View of Diamond Head Crater in Oahu. One of the best places to visit in Oahu.

75 Top Things to Do in Oahu – The Ultimate Guide for Your Oahu Getaway

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The Hawaiian Island of Oahu is the most populated and the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu, the capital of the state of Hawaii, is located on Oahu. There are many things to do in Oahu, from hiking and watersports to cultural experiences and relaxing on the beach. There are also many things to do in Oahu with kids, like going to the zoo or a waterpark. No matter what interests you, your family, and your friends, there is something for everyone to do on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Keep reading for the ultimate guide of things to do in Oahu.

Table of Contents

Getting Around in Oahu

Getting around on Oahu is fairly easy. You can rent a car, use a rideshare app, use a taxi, or use the Trolley if you will be staying in and around Waikiki. Renting a car is by far the best way to get around Oahu. You can explore the island at your leisure and schedule without worrying about your return time or finding a ride back to your hotel. And because there is so much to see in Oahu, you will be able to explore many more places if you rent a car.

If you do not want to rent a car, you can use rideshare, such as Uber and Lyft, which are readily available on Oahu. You can also use a Taxi. Rideshare programs are a bit cheaper than using a Taxi on Oahu. A taxi ride from the airport to our hotel cost us a little over $50.00. We would have paid less if we had used one of the rideshare programs. However, we opted for the Taxi because it was convenient, and already waiting at the airport and we didn’t want to wait for a rideshare car. 

Another way to get around Oahu is by using the Trolley. This is perfect if you want to stay in the Waikiki area and see sites close by, such as the Halona Blowhole. The trolley offers multi-day passes, which aren’t too expensive.

Explore Waikiki – One of the Top Things to Do in Oahu

Waikiki is one of the most popular tourist areas to visit on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Many Oahu hotels are located in the Waikiki area and are within walking distance of the beach. There are many places to eat and many shopping areas to explore. You can find a mix of franchise restaurants and local eateries. We recommend trying local restaurants because it is a great way to meet locals and get recommendations of other places to try and things to do in Oahu from a local perspective. Waikiki is also very walkable. You can easily get around Waikiki on foot or by public transportation.

Cruise the Coast of Waikiki

Since Oahu is an island, there are many different day cruise excursions you can go on. Many of these day cruises leave from the Waikiki area. You can book the cruise excursions online before your trip to Oahu or when you get to Oahu. Many hotels can help you book various excursions and needed transportation to your excursion. Here are some of the most popular cruise excursions you can book, many of which are in the Waikiki area.

View of the Waikiki Coast in Oahu
View of Waikiki from a catamaran cruise

Take a Catamaran Cruise

You can take a catamaran Cruise on Oahu. There are many catamaran cruises available to choose from, each giving you a fantastic view of Waikiki Beach and, best of all, a great photo opportunity of Diamond Head. There are catamaran cruises that sail around the North Shore, the Waikiki area, or even private catamaran tours. Popular catamaran cruises are sunset cruises with views of Honolulu and Waikiki. Some of the sunset catamaran cruises are cocktail cruises, so you can enjoy a drink while watching the sunset on the ocean. If you go on a sunset cruise in Waikiki on a Friday, there is the possibility of seeing fireworks that are put on by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The fireworks can be canceled if there is too much wind.

Take a Sunset Dinner Cruise

If you enjoy going on dinner cruises, there are several sunset dinner cruises to choose from in Waikiki Beach. You can go on a simple sunset dinner cruise or one with a Hawaiian cultural show or live music. Some of the dinner cruises available are multi-course dinners, and others are buffets, some cruises providing options for the type of dinner you would like. You can even go on a dinner cruise that offers the opportunity to go snorkeling beforehand.

Go on a Glass Bottom Boat Cruise

If you want to check out the sea life on the coast of Oahu without getting in the ocean, then go on a glass-bottom boat cruise. A glass-bottom boat cruise is one of the great things to do in Oahu for families with young children. This is a safe way for little ones who may not be able to swim to see tropical fish and maybe some dolphins.

Go on a Snorkel Cruise

One of the most popular cruises to do is a snorkel cruise. There are many options for snorkel cruises in Oahu. Each with different destinations in and around Oahu and different types of boats. One of the popular options is the Turtle Canyon catamaran snorkel cruise in Waikiki, which we have done a few times. Turtle Canyon is one of the best ways to see turtles in the ocean in Oahu. If you do go on a Turtle Canyon snorkel cruise, you should avoid touching or getting too close to the turtles, as they are a protected species in Hawaii. You can also go on a snorkel cruise on the North Shore or at the Kaneohe Sandbar, located on the windward side of the island.

Go Shopping in Oahu

If you love to shop, there are many places to go shopping in Oahu, especially in the Waikiki area. There are many souvenir shops in Waikiki. You will see several souvenir shops just by walking around Waikiki. This is a great way to pick up a Hawaii-themed souvenir. A popular store that you will see a lot in Waikiki is the ABC Store. There are a variety of products available, including artisanal souvenirs. Other places where you can shop are malls and luxury retail stores that are found on Kalakaua Avenue, the main street that takes you toward Waikiki Beach. Whether you are looking for souvenirs to take home or luxury items for yourself, there are many options for shopping on Oahu.

Visit The Ala Moana Center

The Ala Moana Center is a popular mall near the Waikiki area and across from the Ala Moana Regional Park and Beach. Ala Moana Center is a large outdoor mall that is three stories and is considered the largest shopping center in Hawaii. Along the outside of the main shopping building facing the parking lot, there are more stores and food places. You can find stores like Journey’s, Hot Topic, Hollister, and even Target. Additionally, you will find many high-end stores such as Gucci, Prada, and Chanel.

