drive to Kualoa Ranch for the popular tours below, but they have so many more to offer.
- Kualoa Ranch ATV tours
- Kualoa Ranch Zipline
- Malama Aina Tour
- Explore all Kuoloa Ranch Tours here
Directions: 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
35. Kaneohe Sandbar
This place has become very popular in the past few years. Kaneohe Sandbar or Ahu O Laka in Hawaiian is a ridge of sand in Kaneohe Bay that becomes a beach island during low tide.
The water is turquoise, the sand is white, the bay is calm, and sea turtle sightings are common.
Accessing the sandbar is limited. You can kayak by renting a kayak in Kailua or go out on a boat tour. As the sandbar can be tough to reach in a kayak, we recommend going on a boat tour. Boat tours include lunch, snacks, sunscreen, snorkel gear, and other comforts for a day out on the water.
Our favorite Kaneohe Sandbar tour leaves directly from the small boat harbor near the sandbar. Learn more about the best Kaneohe Sandbar boat tour .
Directions: 46-499 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
36. Lanikai Beach
Another one of our top 10 Oahu beaches is Lanikai Beach located in Kailua. Lanikai is known for its long, white sand beach with outrigger canoes parked on it from the local canoe club, and the views of the Mokulua Islands.
We find ourselves at Lanikai Beach every time we visit Oahu. We recommend arriving early as there are no public parking lots, only street parking. Respect the neighbors by not blocking driveways or making a lot of noise. Spend the day at Lanikai or go on a kayak adventure.
Directions: Lanikai Beach, Kailua, HI 96734
37. Kayak to the Mokes
Kayaking to the Mokulua Islands or the Mokes was our favorite activity to do with friends who visited us on Oahu.
Rent kayaks from the local shop, wheel them to Kailua Beach (another great beach) and make the short kayak trip out to the islands.
You can rent kayaks and go yourself or you can go on a guided tour. If you’re not a confident kayaker then we recommend the guided tour. Click below to learn more.
- Self-Guided Kayak Discovery
- 2-Hour Guided Kayak + Beach Time
38. Waimanalo Beach Park
Welcome to the best walking beach on Oahu. At over 3-miles long with gorgeous views of the mountains and ocean, this white sand beach is worth a trip to the East Side of Oahu.
Waimanalo Beach Park has abundant public parking, showers, restrooms, and a lifeguard on duty. The currents can get strong during the winter months so check with the lifeguard before heading out.
We show you how to fit Waimanalo Beach and everything worth visiting in East Oahu in our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary .
Directions: 41-741 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Waimānalo, HI 96795
39. Makapu’u Beach & Lighthouse
Located on the far eastern tip of Oahu, Makapuu Beach and Lighthouse make for a nice morning out with the family.
Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail is a paved walking path that takes you up to the top of the point, with views of Makapuu Beach, Manana Island Seabird Sanctuary, and coastal views of Oahu.
If you have time, head down to Makapuu Beach. It is a tucked-in beach that is nice for relaxing. It is known for bodysurfing so be careful of the surf break.
Directions: Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail, Waimanalo, HI 96795
40. Koko Head Crater Hike
Let’s finish strong with a hike to the top of a volcanic cinder cone.
- Length: 1.8 miles
- Parking: Large parking lot at the bottom of the hill
- Avoid hiking for sunrise as no parking is available
This is more of a moderate hike, not because the terrain is challenging (there’s no hill to slide down or rocks to climb over) but because the hike is steep. This hike is a workout as you ascend up over 1,000 steps to reach the top.
While it is a workout, it’s also a fun trail with some pretty amazing views. The steps that you take up to the top are old railroad tracks, which adds to the fun (you’re not just taking stairs up to the top).
Oahu is the best Hawaiian Island for hiking in our opinion. Explore all of Oahu’s easiest hikes and moderate to advanced hikes .
More Things to Do with the Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary
Thanks for traveling with me around Oahu with this epic things-to-do list. We find ourselves going back to Oahu multiple times a year because there are so many things to do and places to eat.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t have time to plan a trip to Oahu, then learn more about our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary. The itinerary is structured to grab and go on your mobile device.
Thanks for reading The Hawaii Vacation Guide! I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of the best Hawaii travel guide on the internet in our biased opinions. We enjoy traveling throughout Hawaii after living on Maui and Oahu. We share our adventures, travel tips and resources, and honest reviews so you can easily plan your dream vacation to Hawaii. Editing our videos, teaching the kids how to snorkel, and learning about the 'aina (land) and Hawaii culture are my favorite things to do. Have a wonderful trip to the Aloha State.
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Oahu Tourist Attractions
Oahu is a beloved travel destination for visitors from all over the world who flock to this island paradise to experience its legendary charms—namely, lush rainforests, rugged peaks, idyllic waters, and a delightful tropical climate—for themselves. Whether you find yourself attracted to Oahu for its outdoor recreational opportunities, sightseeing potential, cultural highlights, or historic sites, or you fancy trying a little bit of everything when you’re lucky enough to be experiencing Hawaii firsthand, Oahu is home to numerous outstanding tourist attractions you’re sure to enjoy.
As befits a place renowned for its natural wonders, plenty of Oahu’s most popular attractions enable you to relish hour after hour of fun in the sun. Activities like hiking and snorkeling are staples of the area, and a significant number of tour companies operate guided tours that take you to or near attractions like Makapu’u Lighthouse and Sea Life Park . And there’s no shortage of amusement parks located on Oahu, too, with Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii and Coral Crater Adventure Park among the standouts. Visitors can even make time to tour big-name Hawaii brands like the Dole Pineapple Farm and North Shore Soap Factory if they’re so inclined.
Though its breathtakingly scenic sites, beautiful beaches, and unforgettable coastline often steal the headlines, Oahu is home to a number of acclaimed museums covering a range of topics, themes, and time periods. In particular, the Honolulu Museum of Art is a local favorite, featuring some 55,000 distinctive items and spanning over 5,000 years, just as the Bishop Museum bears the honor of being Hawaii’s premier natural and cultural history museum. Other notable cultural attractions on Oahu are the Polynesian Cultural Center , the Byodo-In Temple , and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum .
Oahu is also rich in remarkable historic sites , the most famous of which is probably Pearl Harbor National Memorial . Operated by the National Park Service, this attraction is visited by millions each year and includes the USS Arizona Memorial , the USS Utah Memorial, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial. Other prominent Pearl Harbor-related sites are the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and the Battleship Missouri Memorial . Visitors with an interest in an earlier era of Hawaiian history will want to seek out the Iolani Palace , a royal residence throughout the nineteenth century, and the Queen Emma Summer Palace , which has been preserved and restored to appear much as it did almost 200 years ago.
Continue reading for additional information about the top Oahu tourist attractions.
Oahu tourist attractions:
Makapu‘u lighthouse, polynesian cultural center, wet 'n' wild hawaii, arizona memorial, pearl harbor historic sites, halona blowhole lookout, hanauma bay state park, coral crater adventure park, dole plantation, kualoa ranch, sea life park hawaii, diamond head state monument, waimea valley, pacific fleet submarine museum, iolani palace, pearl harbor aviation museum, battleship missouri memorial, north shore soap factory, the byodo-in temple.
21 of the Coolest Places to Visit + Attractions on Oahu, Hawaii
Of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu is among the most popular, thanks in large part to the large number of beautiful places to visit and exciting things to do on Oahu!
With the most flights from the mainland of any Hawaiian island and a plethora of world-class attractions in Oahu, there’s no room for boredom on this tropical island.
Oahu is home to Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu, with its iconic Waikiki Beach and excellent location for exploring the rest of the island.
With an abundance of beachside patios to watch the sunset, luxury resort hotels with beach access, and a laid-back lifestyle, you can do as little or as much as you want when based in Waikiki.
Looking for the absolute best attractions in Oahu, Hawaii?
Here’s where to visit!
This Oahu travel guide was written by Hawaii travel enthusiast Karen Hosier of Forever Karen . Thanks for joining us, Karen!
Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more detail.
The Best Attractions on Oahu, Hawaii
Like any metropolitan city, the Waikiki Beach area bustles with activity.
With a sandy beach, shopping, and world-class restaurants only steps away, you don’t need a rental car if you plan to spend your vacation traveling no farther than this iconic stretch of sand.
Most hotels charge a daily fee for in-and-out parking privileges if you choose to rent a vehicle.
(And if you do, we recommend comparing prices and inclusions for different companies through Discover Cars ).
The city bus and the Biki Bike program allow travelers to reach many of the closest things to do.
City buses circumnavigate the island, so reaching the north shore or other locations is relatively easy.
Many tours, like whale watching tours during winter, also leave from Waikiki.
For a luxury stay, consider The Royal Hawaiian , a classic hotel with a pink exterior.
Diamond Head State Monument
From Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater dominates the Honolulu skyline to the southeast.
Visitors can enjoy part of the 475 acres in the Diamond Head State Monument with an easy bus ride.
However, most come to climb to the peak for 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Waikiki, and the surrounding crater.
To beat the heat of the midday sun, plan to hike early, carry bottled water, and forego those flip-flops in place of supportive footwear.
The Diamond Head hike is an interesting one with a switchback trail, a 225-foot tunnel, an old military bunker, and the memorable “stairs of doom.”
Near the top, the stairs of doom test your fitness level on 99 steep vertical steps to the peak.
Plan one hour to 90 minutes to complete the roundtrip hike, which is widely considered one of the best hikes in Oahu .
Once you complete the hike, reward yourself with a Dole Whip or pineapple smoothie from the food truck in the parking lot.
Keep in mind that as of spring 2022, reservations are now required for visiting Diamond Head.
The Hawaii Capital Historic District
Honolulu’s historic district showcases notable architecture, providing a mini history lesson.
Standing 18 feet tall, the King Kamehameha Statue memorializes Hawaii’s first king.
Behind him, Ali’iolani Hale, initially built for royalty, is now home to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
While the royal family no longer exists, you can learn their history by visiting Iolani Palace, their last royal residence.
At the palace, discover how the US government overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy, and see the imprisonment room of Queen Lili’uokalani, the kingdom’s last monarch.
The historic Washington Place was another Queen Lili’uokalani home a few blocks away.
Today, it acts as the Governor’s Residence.
East of Honolulu, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve aims to protect and safeguard marine life.
The sheltered cove, which derives from a volcanic cone, has a large expanse of coral reef, a vital resource for fish, turtles, and other species.
More than a million visitors a year come to snorkel at Hanauma Bay .
While you can expect to deal with high crowds during peak season, it’s for good reason!
Hanauma Bay is an excellent place for families and those without much swimming experience.
With calm waters and shallow depth, snorkelers can see tropical fish without wading too far.
The Hawaii state fish, Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, is commonly spotted in the reef.
Along with 400 other species, you may even be treated to a green sea turtle sighting.
However, Hanauma Bay doesn’t provide much shelter from the sun.
So, bring an umbrella, wear a rashguard, and ensure you have reef-safe sunscreen (which is required by law in Hawaii).
Ala Moana Beach Park
Not as crowded as Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach Park provides a beach escape with some extras.
The area was once swampland, but the city recently developed it into an artificial beach.
Beachside trees offer plenty of shade, and the abundance of grass is ideal for picnics.
With a natural reef, those new to stand-up paddleboarding can perfect their balancing skills in calm waters.
Unless you arrive early, parking is a challenge. It’s best to use public transit to the Ala Moana Mall across the street.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Located on the windward side of Oahu, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is simultaneously one of the top attractions in Oahu and also a great place to get (somewhat) away from the crowds in iconic spots like Waikiki Beach.
These gorgeous gardens are divided into 6 sections, with areas to both walk and drive.
The lush plant life and mountain views are absolutely stunning.
Without a doubt, if you’re interested in Oahu’s biodiversity or simply looking for a break from the beach, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a fantastic place to visit.
Kualoa Regional Park
Ten miles north of Kaneohe, the Kualoa Regional Park is a must-visit attraction in Oahu.
The park has a huge parking lot which is rarely busy.
To one side, the long expanse of beach provides a great swimming or picnic spot.
On the other, the Ko’olau Mountains, made famous by Jurassic Park movies, dominate the skyline.
Mokoli’i Island, or Chinaman’s Hat, looks like its latter name off the coast.
From the parking lot, a trail leads to Apua Fishpond. Its neighboring pond, Moli’i fishpond, is managed by Kualoa Ranch.
Covering 125 acres, it’s one of Hawaii’s largest fishponds and still raises a variety of fish.
One of the larger towns on Oahu, Kailua is one of the most scenic places on the island.
It’s home to what is arguably Oahu’s most scenic beach, Lanikai Beach (more on that in a minute), but it’s also a wonderful place to visit in its own right.
The dining scene in Kailua is fantastic and you’ll find a lot of great shopping as well.
There are also some excellent hikes to check out in Kailua, such as the popular Lanikai Pillbox hike.
As one of the most stunning beaches in Hawaii, Lanikai Beach offers brilliant white sand and a bright blue sea with the Mokulua Islands in the distance.
The water is calm here compared to the North Shore, so it’s a great place for snorkeling in Oahu .
You can also kayak out to the Mokulua Islands if you want to get active, either independently or with a guided sea kayaking tour.
Valley Of The Temples
Nestled at the foot of the lush Ko’olau Range, a 240-acre memorial park might seem like an odd place to visit in Oahu.
However, this tranquil place gathers people to honor those from all faiths, including Buddhism and Christianity.
Surrounded by an amphitheater of lush flora, the setting is like something from a fairytale.
At the back of the memorial park, visitors can discover a hidden gem.
The Byodo-In Temple is a half-sized replica of the Japanese temple bearing the same name.
Those entering the grounds are invited to ring the colossal bon-sho sacred bell before entering the temple and making a blessing.
Outside, a large reflecting pond provides a sanctuary for hundreds of giant Japanese koi of every color.
