Welcome to Oahu, Hawaii’s most popular island. Home to historic landmarks, like Pearl Harbor, and famous white sandy beaches, Oahu is known for offering both picturesque scenery and metropolitan conveniences. Take a look at some of Oahu’s most popular things to do.
1. Adventure into the Water
You’re in one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world and the water is calling your name! Make the most of your stay in Oahu by hitting the waves and taking advantage of the many water activities readily available throughout the year. Popular water sports include jet ski rentals, banana boat rides, kayak and paddleboard rentals, water skiing, and much more. One of the most popular activities is a kayak out to “the Mokes”. Located just over half a mile off the windward coast of Oahu, the Mokulua islands, often called the “twin islands” or “the Mokes”, are a popular spot for exploration. Visitors can rent kayaks for a self-guided tour or join one of the many guided tours offered in the nearby Lanikai Beach area. After a relaxing kayak ride through the crystal blue waters, visitors can enjoy snorkeling, cliff jumping, and even a picnic during their trip to the islands.
2. Visit Waikiki Aquarium
Guests of all ages are sure to enjoy the aquatic fun that awaits at the Waikiki Aquarium. Originally opening in 1904, this nautical landmark is the second oldest aquarium in the United States. With a diverse array of exciting exhibits and events throughout the year, the aquarium is a must for visitors seeking a fun and educational experience during their trip to Oahu.
Get up close and personal with various native marine life species by taking a leisurely snorkeling trip. The island of Oahu offers several snorkeling hotspots, including Kuilima Cove, Kahe Point Beach Park, Shark’s Cove (also called Pupukea), the world famous Hanauma Bay, and Kaena – to name a few. Feel free to snag your own snorkeling gear and explore the pristine coastline on your own or splurge on a guided tour with one of the many local experts.
4. Beach Hopping
The island of Oahu offers several pristine beaches, each of which boasts breathtaking scenery and a unique experience. Popular beaches include the North Shore beaches of Waimea, Pipeline, and Sunset, renown for the winter surf competitions, but calm and glassy in the summers, Waimanalo, Kailua, Lanikai, Yokohama, Sandy’s (a favorite of former president Obama’s), and Makapu’u. Beach hoppers can explore natural caves, go snorkeling off the coast, visit local lighthouses, or relax along the shoreline.
5. Horseback Riding
Oahu offers more than just scenic beaches. Explore the lush local scenery and hidden valleys via a thrilling horseback tour. Tours vary from leisurely beach sunset strolls to inspiring trots through the hidden hillsides, including tours that explore popular movie filming locations. There are tours available for riders of any level, including children.
6. Swim With Dolphins
Have you ever dreamed of getting up close and personal with one of nature’s smartest animals? This dream could easily become a reality during your stay on Oahu! For a fully immersive experience, try a tour with Dolphins and You, which includes a begins with a traditional E’Ho Mai ceremony followed by a swim with dolphins, a snorkeling excursion, ocean activities, and lunch grilled by the captain. Or, if you prefer a more casual dolphin experience, play with these frisky mammals at the Sea Life Park without having to get in the water.
7. Explore Local Waterfalls
Experience Oahu’s natural beauty by visiting one of the island’s many breathtaking waterfalls. Though most of Oahu’s waterfalls are nestled in the lush tropical rainforest requiring a rigorous and exciting hike to reach, several are easily accessible with a quick scenic hike that is well worth the effort. Some favorites include Manoa Falls, Lulumahu Falls, Li’keke Falls, Kapena Falls, and Sacred Falls – to name a few.
8. Walk The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
Feeling adventurous? Grab a friend and explore the scenic Oahu terrain by taking a hike to the famous Makapuu Lighthouse. The winding path is paved and about 1.5 miles total, a reasonable distance for travelers of any age and experience level. Visitors will enjoy the leisurely stroll that leads up to a stunning hilltop, which provides endless vistas of the Oahu coastline. Patient adventurers might even see a wandering group of whales or dolphins!