There are many food options if you are not as interested in shopping and want to grab a bite. There are options for sit-down service, casual restaurants, snacks and drinks, desserts, and a large food court. If you are staying at a hotel within walking distance, the food court has various food options if you want something fast. We walked over to the Ala Moana Center several times from the Hilton Hawaiian Village to eat at the food court and one of the restaurants. We also purchased some wonderful baked goods.

Aloha sign at the Ala Moana Center.
Aloha sign at the Ala Moana Center in Waikiki

Getting to and Parking at the Ala Moana Center

The Ala Moana Center is about 8 minutes from the heart of Waikiki and 30 minutes from Honolulu International Airport. If you rent a car for your trip, you can drive over and park in the parking garage. The parking garage for the Ala Moana Center surrounds the mall and has a lot of parking spaces. Parking by the main entrances of the parking lot may be more congested, so we recommend driving around a little to other sections of the parking garage or parking on the lowest level. The second and third levels face the stores along the outside of the main shopping building.

You can also take public transportation to the Ala Moana Center. Bus stops are nearby on all sides of the Ala Moana Center. Another option is to take the Waikiki Trolley to the Ala Moana Center. If you take the Waikiki Trolley to the Ala Moana Center, you will want to hop on the Pink Line.

Visit The International Market Place

The International Market Place is an open-air mall in the heart of Waikiki. From the 1960s through 2014, the International Market Place had merchants who sold local art and souvenirs representing Pacific and Polynesian cultures. There was even an amphitheater area that was used for cultural shows and live music. 

In 2016, the International Market Place was re-done into the modern open-air mall it is today. Today, a lawn area in the center of the International Market Place is used for luaus and cultural activities. There are now several high-end stores like Burberry, Christian Louboutin, Micheal Kors, and Balenciaga. Additionally, if you are looking for a currency exchange in Waikiki, one is located on the first floor near the food court.

A key feature of the International Market Place is a banyan tree planted in the 1800s. The banyan tree remains a key feature of the International Market Place at the main entrance off Kalakaua Avenue. There is a parking garage where you can park if you drive over to the International Market Place. Remember to get your parking validated if you spend $25 in one of the stores so you can pay less for parking.

International Market Place sign - one of the best shopping centers to visit in Oahu.
Sign at the International Market Place

Visit The Royal Hawaiian Center

The Royal Hawaiian Center is near the heart of Waikiki, off Kalakaua Avenue. The Royal Hawaiian Center is a multi-level shopping center by the Royal Hawaiian Resort. There is a mix of stores, from locally owned to high-end stores like Tiffany & Co., Hermes, Jimmy Choo, and Saint Laurent. Additionally, there are multiple restaurants and a food court. 

One of our favorite places to eat at the Royal Hawaiian Center is Doraku Sushi. We love to get the Wagyu Fried Rice and the Black Peppered Ahi roll. Another place we like to stop by is Island Vintage Shave Ice. You can choose from their menu or make your own shave ice creation. I like getting the lilikoi and lychee mint flavor shave ice with popping boba, condensed milk, and ice cream. It is absolutely delicious!

At the Royal Hawaiian Center, you can take hula lessons, see cultural performances, and learn to make a lei. You can check the Royal Hawaiian Center website for the days and times of their cultural events. There is also a 7-level parking garage to park in if you drive to the center. Remember to get your parking validated when eating at one of the restaurants or at a store if you buy something so you can pay a lower rate.

The entrance of the Royal Hawaiian Center.
Entrance to the Royal Hawaiian Center

Take a Walk Along Luxury Row 

Luxury Row is along Kalakaua Avenue, leading to the Royal Hawaiian Center. As the name suggests, several luxury brand stores are in this shopping area. Some stores in Luxury Row are Gucci, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, and Miu Miu. The storefronts on Luxury Row are two levels, with Chanel having three floors. Unlike the larger shopping centers, there is no parking garage. I recommend parking over at the Royal Hawaiian Center and walking over since it is a short walk to Luxury Row.

Visit the ABC Stores

There are ABC Stores throughout the Waikiki area. Some go by different names, such as Island Country Market or Island Market, but are still part of the ABC Stores family. You can find souvenirs, food, alcohol, beach toys, and beach equipment. At some ABC Stores, mainly those that go by other names like Island Country Market, you can find fresh produce and even order hot food. Our personal favorite hot food item to order is the Kim Chee Fried Rice, which is large enough to split between two people. It is definitely worth a try!

You can easily spend a good amount of money at the ABC Stores without realizing it because of the variety of items available for purchase. Especially if you visit multiple times. So, if you buy anything from the ABC Stores, save your receipts! For every $100 you spend, you can get an item like a coffee mug, calendar, or reusable market bag. If you spend $300 or more, you could get a towel or a nice bag. We have a nice little collection of mugs from the ABC Stores from our trips to Hawaii.

Ride Around Waikiki on the Waikiki Trolley

Using the Waikiki Trolley is a fun way to get around the Waikiki area and parts of Honolulu. The Waikiki Trolley has four different routes throughout Honolulu. There is the Pink, Green, Blue, and Red Line, each with a different focus interest. Whether you want to go shopping or sightseeing, there is a trolley line for you.

If you are interested in shopping, the Pink Line is perfect. The Pink Link goes by the Ala Moana Center and throughout the Waikiki shopping area. The Green Line is perfect and the one to take if you have reservations to hike Diamond Head in the morning.

If you want to get to the Sea Life Park or the Halona Blowhole Lookout, the Blue Line is the trolley you want to take. The Red Line is perfect for those interested in cultural and historical Hawaiian sites. The Red Line takes you to the state capitol and Iolani Palace and drives through the Punchbowl Crater.