If you want to feed them, a little shop to the right of the temple sells carp pellets.
With an entrance fee of under USD 10, visitors can enjoy a fantastic Oahu attraction on a budget.
Kaiwa Ridge (Lanikai Pillbox Hike)
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike or Kaiwa Ridge trail provides stunning views of the island’s windward side.
With an elevation gain of 625 feet, expect a more challenging uphill climb than Diamond Head.
At 1.5 miles roundtrip, expect to spend an hour to 90 minutes to complete the return hike, depending on stops.
During the dry season, the trail is very dusty with loose gravel.
After 20 minutes, you’ll reach the first of two old military pillbox bunkers. The second requires another 10 minutes of walking.
From the peak, the mesmerizing views of Lanikai Beach, Makapu’u Lighthouse, Mokulua Islands, and Mokoliʻi Island (Chinaman’s hat).
With 360-degree views from the ridge, many tackle the climb to enjoy the sunrise and sunset.
Since you’ll be hiking in the dark, take a flashlight and lightweight jacket.
Spread across 4000 acres that cover three valleys, the Kualoa Ranch provides fantastic tours for a fun day.
Adventurers can choose from the Jurassic Valley Zipline or an ATV Raptor excursion to Jurassic Valley.
Although most know Jurassic Park movies were filmed there, on the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, you’ll discover the filming spots of “Lost,” “Jumanji,” and “50 First Dates.”
The Ranch recommends making a reservation for tours, as popular ones sell out fast.
Allow for two to three hours on most excursions.
However, the Best of Kualoa Experience package combines three tours and lasts seven hours.
Alternatively, the Kualoa Half Day Package lasts 4-1/2 hours and includes two excursions. Both packages include their incredible lunch buffet.
Near the entrance to Kualoa Ranch, the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts offers Kona coffee and macadamia nut sampling.
With nuts in flavors like Maui onion and garlic, cinnamon glazed, and Kona coffee, you’ll be able to spoil your family and friends with the best Hawaiian souvenirs .
No visit to Oahu is complete without spending a day at Pearl Harbor.
Expect to be humbled as you learn the history of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place on December 7, 1941.
To get the most historical context from your visit (and the simplest transportation option), consider signing up for a tour of Pearl Harbor .
Today, visitors can see some of the preserved fleet, including the USS Missouri Battleship, USS Bowfin Submarine, and USS Arizona National Memorial.
Inside the Pacific Aviation Museum, a collection of vintage planes from the second world war is displayed.
Take to the skies in the Fighter Ace 360 Flight Simulator for the ultimate thrill.
If you can stomach the ride, you’ll experience an aviator’s life with spins, rolls, and aerial somersaults.
A tour of the USS Bowfin is an eye-opener to life on a submarine. The self-guided tour includes the claustrophobic bunks, which are sandwiched above the torpedoes.
While most attractions require a fee, a visit to the USS Arizona National Memorial is complimentary.
After a short boat ride to the memorial, you can read the names of those who lost their lives and see the “tears of Arizona” seeping from the sunken vessel below.
Ewa Forest Reserve
North of Pearl City, the Ewa Forest Reserve allows travelers to experience a dense rainforest.
It’s the polar opposite of the dense concrete jungle of Waikiki, and this mountainous region is not for the faint of heart.
While the area offers a selection of hiking trails, you need a permit to hike there.
Of the hiking trails, the Waimano Falls Trail is a popular one.
Most trails are rated as hard due to roots, steep sections, and tricky descents.
Along the way, you may encounter two local residents, the feral goat, and a pig.
National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific
A visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific makes a natural add-on to Pearl Harbor.
Located in Punchbowl Crater, it’s an easy 9-mile trip southeast of the military base.
The approach to the cemetery wows visitors with its boulevard flanked by cathedral trees.
The elevated lookout of the cemetery provides a peaceful resting place for fallen soldiers who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Around the pristine grounds, you can find unmarked graves of Pearl Harbor victims.
Around the crater’s rim and near the entrance, you’ll enjoy views of Honolulu, the Pacific Ocean, and Diamond Head in the distance.
Planning to visit Oahu’s gorgeous North Shore?
If so, you can’t miss a stop in charming Haleiwa!
Considered the heart of the North Shore, Haleiwa is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner while you’re visiting the North Shore beaches.
The North Shore is less built-up than other parts of Oahu, and Haleiwa is one of the few places with sit-down restaurants, shops, and boutiques.
This is also where you’ll find the rightfully famous Matsumoto Shave Ice .
The Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation, home to everyone’s favorite pineapples, is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to visit in Oahu.
That being said, it has a very dark history , and the Dole family is part of the reason the Hawaiian Kingdom was forcibly overthrown in the late 19th century.
While today’s version of The Dole Plantation is clearly still a fun place for families to stop en route to the North Shore, it’s best to keep its history in mind when deciding to visit.
If you do go, you’ll find attractions like the Pineapple Express train tour, which narrates the history of pineapples in Hawaii.
In addition to the famous pineapples, they grow other tropical fruits, too.
While Hawaii once thrived on sugar cane, it now produces mangoes, cacao (for making chocolate), taro, bananas, and coffee.
One of the highlights of the plantation is a garden maze with 2-1/2 miles of pathways.
After a hot trek through the maze, reward yourself with soft-serve Dole Whip, an island favorite.
Just off the Waimea Valley Road, a short walk (0.7 miles) through a botanical garden, leads to a picturesque waterfall.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination” is a fitting quote for this walk.
Giant ferns, lush lily pads, and colorful flora enhance the hike along the paved pathway.
At the end of the path, Waimea Falls cascades into a swimming hole.
So, remember to wear your bathing suit, and bring a towel!
Popular amongst locals and tourists, the waterfalls can vary depending on rainfall.
Plan to visit after a significant rainfall to enjoy it when it is heavily flowing.
Better known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea Beach usually attracts visitors for its turtles and surfing–in other words, for having two of the biggest attractions in Oahu, HI!
The winter months, particularly January, provide the most significant waves for experienced surfers.
If you’re new to surfing, the calmer waves of summertime might be more suitable.
Due to the wave action and riptides, it’s inadvisable to swim there.
Regards of when you visit, parking can be problematic as tourists come to watch the surfers and seek out turtle sightings.
For the best chance to see turtles, head to the far right of the beach.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles lie on the beach during the day, enjoying the midday sun.
It’s unlawful in Hawaii to approach, harass or touch a turtle.
So, volunteers generally stand by to police that onlookers abide by the rules, and roped areas keep tourists at a distance.
Despite the name, Shark’s Cove isn’t known for its sharks but for its snorkeling.
In fact, you won’t find any sharks there!
During the winter, the strong ocean waves might create hazardous conditions.
However, summer brings calmer currents to Shark’s Cove, ideal for snorkeling.
Unlike Hanauma Bay which charges a fee, you can swim at Sharks Cove for free.
The cove has two sections.
On the right, the depth varies from 15 to 20 feet. To its left, shallow tide pools are ideal for the non-swimmers.
Due to the sharp lava field, it’s advisable to wear water shoes to protect your feet.
Quick Tips for Visiting Oahu, Hawaii
Even though Oahu has more hotels and resorts than the other islands, don’t expect bargain prices when visiting the top attractions in Oahu.
Hotels and food (restaurants and grocery stores) command high prices.
By law, in Honolulu short-term rentals (such as Airbnb and VRBO), must be rented for no less than 90 days.
If it makes sense for your itinerary, to save money when staying in Waikiki, forego the rental car to save on the daily parking fee.
Hoping to drive to some of the more far-flung things to do on Oahu?
We recommend searching for rental cars through Discover Cars , which will allow to compare prices and inclusions with multiple companies.
If you plan to visit many of the best attractions in Oahu, consider purchasing a Go Oahu Card , which can save hundreds of dollars on admission.
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37 Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii (Fun, Couples, Free)
Even though the island of Oahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, it’s just as beautiful as the other islands, and there are so many good things to do in Oahu for every kind of traveler.
Some of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii include hikes , beaches, waterfalls, botanical gardens, water sports, wildlife sightings, and more.
There are also some less conventional things to do in Oahu island, like seeing lighthouses, visiting the Pear Harbor memorial, or touring the Jurassic Park film site.
I’ve been privileged to visit the Hawaiian islands many times (often for months at a time), so I’ve done a bunch of hiking, exploring, and sightseeing all over Oahu, including some of the most far flung corners of the island.
This travel guide is our complete list of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!
Contents hide Where To Stay In Oahu Oahu Hawaii: Areas Explained Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii 1. Hike The Trails 2. Visit The Pillboxes 3. See The Waterfalls 4. Climb The Stairway To Heaven 5. Climb A Volcano Crater 6. Visit The North Shore 7. Relax On The Beaches 8. Stroll A Botanical Garden 9. Try Shave Ice 10. See The Lighthouses 11. See The Wildlife 12. Take A Scenic Drive 13. Tour The Film Sites 14. Visit The Dole Plantation 15. See The Rainbows 16. Go Island Hopping 17. See The Landmarks 18. Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial 19. Enjoy The Viewpoints 20. See A Temple 21. Go Snorkeling 22. Take A Helicopter Tour 23. Go Whale Watching 24. Take A Gyroplane Flight 25. Try Watersports 26. Skydive In Paradise 27. Swim With Sharks 28. Go Cliff Jumping 29. Visit Tropical Farms 30. Watch The Sunrise 31. Watch The Sunset 32. Visit The Museums 33. Experience Hawaiian Culture 34. Eat Poké Bowls 35. See The Malls 36. Shop For Souvenirs 37. See The Rest Of Hawaii Map Of Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii How To Get Around Oahu Hawaii Oahu Hotels Best Tours In Oahu Hawaii More Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii
Where To Stay In Oahu
Oahu Hawaii: Areas Explained
Oahu is an oddly-shaped island, but it can be split into four main areas with their own sights and activities.
These main areas are:
- South. It’s the main tourist area, encompassing the city of Honolulu and Waikiki. It has the Honolulu International Airport (code: HNL) and many famous sites.
- North. This is the island’s beloved quiet side, although it’s still very popular with tourists. Go here for surfing, food trucks, beaches, and country vibes.
- East. Usually called the windward side, this area is home to Kailua and Jurassic Park (Kualoa Ranch), along with dramatic mountain views and some of the best beaches on the island.
- West. This may be the driest and least touristy side of the island, but it still has plenty of hidden gem hikes and white sand beaches.
Regardless of where you choose to stay and explore, there are lots of great things to do in Oahu Hawaii on all corners of the island!
Lanikai Beach — one of our favorites in Oahu!
Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii
1. hike the trails.
Oahu island has almost 300 documented hiking trails, featuring jagged green mountains, coastal views, jungles, and waterfalls.
Many of these hikes are easy and doable for all ages or fitness levels, although Oahu also has epic and dangerous hikes for the serious thrill seekers.
Some of the best hikes in Oahu include Ka’ena Point , Koko Head , and the Crouching Lion hike . Easy trails for families include Diamond Head and the Pu’u Ma’eli’eli hike.
Read More: Best Oahu Hikes
2. Visit The Pillboxes
During World War II, the U.S. military built concrete bunkers all around the island of Oahu as lookout posts for spotting enemy activity.
These bunkers, or ‘pillboxes’ as they’re called, usually have stunning views of the Oahu coastline and some of them are nicely perched for watching the sunrise or sunset.
The two most famous pillbox hikes in Hawaii are the Diamond Head Lookout and the Lanikai Pillbox Trail , although they can get a bit crowded. Visit some of the others (like the Ma’ili pink pillbox ) if you want to escape the crowds!
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
3. See The Waterfalls
There are dozens of nice waterfalls on Oahu island, and they can usually be reached with a short, easy hike through the jungle.
Don’t expect any giant Jurassic Park-style waterfalls like the ones on Kauai or the Big Island, but Oahu’s falls are still worth a visit.
It’s a fun change of scenery from the beach and mountains, and sometimes you can swim in the water too. Two of our favorite waterfall hikes are Maunawili Falls and Lulumahu Falls, which are both very scenic but require a bit of work to reach.
The most popular and family friendly waterfalls to visit in Oahu are Waimea Falls and Manoa Falls, although the latter one (Manoa) is a bit seasonal and it tends to dry up easily, so you’ll want to check the conditions before you go.
4. Climb The Stairway To Heaven
This hike is so amazing it deserves a special mention. It’s also epic, dangerous, and illegal. Still interested?
The infamous ‘Stairway to Heaven’ takes you to the top of the Ko’olau mountains via 3,922 metal stairs of pure adrenaline and doom. At some points, the stairway is almost vertical, clinging to the side of the steep mountain.
There’s an old World War II radio station at the top of the mountain, but the stairway has been closed since the 1980s, and fines of up to $1,000 have been given out to people caught climbing it. The area is even patrolled by security guards around the clock.
Still, thousands of people make the climb every year, and for good reason — it’s one of the most spectacular hikes on Earth!
Read More: Stairway To Heaven Hawaii
5. Climb A Volcano Crater
Another famous hike in Oahu that deserves a special mention is the Koko Crater Trail ! This one is an endurance test that takes you up 1,048 stairs on the steep slope of an extinct volcano crater.
The island of Oahu doesn’t have any active volcanoes with lava flows like the ones on the Big Island of Hawaii, but it does have several dormant volcano craters left over from ages past, and it’s fun to visit them even if it’s just for the novelty of walking on a volcano!
Many Hawaiian locals and tourists alike enjoy the Koko Head stairs for the good workout and calorie burn, and the sunrise and sunset are also known for being spectacular. It’s not a dangerous hike, but it’s a real fitness test and this slog may not be enjoyable for everyone. It’ll definitely make your legs sore the next day!
Two other extinct volcano craters you can climb in Oahu are Diamond Head and the Ka’au Crater. Diamond Head is family friendly and relatively easy, while Ka’au is long and difficult. Both are great!