9. Dole Plantation Tour
The pineapple is inarguably one of Hawaii’s most recognizable natural assets. Learn about the history of this tropical fruit from the source – the famous Dole Plantation. Curious visitors can take a tour of this historic facility and enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities, including a ride on the pineapple express train, a tour of the plantation garden, or a rousing run through the pineapple garden maze. Make sure to try the pineapple ice cream!
10. Island Segway Tour
Wiz around Oahu’s most scenic spots on and take in the island’s most popular destinations aboard your very own Segway. Tours are abundant throughout the island and include sunset beach tours, historic and cultural tours, tours through state parks, and more.
11. Visit The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
Shopping fanatics, rejoice! Discover Hawaii’s largest open-air flea market, located just 20 minutes outside of Waikiki. This lively scenery draws more than 400 local vendors who bring everything from handmade art pieces and clothing to tasty food items and everything in between. The swap meet is the perfect way to take a break from the beach and enjoy a beautiful island day, while picking up a few unique Oahu souvenirs.
12. Visit the Sets of Some of Your Favorite Movies and Shows
Did you know that Oahu is home to several popular movie and TV filming locations? You might recognize the area’s lush landscape in movies like Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Hunger Games, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and 50 First Dates or in TV shows like Lost or Hawaii 5-0. A visit to Kualoa Ranch, Kawela Bay, or Turtle Bay may feel more familiar than you’d except as you recognize views you’ve seen in movies. Movie fanatics can get a glimpse of these famous locations by taking a movie tour. The tours vary greatly in location and length, so do some research in advance to be sure you can see all of your favorite spots!
13. Fireworks at Waikiki Beach
Start your weekend off with a bang by enjoying Hawaii’s most spectacular free fireworks show! Visitors and locals alike flock to Waikiki beach each Friday evening to take in a spectacular show, graciously provided by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The show begins at 7:45 p.m. and lasts around ten minutes. Be sure to arrive early to get a good spot!
14. Pearl Harbor Tour
History buffs will definitely want to pencil in a tour of Pearl Harbor during their stay in Oahu. Nestled in a cozy cove on the south end of Oahu. Pearl Harbor is a United States naval base and is the notable location of the infamous World War II attack. A variety of tours are available to visitors, including memorial tours, tours of the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial, island tours, and more.
15. Sightseeing at Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
Visitors on the hunt for breathtaking views will definitely want to pencil in a trip to Nu’uanu Pali. Located more than 1,000 feet above sea level on the Ko’olau mountain, Nu’uanu Pali provides adventurers panoramic views of the lush Hawaiian landscape. The area is also home to the Nu’uanu Freshwater Fish Refuge and the Nu’uanu Reservoir. The views are well worth the trip up the mountainside!
16. Visit Byodo-In Temple
Nestled in the serene Valley of the Temples is the iconic Byodo-In Temple, a non-denominational sanctuary. The temple is situated on two scenic acres that features peaceful gardens and koi-filled ponds for exploration. A true work of art itself, the temple emphasizes traditional Japanese architecture and showcases several beautiful statues and sculptures.
17. Duke Kahanamoku Statue
This Oahu landmark is hard to miss! Duke Paoa Kahanamoku is a local legend. Born in 1890, Duke went on to break a world record for the 100-yard freestyle and win several Olympic medals. He was a pioneer of the Waikiki Beach Boys, a group of natives that taught visitors how to surf and canoe along the beach and he eventually served as the local sheriff. His statue is located on Waikiki Beach and commemorates his honor.
18. Bask with Hawaiian Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach
Located along the serene north shore of Oahu, Laniakea Beach is a haven for one of Hawaii’s most prized marine animals – the green sea turtle. Though the turtles are easily observed in their natural habitat in reefs around Oahu and other Hawaiian island, they flock to the North Shore of Oahu to feast on seaweed and sunbathe. Visit Laniakea during low tide during the warmer summer months for the best shot at seeing these beautiful creatures lounging along the beach.