If you decide to ride the trolley for the entire route, it can take about forty minutes to an hour, depending on the route you choose to take. You can purchase a one-day pass for one line or a multiple-line multi-day pass. If you get the day pass, you can hop on-hop-off when you get to a stop of interest to explore Waikiki and Honolulu. 

We recommend getting a multi-line pass so you can ride any of the four lines. Like any public transportation, you should be aware of the schedule for your line, especially the last pick-up time, so you do not end up having to take another form of transportation to get back to your hotel.

Waikiki Trolley bus in Oahu.
Waikiki Trolley bus
Waikiki Trolley Bus in Waikiki Beach Oahu
Waikiki Trolley bus

Visit Duke’s Waikiki

Duke’s Waikiki is a popular restaurant and bar on Waikiki Beach. Duke’s Waikiki is named in honor of Duke Kahanamoku. Duke Kahanamoku is a famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer who won several Olympic medals. It has been reported that Duke Kahanamoku rode a wave for over a mile in Waikiki.

Duke’s Waikiki is a beachfront restaurant and bar. While there, you have views of the turquoise-blue water of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head in the distance. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at Duke’s Waikiki. Due to this being a popular place to eat, it is recommended you make reservations to eat at Duke’s Waikiki.

Sign at Duke's Restaurant in Waikiki Beach.
Sign from Dukes Barefoot Bar and Restaurant

Enjoy a Fireworks Show on Waikiki

If you are looking for things to do on Oahu at night and are in the Waikiki area on Friday evening, we recommend hanging out on the beach near the Hilton Hawaiian Village to watch the Fireworks. Every Friday night at 7:45, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has a fireworks show on the beach, weather permitting. The best place to watch the fireworks is on Duke Kahanamoku Beach next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, but you should be able to see the fireworks just about anywhere along the beach in the Waikiki area. Duke Kahanamoku Beach gets crowded because of the popularity of the fireworks show, but if you walk towards Waikiki Beach, you should be able to find a less crowded area to enjoy the show.

The fireworks show lasts about four to five minutes and is shot off from the beach in front of the Rainbow Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. There are even some evening cruises on Friday to watch the show from the ocean while looking out towards the Waikiki area. When we go to the fireworks show, we usually stop by Lappert’s Ice Cream in the Rainbow Bazaar and then find a perfect spot on the beach to enjoy the show. The last time we were there, a local fire dancer was putting on a show for the crowd that gathered on the beach after the fireworks show. It was a great evening out!

Go Golfing

If you are interested in golfing, there are several golf courses on Oahu where you can enjoy a game of golf. There are golf courses in the heavily populated areas of Oahu, like Honolulu, Waikiki, Pearl City, and Hawaii Kai. If you are on the North Shore, there are a couple of options, such as a golf course at Turtle Bay and Kahuku. Some golf courses on Oahu have ocean views and palm trees, making for a relaxing game of golf with spectacular views.

Go to Leonard’s to Enjoy a Delicious Malasada

While on Oahu, you should try a delicious Malasada from Leonard’s! Malasadas are Portuguese fried donuts. Leonard’s is one of the most popular places to get malasadas when visiting Oahu. You can get the original ones coated in sugar or get filled ones. The malasadas from Leonard’s are made to order, so when you get them, they are nice and hot. The malasadas are best eaten fresh right when you get them. Leonard’s sells other baked goods, but they are known for their malasadas. 

If you choose to get a filled malasada, there are several different fillings to choose from. The usual fillings are haupia (my personal favorite), custard, macadamia nut, guava, and Dobash, which is chocolate. There is typically a feature flavor that also tends to go with the season. During one of our last trips to Oahu, the featured flavor was pumpkin. The featured flavor can be found online on Leonard’s website if you want to know the featured filling before you visit.

Leonard's Bakery sign in Oahu.
Leonard’s Bakery sign

Where is Leonard’s Located

Leonard’s has a few locations where you can get malasadas. The main storefront is in Waikiki, off Kapahulu Avenue. Several Leonard’s trucks, called Malasadamobiles, are in multiple locations throughout Oahu. You can find the Malasadamobiles at the Windward Shopping Center, Waikele Shopping Center, Pearlridge Shopping Center, and the Koko Marina Shopping Center. You can check out Leonard’s official website for the addresses of the various Malasadamobile locations.

Enjoy Some Time at a Spa in Oahu

While on vacation, treat yourself to a day at the spa. You can go to several places in Oahu to get a massage or a facial. Many hotels have spas, and you can find some spas near the hotels; some can even be found on Groupon. Treating yourself to a day at the spa on a Hawaiian vacation screams ultimate relaxation. After your day at the spa, you can relax on the beach with a drink.

Stop at One of the Many Scenic Lookouts Around Oahu

When driving around Oahu, you will come upon several scenic spots. We recommend taking some time to stop to enjoy the views. You will have fantastic mountain peak views and coastline ocean views. If the day is clear, there are also a couple of scenic lookouts where you can see the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Maui. The scenic lookouts are great spots to get some fantastic photos. 

Lana’i Lookout

The Lanai Lookout is just past Hanauma Bay and has breathtaking coastal views. On clear days, you can see Lanai, Maui, and Molokai in the distance. Also, you will have a great view of Koko Crater behind you. There are warnings not to go past the lookout wall, but people do anyway. We do not recommend not going past the wall as the waves crash against the lava rock cliff past the lookout. This is a great place to get some amazing pictures.

