100+ Things to Do in Oahu
Oahu is home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, and miles and miles of stunning mountains and coastline. With its combination of beautiful scenery and a bustling downtown, Oahu provides natural beauty, culture and urban adventure into one island. Take advantage of every aspect of Oahu with this list of 100+ things to do during your visit.
Hit the Beach
The beaches of Oahu are stunning but the hot beach spots can be crowded and parking can be competitive. Don’t feel restricted to the “best” beaches. There are so many to choose from! Also look for parking and beach access near the hot spots for the same, fabulous experience with fewer people.
Waikiki Beach is crow-ded!
However, it has beautiful white sand, warm water, a view of Diamond Head, and stunning sunrises and sunsets. It’s also the closest beach for people staying in Waikiki.
Despite its busy busy shores, Waikiki Beach is totally worth a visit. We swam here every evening for sunset.
A long stretch of white sand, clear water, and gentle waves make this an easy beach to enjoy.
Lanikai Beach has clear, calm waters that make for excellent swimming conditions year round. This one’s a little tough to find. Access the beach through alleys between homes marked with the blue, “Public Right of Way to Beach” signs.
The North Shore of Oahu is known for epic surfing. Many of the famous beaches in the North Shore are beautiful but not safe for all swimmers.
If you’re looking for a swimmable beach on the North Shore, try Haleiwa Beach Park, Kawela Bay or Chun’s Reef.
This beautiful North Shore spot is a great location for spotting epic waves and taking in a sunset. Rough North Shore waves at Sunset Beach mean you should probably save the swimming for another shore.
Waves here can also be super high, pay close attention to the wet sand and sit beyond the water line. Waves will unexpectedly wash over the entire beach (and wash away your things, if you’re not careful!)
On the more secluded leeward (West) side of the island, Electric Beach has a sandy, swimmable coastline with snorkeling. You may spot a sea turtle here!
Swim with the Fishes
There’s great snorkeling right off the shores in Oahu. If you’re looking for a special experience, snorkel tours in Oahu specialize in swimming with dolphins or turtles too.
This is a well-known Oahu snorkeling spot. It has shallow, calm water, white sand, and lots of fish.
Rocky beach with famed snorkeling on Oahu’s North Shore.
For easy access to snorkeling, Queen’s Beach is right in Waikiki and makes for a quick adventure.
Kahe Point (Electric Beach)
Leeward side snorkeling with both shallow and deeper snorkeling spots.
Take a dive with one of the many dive shops around Oahu. There are even tours that require no certification if you want to try it out without the training.
For experienced divers, there are several wrecks around Oahu you can explore as well as a sea cave and the spitting cave.
Dive 100 feet below the surface of the water with the Atlantis submarine tour. See sea turtles, eels and remnants of sunken ships entangled in coral reef.
Swim with Dolphins
Tours like Dolphins and You get you up close and personal with the magical marine creatures.
Marvel at Nature
The sun sets into the ocean by Waikiki beach, making it an amazing viewing spot. Check out other can’t miss sunset viewing locations across the island like Sunset Beach, Kaena Point, and Tantalus Lookout.
I’m not usually a morning person but I’ll wake up for a sunrise…sometimes, especially when they’re as beautiful as they are over the ocean surrounding Oahu. Watch the sunrise over Diamond Head on Waikiki Beach, at Makapu’u Beach, or at Sandy Beach.
Created by molten lava, the Halona Blowhole sends geysers as high as 30 feet. The coastline around the blowhole is stunning and distinct. Steep cliffs, dark igneous rock, and deep blue water surround the natural attraction.
Lava Tube at Cockroach Bay
Lava tubes are formations created by lava flow. You may experience them as caverns or black rocks. Cockroach Bay, like Halona Blowhole, was formed by lava flow and is an interesting natural formation to explore.
Another lava-formed seaside stunner, the China Walls are a stretch of ledges and cliffs. This is also a favorite for cliff jumpers. Be careful, the waves can be high and the rocks can be slick here.
The Mokes are two islands off the shore of Oahu. You can enjoy the view of them from adjacent Lanikai or Kailua Beach or kayak to the shores of Moku Nui to experience the island up close.
You’re likely to spot marine creatures like sea turtles along the way. The islands are also a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary and are home to 12 different species so keep your eyes peeled for the red-footed booby or giant frigatebird when you visit.
