Oahu

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Top 10 things to do on Oahu

Visit the most popular island in Hawaii, Oahu, known for its lush green mountain ridges (featured in Jurassic Park), beautiful pristine beaches where the Beach Boys sang, and iconic historic sites like Pearl Harbor. See the natural wonders of the island while also learning about the unique history and culture of Hawaii.

  • Pearl Harbor

    1. Pearl Harbor

    Visit Pearl Harbor, the site of the Japanese attack during WWII. Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and learn about its tragic and heroic past. Spend a day hearing stories surrounding the Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum to learn the rich history behind one of Hawaii's most somber locations.

  • Diamond Head

    2. Diamond Head

    An icon of Oahu, Diamond Head began as a volcano. This popular site was also once an army base, but now is a moderate hike. Trek to the summit and take in the spectacular views of Waikiki. Guided tours are also available if you are yearning to know more of the history behind Diamond Head.

  • Waikiki Beach

    3. Waikiki Beach

    Nestled in the shade of Diamond Head rests Waikiki beach, Hawaii's most famous beach. Stroll past restaurants, shops, and colorful stands. Want to try out surfing? Take a lesson from the famous beach boys and hear the stories of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing and a Hawaii legend. Not looking for thrills? Lounge on the warm white sand and enjoy the sun.

  • Polynesian Cultural Center

    4. Polynesian Cultural Center

    Hidden in northern Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center boasts a spectacular display of local and Polynesian culture and customs. Wander through villages and learn the traditions of Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, Hawaii, and Aotearoa, or settle down for a spectacular canoe show on the water. Get a taste of Polynesia at their famed luau, or indulge in local treats as you wander through the scenic grounds.

  • Kualoa Ranch

    5. Kualoa Ranch

    Welcome to Jurassic Park...and Jumanji, and more. Kualoa Ranch has been made famous on the silver screen, now see it for yourself. Go by horseback, ATV, boat, or foot and explore this 4000-acre nature preserve. Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, this stunning location has views and adventures that are sure to impress.

  • The North Shore

    6. The North Shore

    One of the world's most famous surf spots, Oahu's North Shore is home to a plethora of activities. Shop, surf, dine, hike -- the choice is yours. Looking for a once in a lifetime activity? Grab a snorkel mask and head out to sea to cage dive with Galapagos Sharks. Hang around until sunset for scenery that can't be beat.

  • Hanauma Bay

    7. Hanauma Bay

    Visit Hanauma Bay and see the gorgeous marine life that made this little cove famous. Tropical fish, octopus, eels and even turtles -- this bay boasts an incredible diversity of wildlife. Head there early to beat the crowds and be sure to bring cash. The number of daily visitors is limited and the bay is closed on Mondays.

  • Authentic Hawaiian luau

    8. Authentic Hawaiian luau

    A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is accompanied by hula and fire dancing. Get immersed in Hawaiian culture and learn the story of Polynesia at a luau, perfect for honeymooners and families. Upgrade your experience to preferred seating to get the best views of the show.

  • Bishop Museum

    9. Bishop Museum

    Walk with Hawaiian royalty when you visit the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, the state's largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. Learn about the history of Hawaii and see the evolution of Hawaiian royalty.

  • Manoa Falls

    10. Manoa Falls

    Take a walk through a Hawaiian rainforest and head to Manoa Falls. This moderate hike through bamboo forest and retired sugar plantation canals leads you to a stunning 150-foot waterfall. Watch out for mud along the way, and be sure to bring cash if you need to park your car.

Things to do in Oahu: Everything you need to know

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Oahu

As one of Hawaii's most popular islands, Oahu is fittingly called "The Gathering Place." To help you make the most of your time to the Hawaiian paradise, we've enlisted the help of travel expert Jackson from Journey Era. Read below for tips on how to best experience the island.

What should I do on my first trip to Oahu? 

If it's your first time to Oahu there are a few top things you cannot miss. If you are a keen hiker there are lots of epic trails on the island but there's also a short trail everyone should do. Hiking to the top of Diamond Head Crater is just a few kilometers and gives you an incredible view of the entire Waikiki area and the beaches in the south. 

If you are into history, visiting the Pearl Harbor Museum and memorial site is a very important piece of American war history and makes for a good half-day trip. Renting a car or jumping on a guided tour to the North Shore of Oahu to check out the iconic surf town of Haleiwa is a great way to relax while on vacation

What are some hidden gems to see in Oahu?