What to do in Oahu — climb the extinct Koko Head volcano crater!
A hiker at the top of Koko Crater trail . Amazing views!
6. Visit The North Shore
The north shore of Oahu island is known for its fantastic sand and waves, snorkeling and sea turtle spotting, bargain food trucks, and overall laid back vibes.
To be fair, the north shore is no secret anymore, and there’s plenty of tourist traffic here, but it still manages to be one of the more quiet and undeveloped corners of Oahu island. Compared to Waikiki, it’s a totally different experience.
During the winter, the north shore is also known for having some of the biggest waves in the world, and it’s fun to watch the pro surfers riding the giant swells at the Banzai Pipeline.
Whether you’re a surfer, a snorkeler, or a family with kids, you should definitely check out the north shore at least once while visiting Oahu!
The north shore is still the ‘quiet side’ of Oahu Hawaii
7. Relax On The Beaches
There are so many white sand beaches in Oahu it’s hard to choose a few to highlight, but I’ll try.
On the windward side of the island, Lanikai Beach has powdery white sand and it’s ranked as one of the best beaches in the world.
On the north shore , two great choices are Laniakea Beach (where you can spot sea turtles) and Sunset Beach.
Even the touristy beaches at Ala Moana and Waikiki are pretty nice if you can handle the crowds. Regardless of which side of the island you decide to explore, you’re sure to encounter some fantastic beaches!
Read More: Best North Shore Oahu Beaches
Sunset Beach on the North Shore is known for this funky palm tree.
8. Stroll A Botanical Garden
The island of Oahu is home to a bunch of different botanical gardens — at least eight of them!
Aside from having thousands of interesting plant and tree species, these gardens are nice for taking a stroll or snapping photos, usually featuring their own ponds or waterfalls.
Arguably the best botanical garden in Oahu is Ho’omaluhia, which has walking paths that wrap around a koi pond, and stunning green mountain backdrops that are fit for Jurassic Park. It’s one of our favorite free activities in Oahu.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden — What To Do In Oahu Hawaii
- Lyon Arboretum — Located right outside Manoa Falls, this is a 194-acre tropical rainforest featuring 5,000 exotic plants, singing birds, and a self-guided hike.
- Wahiawa Botanical Garden — You can visit this one on the way to the Dole Plantation, or the north shore. It’s a 27-acre high elevation garden that’s free and underrated.
- Waimea Valley — A beautiful jungle valley on the north shore, and it also has a nice waterfall of its own.
9. Try Shave Ice
You can’t leave Oahu island without trying shave ice, the iconic frozen treat of Hawaii.
They have dozens of fun flavors like bubblegum, guava, lemon, and passion fruit, plus add-ons like ice cream, Azuki beans, and Mochi (Japanese rice balls).
You can find good shave ice shops in every corner of the island, but one of the best (and the most famous) is definitely Matsumoto’s Shave Ice , which is located on the North Shore .
This shop dates back to 1951, and they make some of the best shave ice we’ve had anywhere in Oahu Hawaii!
Here are some other good shave ice shops to check out:
- Island Vintage Shave Ice (Honolulu)
- Shimazu Shave Ice (Honolulu)
- Waiola Shave Ice (Honolulu)
- Banan (Honolulu, Waikiki, Kailua)
- Island Snow (Kailua)
Shave ice is always a fun treat in Hawaii
10. See The Lighthouses
Lighthouses may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of tropical islands, but Oahu is actually home to a number of them, including two very photogenic ones.
Makapuu is Oahu’s most famous lighthouse, and you can see it up close by hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, which is a family friendly hike on the southeast corner of the island.
The Diamond Head lighthouse is another good one. It’s not open to the public, but you can see it from the road nearby, or hike the Diamond Head crater for even better views from above.
If you want to get off the beaten path, check out the Barber’s Point Lighthouse , which is located directly on the beach in Kapolei, with a nice view of the sunset!
Aerial view of the Makapuu Lighthouse
11. See The Wildlife
Hawaii is home to several native wildlife species, including the chubby Hawaiian monk seals.
If you’re lucky, you can also spot whales, sea birds, turtles, and all kinds of colorful fish. Seeing this wildlife in its natural environment is definitely one of the best things to do in Oahu!
Remember to keep a healthy distance from wildlife, especially the seals and turtles. They’re endangered and highly protected, so you can get hefty penalties for being too close.
Here are a few great places to see wildlife in Oahu:
- Ka’ena Point — You’re practically guaranteed to see seals and Albatross birds here, plus occasional whales in the distance! This is a family friendly hike on the northwest corner of Oahu.
- Makapuu Lighthouse Trail — Hands down one of the best spots to see whales from the shore! This is a family friendly hike on the southeast corner of Oahu.
- Laniakea Beach — One of the best places to see turtles on the beach. They come here almost every day and like to lounge on the sand.
- Hanauma Bay — This nature preserve is Oahu’s most famous place to go snorkeling. You can see lots of colorful fish here, up close and personal. Great place to learn how to snorkel!
Hawaiian monk seal lounging on the beach
12. Take A Scenic Drive
The island of Oahu has a bunch of scenic roads where you can enjoy the landscape without even stepping out of your car.
A favorite is the coastal route from Waimanalo to Hawaii Kai, driving along the Kalanianaʻole highway as it travels the southeast coastline and circles the Koko Head Crater .
Another good one is the drive from Kaneohe to the North Shore, which gives you stellar views of the green Ko’olau mountains and the windward coastline.
Last, but not least, the North Shore is always good for a scenic drive. This stretch of the Kamehameha highway, from Laie to Haleiwa, is covered with good beaches!
Drive the scenic Kalanianaʻole highway!
13. Tour The Film Sites
The original Jurassic Park movie was filmed in Oahu, and many other blockbusters have since made use of the island’s tropical scenery and beaches.
That includes popular Hollywood hits such as King Kong, Jumanji, The Hunger Games, Godzilla, and the Jurassic Park sequels, which all had scenes filmed in Oahu.
The most popular filming location in Hawaii is Kualoa Ranch, where they sell tours of all the film sites, as well as other fun activities like four wheeling and zip lining.
Book Now: Hollywood Movie Sites Tour
The Jurassic Park film site at Kualoa Ranch
14. Visit The Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is a fun, free place to see on your way to the North Shore of Oahu island.
Sure, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but I think it’s still worth at least one visit for the souvenirs, history, and ‘Dole whip’ ice cream (pineapple soft serve).
They also have a pineapple shaped garden maze (billed as the world’s largest) and lots of other fun activities for families.
15. See The Rainbows
The Hawaii state license plate features a rainbow, and there’s a good reason for that. These islands are loaded with rainbows. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rainbows in any other place on Earth!
There was even a 2021 study by Dr. Steven Businger that found Hawaii is the ‘rainbow capital of the world’ and has perfect conditions for rainbow sightings because of its latitude, trade winds, sunlight, and other weather conditions.
Can’t beat the Hawaiian rainbows!
16. Go Island Hopping
One of the best things to do in Oahu is island hopping to the nearby small islands and sandbars, particularly on the windward side.
For a real adventure, kayak Chinamans Hat and climb to the top of the rock! Alternatively, head over to the Kailua area and kayak out to the Mokulua islands, which are the little twin islands you can see from Lanikai Beach.
Or, if you fancy relaxing on a sandbar, there’s a big one near the coast of Kaneohe that can be reached by kayak, standup paddleboard, or a boat tour.
Why kayak to the Chinaman’s Hat island ? Because you can get amazing views like this!
17. See The Landmarks
It’s worth spending a half day exploring Honolulu city and seeing the popular landmarks.
Two city landmarks that stand out are the King Kamehameha Statue, dedicated to the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the Iolani Palace, which was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs.
The Waikiki Trolley is a great way to get around town and see some of the sights. You can buy a trolley pass online .
Natural landmarks in Oahu are too many to list, but they include such gems as Diamond Head , Koko Head , Hanauma Bay, and Chinamans Hat Island (also known as Mokolii Island ).
Book Now: Honolulu City Tour
18. Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial
The Pearl Harbor Memorial is dedicated to the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which killed over 2,400 Americans and marked the U.S. entering World War II.
This memorial and museum is a short distance from Waikiki and it’s open to the public seven days a week. The visitor center, two museums, and USS Arizona program are free for all visitors, but a guide is still helpful for explaining everything.
The highlight of this experience for me was touring the deck of the USS Missouri battleship, which is where the emperor of Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. Aside from the history, the ship is also an impressive piece of hardware.
Book Now: Pearl Harbor Tour
19. Enjoy The Viewpoints
If you’re in the mood for scenery but don’t feel like hiking, check out some of the scenic viewpoints in Oahu!
Here are a few top recommendations:
- Tantalus Lookout — Relaxing hilltop near Honolulu with stunning views of the city, rainbows, and the Diamond Head crater. Also good for sunset.
- Nuuanu Pali Lookout — This is a popular viewpoint on the Pali highway, and it has panoramic views of the whole windward side of Oahu island. It’s also a historic landmark known for the Battle of Nuuanu in 1795, where King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule and hundreds of warriors were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.
- Halona Blowhole Lookout — Also known as Eternity Cove, this is a popular coastal spot near Koko Head where you can see an active blowhole shooting out water. It also has Halona Beach, one of the nicest beaches on Oahu.
Halona Beach Cove
If you want to see even more viewpoints in Oahu, here are a few extra recommendations:
- Makapuu Lookout — Not to be confused with the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail (which requires hiking), this is a nearby pulloff spot where you can park and get similar views of the Makapuu coastline without doing any hiking.
- Lanai Lookout — Another coastal lookout by Koko Head, with panoramic views of the ocean and cliffs. Also good for sunrise.
- Punchbowl Lookout — Small hill with scenic views of Honolulu city. This one is located inside of the Punchbowl Crater, so it requires a bit of walking to reach.
- Laie Point — This is a remote, lesser known viewpoint with neat rock formations on the northeast corner of Oahu. It’s a good place to stop while driving from Kaneohe to the North Shore, or vice versa.
All of the scenic viewpoints listed above can be reached by car. No hiking needed!
20. See A Temple
Tucked in the hills of Kaneohe is a photogenic Buddhist temple called Byodo-In, and it’s open to tourists seven days a week.
Interestingly, it’s a true to life replica of a real Japanese temple by the same name , which can be seen near Kyoto, Japan.
The original Byodo-in Temple in Japan was built in the 11th century, while the one in Oahu was built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants coming to Hawaii.
It’s a very photogenic temple with a reflective pond, small waterfalls, Japanese landscaped gardens, an 18-foot tall Buddha statue, a giant brass peace bell, and schools of koi fish for the kids to feed.
The photogenic Byodo-in Temple
21. Go Snorkeling
Hawaii’s most famous snorkeling spot is Hanauma Bay, which is home to about 400 species of fish in its turquoise waters.
Hanauma is a great place to learn how to snorkel because the entire bay is covered by a coral reef, making the water relatively gentle and shallow. You can see all kinds of colorful fish, sea turtles, eels, and more here.
I learned how to snorkel for the first time at Hanauma Bay, and it was such a fun experience! Being up close and personal with the fish is just amazing.
Book Now: Oahu Snorkeling Tour
22. Take A Helicopter Tour
If you really want to shell out some money and splurge on something special in Hawaii, nothing beats a scenic helicopter tour !
The island of Oahu is even more beautiful from above, and you can fly over some of its most famous landmarks, like Diamond Head, Makapuu Lighthouse, Chinaman’s Hat, and Sacred Falls.
These helicopter tours are normally available with the doors on, but they can also take the doors off for more thrills and better photography. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Oahu!
Book Now: Oahu Helicopter Tour
23. Go Whale Watching
The whale watching season in Oahu generally runs from December to May, as this is when the whales like to come to the warm waters of Hawaii to breed and give birth.
You can sometimes see whales with the naked eye from shore, but the best way to get a good look is with a whale watching tour or boat charter.
Whale sightings are almost guaranteed if you come in the right season, and it’s an amazing experience!
Book Now: Whale Watching Tour
24. Take A Gyroplane Flight
If you want to experience one of the newest and most unique activities in Hawaii, check out the gyrocopter flights offered by Skyland Air !
In their 30 minute introductory flight lessons, you can take to the skies with an experienced pilot, soaring over the North Shore of Oahu while an onboard camera records your entire adventure. Think of it like flying in a helicopter, except with an open cockpit so you have even better views of the island scenery.
You can find out more about the gyro flights and how to book them on Skyland Air’s website here .
Gyro flight is a unique way to see Oahu island (photo courtesy of © Skyland Air )
25. Try Watersports
The Honolulu area is popular for watersports, and you can rent jet skis, banana boats, wakeboards, parasails, and more.
Me and a friend did the jet skiing one time and had a blast. Some of these companies also have photography services, so they can take pictures of you having fun on the water.
On the windward side of the island, Kailua is great for kayaking and standup paddle boarding. There are a bunch of companies offering kayak rentals for a half day or full day.
26. Skydive In Paradise
Skydiving is a once in a lifetime experience that many people have on their bucket list, and what better place to do it than in paradise?
Oahu has two reputable skydiving companies, Pacific Skydiving and Skydive Hawaii , which are both based on the North Shore, and they can provide pictures and videos of your jump.
I did a 14,000 foot tandem jump with Skydive Hawaii several years ago, and it was an amazing experience. Bucket list stuff, for sure!
27. Swim With Sharks
If you want a unique thrill in Hawaii, you can dive with sharks on the North Shore!
The most popular shark diving tours have a metal cage for protection, and you can get up close with sandbar sharks, galapagos sharks, and hammerheads. It’s snorkeling, not scuba diving, so you don’t need any certification (although swimming experience helps).
Some of these companies also have cageless shark diving, where you can swim freely with sharks. I did this with One Ocean Diving and it was awesome.