Halona Blowhole Lookout – One of the Best Lookouts to Visit in Oahu

At the Halona Blowhole Lookout, ocean water shoots out from a lava tube in the lava rock area below the lookout. On very clear days, you may be able to see the islands of Moloka’i, Lanai, and Maui. Just before walking down to watch the blowhole, on the ground, there are images of Oahu and the three other Hawaiian Islands you can see in the distance and their position from the lookout. The Halona Beach Cove is to the right of the parking lot at the Halona Blowhole Lookout. Halona Beach Cove is also referred to as “From Here to Eternity Beach” because the movie “From Here to Eternity” was filmed at this location.

View of the Halona Blowhole. One of the top things to do in Oahu.
View of the Halona Blowhole
View of people at Halona Beach Cove, also known as Eternity Beach, from above on a sunny day
Halona Beach Cove “From Here to Eternity Beach”

Makapu’u Lookout

Makapuu Lookout overlooks Makapuu Beach. The lookout is just past the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, about 30 minutes from Waikiki. If you stop at the Makapuu Lookout, you will get a fantastic view of a portion of the Windward coast of Oahu with Waimanalo Beach in the distance. The parking lot is on the small side, but you will likely not wait long for a parking spot if they are all taken. Overall, we have never had any issues parking here, as people only spend a short time at the lookout.

View of Makapuu Beach from the Makapuu Lookout in Oahu
Makapuu Beach from the Makapuu Lookout

Hawaii Kai Lookout

The Hawaii Lai Lookout provides views of the Hawaii Kai area and Maunalua Bay. One of the best features of the Hawaii Kai Lookout is the view of Koko Crater. You can even see the trail for the Koko Crater Railway Hike. The parking lot is on the small side, with about seven parking spaces. The Hawaii Kai Lookout is just before the entrance to Hanauma Bay on the left-hand side if you are coming from Waikiki.

View of Koko Crater - one of the best hikes in Oahu
View of Koko Crater

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

The Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is off Highway 61, the Pali Highway, between Honolulu and Kailua. At the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, you will have a picturesque view of Windward Oahu looking out towards Kaneohe Bay and Kailua. Parking to go to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is $7 for non-residents. Since you will be up in the mountains, we recommend having a jacket on hand in case the wind is strong when you are there.

Cultural Things to Do on Oahu

When in Hawaii, we recommend learning about Hawaiian culture and history. We try to do a cultural activity or learn more about Hawaiian history when we go. It is one of the best ways to learn about this beautiful place and what living Aloha means to Hawaiians. You can easily do this as there are many historical and cultural things to do on Oahu, such as Luau’s, visiting historical locations, and going to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Attend a Hawaiian Luau

Hawaiian luaus are among the most popular and everyday cultural activities available for tourists on their trip to Oahu. There are many Luaus to choose from in Oahu. Several hotels and resorts put on their own Luaus, and there are private companies you can choose from as well. If you plan to go to a Luau during your visit to Oahu, we recommend booking before your trip, especially during peak season, as some Luau companies can be fully booked days or weeks in advance. 

At a Luau, you will have a delicious Hawaiian buffet offered before the main show begins. The Hawaiian buffet typically features Kalua pig cooked in an Imu, an in-ground oven, lomi lomi salmon, macaroni salad, steamed rice, chicken, Haupia, and dinner rolls and other items. After the buffet, you are treated to the many Polynesian dance styles from the different Polynesian countries. You also get a glimpse of Polynesian culture. The Polynesian dances highlighted during a Luau usually include dances from Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand.

Dancers at Germaine's Luau. One of the best things to do in Oahu.
Luau performance at Germaine’s Luau

Is Attending a Luau Worth It

Going to a Luau is something everyone should do at least once when visiting Hawaii. Attending a Luau can be expensive, depending on the package you choose and the Luau you attend, but going to a Luau is definitely worth the experience. You get to learn about Polynesian culture, see Polynesian Dances from various Polynesian Islands, and try some delicious Hawaiian food. There are also some Luaus that offer cultural activities before the Luau. Here are a few Luaus to consider during your trip to Oahu:

Visit the Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace represents Hawaiian Royalty and is believed to have been built where an ancient Heiau, a place of worship, once stood. The Iolani Palace was home to the Hawaiian Monarchy until the monarchy was overthrown from power. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, served her house arrest sentence in an upstairs bedroom of the Iolani Palace, where a quilt she made is displayed. 

Iolani Palace became the site of the government’s capital before Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. After Hawaii became the 50th State of the United States, the Iolani Palace was used as the state capital building until the current capital building was built. Today, work continues to be done to restore Iolani Place to how the palace once looked during the monarchy.

Touring Iolani Palace 

You can take a guided and self-led audio tour of Iolani Palace. Iolani Palace is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm for tours. To reserve your tour, you will need to make reservations in advance on the Iolani Palace website. Since the Iolani Palace is considered a sacred Hawaiian site, please respect the site’s cultural significance to Hawaiian culture and dress appropriately.

Learn About Polynesian Culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is just over an hour from Waikiki off Kamehameha Highway in Laie. At the Polynesian Cultural Center, you can learn about the cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, and Aotearoa. When learning about the different Polynesian cultures, you can participate in interactive activities like learning how to hula, playing ancient games, and pole fishing.

Each Polynesian nation represented at the Polynesian Cultural Center has its own village to explore. In the individual villages, you will learn and participate in the cultural activities associated with the different regions. There is also a canoe tour you can go on through the lagoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you choose to, you can purchase a package including the buffet and cultural show Ha: Breath of Life.