Chinaman’s Hat provides another beautiful photo op from the coast but the real fun comes from exploring it up close. Visit by kayak or boat or, during low tide, you can wade to the island (but be aware that hammerhead sharks live in the area and keep an eye on tide time tables so you don’t get stuck out there). Once there, Chinaman’s Hat has sea caves and beaches to explore.
Waimea Valley gives visitors an historical Hawaiian experience, waterfall views and botanical gardens.
It’s right across from Waimea Bay where you can watch some of the world’s best surfers ride epic waves.
One Hawaiian legend says that mankind was born from the womb of the earth goddess in Kaneana Cave.
Priests used to perform rituals in the cave and it’s believed that souls of deceased chiefs still haunt the cave.
The story is fabulous but the cave itself is not well-maintained. If you choose to check it out, be respectful of this spiritual site, wear good shoes, and bring a headlamp. The tunnels may also be dangerous so stick to the main opening of the cave if you explore it.
Take in the Views
The quickest route to the North shore from Honolulu is through the center of the island. Drive the Windward (Eastern) coast at least once during your stay in Oahu. Leave lots of extra time so you can check out natural attractions like the Halona Blowhole and snorkeling in Hanauma Bay along the way.
Cemeteries not usually on your to-do list? Make an exception for this one. Punchbowl cemetery is situated in a crater above Honolulu. To the left of the entrance is a walkway that leads to killer Honolulu and Diamond Head views.
Near the Halona blowhole and Hanauma Bay, the Lanai lookout has stellar views of the volcanic landscape and deep blue waters of the windward coast of Oahu. This area is always busy. If the parking is filled at the lookout, drive a few more minutes and pull off on one of the small turnouts nearby.
The mountains in this area are in-cred-i-ble. Ridiculous. Put Pali Lookout on your to-do list to drive through these epic cliffs and take in the view.
Laie Point State Wayside
Closer to the North Shore, this lookout point has unique formations and arches with sweeping ocean views.
SKY Waikiki Raw & Bar
For downtown Waikiki views, one of the best vantage points we had was from SKY Waikiki Raw & Bar. Situated behind the Royal Hawaiian, you’ll get great views of the famous hotel, Diamond Head, and the cityscape below while you sip creative cocktails.
Watch the Epic Waves
The North Shore has some of the most epic waves in. the. world. along with famous surf competitions. Even when the waves are calm here, they’re high, and potentially dangerous. Respect the surf if you try to swim, surf, or boogie anywhere in the area.
Sunset Beach & The Banzai Pipeline
Along the same stretch of beach, Sunset Beach and The Banzai Pipeline are famous North Shore beaches. They have beautiful barrel waves and white sand along the shore.
Watch your things and stay back from the shore, waves wash over beach unexpectedly and will soak your sh*t.
Sunset beach is also a fabulous place to…watch the sunset.
This is an awesome spot to watch surfers ride huge waves and lifeguards jet into the surf. Surfers will go out in groups and you’ll catch a few riding the waves at once. Shock and awe, I could not look away.
See the Wildlife
Tours like Dolphins and You let you swim with the magical marine creatures.
Sea Turtles wander up onto the shores of Oahu. You can spot them around the island or swim with them in popular snorkel spots.
They’re tough to find, but you may spot them at Kaena Point in the North West of the island or Turtle Bay.
Get a Dose of Culture & History
Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center has six island villages set on 42 acres of land. Explore the different cultures with hands-on activities or attend one of their luaus or evening shows.
Visit the royal residence of the last reigning monarchs of Hawaii at Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu. You might spot bright green rose ringed parakeets in the trees around the palace.
Queen Emma’s Summer Palace
If you loved Iolani Palace, less than ten minutes away is Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, a vacation home for Queen Emma of Hawaii from 1857 to 1885.
Across from Iolani Palace, Ali’iolani Hale is an historical building that is now home to the Hawaii State Supreme Court. In front of the building is a gold-leaf statue of Kamehameha the Great.
Hawaii’s Plantation Village
This outdoor museum captures life on the historic sugar plantations of Hawaii. The village includes authentic plantation homes, personal artifacts, clothing, furniture and art preserved in their original settings and shares the story of the many cultures that met here.
Byodo-In Temple and the Ko’olau Mountains behind it look like they were ripped from the pages of a fairytale. The temple itself is a quick stop. Walk the grounds to see koi, a stunning Amida Buddha poised over the alter, and a black swan. On your way out, head to the ocean overlook across from the temple for stunning views of the mountain range and the sea.