Obviously there are no safety guarantees in the ocean, but their website points out that they’ve “taken hundreds of thousands of people out in the ocean with zero incidents for over twenty years.”
Book Now: Shark Diving Tour
28. Go Cliff Jumping
Cliff jumping can be a fun adrenaline rush, and the island of Oahu has no shortage of great cliff jumping spots, including some places near Honolulu.
Two local favorites that stand out are China Walls (near Hawaii Kai) and the big jumping rock at Waimea Bay (on the North Shore). Alternatively, for a good waterfall with a natural pool to jump into, you can check out Maunawili Falls!
Of course, this kind of activity comes with some risks and responsibilities. Go with a friend, know your limits, and always double check the conditions before you leap.
China Walls is a popular cliff jumping spot in Oahu Hawaii
29. Visit Tropical Farms
There’s a little store in windward Oahu called Tropical Farms , and they sell coffee, chocolate, and macadamia nuts.
This is a family owned business that’s been in operation for 30 years, and their store is located near the Kualoa Beach Park.
The main reason to come here is for the macadamia nuts, which are delicious. We love the Kona coffee flavored mac nuts.
They have free samples of every flavor, so you can do a taste test before you buy!
Coffee beans at the Tropical Farms store
30. Watch The Sunrise
A tropical sunrise is hard to beat, and there are plenty of good sunrise watching spots on the windward (east facing) side of Oahu island.
Some of our favorites include the Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike , Lanikai Beach, Kualoa Beach Park, and pretty much any east facing beach.
Book Now: Oahu Sunrise + Photography Tour
Sunrise in Oahu
Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike
31. Watch The Sunset
For every sunrise there’s a sunset, and Oahu has lots of great places to see it.
Pretty much any west facing beach on Oahu island has a good view of the sunset, so pick one and enjoy the photo ops! Some of our favorites include Ka’ena Point , Ala Moana Beach Park, and any of the North Shore beaches (especially Sunset Beach).
Better yet, you can book a sunset catamaran cruise and watch the sun dip below the horizon as you take in Hawaii’s beautiful coastline!
Book Now: Waikiki Sunset Cruise
32. Visit The Museums
For a slow day in Oahu, visiting a museum can be a great way to learn about the art and history of the island.
Here are some great museums to check out in Oahu:
- Bishop Museum — The biggest museum in the state of Hawaii. It has lots of authentic Hawaiian artifacts, and all kinds of information on the history, culture, plants, and animals of the Hawaiian islands. There’s no better museum for learning about Hawaii.
- Honolulu Museum of Art — A collection of fine art from Asia, Hawaii, and some famous international artists like van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. You can also get an add-on ticket to visit Shangri-La, Doris Duke’s estate.
- US Army Museum of Hawaii — This is a military museum where you can see tanks, helicopters, small arms, and more. There’s also a lot of historical info. Admission is free!
- Tropic Lightning Museum — A true hidden gem for people who enjoy military history. This museum is part of the Schofield Barracks in central Oahu, but civilians can still visit with a temporary base pass.
- Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum — You can see World War II fighter planes here, including a rare and authentic Japanese Zero. This museum is located off-site from the main Pearl Harbor visitor center, but you can reach it with a shuttle bus that runs regularly throughout the day.
The Bishop Museum is a great place to learn about Hawaiian history, culture, plants, and animals (© Wikimedia / Daniel Ramirez )
33. Experience Hawaiian Culture
One of the most popular ways for tourists to experience Hawaiian culture is by attending a luau (pronounced ‘loo-au’), which is a traditional feast with music, lei flower necklaces, and hula dancing.
If you want to take it a step farther, you can also make a visit to the family friendly Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, which is located on the northern windward corner of Oahu island. Here, they have luau buffet dinners, live shows, canoe rides, arts and craft displays, and more.
We haven’t been to the 42-acre Polynesian Cultural Center yet, but it gets rave reviews and they’ve won a lot of awards, including the Kahili award for ‘Most Authentic Luau’ in Oahu island.
Book Now: Oahu Luau Feast & Show
34. Eat Poké Bowls
Poké (pronounced ‘poh-kay’) is a classic Hawaiian dish with cubed raw fish meat, usually served in a bowl with other ingredients like rice and veggies. The most common type of meat is tuna, but you can also find octopus poké.
Even though raw fish may not sound appetizing or healthy at first, you may be surprised by poké! It’s quite safe to eat, and it has plenty of protein. I was apprehensive of poké when I first tried it, but after eating one or two bowls I became a fan.
You can find poké shops all over Waikiki and Honolulu, and it’s even sold at Foodland supermarkets in Oahu! Give it a try!
Poké bowls are a classic Hawaiian dish ( © Wikimedia )
35. See The Malls
Oahu has a bunch of good malls to choose from in the Honolulu area. Here are the main choices:
- Ala Moana Center — Biggest mall in Hawaii, with more than 350 shops and restaurants.
- International Market Place — A mall in Waikiki with more than 90 stores.
- Royal Hawaiian Center — Another mall in Waikiki with 110 stores and 30 restaurants.
- Kahala Mall — A shopping center in eastern Honolulu with 100 shops and restaurants.
- Pearlridge Center — Big mall in Aiea with more than 170 shops and eating places.
Some of these malls also have weekly live performances from hula dancers or local Hawaiian artists, which can be fun if you’re looking for free things to do near Honolulu and Waikiki!
The Honolulu area has a bunch of nice malls, including the Ala Moana Center. (© Wikimedia / Daniel Ramirez modified)
36. Shop For Souvenirs
Of course you can’t leave Oahu without grabbing some souvenirs for friends (or for yourself), and there are lots of places to do it.
The main place to shop for souvenirs in Oahu is at one of the many ABC Stores. This is a chain with lots of locations all over Waikiki and the Ala Moana area, near Honolulu.
These souvenir shops have a wide assortment of the usual gifts like Hawaii keychains, flower leis, stickers, postcards, fridge magnets, games, etc.
If you’re wanting a more unique souvenir from Hawaii, you could pick up a dashboard hula girl, some Kona coffee, or a dirt shirt. The dirt shirts are stained with bright red dirt from the Hawaiian soil, giving them a nice earth color.
Don’t forget to bring some souvenirs home from Hawaii
37. See The Rest Of Hawaii
When you’ve finally exhausted all of the fun things to do on Oahu, you’ve still only scratched the surface of Hawaii!
The other Hawaiian islands like Kauai, Mauai, and the Big Island are loaded with nice scenery, beaches, waterfalls, hikes, and all kinds of other fun things to do for couples, families, and solo travelers alike.
If you like Oahu, then you’re sure to love the other islands too. Inter-island travel is pretty easy in Hawaii, with flights taking less than 1 hour and ticket prices sometimes as low as $50 USD one way. You can shop for Hawaii flights at Skyscanner.
Enjoy and happy travels!
Map Of Best Things To Do In Oahu Hawaii
Here’s a fun map of some of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii, including hikes, beaches, waterfalls, botanical gardens, shave ice shops, scenic viewpoints, and cultural attractions.
You can click the icons on the map to get more info on each point of interest, but keep in mind some of the locations on this map may be approximate.
For more detailed information on how to find the exact locations of each of these attractions in Oahu, you can check out my individual travel guides for each place.
How To Get Around Oahu Hawaii
The best way to get around Oahu Hawaii is to rent a car and self drive, or take the bus . Either of these work well. Or, if you’re someone who likes to stay in one place (like Waikiki), then you may not need transportation at all! You can take a taxi from the airport and then book day tours to see more of the island.
Having a rental car is more flexible and efficient than the bus, although the latter is cheaper and sometimes more fun and convenient than driving. You can reach almost any corner of Oahu island by bus, but it’s quite a bit slower and sometimes requires a bit of walking.
Overall, whether you use a car or the bus just depends on your travel style and how long you’re staying in Oahu island. A rental car is great to have if it fits in your budget, but you can also use the bus to reach many of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!
Book Now: Rental Cars In Oahu
Best tours in oahu hawaii, more things to do in oahu hawaii.
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this travel guide and list of some of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!
We’ve only scratched the surface here, and the list is always growing as we explore every corner of this wonderful island, and continue to experience more of what to do in Oahu.
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out my complete Oahu Hiking Guide for more tips, info, and photos of the best hikes and other things to do in Oahu Hawaii!
- Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii – Most Epic & Beautiful Hiking Trails
- Best North Shore Beaches In Oahu Hawaii
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Top 10 Oahu Attractions
There are literally hundreds of Oahu attractions on this 600 sq mile island, competing for your attention. From 112 miles of beautiful coastline filled with pristine and rugged Oahu beaches, to stunning waterfalls, to exotic local food and boundless cultural activities. I hope you have a long vacation to discover it all. But if you don’t have that kind of extended vacation time, like most of us, here are the top 10 attractions that should be at the top of your list!
Discover Best Oahu Attractions
Without further ado, here the top 10 most popular attractions on Oahu!
10. Climbing Diamond Head
Diamond Head is probably the most iconic landmark you will see on Oahu. Even British sailors in the 1800’s were impressed with its presence, and scaled the mountain in search of diamonds…which were never found!
Today you can easily travel into the center of the crater, and climb up to the 760 foot summit. It’s a great way to start your morning, and the views are amazing! Read more…
9. Discovering the North Shore
If you don’t make it to the North Shore of Oahu, you will miss a good chunk of all Oahu attractions.
From visiting some of the notorious big wave beaches in the world to taking a stroll in old town Haleiwa, there is lots to choose from! I personally enjoy the drive through the country side, and taking it all in! Make sure to stop at the shrimp farms and get a good fill of garlic shrimp located around the north shore tip in Kahuku! Read more…
8. Spending a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, or maybe you would like to visit the Marquesas Islands? You get a chance to experience it all here at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
There are 7 different villages you can explore representing different regions of the South Pacific. Give yourself a full day to watch many of the entertaining shows, paddle in an ancient style canoe, participate in educating activities, and celebrate with a grand luau! Read more…
7. Explore Waikiki
Waikiki seems like an obvious Oahu attraction, but there is good reason why over a million visitors flock to this city each year…and the number continues to grow!
The skyline is continuously changing with new grand hotels, shops, roof top bars, and some of the best culinary experiences to indulging in! Even the iconic International Market Place has recently taken a new transformation that incorporated Saks Fifth Ave. Add 2 miles of beautiful beach real estate to play on, and you can start to see how Waikiki makes the list! Read more…
6. Hiking up to Waimea Falls
There are not many waterfalls on Oahu that you can easy access without hiking through brush and getting a little muddy, but there is one Hawaiian waterfall that is quite pleasant to stroll up to and that is Waimea Falls.
It’s located in the back of Waimea Valley, and surrounded by some beautiful botanical gardens. Reach the 15 ft waterfall and you’ll find a nice size pool of water that you can swim in as well. Read more…
5. Learning how to Surf
You’ll see and hear the rolling waves off Waikiki’s coast calling out to you, and there’s no better feeling than paddling out to the breakers and catching a wave back to shore!
Learning how to surf is like a rite of passage as a visitor. There are usually gentle waves to be found on any given day, before you turn pro and paddle out to the monster surf! It’s easy to sign up and find surfing schools along Waikiki Beach, and handful in the North Shore as well. Most offer a guarantee that you will stand up the first day! Read more…
4. Snorkeling Hanauma Bay
With over 300 different species of fish and marine life, it’s no wonder why Hanauma Bay is so popular.
Only 3000 visitors are allowed to visit the marine sanctuary each day. More than 10,000 tourist used to folk this bay each day, before larger steps were taken to protect the reef and marine life.
It’s a privilege to snorkel Hanauma Bay, and literally be surrounded be so many different species of fish. It is sort of like swimming in a human size aquarium! Read more…
3. Enjoying a Hawaiian Shave Ice
What trip to Oahu or Hawaii for that matter is not complete without getting yourself a Hawaiian Shave Ice!
Most associate it with a trip to the North Shore, and dropping into famous Matsumoto’s Shave Ice for a cool treat on a hot day.
Today the competition is fierce, and Hawaiian shave ice establishments are stepping up their game with new flavors, toppings, and refining the ice itself. Check out some of the best Hawaiian Shave Ice establishments on the island…
2. Trip to Pearl Harbor
With 1.8 million visitors each year , it’s no wonder that Pearl Harbor is one of Oahu’s main attractions!
The ghostly presence of the Arizona Memorial is what draws the crowds, but Pearl Harbor offers so much more, and is almost impossible to see it all in one visit!
The World War II USS Bowfin Submarine & USS Battleship Missouri are permanently anchored in the bay and worth climbing aboard. And the Pacific Aviation Museum is also an experience you won’t forget! Book a trip to Pearl Harbor…
1. Attending an Evening Luau
And the #1 Oahu attraction that visitors look forward to is attending an evening Hawaiian luau!
With mai tais in hand, live entertainment on stage, and a grand buffet of food lined up, it’s easy to see why everyone gets excited for these ongoing parties that take place in multiple locations each night!
The Hawaiian Luau is a grand production in the making with so many components. You can feel the magic begin as the tiki torches are lit and the conch shells are blown. Reserve your seat…
The Waikiki Trolley visits many of the featured Oahu Attractions . There are 4 different routes to explore including: Scenic Tour, Historic Tour, Shopping Tour, and the Island Tour. Tickets start around $9 for a child day pass, and go up to $25 - $49 for an Adult 7 day pass.
Purchase your pass now
Noteworthy Honolulu Attractions
Also check out noteworthy Honolulu attractions that are located both in or not too far outside Waikiki. There is so much you can explore right here in town!
Don't miss popular attractions such as the Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, and Waikiki Aquarium! Explore more...
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Top 10 Attractions
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19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hawaii
Written by Lana Law and Lura Seavey Updated May 11, 2023
Author Meagan Drillinger traveled throughout Hawaii in January of 2023 while on assignment for PlanetWare.