The entrance to the Polynesian Cultural Center. One of the top things to do in Oahu.
Entrance to the Polynesian Cultural Center

Visit the Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Hukilau Marketplace is a marketplace outside of the Polynesian Cultural Center that is open to the general public. There are multiple dining options and places to get shave ice and crepes. Additionally, there are shops where you can purchase Polynesian Cultural Center souvenirs, handmade local crafts and art, and jewelry.

Polynesian Cultural Center marketplace welcome sign
Sign at the Hukilau Marketplace
Vendor of artisan goods at the Polynesian Cultural Center marketplace.
Vendor at the Hukilau Marketplace

Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is open Monday through Saturday from 12:30 pm to 9:00 pm and closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. The Hukilau Marketplace is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:30 pm and closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. However, independent dining options and shops may have different hours of operation. Parking at the Polynesian Cultural Center is free to all visitors. There is an option to add transportation from Waikiki to the Polynesian Cultural Center when you purchase tickets if you do not want to drive or if you did not rent a car during your trip.

Adventurous Things to Do on Oahu

There are many adventurous things to do on Oahu. Whether you are slightly adventurous or searching for an adrenaline thrill, there is something for everyone.  You can find adventurous things to do on Oahu on land, in the air, and out on the ocean. 

Take a Helicopter Tour of Oahu

A great way to see Oahu is by helicopter. There are various helicopter tour companies in Hawaii to choose from. You can choose to do a tour that flies over Waikiki, Diamond Head, the Windward side of Oahu, the North Shore, the rainforest, and the Sacred Falls. Another tour option takes you around the island of Oahu, where you see the Waianae Mountains, Pearl Harbor, and the Ko Olina area, in addition to Diamond Head up to the North Shore. A helicopter tour is a great way to get incredible photos of Oahu. 

Go on an ATV Adventure Tour

If you want an adrenaline rush on land and do not mind getting dirty, then do an ATV tour. There are a few options to choose from when selecting which ATV tour to take on Oahu. You can do a tour on the leeward side or west side of Oahu or go to the North Shore for an ATV adventure tour. No matter what, be prepared to get dirty. Your ATV tour will either be dusty or muddy if it has been raining.

Go Ziplining

One of my favorite things to do in Oahu is ziplining. We recommend ziplining if you do not have a problem with heights and you want a thrill. There are several places you can go ziplining in Oahu. There are multiple places on Oahu where you can do a zipline tour with options to do three lines or a full zipline course. Some locations even have combination packages that allow you to do an ATV tour or ropes course. 

Ziplining is so much fun, and you get amazing views of your surroundings. What I like so much about ziplining is how peaceful it feels to zip across amazing landscapes and how time seems to slow down. If you are not too afraid of heights, I recommend doing a zipline tour. Especially in Hawaii. The ziplining tour I took in Hawaii was amazing. I had mountain views on one side and ocean views on the other side. There is nothing quite like the view you get while ziplining.

Go on a Shark Adventure on the North Shore of Oahu

If you want an adrenaline rush in the ocean, go on a shark adventure on the North Shore. From the North Shore, you can go out and free-swim with sharks or do a cage dive if you do not want to free-swim with sharks. Some of the sharks you may see include Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks, and, on the rare occasion, possibly a tiger shark. 

Swimming with sharks has risks, especially free swimming with them, so be aware of your surroundings and listen to the tour guides for your safety. You will need to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks involved when you go on this excursion. Remember you are in the shark’s environment.

Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Coast by Parasailing

Parasailing is when you are attached to a parachute that is towed by a boat. There are several companies on Oahu that you can do a parasailing excursion with. When you go parasailing, you can go as a single or double, and you might find companies allowing three people to go at once. We love going parasailing. You get a fantastic view of the area and thrill since you are at least 600 feet above the ocean. If you choose to, you can have the company dip your legs in the ocean as you go up or as they bring you in. 

The main locations for parasailing are in Waikiki and Maunalua Bay. In Waikiki, you have a view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. At Maunalua Bay, you get views of Diamond Head to the west and Koko Crater to the east. I chose to go parasailing in Maunalua Bay because we usually stay in Waikiki, and I wanted a different view from Waikiki while parasailing.

Picture of Reya right before she went parasailing in Maunalua Bay, Oahu.
Reya getting ready to go parasailing
Parasailing in Waikiki Beach. A fun thing to do in Oahu.
View of Reya’s parasailing adventure

Go Skydiving on the North Shore of Oahu

If you want a high-adrenaline adventure, then you can go skydiving. Skydiving on Oahu is done on the North Shore. Since the North Shore is not commercially built up like the Honolulu area, your skydiving views will be amazing and picturesque. If you want a keepsake, you can purchase pictures and video of your skydiving adventure. As with any high-risk adventure, you will need to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of skydiving. When skydiving, listen to the instructors and the person you tandem skydive with, as your safety is their priority.

Go Hiking in Oahu

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do on Oahu. There are many hikes in Oahu for people of all athletic abilities. We recommend considering the different hikes when deciding on one of the many Oahu hiking trails. Some are more difficult than others and better hiked when it has not been raining. Some hiking trails can be affected by rain, making the trails muddy if it has been raining. You can hike the craters, hike to waterfalls, and various pillboxes on Oahu.

Hike Diamond Head Crater

Hiking Diamond Head Crater is among the most popular things to do on Oahu. To hike Diamond Head, you will need to make reservations ahead of time. The hike is about 1.6 miles from the visitor center to the summit and back and is considered a moderate hike. At the summit, you will have a fantastic view of Waikiki to the west and views of Hawaii Kai and Koko Crater to the east. The view of the crater as you make your way up to the summit is also amazing.  The hike is paved as you start, and then it becomes dirt and rocks as you get close to the halfway point. The Diamond Head hike can get muddy in some areas with puddles, but overall, it is pretty good.