Shangri-La was built in 1937 as the Hawaiian home of Doris Duke and the architecture and decor were inspired by her travels. Today, it is a museum for learning about global cultures of Islamic art.
Petroglyphs at Nuuanu Memorial Park
Search for petroglyphs of dogs and people etched by ancient Hawaiians in Nuuanu Memorial Park.
Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial to learn more about the attack and the pivotal role it played in US history.
The Bishop Museum is the Hawaii state museum of cultural and natural history. It is the largest museum in the state and has the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.
Honolulu Museum of Art
HoMA has more than 50,000 works of art and one of the largest collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the US.
Take a Tour
Circle Island Tour
Pressed for time? Take a circle island tour to cover the highlights of Oahu in a single day. See popular sites like the Byodo-In temple, Kualoa Ranch, and the Dole Plantation in a single trip so you can spend the rest of your time relaxing on the beach.
Sample the highlights on a local food tour. Try musubi, malasadas, poke, and more with winner of Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race, Lanai Tabura on the Aloha Plate Food Tour. Taste the local comfort foods of Hawaii on the Hole-in-the-wall food tour.
Visit Kualoa Ranch where more than 50 Hollywood movies were filmed including scenes from Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and Hawaii 5-0.
Ride the pineapple express or get lost in the world’s largest maze at the Dole Plantation. Finish your visit with dole whip, a delicious whipped pineapple dessert.
Bonus, there are rainbow eucalyptus in front of the parking lot at the Dole Plantation. Look closely at the bark of the trees and you’ll see neon greens and oranges lining their trunks.
Explore the Urban Playground
Get out of the Waikiki bubble and walk downtown Honolulu. Chinatown has awesome historic buildings, an open market and bomb food. Kaka’ako is a popping neighborhood with colorful murals and a growing craft beer scene.
Experience Oahu at night. Check out the natural beauty of the island by moonlight or dance, sing, and drink the night away in Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu.
Watch the free fireworks show every Friday night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki at 7:30/7:45.
Watch them between Ala Moana beach and the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. You can also see them on a sunset cruise.
Catch a Show
An authentic luau is a must-do on your visit to the islands. During the show, you’ll eat authentic Hawaiian food like kalua pig cooked in an earth oven, hear live music and watch hula performances. Choose from performances across the island.
Make Your Own Music
Play a Ukulele
Show off your musical prowess at The Ukulele Store on the Waikiki Beach Walk. They offer free daily lessons to beginners and you’ll learn how to play Happy Birthday, Hawaiian style.
Check Out the Botanical Gardens
Oahu’s 5 botanical gardens are diverse and enchanting. Colorful flowers and birds make for lovely afternoon strolls and some of the best insta backdrops on the island. Our favorites were:
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
With the incredible Koolau Mountain Range in the background, every view in Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a good one. The must-visit Oahu site is known for tree lined streets against steep green mountains.
Koko Crater Botanical Garden
Developed inside the Koko Crater, this botanical garden features desertous plants like bulbous trees and round cacti with rows and rows of plumeria.
Foster Botanical Garden
With easy access from downtown Honolulu, this is an easy stop after checking out the city. Its colorful flowers and birds make for a nice afternoon escape.
Hike The Day Away
There are so many hikes on Oahu. Long hikes, easy hikes, waterfall hikes, ocean-view hikes. They have it all. Here are a few of the better-known routes but if you’re a hiking enthusiast, scour the 243! top trials of Oahu to plan your trip.
Kaena Point Hike
On the North Shore, the Kaena Point Hike is an easy one that runs along the beach and is known as a prime wildlife viewing spot. On our hike we saw an Albatross and sighted Humpback Whales four times. If you’re lucky, you might even happen upon a Monk Seal here.
Koko Crater Trail
Tho Koko Crater Trail is a short but steep, difficult trail on old railroad tracks that ends in utterly beautiful views.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail has views of the mountainous coast against deep blue waters, a red-roofed lighthouse and if you’re lucky, Humpback Whales.
Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
The jagged, green mountains of Oahu’s Southeast were some of my favorite views from the entire trip. The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail gets you into the mammoth mountains while giving you a view of the coast below.
The Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven is an incredible and famous, but illegal, hike in Oahu. Check the linked post for recent experiences on the trail.