Hawaii's tropical climate and laid-back Pacific Island atmosphere are just part of what makes the state so special. Occupying the tops of massive volcanic mountaintops jutting from the sea, these islands have a diverse and beautiful landscape that varies from the stark lunar surface of the Kilauea volcano to lush green forests filled with exotic flowers.
Waterfalls stream down the mountainsides like tears on the dramatic Na Pali coast, while ancient rivers have carved deep into the rock of Kauai to create the Waimea Canyon. The Big Island is home to an active volcano, and Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor and its rich history.
Surrounding them all, the mighty Pacific is home to a plethora of ocean life, providing endless opportunities to snorkel, scuba dive, surf, or simply go for a swim after sunbathing. Perhaps the most special part of the islands, however, are its people, whose welcoming attitude makes you truly feel like you are in paradise.
Discover the islands and the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions in Hawaii.
1. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu
2. na pali coast state wilderness park, kauai, 3. volcanoes national park, hawaii, 4. haleakala national park, maui, 5. waikiki beach and diamond head state monument, oahu, 6. halawa valley, molokai, 7. waipio valley lookout, hawaii, 8. polynesian cultural center, oahu, 9. mauna kea, hawaii, 10. kauai's botanical gardens, 11. waimea canyon state park, kauai, 12. hana road, maui, 13. papohaku beach park, molokai, 14. maui ocean center, maui, 15. kona coffee living history farm, hawaii, 16. wailua falls, kauai, 17. hanauma bay nature preserve, oahu, 18. iao valley state monument, maui, 19. hamakua heritage corridor, hawaii, map of tourist attractions in hawaii, best time to visit hawaii.
Highlights : One of the most historically significant landmarks in America, and one of the top visited war memorials in the world
Pearl Harbor is a National Historic Landmark and active military base that earned its place in history for the 1941 attack, which killed 1,177 servicemen on the USS Arizona. The site is now home to several attractions that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument , including the USS Arizona Memorial , which floats above the remains of the sunken ship — parts of which can be seen protruding from the water. There is no cost for a tour of the memorial; however, reservations are recommended due to its popularity.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center has free admission and is the meeting place for tours, including transportation to the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island , where visitors can see WWII aircraft and artifacts, as well as experience landing an airplane on an aircraft carrier in a flight simulator.
Other attractions at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial include the USS Oklahoma , USS Utah , and the Battleship USS Missouri whose deck can be toured by visitors .
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Honolulu
Highlights : The most awe-inspiring landscape on the island of Kauai, complete with lush valleys, hiking trails, and waterfalls
The Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on the island of Kauai contains some of the world's most dramatic landscapes. These were made famous in the film Jurassic Park, which shows a dramatic coastline with cliffs that seem to ripple, and the "Wall of Tears" on Mount Waialeale, named for the way in which hundreds of waterfalls weep from the slopes of the mountain.
Some of the best ways to take in the scene are to approach by water or to take a helicopter tour to view the simply breathtaking sight from above. Expert hikers can try the Kalalau Trail , an eleven-mile trek, which traverses five valleys and takes a full day each way.
Highlights : Still-active, bubbling volcanoes; steaming calderas; and millennia-old lava tubes
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park offers a unique, close-up look at an active volcano system where lava seeps from fissures in the earth. The surrounding landscape is shaped by cooled lava rock, both old and new, which has flowed over roads in a display of its unstoppable force.
The park's centerpiece, Kilauea , has been active in recent years, including an eruption in January 2021 that formed a lava lake. Visitors should be aware that portions of the park are closed during periods of seismic activity that might pose a threat.
The park has many things to see and do, including the Thurston Lava Tube , Devastation Trail, and the steaming Halema'uma'u crater. During the area's most active periods, tourists have the chance of experiencing the thrill of feeling seismic activity, hearing the boom of gas emissions, or even seeing a pillar of ash escaping into the air.
Address: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii National Park, Hawaii
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts on the Big Island of Hawaii
- Read More: Exploring the Top Attractions of Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park
Highlights : A magnificent drive up 10,000 feet leads to sweeping Maui views and a spectacular bird's-eye look at the ancient crater
Located on Maui, Haleakala National Park offers access to the inactive Haleakala Volcano, which stands at over 10,000 feet. Views from the summit stretch across the entire island and are particularly beautiful at sunrise.
The dormant crater is exposed, showing a lunar-like landscape, while other areas of the park are covered in subtropical rainforests, which are home to endangered species. Visitors can explore the many hiking trails freely or sign up for guided ranger-led tours, and the more adventurous can spend the night in the park, surrounded by one of Hawaii's most impressive landscapes.
Highlights : Fabulous resorts and restaurants, and some of the most famous beachfront in the Hawaiian islands
Waikiki, with its beautiful stretch of oceanfront beach, is Hawaii's biggest tourist attraction. A suburb of Honolulu, Waikiki is popular for its big resorts, dining, entertainment, and shopping.
The Waikiki Historic Trail includes historic markers made of surfboards, inspired by Waikiki's own Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer and avid surfer.
The boardwalk, known as the Waikiki Beach Walk , is lined with cafes and entertainment venues, while Kuhio and Kalakaua Avenues are where the bulk of the area's restaurants and boutiques can be found.
Diamond Head State Monument sits at the end of the crescent-shaped beach, creating a distinctive profile on the coastline. It was once an important vantage point for the island's coastal defense, and a steep hike to the top brings you to the old bunkers and artillery control station and rewards your efforts with panoramic views.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Honolulu
- Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Waikiki
- Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Honolulu
Highlights : Lush tropical rainforest, waterfalls, hiking trails, and very little human influence
The island of Molokai's Halawa Valley is widely considered the oldest settlement in Hawaii, with a small population still inhabiting the area despite widespread damage to the village from a tsunami in the 1940s. The valley is full of lush tropical rainforests punctuated by a dramatic landscape and cascading waterfalls, virtually untouched by humans.
The best way to see the valley is on a tour led by father-and-son team Philip and Greg Solatorio, one of the few families that still call the Halawa Valley home. In addition to a guided hike to Mo'oula Falls , visitors will learn about the region's unique history and traditional Hawaiian culture.
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do on Molokai, Hawaii
Highlights : Spectacular views over a historic valley, veined with hiking and horseback riding trails
One of the most scenic spots on the Big Island of Hawaii is the lookout over Waipio Valley. Surrounded by lush cliff walls, the fertile valley opens out to the ocean, where the black-sand beach is met with white waves and blue water.
Hiking in Waipio Valley is considered some of the best in the state, and many of the trails are suitable for beginners. For an extra special experience, local guides provide horseback riding tours of the valley, allowing you to enjoy the sights from a different perspective.
Highlights : Music, dance, and demonstrations that shed light on Polynesian history and culture across the islands
Located on Oahu, less than an hour's drive from Honolulu, is the Polynesian Cultural Center. Through music, dance, craft demonstrations, and games, the center portrays the culture and daily life of the Polynesian islanders in Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji, as well as that of the Maoris in New Zealand.
The center is divided into sections representing each of these locations. Many of the performers come from the islands that they represent, providing a high degree of authenticity. Visitors can tour the facility during the day or see a show in the evening.
Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Oahu, Hawaii
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts on Oahu
Highlights : Epic views, hiking trails, and astronomy lessons from the top of the highest mountain in Hawaii
The highest mountain in Hawaii, Mauna Kea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a world away from the tropical paradise below. The summit, which can only be reached in a 4WD vehicle, is often very cold, with snow in the winter months.
The Mauna Kea Observatory is an active research facility, which welcomes tourists during daylight hours. Only expert hikers should attempt a climb to the summit on the six-mile trail, which rises to an altitude of 13,800 feet from the Visitor Information Station .
Evening stargazing programs, held at the visitor center, which sits at around 9,200 feet, are popular with tourists and locals alike.
Highlights : Fruit trees, palm groves, exotic flowers, and medicinal plants
Kauai's nickname of the "Garden Isle" is well-deserved thanks to its natural abundance of lush greenery and diverse flora. In addition to the acres of wilderness, Kauai is home to many excellent botanic gardens that showcase the island's long history as a haven for rare and stunning plants.
The most dramatic of Kauai's botanic areas is Allerton Garden , known not only for its stunning flowers but also its wide variety of palm and fruit trees. Its most recognizable areas are the fig trees, whose partially exposed roots create dramatic scenes that have been featured in films like Jurassic Park . Visitors can also book a tour that includes nearby McBryde Garden ; allow at least three hours to fully explore.
The Princeville Botanical Gardens is a family-operated facility, which grows a wide variety of exotic flowers, medicinal plants, and food-bearing plants. Enjoy the gardens via guided tours and learn about the plants while seeing cacao trees, stunning flora, and working beehives. Tours also include a sampling of both raw and processed cacao, as well as honey made from the nectar of tropical flowers.
Nearby in Kilauea, the Na 'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park features 260 acres filled with vibrant flowers, lush greenery, and an open-air sculpture gallery. Also on the north shore, near Hanalei, Limahuli Garden & Preserve has 17 of its 1,000-acre preserve open to the public. The gardens feature hundreds of endangered plant and bird species, and visitors can learn about the ancient techniques that staff use to maintain the delicate ecosystem.
Highlights : "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" has miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, and dramatic views
Waimea Canyon, located on the west side of the island of Kauai, is often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." The canyon stretches over ten miles long, reaches depths of 3,600 feet, and is a mile wide at some points. This dramatic spectacle can be viewed best from the two main lookouts, Puu ka Pele and Puu Hinahina.
The canyon's landscape features rock strata in varying colors and several stunning waterfalls. Guided tours along the many challenging hiking trails and rafting tours that explore the river below are available, and there are additional trails for all skill levels at the nearby Kokee State Park.
Address: Waimea Canyon Drive, Uninc Kauai County, Hawaii
Highlights : Fifty-two miles of jungle switchbacks, beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and waterfalls
The dramatic Hana Road, officially named Hana Highway, is a scenic 52-mile stretch of highway on the island of Maui that winds from Pāʻia through lush forests and along the coast to the remote town of Hana. This trip is worthwhile for the sightseeing along the stunning drive, the things to do along the way, and the visit to the town itself. Attractions along the route include numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and beaches.
Hana's location, relatively cut off from the rest of the island, has allowed it to maintain more of a traditional Hawaiian culture than other towns.
Highlights : Three miles of white-sand beach and few other people
On Hawaii's main islands, it can be nearly impossible to find a stretch of sandy beach that doesn't have other sunbathers, swimmers, and water sports aficionados. But on Molokai, seclusion-seekers can have it all to themselves at Papohaku Beach: a three-mile swath of white sand 100 yards wide that rarely has more than a handful of people on the entire beach.
The beach covers over 10 acres on the western end of the island, and visitors can find facilities at Papohaku Beach Park on the northern end of the beach. There are no lifeguards, but visitors will find restrooms, showers, and picnic sites for public use.
Those who will be swimming or playing in the water should be cautious and pay attention to signage and current conditions. Also, avoid the water in the winter months when it can be dangerous.
Highlights : A 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit, an underwater tunnel, and 40 species of Pacific coral
The Maui Ocean Center allows visitors a chance to see close up what lies beneath the ocean's surface and learn about the unique marine life and ecosystems that surround Hawaii.
The aquarium's centerpiece is the massive Living Reef, which is home to more than 40 Pacific coral species and thousands of fish. The 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit gives visitors the chance to walk through an underwater tunnel, surrounded by ocean life including sharks, stingrays, and other marine animals.
The center's Turtle Lagoon is another popular spot, and behind-the-scenes turtle-feeding encounters can be booked.
Address: 192 Ma'alaea Road, Wailuku, Hawaii
Highlights : An immersive experience on the history of coffee, with tastings, traditional performances, and tours
The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the only living history farm in the nation that is dedicated to the history and traditions of coffee farming. Costumed interpreters can be found throughout the grounds, going about daily tasks, from food preparation to farming chores, always happy to answer questions.
You are free to explore the plantation, which still produces coffee, where you might even spot a Kona Nightingale. You can also find tours of modern Kona coffee producers, including plantation tours at Hula Daddy and roasting facility tours at Mountain Thunder Plantation.
Location: Captain Cook, Hawaii
Highlights : A double waterfall plunging 80 feet down the rock face into a pool below
This stunning waterfall is Kauai's most famous, once featured in the opening scenes of the TV show Fantasy Island . Located on the eastern side of the island, this section of the Wailua River plunges dramatically in twin cascades down an 80-foot cliff before pooling and then running to the sea. Morning is the best time to visit the falls, often rewarding early risers with rainbows in the mist from the sun's fresh rays.
Another thing that makes Wailua Falls such a popular tourist attraction is that it can be seen easily from the side of the road, so even tourists with mobility limitations can fully enjoy its beauty.
Visitors can also choose to take a short hike to the base of the falls to admire it from below. The viewing spot is located at the end of Road 583 (Maalo Road), which is reached via Road 560 from Lihue or Hanamaulu.
Highlights : A protected marine area with a gorgeous beach and the best snorkeling near Honolulu
Formed within the crater of a volcano on the island of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a unique protected bay, which has been popular with snorkelers for a long time. After overuse caused pollution and damage to the delicate reef ecosystem, restoration efforts have restored the bay to its original splendor, and it is again open to visitors.
The Hanauma Bay Education Center is a great place to visit to learn about the bay, and there are several snorkeling rental shops that offer lessons so that visitors can see the breathtaking reef system and its inhabitants up close.
At one time, feeding the tropical fish frozen peas was a touristy thing to do; this practice is no longer allowed. Also, to safeguard the area for future generations, all first-time visitors are required to watch a nine-minute video on marine life, safety rules, and preservation.