19. Honolulu Zoo
Animal lovers and families alike will love the fun and excitement that awaits at the Honolulu Zoo. Open daily, except for Christmas Day, the Honolulu Zoo is a fun and affordable way to explore some of Hawaii’s most lovable creatures. The 42-acre zoo hosts more than 900 different animals from the tropics, including primates, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and many more. The zoo also hosts several seasonal exhibits and events throughout the year.
20. Attend a Luau
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without attending a luau! Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and enjoy lively music, dance, games, and local cuisine at an interactive showcase of native traditions. Luaus are ideal for families and groups of any size and are a fun and educational way to enjoy your stay in Oahu.
21. Explore the Bishop Museum
Interested in Hawaiian history and culture? If so, be sure to check out the Bishop Museum during your stop on Oahu. This historic landmark was established in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who was the last descendent of the royal Kamehameha family. The house is filled with an extensive collection of Hawaiian royal family heirlooms, historic documents, and other items of significance to the descendants of the Pacific Islands. The island is the largest museum in Hawaii and is recognized worldwide for its cultural collections, research work, and educational programs.
22. Sunset Cruise
Take in Hawaii’s pristine beauty from the sea aboard a relaxing sunset cruise around Oahu. There are cruises for both families and couples available and options to accommodate any budget. Selections include a fireworks cruise along Waikiki Beach, decadent buffet cruises, lively cocktail cruises, and even a glass bottom boat cruise.
23. Visit Local Gardens & State Parks
The island of Oahu offers several state parks that are ideal for hiking, camping, and beach adventures. A few of Oahu’s most popular state parks include:
· Diamond Head State Monument
· Ahupua’a Kahana State Park
· Ka’ena Point State Park
· Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline
· Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area
· Wahiawa Freshwater State Recreation Area
24. Hawaii State Art Museum
Add a dose of culture to your trip to Oahu by visiting the Hawaii State Art Museum. Located on the second floor of the Capitol District Building, this stunning museum is free and open to the public. Visitors are invited to peruse the seasonal exhibits and attend occasional cultural events, like “First Fridays”, which feature extended hours and live entertainment. All exhibits and events are always provided free of charge and are family-friendly.
25. Scuba Diving
Seeking a truly immersive underwater Oahu experience? If so, book a scuba diving trip for a truly memorable experience. Though scuba diving will take some advanced training and preparation, the results will be well worth the investment. Trips are available for scuba divers of all levels and all gear is provided via one of the many local scuba shops. Divers can expect to visit local reefs and to get up close and personal with some of Hawaii’s most colorful and unique marine life.
Outdoor enthusiasts are sure to feel right at home along Oahu’s scenic coastline and lush forestry. Visitors who are eager to get their feet wet and explore the terrain by foot will definitely want to explore some of the island’s most popular hiking trails, which offer spectacular scenery and access to one of Hawaii’s hidden gems – natural waterfalls, which are abundant throughout the islands. Popular Oahu hiking trails include Kaena Point, Waimano Falls, Diamond Head, Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, and Maunawili Falls.
Traveling with any thrill-seekers? If so, an Oahu fishing trip should definitely be on your Hawaii bucket list! You won’t have to look far to find an outing, as reputable charters are scattered throughout the island. Guests can enjoy a short near shore trip for a quick day of fishing or a full daylong trip for a real nautical adventure. Though the catch will vary seasonally, fishermen and women can expect to hook everything from mahi mahi, ahi, and even a marlin, if you’re lucky.
28. Aerial Tours
Explore new heights and see the often-unseen side of Oahu by exploring the island via an aerial tour. Options include helicopter tours, which are a more expensive but more luxurious option that offer stunning vistas, or zipline tours, which are more affordable and adventurous. Various tours are available that explore both the crystal coastline or the lush interior of the island – or both!
29. Spa Treatments
Treat yourself during your stay in Oahu by splurging on an afternoon at one of the area’s applauded day spas. Whether you are looking to refresh after a long day of travel or relax before your departure, a day at the spa is a must for guests who enjoy being pampered. Spa treatments of any kind are easily found throughout the island, including manicures and pedicures, massages, body scrubs and wraps, and much more.