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head Crater in Oahu.
View of Waikiki from Diamond Head
Picture of Reya at the top of Diamond Head Crater after her hike to the top.
Reya at the top of Diamond Head
View of Koko Head Crater from Diamond Head.
View of Hawaii Kai from Diamond Head

Hike the Koko Crater Railway Trail

The Koko Crater Railway Trail is considered a strenuous hike in the Hawaii Kai area of Honolulu. There are about 1,048 steps to climb to the summit of the Koko Crater Railway Trail. Once at the summit, you have a fantastic 360-degree view of the Oahu and views of Maunalua Bay, Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, and Waikiki in the distance. If you do this hike, plan to go in the morning or later in the afternoon when it is not too hot. This hike has minimal shade and can get hot, so bring water.

View of Koko Crater - one of the best hikes in Oahu
Koko Crater

Hike the Lanikai Pillbox Trailhead

The Lanikai Pillbox hike is a moderate hike in the Kailua-Lanikai area on the Windward side of Oahu. From the Lanikai Pillbox, you will have an amazing view overlooking the turquoise waters of Lanikai Beach. Additionally, you will have a fantastic view of the Windward side of Oahu. If you do the Lanikai Pillbox hike, you should plan on getting to Lanikai early, as parking can be difficult since the hike is in a residential neighborhood. You can always park at Kailua Beach and make the walk over, and then spend time at either Lanikai Beach or Kailua Beach after your hike.

View of the Lanikai Pillbox - one of the best hikes in Oahu.
View of the Lanikai Pillbox at the top of the hill

Hike the Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is on the North Shore, about an hour from the Waikiki area. The Waimea hike to Waimea Falls is one of the easy hiking trails on Oahu. The trail is paved and goes through the botanic gardens in Waimea Valley, ending at Waimea Falls. Once at Waimea Falls, you may be able to go swimming in the waterfall. If you do, we recommend wearing water shoes as you will have to walk on rocks as you enter the water. Some rocks are slippery and move easily, so there is a possibility of slipping when walking on the rocks into the water. To visit Waimea Valley and walk the botanical gardens to the waterfall there is an admission fee.

Waimea Waterfall, visiting a waterfall is one of the best things to do in Oahu.
Waimea Falls in Oahu

Things to do in Oahu with kids

There are many things to do in Oahu with kids of all ages. If you have toddlers, visiting the Honolulu Zoo or Waikiki Aquarium would be great. The Honolulu Zoo is across the street from Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, next to Kapiolani Regional Park. You can walk to Kapiolani Park for a family picnic after spending time at the Honolulu Zoo.

Down the road from the Honolulu Zoo off Kalakaua Avenue is the Waikiki Aquarium. This is a good option if you have little ones who cannot swim yet but want to see tropical sea life. The Sea Life Park is another great option for kids to see and learn about native sea life. If you go to the Sea Life Park Hawaii, you can make a day of it by purchasing tickets to the Luau at the Sea Life Park.  

If you have older children who love waterslides, take them to Wet‘n’Wild Hawaii, a waterpark with various attractions for all ages. No matter the age of the children in your family, there are many things to do on Oahu. If you would like to read more about things to do in Oahu with kids, you can read our blog post on Family Friendly Things to do in Oahu with Kids.

Honolulu Zoo - One of the best things to do in Oahu with kids.
Honolulu Zoo – one of the best things to do in Oahu with kids

Indulge in a Multicourse Dinner Experience

Due to the numerous cultural influences on Oahu, there are several opportunities for dinner experiences in and near the Waikiki area. A multi-course dinner experience is a great date night idea while visiting Oahu. There are various places you can go, whether in the city with city views or near the coast with views of Diamond Head in the distance.

You can do a multi-course Porterhouse dinner for two at the Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider, which is amazing. The tasting menu at the Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider changes every so often, but all the food I had when I went was delicious. If you enjoy seafood or sushi, you can also find restaurants with special chef-curated seafood-tasting menus.

Picture of Multi-course Steak Dinner in Oahu.
Multicourse dinner at the Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider

Visit Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is the perfect place to take the plant lover in your group and one of the best free things to do in Oahu. There are various types of plants, including native Hawaiian plants, African plants, plumerias, and cacti. The Koko Crater Botanical Garden is inside Koko Crater, and the main trail is a self-guided two-mile loop from start to finish. Several walking paths extend from the main loop trail to different garden areas. 

The trails at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden are unpaved. We recommend wearing tennis shoes as the trail can be rocky in some areas with some inclines. You should bring water when walking through the botanical garden as it gets hot since Koko Crater has a dry, hot climate. You may want to walk the botanical garden earlier in the day to avoid the midday heat.

Going to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden is free and has a small parking lot. There is no visitor center or restroom facility. However, if you need to use the restroom, there is a portable toilet towards the beginning of the trail. Multiple picnic tables are scattered throughout the botanical garden if you want to take a break and enjoy the views. The Koko Crater Botanical Gardens are about a 25-minute drive from Waikiki near the Hawaii Kai Golf Course.

Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial commemorating the attacks on Pearl Harbor, which occurred on December 7th, 1941. You can do several things at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, including visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, going to Ford Island to see the USS Utah and Oklahoma Memorials, the USS Missouri Battleship, and the Aviation Museum. 

General admission tickets for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial are free. However, there is a cost of $1 to make online reservations to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as the Ford Island Bus Tour. A few things to do at Pearl Harbor are not managed by the National Park Service, such as visiting the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor, the Aviation Museum, and the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. There are links on the National Parks Pearl Harbor Memorial site to purchase tickets to the other sites to visit in Pearl Harbor.