Equipment rentals, including life jackets and snorkeling gear, are available at the kiosk in the park. Securing a spot in the pay parking lot can be tricky sometimes, as the 300-car lot fills up quickly in the winter. A per-person fee is charged to enter the park for those 12 years and older, although Hawaii residents get in for free.
Highlights : A sacred valley with lush jungle hikes and mountains shrouded in mist
The centerpiece of this well-known pilgrimage site on Maui is a 2,215-foot-tall rock named the Iao Needle . Visitors will find well-kept paths that make it easy to view the needle and the foreboding black cliff, Pali'ele'ele, that is nearby.
In addition to its unique shape and geological features, the site is steeped in cultural and spiritual significance. The legend says that the needle was formed when the demi-God Maui turned his daughter, Iao's suitor, into stone. Legend also warns that the Iao Valley is home to manas, the ghosts of gods.
Due to its location in the valley, pathways may be inaccessible after rain, so check local conditions before heading to the monument.
Highlights : A stunning drive with some of the top natural attractions on Hawaii's Big Island
This scenic drive along the Hamakua Coast stretches from Hilo to the Waipio Valley Lookout on the Big Island of Hawaii. In addition to spectacular views of the coast and the region's lush landscape, several top Big Island attractions reside along the way, making this an ideal sightseeing excursion.
From Hilo, tourists take the Onomea Scenic Drive past Onomea Bay and the renowned Hawaii Tropical Garden , which houses more than 2,000 species of tropical plants. As the route heads north, it continues past the 442-foot Akaka Falls and its sibling Kahuna Falls , and then the World Botanical Gardens , where you can view a triple waterfall named Umauma Falls , as well as Mauna Kea .
Other attractions along the way include a Pacific lookout at Laupahoehoe Point , hiking at the Kalopa State Recreation Area , and the quaint town of Honokaa . The drive ends at the legendary Waipio Valley Lookout , once home to King Kamehameha.
The weather in Hawaii is fairly consistent, with just a few subtle changes throughout the year. Generally speaking, Hawaii has two seasons: summer and winter.
Summer is from May through October, while winter is from November to April. While the islands are a year-round destination, the best time to visit Hawaii is April, May, September, and October . May is the best overall month thanks to the weather and reasonable rates. But September and October are also fantastic for weather, as well as a large selection of events and festivals.
It's important to note that the Hawaiian islands are made up of dozens of microclimates, so while it may be sunny and warm on one side of the island, the other side of the island could be quite windy, and it could be raining up in the mountains. Typically the wettest months are November, December, January, February, and March.
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Oahu’s Top Tourist Attractions
The iconic waikiki beach, pearl harbor historic sites, exploring the polynesian cultural center, the majestic diamond head state monument, discovering the north shore’s natural wonders, 1. majestic waterfalls, 2. enchanting beaches, 3. captivating hiking trails, 4. breathtaking lookout points, 5. serene botanical gardens, 1. explore historic pearl harbor, 2. visit the polynesian cultural center, 3. delve into hawaiian art and history at the bishop museum, 4. experience traditional hawaiian music and hula, 5. join a cultural tour or workshop, 1. discover the local food scene, 2. immerse yourself in the shopping districts, 3. experience the thriving arts and culture scene, 4. dive into the nightlife, 5. explore the local festivals and events, 1. sample traditional hawaiian cuisine, 2. explore the vibrant food truck scene, 3. dine at acclaimed restaurants, 4. discover local farmers markets, 5. attend a food festival, 1. what are the must-visit tourist attractions in oahu, 2. how much time should i allocate for visiting these attractions, 3. are there any family-friendly attractions in oahu, 4. can i visit pearl harbor without a guided tour, 5. are there any hiking trails near diamond head state monument, 6. can i swim at hanauma bay nature preserve, 7. can i take surf lessons at waikiki beach, 8. are there any discounts available for these attractions, i. introduction to oahu’s top tourist attractions.
Welcome to Oahu, the vibrant and diverse island paradise in Hawaii. Oahu is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and a myriad of exciting activities for visitors to enjoy. From beautiful beaches to historical landmarks, there is something for everyone on this enchanting island. In this article, we will explore Oahu’s top tourist attractions and discover what makes them so special.
No visit to Oahu is complete without spending some time at the world-famous Waikiki Beach. This picturesque stretch of coastline is renowned for its golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and stunning views of Diamond Head, a volcanic crater. Whether you are looking to relax and soak up the sun or try your hand at surfing, Waikiki Beach offers endless opportunities for fun and relaxation.
Oahu is home to one of the most significant historical sites in the United States – Pearl Harbor. This infamous naval base was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, leading to the United States’ entry into World War II. Today, visitors can explore the USS Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum to learn about the events that unfolded here and pay tribute to the brave men and women who served.
Immerse yourself in the rich and diverse Polynesian culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This living museum showcases the traditions, arts, and crafts of the Pacific Islands through captivating performances, interactive exhibits, and authentic cuisine. From hula dancing to fire knife performances, visitors can experience the vibrant cultures of Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, and more in one place.
Rising majestically above the island’s southeastern coast, Diamond Head State Monument is a must-visit for adventure seekers and nature lovers. This iconic volcanic crater offers breathtaking panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. Embark on a scenic hike to the summit, taking in the lush vegetation and unique rock formations along the way. The reward at the top is well worth the effort.
If you’re seeking a more laid-back and serene experience, head to Oahu’s North Shore. Known for its magnificent waves and world-class surf breaks, this area is a paradise for surfers and beach lovers. Explore the charming town of Haleiwa, indulge in delicious shrimp from one of the famous food trucks, and soak in the beauty of the pristine beaches and stunning sunsets.
With its captivating beauty and incredible attractions, Oahu truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, adventure, or simply relaxing on the beach, this Hawaiian island offers an unforgettable experience. Visit Oahu’s top tourist attractions and create memories that will last a lifetime.
II. Discovering the Beauty of Oahu’s Natural Wonders
Oahu, Hawaii’s third-largest island, is a paradise brimming with natural wonders that will leave you in awe. From lush green landscapes to breathtaking coastlines, Oahu offers a diverse range of experiences for nature enthusiasts. Here are some of the island’s top natural attractions:
Oahu is home to some stunning waterfalls that are worth exploring. One such waterfall is Manoa Falls, located in the Manoa Valley. Surrounded by lush vegetation, this 150-foot cascade provides a picturesque setting for a hike. Another popular waterfall is Waimea Falls, situated in Waimea Valley. The hike to the waterfall takes you through botanical gardens, adding to the overall experience.
Oahu is famous for its beautiful beaches, and each one has its own unique charm. Visit Lanikai Beach, known for its pristine white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. It’s the perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing under the sun. If you’re looking for big waves, head to Sunset Beach on the North Shore, renowned for its massive winter swells that attract professional surfers from around the world.
For those who enjoy hiking, Oahu offers a multitude of trails with stunning vistas. One such trail is the Diamond Head Summit Trail, which takes you to the top of a volcanic crater. From the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean. Another popular trail is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, which leads to a historic lighthouse and offers breathtaking views of the eastern coastline.
Oahu boasts several lookout points that offer panoramic views of the island’s natural beauty. Head to the Pali Lookout for a jaw-dropping view of the Windward Coastline and the Koolau Mountains. From here, you can also see the historic Nuuanu Pali State Park, a significant site in Hawaiian history. Another must-visit lookout point is the Tantalus Lookout, which provides a bird’s-eye view of Honolulu and its surrounding areas.
Immerse yourself in Oahu’s flora and fauna by visiting its botanical gardens. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, located in Kaneohe, is a tropical paradise with stunning landscapes, lush gardens, and serene lakes. It also offers educational programs and guided tours for a more immersive experience. Another notable botanical garden is the Lyon Arboretum, nestled in the Manoa Valley. It houses a diverse collection of plants, including endangered Hawaiian species.
Oahu’s natural wonders are a testament to the island’s beauty and allure. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a connection with nature, Oahu has something for everyone. Explore its waterfalls, beaches, hiking trails, lookout points, and botanical gardens, and discover the magic of this Hawaiian paradise.
III. Immerse Yourself in the Rich Cultural Heritage of Oahu
Oahu, the most populous island in Hawaii, is not just about stunning beaches and outdoor activities. It also boasts a vibrant cultural heritage that visitors can explore and immerse themselves in. From ancient traditions to modern art, Oahu offers a diverse range of cultural experiences that will leave you captivated.
A visit to Oahu is incomplete without a trip to Pearl Harbor. This iconic historical site is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the sailors and Marines who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Take a guided tour to learn about the events that unfolded during World War II and gain a deeper understanding of the island’s history.
Experience the rich cultures of Polynesia at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This immersive attraction showcases the traditions, dances, and music of the Pacific Islands through interactive exhibits, authentic performances, and traditional village tours. Explore the different island villages, indulge in traditional Polynesian cuisine, and witness the exhilarating Polynesian Luau.
The Bishop Museum is a must-visit for history and art enthusiasts. This renowned museum houses an extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts, including ancient Polynesian artifacts, royal heirlooms, and traditional artworks. Learn about the history and culture of the Hawaiian people through engaging exhibits and educational programs.
No trip to Oahu is complete without experiencing the captivating sounds of traditional Hawaiian music and the graceful movements of hula. Attend a live performance by local musicians and hula dancers to witness the beauty and cultural significance of these art forms. You can find performances at various venues, including hotels, cultural centers, and festivals.
Immerse yourself in the island’s cultural heritage by joining a cultural tour or workshop. Learn traditional Hawaiian crafts like lei making or ukulele playing, participate in a traditional Hawaiian cooking class, or take part in a sacred ceremony with local elders. These hands-on experiences will allow you to connect with the local community and deepen your understanding of the island’s heritage.
Immerse yourself in Oahu’s rich cultural heritage and discover a side of the island that goes beyond its natural beauty. From historic sites to interactive experiences, Oahu offers a unique blend of traditions, art, and history that will leave a lasting impression on your journey.
IV. Exploring the Vibrant City Life of Oahu
Oahu, the third largest Hawaiian island, is not only known for its stunning beaches and picturesque landscapes but also for its vibrant city life. Here, visitors can experience the perfect blend of natural beauty and urban adventures. From colorful street markets to bustling nightlife, Oahu offers something for everyone.
One of the best ways to experience the vibrant city life of Oahu is through its diverse food scene. Explore the numerous food trucks and local eateries that offer a wide range of delicacies. Indulge in traditional Hawaiian dishes like poke, kalua pig, and loco moco, or savor international flavors at the various fusion restaurants. Don’t forget to try the popular shave ice for a refreshing treat!
Oahu is a paradise for shopaholics, with its numerous shopping districts offering a plethora of options. From luxury brands to local boutiques, you’ll find everything you need. Visit the Ala Moana Center, one of the largest open-air shopping centers in the world, or explore the trendy boutiques in the vibrant neighborhoods of Waikiki and Kakaako. Don’t miss the chance to buy unique souvenirs and handmade crafts at the local markets.
Oahu’s arts and culture scene is thriving, with numerous galleries, museums, and theaters to explore. Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art, which houses an extensive collection of Asian, European, and Hawaiian art. Catch a live performance at the Hawaii Theatre, known for its stunning architecture and diverse shows. Don’t forget to check out the street art and murals that adorn the walls of Kakaako, showcasing the vibrant creativity of local artists.
When the sun sets, Oahu’s nightlife comes alive. From trendy bars to lively clubs, there are plenty of options to choose from. Visit the lively neighborhood of Chinatown, known for its hip bars and underground clubs. Enjoy live music performances or dance the night away to the beats of local DJs. Don’t miss out on the famous tiki bars, where you can sip on tropical cocktails and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Oahu hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, offering a taste of the local culture and traditions. Attend the annual Honolulu Festival, a celebration of Hawaii’s diverse cultures with music, dance, and food. Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the weekly night market at Kakaako, where you can shop for local products, try delicious street food, and enjoy live entertainment. Don’t miss out on the lively parades and fireworks during the annual Aloha Festivals.
V. Indulge in Oahu’s Culinary Delights
When visiting Oahu, prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure like no other. The island is home to a vibrant food scene that melds traditional Hawaiian flavors with international influences. From local food trucks serving up mouthwatering plate lunches to fine dining establishments with oceanfront views, Oahu offers something to satisfy every palate.
Immerse yourself in the rich flavors of traditional Hawaiian cuisine. Try the iconic dish of poi, a staple made from taro root that is often served alongside kalua pig, which is slow-cooked in an underground oven known as an imu. For a taste of the ocean, indulge in poke, a raw fish salad seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. Don’t forget to try laulau, a delicious combination of pork and fish wrapped in taro leaves and steamed to perfection.
Oahu’s food truck scene is a must-visit for food lovers. Head to popular spots like North Shore’s Food Truck Alley or Kaka’ako’s Street Grindz to experience a wide array of culinary delights. From gourmet burgers and tacos to fresh seafood and Korean BBQ, these mobile eateries offer a diverse range of flavors in a casual setting.
For those seeking a more upscale dining experience, Oahu boasts a plethora of acclaimed restaurants. Indulge in the culinary creations of renowned chefs who infuse their dishes with local ingredients and global techniques. From fusion cuisine that fuses Hawaiian and Asian flavors to farm-to-table dining experiences showcasing the island’s fresh produce, these restaurants offer a feast for the senses.
To truly immerse yourself in Oahu’s culinary scene, visit one of the island’s vibrant farmers markets. Here, you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and local products. Engage with local farmers and artisans as you hawaiinuibrewing tropical fruits, taste homemade jams and sauces, and browse a variety of unique food products. Don’t miss the chance to pick up some fresh produce to use in your own cooking or as a delicious souvenir.
Oahu is known for its lively food festivals that showcase the island’s diverse culinary offerings. From the annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival to the Waikiki Spam Jam, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in delicious food while enjoying live music and entertainment. These festivals are a great way to experience the vibrant food culture of Oahu and discover new flavors and dishes.