The Atlantis Submarine tour is an epic adventure where you will climb aboard a 48-passenger submarine and adventure through the underwater passages of the famous Waikiki beach. Through its portal windows, see Hawaiian fish, coral, turtles, sunken ships and airplanes, and more! 

It’s truly an amazing experience to see sunken warships and planes and all of the marine life that is now calling it home. Another unique activity on Oahu is to hike to the top of Koko Crater, which is a demanding and steep hike. The unforgiving incline will have you gasping for breath by the time you reach the top.

How much time should I spend in Oahu?

Most people feel that 7-10 days is a good amount of time to spend on Oahu. This gives you time to book a few tours, rent a car and explore for a few days and unwind with no activities with a few relaxing beach days. 

The time will fly by so any less than a week will feel rushed. Basing in Waikiki or the south is fine and how most people structure their stay. You can drive to all parts of the island within an hour from Waikiki so there's no need to base in multiple locations.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Oahu?

Waikiki is the hub of Oahu. Let’s start with Waikiki because it is the most popular place to stay in Oahu. The majority of the hotels are on this famous strip of beach. There are hundreds of restaurants, cafes, tour centers, transport options, and convenience stores. It has a great little surf break perfect for beginners. The water is warm, the cocktails are flowing and it is an all-around beach vibe.

For families: Waikiki is the number one choice for families. They are centrally located for all of the tours to different spots around the island. Kids have protected beaches to swim in without worrying about waves. There are several man-made reef breaks, which act as saltwater swimming pools. For mom and dad, there are plenty of nightspots and relaxed bars throughout Waikiki. It is a safe neighborhood and it is also a shopping heaven with lots of high-end retailers.

For couples: Honeymooners and couples have found the perfect getaway spot in Waikiki. Think of dining out and nice restaurants each night after a day of adventures each day. It is the perfect base to hit the beaches, adventure the island but still have the luxury of great accommodation, dining, and convenience on your doorstep.

For older travelers: The older adventurers among us love Waikiki for a few reasons. It’s simple. Everything is on your doorstep. The tours pick you up and drop you off at your hotel lobby. There are quality restaurants in all directions and the famous Waikiki Beach is within walking distance. You are never far from a refreshing dip in your hotel pool, the ocean, or an air-conditioner.

What is the best way to get around Oahu? 

If you are booking several tours you may not want to rent a car. However, if you like to explore yourself, it is best to hire a car, which costs about $60-100 per day. This way you can visit the east, north and west coast at your leisure. Within Waikiki, you can use the local bus service or Uber to get around as it is quite a small area. Within Waikiki, you can walk from most hotels to the beach so there is no real need for transport services if you are just enjoying beach days.

What are the best months to visit Oahu?

Oahu is a great place to visit all year round due to its tropical, temperate climate. However, in the winter the big surf in the north of the island can be a huge attraction and there are a number of big-wave surfing events. The summer months of May, June, and July are very popular due to the warm, consistent weather making it perfect for tanning on the beach and sipping cocktails

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Waikiki is the luxury shopping center of the island. You can find lots of upmarket stores in the strip, which is fun to walk up and down at night. Rolex, Gucci, and other high-end stores can be found in this area but there are also lots of regular stores like H&M and souvenir stores to find some Hawaiian-style gifts for your family and friends.

What people are saying about Oahu

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 2,877 reviews

My daughters and I had a great experience! Evan was the perfect guide- friendly and full of historical facts. Had a great time and would highly recommend. Bring a light jacket because it gets chilly in a couple of the locations.

Sarah, our pilot was fantastic! She went over everything with us and we had a fantastic time! I highly recommend the 60 minute tour! The whole crew was wonderful! I will be recommending them to everyone I know coming to Oahu!

All the experience was very well organized and with all the safety matters on place. It was a beautiful and relaxing activity. My teenage daughters loved the tour. All the staff was super nice and welcoming.

Nice smooth ride -got lucky and seen whales and turtles. The guides were still friendly after I held start of ride 5 minutes cause I got lost to boat area.They were actually gracious.

Great husband and wife team. Very knowledgeable and welcoming. Clean boat and you get a great tour.