View of Pearl Harbor from the airplane - One of the best free things to do in Oahu.
Aerial view of Pearl Harbor – one of the best free things to do in Oahu for families

Visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial

When visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, do not wear beach attire. You are visiting a place where there was a huge loss of life. If you go to the USS Arizona Memorial, know that it is the final resting place for military personnel who died in the attack of Pearl Harbor. If you are in the military, you can wear civilian clothes, but if you want to dress in military uniform and plan to go to the USS Arizona, you will need to wear Class B dress or better.

Unfortunately, you cannot take bags like purses, fanny packs, or diaper bags, as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial has a no-bag policy. If you have a baby or toddler and need a diaper bag, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial recommends using a clear, sealable bag. If you insist on taking a bag, the bag cannot be bigger than 1.5” x 2.25” x 5.5”, or you can take a clear plastic bag where nothing can be concealed, similar to those you can use for sporting events. Remember, when visiting the memorial, you are on an active military base, and security measures are taken seriously and enforced.

Getting to and Parking at Pearl Harbor National Memorial

You can drive to Pearl Harbor if you rent a car for your trip, or you can take public transportation. Additionally, you can purchase a tour that will take you to Pearl Harbor. We recommend going on your own, as the cost to go to Pearl Harbor can be significantly less than purchasing a tour. Parking at Pearl Harbor is $7 a day if you drive yourself. The drive from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor is about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

If you are driving to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. We recommend double-checking the website for the specific address to enter in your GPS and the directions they have to get to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. You will want to avoid exits and turns that will take you to the active Pearl Harbor military base, which requires proper military identification to enter.

Go Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is a marine conservation site in Hawaii that is a popular place for people to go snorkeling. Since Hanauma Bay is a marine conservation site, you can see many tropical fish and even a Hawaiian monk seal. There are lifeguards on duty. The currents can be calm, but it is the ocean, and currents can change. There is a food concession stand by the entrance to the Hanauma Bay, and if you would rather bring food, you can do so; just please clean up after yourself.

To go to Hanauma Bay, you will need to make reservations through Parks and Recreation. You can only make reservations two days in advance, starting at 7:00 am. Many people try to get reservations, especially during peak vacation time, so we recommend setting an alarm so you can access the reservation system at 7:00 am. We also recommend making your reservations for a morning slot and spending the day at Hanauma Bay. There is limited parking, which can fill up in the morning and costs $3.00, cash only. If you do not want to drive there, you can use rideshare to get to Hanauma Bay.

Picture of Hanauma Bay and its beach from the hilltop near the main entrance on a sunny day
Hanauma Bay – a top place to visit in Oahu

Water Sport Activities to Do on Oahu

Since you are on an island which is surrounded by water, there are many water activities for people of all ages. Whether you want to relax on the beach while others swim in the water, take surfing lessons, or snorkel and see the native sea life, there is something for everyone. The water feels great, and we recommend taking a dip in the ocean if you are up to doing so.

Go Snorkeling – One of the Best Things to Do in Oahu

Snorkeling is one of the popular things to do on Oahu. You can go on a snorkeling excursion or drive to different beaches on Oahu to go snorkeling. Some of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu are on the North Shore, like Three Tables Beach, but it can be dangerous to snorkel and swim on the North Shore during the winter months. You can also drive to beaches on the Windward side of Oahu to snorkel, like Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach.

There are also many snorkeling excursions to choose from on Oahu. One of the most popular snorkel excursions is snorkeling with turtles in Hawaii off the coast of the Waikiki area. The area off the coast of Waikiki is referred to as Turtle Canyon, and you will usually see several catamarans with snorkelers in this area throughout the day. We have gone snorkeling at Turtle Canyon a few times and have enjoyed going every time. You will want to be aware of your surroundings as there are many turtles in the Turtle Canyon area. If you do go snorkeling and see a Green Sea Turtle, remember that they are a protected species in Hawaii. It is against the law to touch a sea turtle in Hawaii. Give them space and observe them from a distance.

Reya snorkeling at Hanauma Bay in Oahu
Reya snorkeling in the ocean – a top thing to do in Oahu

Go Scuba Diving

If you are a certified scuba diver or even a beginner, you can book an excursion to go scuba diving. There are various options depending on your scuba diving ability. There are a few scuba tours for beginners where you can get certified. And there are many tours geared towards those with more experience. If you are new to scuba diving, you can book an excursion that includes an introductory course to scuba diving so you can learn the basics and earn your certification. 

If you are a certified diver, you can book a boat that takes you to various reefs around Oahu to see the many native tropical fish and possibly green sea turtles. For more experienced scuba divers, you can book an excursion that takes you scuba diving at a shipwreck in addition to various reefs on Oahu. You can also book a night dive to see the wonderful night time sea life of Oahu.

Go Kayaking – One of the Best Things to Do in Oahu

One of our favorite things to do is go kayaking. You can go kayaking in many places on Oahu, and you can even purchase kayaking tours. At beaches like Waikiki Beach or near some of the beachfront hotels, you can rent kayaks for an hour or two or for the day. There are many places where you can rent kayaks from on the Windward (east side) of Oahu.

If you rent a kayak on the Windward side, you can rent one while at Kaneohe Bay. If you kayak in the Kaneohe Bay area, particularly closer to Kualoa Ranch, you can kayak to Mokoli’i Island, otherwise known as Chinaman’s Hat. You can also rent kayaks on the North Shore. If you rent a kayak in Haleiwa, you could kayak in the ocean or the Anahulu River. There are also places to rent kayaks from in Kailua, so you can kayak around Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach.