Whether you’re a food enthusiast or simply enjoy trying new flavors, Oahu’s culinary scene is sure to impress. From traditional Hawaiian dishes to innovative fusion cuisine, the island offers a gastronomic adventure that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.
VI. Frequently Asked Questions about Oahu’s Top Tourist Attractions
In this section, we will address some common questions that visitors often have about Oahu’s top tourist attractions.
Oahu offers a wide range of attractions, but some of the must-visit ones include the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Diamond Head State Monument, Waikiki Beach, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
The time you should allocate for visiting these attractions depends on your interests and the amount of time you have. Generally, it is recommended to spend at least half a day at each attraction to fully explore and appreciate its offerings.
Absolutely! Oahu has plenty of family-friendly attractions. Some popular ones include the Honolulu Zoo, Sea Life Park, Dole Plantation, and the Waikiki Aquarium. These attractions offer interactive experiences that both children and adults can enjoy.
Yes, you can visit Pearl Harbor without a guided tour. However, it is recommended to book a guided tour to make the most of your visit. A guided tour will provide you with detailed information about the historical significance of the site and ensure you don’t miss any important exhibits.
Yes, there are hiking trails near Diamond Head State Monument. The Diamond Head Crater Trail is a popular hiking trail that offers stunning panoramic views of the island. It is a moderate hike that takes about 1-2 hours to complete.
Yes, you can swim at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. It is a beautiful bay with a protected marine ecosystem. However, it is important to note that there are certain rules and regulations in place to preserve the delicate coral reef. Visitors are required to watch an educational video before entering the bay.
Absolutely! Waikiki Beach is a great place to take surf lessons. There are several surf schools and instructors available who can teach you the basics of surfing. Whether you are a beginner or more experienced, you can enjoy riding the waves at Waikiki Beach.
Some attractions offer discounts for certain groups such as military personnel, students, or seniors. It is recommended to check the official websites of the attractions or inquire at the ticket counters for any available discounts. Additionally, purchasing tickets in advance online may also offer some cost savings.
By addressing these frequently asked questions, we hope to provide you with the necessary information to plan your visit to Oahu’s top tourist attractions. Whether you are interested in history, nature, or leisure activities, Oahu has something for everyone to enjoy.
Keith Moore is an accomplished writer with a profound passion for the enchanting islands of Hawaii. Born and raised in Honolulu, Keith’s deep connection to the local culture and breathtaking landscapes has fueled his creativity since childhood. A graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Keith further honed his writing skills at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. With a sharp eye for detail and an innate ability to capture the essence of Hawaiian life, Keith expertly weaves words to transport readers to paradise through his compelling narratives and vivid descriptions.
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Looking for suggestions of things to do that night not be as well known as others. Under the radar beaches for sunbathing, horseback riding, hiking, farmers markets, etc.
We've been to Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri, Kailua and Lanikai beaches, Ioloni Palace, Kualoa Ranch and the North Shore . Had thought about going to the Polynesian Cultural Center , rather pricey, worried that it might be all that we had hoped. Plus I don't eat meat so the meal options might not suit me.
Thanks in advance!
9 replies to this topic
I like to look at google maps and see what is around places I am heading to. You can search for vegetarian restaurants. I will be there early December too so I am currently working out how I want to spend my time, I go quite often.
I'll try to think of some other things and post back here.
Then the price is about $80 - still pricy but not as much as with the food option.
Do note this is run by the Mormons.
We enjoyed it as a day activity but its not an under the radar type thing - many people go.
for other people's reviews on this
If you've done a luau elsewhere - I would skip doing the show/dinner portion based on what you said.
if you have not done this hike - its a nice one
for horse rides
Makapuu Lighthouse trail also has nice views.
Lots of farmers markets:
And Botanical gardens:
For tourists, beaches like Waiʻalae Beach Park, Ala Moana Beach on Magic Island and Kawaikui Beach Park are off the radar.
For activities, it depends on what you like. I like going to the Windward Mall in Kaneohe and the Kahala Mall because they are mostly locals there. I enjoy when I am in an area, not my home, going to where locals hang out and just absorb the pattern and feel of life.
Yokohama Bay on the west side is an off the radar beach. Great place for whale watching but be careful as the surf can be huge in the winter.
Aloha and Mahalo!!
Hard to recommend without knowing your interests. For example, I take Zumba classes at the Waikiki Community Center. It's for sure 'local' not 'tourist'. They have yoga, and other options as well.
Sorry but if it's a "under the radar" beach on Oahu , probably you don't belong there (just sayin').
Have you been to the KCC Farmers Market on Saturday morning? That's my favorite so far. There's also Mon/Wed 4-8pm at Hyatt Regency but while it is called a "farmers markets" is more like a crafts fair. But still interesting if you would like some unique souvenirs or handmade local items (I've bought homemade soap, fabric items, stone jewelry, etc.). And fun to talk with the local artisans at the booths.
hey hey cathy c
since you're at hale koa, one of you are military? have you tried kaneohe marine base?
ask about the services: cabins/cottages/beaches/dining on the base.
click on the headings and see what they offer on the beach (military access only)
plus other activities
camp smith in halawa heights near aiea, overlooking pearl harbor/hickam air base and beyond.
years ago i had two great roommates, living at salt lake near aloha stadium. called them my "military brats :),their family were airforce at hickam. fun times and we would go to the "military beaches"
take a tour back in time to living on a sugar plantation and the many cultures/nationalities living together, sharing hospitality and food.
one of last tea houses up in the heights of alewa, above downtown honolulu. scroll down to information and click history to learn about japanese spy from the consulate before/during pearl harbor
there is also a sushi bar in the evenings. they use to have a bento lunch/dinner to sit down and enjoy. you'd have to call for reservations and ask about that.
on kapahulu ave, close to waikiki, is a take me back to so many aloha shirts (old/new) and old hawaiian memorabilia.
catamaran sail out of waikiki
myhighwayinn.com 680 ala moana blvd #105
tradiotional hawaiian food and some local style i grew up with. happy hour "pau hana with pupus" M-F 3p-6. ask about the lau lau making class they had/have on saturdays
search: crack seed store kaimuki
http://daughtersofhawaii.org/queen emma's summer palace 2913 pali hiway
take a ride up pali hiway, take a tour of this small museum and learn about the queen and other hawaiian monarchy/history.
has lots activities to check out
a novel for you to check out and see what rocks your boat. enjoy & have fun
(btw: wave to alton and cape girardeau, family from cape and friend lives outside alton)
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Travel | Travel: Is Hawaii welcoming tourists after the…
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Travel | travel: is hawaii welcoming tourists after the maui fire.
Even those who don’t speak a word of Hawaiian can usually figure out when aloha means hello or goodbye. But since Aug. 8, when Maui experienced the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history, mixed messages are causing mainlanders to wonder if the welcome mat is truly waiting for them halfway across the Pacific.
To come or not to come? That is the question.
One faction of Hawaii residents is telling visitors to stay away so that more resources are available to those recovering from the loss of loved ones and property. Another camp is pleading for tourists to bring much-needed revenue, especially after what is now a one-two punch between the travel-restricting pandemic that lasted roughly two years and the wildfire that only a few months ago ravaged Maui and decimated historic Lahaina Town.
Considerate of both these viewpoints is Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Henry Kapono, who in between hard-ticket concerts plays Duke’s at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort on Sundays.
“Mixed messages are out there,” said the 75-year-old Oahu-born fixture. “The locals in West Maui are especially feeling the hurt of what happened and trying to heal at the same time. As they support themselves, their friends and community, the hope is that they can see the bigger picture of tourism being a key part of that support.”
Because of the devastating fires, Kapono’s Maui gig on his current 50-year anniversary tour has been postponed three months to December. In between, however, he organized a benefit concert in Maui that raised $200,000 for victims.
“It’s really sad about Lahaina,” said one half of the legendary, long-disbanded Hawaiian pop duo Cecilio & Kapono. “I have so many memories of working places that burned to the ground. It will take a while, but we know that Lahaina will come back in some shape or form. Until it does, Maui has other places to enjoy paradise, and people are welcome to have fun on the other islands as well. That’s what Hawaii is all about.”
Maui hosts about a quarter of all visitors to Hawaii, and although much of “The Valley Isle” is fully operational now three months after the catastrophic fires, Oahu, where nearly half of the state’s tourists flock to, seems to be welcoming island-bound travelers with the widest open arms — slathered with sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, of course.
Living up to its nickname of “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is seeing visitorship nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Vacation-hungry Americans are being wooed by the tropical beauty and weather, world-class resorts and restaurants, and walkability of Waikiki — all accessible without a passport and, for many, a non-stop flight to Honolulu.
Also nonstop is Oahu’s vast array of unique experiences and attractions. With an eye out for what’s new, improved and special, let’s explore this eclectic and exciting island by land, sea and air.
On the ground
If you’re born to be wild, then get your motor running and head out for an adrenaline junkie’s kind of off-road adventure. New to Oahu is a 2 1/2-hour Pua Pua‘a Piglet ATV Adventure from North Shore EcoTours ( northshoreecotours.com ), and it packs a Hawaiian punch. Climbing, crawling and sloshing through rocky and often muddy trails in a rugged 4×4 ATV, with no more than three of these six-seaters on the tour, adds to the thrill of plowing through jungle and farm land while being caked in brick-red volcanic dirt that takes a couple of hot showers and loads of laundry to get off your skin and clothes. North Shore EcoTours also offers hikes and rides on electric, solo-rider Mongoose ATVs. Along the way a guide points out interesting landmarks and vegetation ripe for selfies. The Pau Pua‘a tour runs about $300 for two people — a bargain compared to ATV adventures around the world that are half as exhilarating.
Driving on a much different type of course is achieved at the official golf club of the Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina, Disney’s Aulani Resort and other tony properties on Oahu’s west side. Rated one of Golf Digest’s “Top 75 Resort Courses in the U.S.,” Ko Olina Golf Club ( koolinagolf.com ), where LPGA star Michelle Wie developed her game, is gorgeous and challenging, yet comfortable for the golfer who may feel unworthy or intimidated playing courses used for pro tours. The grounds also have an above-par pro shop and a Roy’s Hawaiian fusion restaurant. Greens fees are very fair for a facility of this caliber — about $250, less if staying at a partner resort.
OK, so the most touristy thing one can do in Hawaii is go to a luau. They’re expensive, hokey and cookie-cutter, but not doing one, especially on a first visit, is almost sacrilegious. So, props to the ‘Ahaaina Luau ( royal-hawaiianluau.com ) at the gorgeous Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach for being different. Oh, it’s pricey, all right, costing $225 or $250, depending on how close you want to sit, but hokey and cookie-cutter it’s not. The show, held on Mondays and Thursdays, follows a three-course dinner that fuses Hawaiian, Korean and Japanese flavors. Told through story, song and dance, the history of Hawaii includes the colorful past of the hallowed grounds upon which the luau’s guests are gathered. Sure, it’s a commercial for the Royal Hawaiian, but it works, and how special for those actually staying at the near-century-old resort.
On the subject of entertainment, opening night isn’t for another year, but we mention Cirque de Soleil’s next permanent show because it’s bound to make a great property in the heart of Waikiki even better. The Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel is where an 800-seat theater that’s been dormant since the pandemic is being renovated for a production that will blend Hawaiian culture with Cirque’s signature avant-garde sights and sounds. The show’s name hasn’t been announced yet, but the hospitality company behind it has made a name for itself as ambassadors of the aloha spirit.
Corny as this may sound, Outrigger’s respect for local culture isn’t just a checkbox. It’s laid in the flooring of the flagship Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Hotel, where Hawaiian words are learned while strolling the lobby area. It’s baked in the locally made pono pie at Duke’s inside the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, home of the to-die-for dessert somehow free of gluten, sugar and dairy. And it’s woven in the island-crafted robes hanging in the closet of each unit at the Beachcomber … but they’ll charge you if stolen. The aloha spirit does have its limits.
The cultural center at the newly renovated Reef property is a benchmark among all island resorts, as is the hotel’s Kani Ka Pila Grille for live Hawaiian music. Paradise is chowing down on kalua pork nachos and pineapple crème brulée washed down with your favorite umbrella drink while enjoying home-grown contemporary artists every night in a casual outdoor venue, and with no admission charge. Indeed, the spirit of aloha is alive and well while eating, drinking or relaxing at an Outrigger ( outrigger.com ) property. If you want to add “sleeping” to the list, rates at Outrigger’s top Oahu hotels begin at around $400 a night, which is low for three-diamond AAA-rated hotels in Waikiki that behave more like those with four diamonds.
Recommending a genuine four-diamond property, on the west side of the island is the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina ( fourseasons.com ). New there is the Noe Mixology Masterclass ($75), a one-hour lesson starring gin, bourbon, rum, mescal, tequila and, on many days, Michael Milligan, formerly from Costa Mesa and now the Four Seasons’ lead bartender who made this guzzling guest the best espresso martini of his life. More hands-on expertise is found at the resort’s elegant Naupaka Spa. Try the 50-minute Signature Lomilomi Massage ($225) and you won’t be either sore or sorry.
Honolulu’s Waikiki area has grown as a foodie destination since the pandemic, and two of the more exciting newcomers are La Bettola Waikiki at the ‘Alohilani Resort ( alohilaniresort.com ) and Redfish at the Wayfinder Waikiki ( wayfinderhotels.com ). La Bettola, opened in June, features authentic Italian fare married with local ingredients under the guise of renowned chef Tsutomu Ochiai. His neighbor at the Alohilani is “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s Momosan, home of perhaps the best ramen and sushi on Oahu.