Find Your Adventure
Kayak or SUP
Rent a kayak or stand up paddle board and explore the waters around Oahu. Take a self guided tour through the jungle or to Chinaman’s Hat or paddle to Mokulua Island seabird sanctuary and take a dip in the Queen’s Bath.
All the Water Sports
Try parasailing, jet skiing, or wakeboarding in the beautiful clear waters of Hawaii.
Fish for underwater beasts like marlin and giant yellowfin tuna on a deep sea fishing expedition.
Feed Your Adrenaline Addiction
Take a daring leap off of an Oahu cliff. China Walls, Laie Point, and Alan Davis are some favorite spots.
Swim with Sharks
Take your pick of cage diving or free diving with sharks on the North Shore.
Fly through Hawaiian trails or bike the scenic roadways with a mountain bike or road bike rental from Waikiki or the North Shore.
Doors Off Helicopter Ride
See the island from a new vantage point with a doors off helicopter ride. Check out views of Waikiki, explore the natural sites of the island, or watch the sunset as you fly over Oahu.
If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to jump out of a plane, now’s it. Skydive over the most beautiful dropzone on earth.
Shop Your Heart Out
Ala Moana Center
Ala Moana Center is a four-level open air shopping center with more than 350 shops and 160+ dining options.
Shopping center in Kaka’ako with local shops, restaurants, and events.
In central Waikiki, International Marketplace offers open-air high-end shopping and dining right in the middle of Waikiki.
Historic Haleiwa in the North Shore has boutique shopping in plantation-era buildings. You’ll find surf and swim gear, home furnishings, unique souvenirs, and art in this little stretch.
There are farmers’ markets dotted across Oahu. Find fresh fruit and local wares at one of the many markets on the island.
Check Out the Oahu Food Scene
Learn to cook local Hawaiian favorites like poke, loco moco, and musubi at the Hawaiian Style Cooking Class in Honolulu.
Find local favorites at Hawaiian restaurants around the island. Here’s a tutorial of some of the local dishes that need a spot on your culinary bucket list:
- Spam Musubi – a snack made of marinated spam over rice, tied with seawood.
- Kalua Pork – pulled pork
- Saimin – a Hawaiian inspired iteration of egg-noodle soup
- Loco Moco – white rice topped with hamburger patties, a fried egg, and brown gravy
- Manapua – fluffy buns filled with pork
- Huli huli chicken – marinated chicken
- Lau lau – pork wrapped in taro leaves and cooked underground
- Poi – thick purple paste made from taro
- Lomi salmon – salmon diced with tomatoes, onions, and peppers
Plate lunch is usually a helping of meat or comfort food with rice and macaroni salad. This is a staple and can be found on menus around the island. Order the mix plate or loco moco at Rainbow Drive In for a quality plate lunch experience.
Poke is raw seafood salad. It’s usually raw seafood like tuna, cut into chunks, marinated and mixed with onion or seaweed. Try different takes on the Hawaiian favorite with options like Shoyu and Ahi Limu poke from Fresh Catch or Ono Seafood.
Stop by the food trucks near historic Haleiwa for a much-needed refueling while exploring the North Shore. Giovanni’s shrimp truck is the famous food here, order their shrimp scampi and get a pina colada at the neighboring truck to pass the time. There are typically long lines and a wait here.
Shave ice is an elevated snow cone. It’s a ball of ice with flavored syrups that range from coconut to lilikoi to guava. Many shops will offer toppings like coconut cream, ice cream or tapioca balls. There are shave ice shops around Hawaii but two killer ones are Waiola in Honolulu or Matsumoto in Haleiwa on the North Shore.
Malasadas are fluffy donuts filled or topped with delicious glazes and jellies. Try the malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery.
Try this coconutty pudding-filled pie in flavors that range from chocolate to guava at Ted’s Bakery in the North Shore.
Hawaii is known for growing world-class coffee, the most famous of which is grown in the rich volcanic soil of Kona on The Big Island. Try the famous, local coffee at Kona Coffee Purveyors.
Acai Bowls are the perfect way to start any day. With a base of pureed acai and toppings like nuts, chocolate, fresh fruit, and peanut butter, they’re a sweet and balanced morning treat. Try one of the many excellent options around the island like Haleiwa Bowls.
Chinatown in downtown Oahu is a bustling neighborhood with open markets and excellent eats. Our favorite meal here was the Pho French Dip from The Pig and the Lady.
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