The signature dishes at Redfish are the poke bowls, but it’s hard to beat the honey walnut shrimp. Opened in May, Redfish augments a boutique hotel with a cool and kitschy vibe that’s only outdone by its ‘60s-feel sister property, the White Sands Hotel, a few blocks away. Best of Waikiki’s chain restaurants: Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Tommy Bahama Restaurant on Beachwalk Drive and Monkeypod Kitchen at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Hotel.
Since you’re probably already spending thousands on a Hawaiian vacation, what’s another $400 to guarantee an even more memorable trip? That’s how much it is, per person, to see Oahu at rainbow level. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters ( bluehawaiian.com ) has a 65-minute Complete Island Tour from Honolulu that includes the biggies: Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head, the surfing mecca of North Shore and Oahu’s tallest waterfall.
On the water
Sailing tours are among the more popular things to do while in Hawaii, and if you’re hoping to set a course for more romance than adventure, climb aboard the 150-foot, three-deck Majestic for a crowd-escaping Waikiki Sunset Cocktail Cruise ( majestichawaii.com ). Operated by Atlantis, which will be happy to take you under the water as well in one of its submarines, the cruise ($79 for adults, $39.50 for children) parallels the Waikiki coast for stunning views that culminate at sunset when the orange sun sinks behind the Hawaiian horizon. Majestic is the only cruise around with a full-service bar and lounge that offers open seating.
All this is just a drop in the warm and inviting ocean. For more on Oahu, visit gohawaii.com/islands/oahu .
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- Thursday, November 9, 2023
- Today's Paper
Red flag warning canceled for Oahu
- By Star-Advertiser staff
- Nov. 5, 2023
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
COURTESY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
A radar map shows the areas of the Hawaiian Islands affected by the red flag warning.
The red flag warning has been canceled for Oahu.
See the updated story here .
UPDATE: 8:15 p.m.
The National Weather Service has canceled the red flag warning for the islands of Kauai and Niihau, but it remains in place for the rest of the state.
“Conditions have improved over Kauai and Niihau due to increasing moisture from a front approaching from the north, so the warning has been cancelled there,” forecasters said after 8 p.m. “Conditions could improve on Monday over Oahu as well, if the frontal moisture makes it far enough south by then.”
The red flag warning remains in effect through Monday afternoon for the leeward areas of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, the Big Island and Central Oahu.
A red flag warning is in effect today until 6 p.m. Monday for the leeward areas of all Hawaiian Islands and for Central Oahu due to strong trade winds and low humidity, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu. On Kauai, the south shore areas such as Koloa, Poipu and Mahaulepu are affected.
A red flag warning means critical fire weather conditions are either happening now or will shortly.
“Strong trade winds and low relative humidity will combine with dry fuels to bring critical fire weather conditions from late this morning through Monday afternoon,” forecasters said.
Expect east winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph. Winds are expected to reach their peak on Monday. Relative humidity is forecast as low as 40 percent.
“A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity levels, and dry fuels will contribute to extreme fire behavior. Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly and be very difficult to control. It is important to remember that a Red Flag Warning does not predict new fire starts,” forecasters said.
Outdoor burning is not recommended during this time.
Forecasters said heat from vehicle exhaust systems can ignite dry grass, so avoid parking in those areas and only park on paved roads or where vegetation is trimmed and cleared.
High winds contribute to fire hazards, so forecasters recommend delaying activities that could throw off sparks until the wind dies down.
Meanwhile, a wind advisory is in effect for Hawaii island, Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe from noon today through 6 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
“Strong high-pressure building to the north of the islands will drive windy trades this afternoon through Monday. The trades are expected to peak tonight and Monday,” according to the advisory.
Forecasters said to expect east winds of 20 to 30 mph with localized gusts over 50 mph on Hawaii island, Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe with the strongest winds over and downwind of the mountains and valleys.
Forecasters warn that strong winds can knock down tree branches, blow away tents and unsecured objects as well as make it difficult to drive especially in high-profile vehicles.
“Watch out for falling tree branches when walking or driving. Make sure tents and awnings are secure or take them down. Be prepared for power outages,” officials said.
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Tourist Attractions in Oahu Hawaii
Tourist attractions in oahu hawaii that you must visit.
You ask someone about visiting Hawaii and first thing he will suggest is Honolulu due to most of attractions is in that place.
However, you should look for something unusual but still reliable to visit. This is where you consider Oahu Hawaii.
The place is island with several beautiful places especially beaches and natures. It has 77 km long and 48 km wide with 2 volcanos.
This place is commonly called as The Gathering Place. You find many ethnics and people in this place.
The name Oahu was from Polynesian since it was part of local culture. Today, this place is more diverse and all people live in harmony. One recognized destination is Pearl Harbor.
Today, this place becomes tourist destination with several attractions. You can find interesting places and enjoy the nature.
Moreover, tourism is not just beach but culture especially foods. To know more about the best tourist attractions in Oahu Hawaii, you should read the following section.
The Best Tourist Attractions in Oahu Hawaii
1. the north shore.
You do not have to explore this island. It is necessary top plan everything as efficient as possible. The first thing is you decide the place that brings more excitement as representative of Oahu.
The answer is the North Shore, You will see beautiful scenery and beach with warm temperature and mild wave. This shore is definitely, what people expect when visiting Hawaii.
For quick trip, you may drive along the way and visit some restaurants that serve seafood. Local cuisine is something you cannot miss when in this area.
After that, you can explore the beach or just walk around. Moreover, some establishments provide interesting events. If lucky, you will be in the right time and place.
North shore shark adventure to experience something out of ordinary. That’s what you get from the North shore.
2. Diamond Head
The next destination is the Diamond Head. It is mountain with height approximately 760 feet and wide crater at the top. Since old day, people still like to visit this place.
The main attraction is when you reach at the top of mountain. If you visit in the morning, beautiful sunrise will be your diamond.
The place is popular among local and tourist. You can visit easily and explore its surrounding before ready to climb.
Make sure you have proper gear even though climbing is not much difficult. Safety is still the top priority. You will enjoy this one before going to another place.
The next destination is Waikiki. It is very familiar due to most tourists will be here when visiting Oahu. It is two miles coastline with many hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, and some real estate along the way.
As you can see, Waikiki is dedicated for tourism. As usual, you enjoy attractions such as entertaining show, dance, and other.
Waikiki receives major redevelopment in order to support tourism. More than a millions visitors come to this place.
You imagine how popular this place comparing with other nearby in Oahu. If you manage to stay longer, the International Market is the best thing you should try. It provides local goods you can buy as souvenirs.
4. Polynesian Culture center
Exploring this island is not complete without visiting Polynesian Culture center. It is located in the Marquesas Islands.
You will see seven villages that represent all regions in the South Pacific. As culture center, tourists and visitors can enjoy local tradition such as dance, entertaining show, and education activities.
Culture is considered new tourism in Hawaii. Even though tourists have interest, a place such this one is still rare.
On the other hand, most tourisms only focus on nature, beach, and mountain. If you want something different, this is the one you should visit. Exploring Hawaii and learning about culture will bring enjoyment.
5. Waimea Falls
Hiking is another thing you can do in this place. Of course, you must find the right place that is worth your time. One of the top choice is Waimea Falls at nearby of valley. Finding waterfall seems difficult thing in Hawaii.
After long search, you will find 15 feet tall waterfall with nice and fresh ponds. You climb and enjoy the fresh water in this area. Only few tourist will visit which mean you get the best seat exploring Waimea Falls.
6. Hanauma Bay
The privilege is definitely worth your time to be in Hanauma Bay. This area is sanctuary for marine creatures and fishes. The interesting part is only 3000 people can enter for limited time. That’s why you must try this one. Beautiful day should be in the right place.
You can do several things in this area. The most common one is snorkeling to enjoy marine life and ecosystem. It has the reef to protect area from extreme wave.
Moreover, you may go swimming and explore some areas, which are only few people visit. In general, it looks like an aquarium but in nature.
7. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is the next one you should visit in Oahu Hawaii. People visit Pearl Harbor due to historical landscape.
It has the Pacific Aviation Museum and memorial to commemorate the past war. It motivates people to be in this place.
On the other hand, Pearl Harbor has exotic nature that makes people want to stay longer. Missing this destination is prohibited.
You should plan carefully since this place is quite crowd. Therefore, put Pearl Harbor at your top list and enjoy ultimately.
8. Evening Luau
Hawaii has interesting culture and one of them is Evening Luau. You often see the dance that people consider as very Hawaiian.
This is when you will enjoy directly from the source. It is entertainment stage with several dances and performances.
People gather and watch then enjoy the foods. The interesting part is the stage will blend with tourists and let them to follow the dance. This is when the part starts and you find many times for weeks.
9. Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon
Duke Kahanamoku lagoon is the right place for enjoying calm beach and sea. It is located in front of Hilton Hotel.
You do not need to worry about this one because the lagoon is public place. People can visit and exploring this area.
You may rent paddle and go along the lagoon. It is suitable for the kids since safer and easy to access.
10. The Royal Hawaiian
In Oahu Hawaii, you see the hotel with pink color. This is The Royal Hawaiian as the oldest hotel. For your information, the building is still a hotel and many guests have stayed especially very important people.
It does not mean the hotel is restricted area only for guests. As one of tourism destination, visitors can enjoy historical tour and drink coffee.
The architecture is quite unique and definitely very fancy. With bright color, you can find easily. Ask the hotel for tour or stay to know more.
11. Tantalus Lookout
You want to see more area in Oahu and the best place to visit is Tantalus Lookout. City, beach, sea, and islands are appeared from this point.
Moreover, you even see Pearl Harbor though located quite far from this lookout. Main reason this one in this list is you just drive and less crowd.
12. Nuuanu Pali Lookout
You still want to enjoy the lookout and the Nuuanu Pali seems to be the next one you should consider. As usual, it is easy to visit and reach with 5 miles drive. You will enjoy beautiful scenery including Kailua Town.
The place has interesting story about war and troops. You do not need to worry about such thing because this lookout is definitely safe. Tourist can explore more along surrounding area.
Preparing Trips to Oahu Hawaii
You need preparation before visiting Oahu Hawaii. First step is you plan time and accommodation. Even though the island is small, short trip is not enough unless you have more holiday.
Planning is necessary but you will go with the nature and try to adapt as possible. Hawaii brings your rigid and restrict scheduled into more flexibility.
As solution, you consider tourist destination with more attraction in single location. For example, you pick the North Shore due to tourists will get most of excitement.
This is similar with Waikiki and you can go anywhere after both places are done. Another thing to consider is weather and you pick the right season.
Make sure you are in the time to avoid bad trip. After visiting Oahu, you still have option to be in Honolulu.
From list above, you have tons of options. Tourist attraction is not just beaches in Hawaii. In fact, culture and entertainment seem to be an interesting option.
You should try exploring the local village and see directly what they do. On the other hand, culinary will be the next list after you experience the taste of seafood.
Oahu has some recipes you can try directly. Enjoying nature and learning culture can bring your holiday at the best moment.
You will realize that one trip is not enough and visit again next time. That’s what you should know about tourist attractions in Oahu Hawaii.
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Oahu Things to See & Do
Things to see & do on the hawaiian island of oahu.
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Things to See & Do on Oahu
Activities, sights, tours, & must see places.
With so many unique places to explore, you may not know where to start. While some may be more interested in visiting the famous tourist beaches, others may choose to attend a luau or catch their first wave with an Oahu surfing lesson. No matter how you want to spend your time, we're confident you'll have the time of your life! On this page, we're going to go over some of the most popular Oahu things to see & do.
Oahu has a long list of must see and do activities and Oahu accommodations range from upscale resorts to quaint B&Bs scattered around the island. It truly is the ideal place for a Hawaiian vacation; no matter which type of traveler you are. Don't forget to read our Oahu Things to Know article; it serves as an excellent companion entry to the content below.
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- Attend an Oahu Luau - When many think of Hawaii, one of the first things that pop into their minds is a luau. A luau is a nighttime celebration of the Hawaiian culture that can be found at many different resorts throughout the island. You will enjoy authentic Polynesian entertainment such as dancing and fire juggling, dine on delicious Hawaiian cuisine, and enjoy traditional Hawaiian games. Oahu offers many different luaus, each with its own unique touch of magic.
Oahu's North Shore
- Visit Oahu's North Shore - One of the most popular things to do on Oahu is to visit the North Shore. This surfing capital brings in visitors from around the world who are looking to experience the waves and others who simply come to watch. World-class surfers visit the North Shore during the winter months when the waves reach their peaks. In addition to surfing, the North Shore is also known for Turtle Bay and the delicious shrimp trucks that line the streets.
- Tour Historic Honolulu - Another one of the most popular Oahu things to do is visit the Historic Honolulu area. This historic area is home to many world famous buildings such as Iolani Palace. From the State Capitol building to a variety of churches and museums, this is one area of Oahu that you will not want to miss.
Oahu's Diamond Head Crater
- Head to the Top of Diamond Head - There's nothing quite like seeing Oahu and Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head. The hiking trail to the top of this overlook is not too difficult and can be completed by most who are relatively fit. Handrails line the 1.4-mile trail to the top for your convenience. Relax on the benches along the way and take in the magnificent views. Once at the top, you will experience a 365-degree view of the island of Oahu.
Oahu's Lanikai Beach
- Relax on Lanikai Beach - This white sand beach is one of the most popular Oahu Things to do because it's a scenic and picturesque icon of Oahu. Plus, it is safe for swimming, is family friendly, and is complemented by the two off-shore Moku Lua islands (both bird sanctuaries). The beach is very popular with photographers and videographers, and with good reason: it's one of the best beaches on Oahu.
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What’s on your Oahu vacation to-do list? Lounging on a romantic beach? Ziplining over an impressive valley? Watching rare Hawaiian birds? Or maybe packing up with the family for the best family vacation ever? No matter what your idea of a great adventure is, we have the best things to do on Oahu right here.
Popular Oahu Things to Do
Additional oahu things to see & do, additional oahu information, recommended oahu tours.
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