Try Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding is tons of fun and worth a try if you have never used a SUP. You can rent paddle boards at multiple beaches on Oahu. If you have not tried paddleboarding before, you can take paddleboard lessons on Waikiki Beach. It is not difficult once you get the hang of it, but it is a workout. A tip we learned (in Fiji) for catching your balance when standing is to stand the paddle in front of you on the boards to help stabilize yourself. It works every time!

There are areas on Oahu where you can paddleboard that are calm if you are new and want to avoid navigating paddleboarding with waves. If you go to Kailua Beach and rent a paddleboard or take paddleboard lessons from Kailua Beach Adventures, you can practice in calm water before navigating on the ocean waves. If you are in the Waikiki Beach area, you can go over to the protected beach area of Kuhio Beach, where the water is calm. You can also paddleboard in the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon by the Hilton Hawaiian Village since it is a man-made lagoon and very calm.

Take Surfing Lessons

Whether you have no surfing experience or are an experienced or professional surfer, there is a surfing location for you. If you have never been surfing, you can take surfing lessons while visiting Oahu. Waikiki Beach is a popular place for people to take surfing lessons. You can even rent surfboards here if you do not need lessons but want to rent a surfboard to go surfing.

Some of the best surfing in Hawaii is on the North Shore during the winter months. However, the waves on the North Shore during the winter can be over 30 feet, so only professional surfers should surf during that time. Waves on the North Shore during the winter are not for amateurs or people with some surfing experience. Therefore, unless you are a professional surfer, stay out of the water. During winter, many professional surfing competitions occur on the North Shore, so if you are not a professional, you can watch the professionals surf.

Learn to Windsurf, Kitesurf, or Wingsurf

Due to the winds, the Windward coast is one of the best places on Oahu to learn windsurfing, kitesurfing, or wing surfing. If you decide to hang out at Kailua Beach or Lanikai Beach, you will likely see people windsurfing, kitesurfing, or wing surfing. If seeing people windsurfing, kitesurfing, or wing surfing piques your interest and you would like to learn to do any of these activities, you can sign up for lessons. Hawaiian Water Sports in Kailua offers lessons in windsurfing, kitesurfing, or wing surfing. 

Go on a Fishing Excursion

If you or someone in your family enjoys fishing, set up a fishing excursion. There are multiple options for boat charters. You can select a charter and go deep-sea fishing or fish closer to the coast. You can catch Yellowfin Tuna, Billfish, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi when fishing in Oahu.

Visit the Beautiful Beaches of Oahu

There are many beautiful beaches on Oahu. Many tourists stay around the Waikiki area, making the beaches in Waikiki relatively crowded. If you want to spend time on less crowded beaches, you will need to drive to other areas of Oahu. Many of the beaches depicted on postcards are on the windward side of Oahu and the North Shore. The beautiful beaches of Oahu are definitely worth visiting and are one of the best things to do in Oahu.

Visit Waikiki Beach – a Top Beach to Visit in Oahu

Waikiki Beach is a popular beach visited by tourists with a view of Diamond Head. It is within walking distance from many hotels and typically has large crowds. Due to Waikiki Beach’s central location, there are many places to eat nearby. Since Waikiki Beach is a popular beach for tourists, there are many options to learn watersports. You can sign up for surfing or paddleboard lessons from companies located on Waikiki Beach. If you do not need lessons, then there are many options to rent beach equipment, including surfboards or beach chairs. 

View of Diamondhead crater and the shore at Waikiki Beach
View of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach
People playing in the water and lying on the beach at Waikiki Beach
People relaxing and in the water at Waikiki Beach

Visit Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is a very popular beach. People visit Lanikai to see its beautiful turquoise water and picturesque views. Lanikai Beach is on the Windward side of Oahu near Kailua Beach. It can be difficult to find parking in the residential area of Lanikai by the beach, but you can park at Kailua Beach and make the short walk over to Lanikai. Lanikai Beach is one of the best beaches to visit in Oahu.

View of the sandy beach and calm water of Lanikai Beach with people standing in the distance near the water
Lanikai Beach

Visit Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is a popular beach for people to visit to watch the sunset on the North Shore. The best time to go swimming at Sunset Beach is during the summer months. From about October-November through March, the waves on the North Shore make swimming at Sunset Beach and other North Shore Beaches dangerous. During the winter, there are professional surfing competitions on Sunset Beach, so you can hang out on the beach and watch the surfing competitions.

If you want to learn more about the beautiful beaches on Oahu, check out our blog post on the 24 Amazing Beaches on Oahu.

View of Sunset Beach from the road around sunset
Sunset Beach from the road

Visit the Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Hotel & Resort

Want to interact with dolphins? Look no further than Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Hotel and Resort. At Dolphin Quest, you and a small group of people can swim with dolphins and their trainers. Whether you have people in your group who can swim or not, you can find a Dolphin Quest package that works for everyone. Everyone in your group who participates in the dolphin interaction will need to wear a life vest. If you do not want to swim with the dolphins, you can observe people interacting with them.

The Kahala Hotel and Resort is located about 13 minutes from Waikiki past Diamond Head at the end of Kahala Avenue. You can park in the hotel parking lot, but remember to get your parking validated by Dolphin Quest. If you get your parking validated, you can park for free for four hours at the hotel.

Take a Trip on an Atlantis Adventures Submarine

Have you ever wanted to see a reef in a submarine? With Atlantis Adventures Submarine, you can do just that right off the coast of Waikiki. The Atlantis Adventures Submarine goes down to a depth of just over 100 feet to artificial reefs created off the coast of Waikiki. One of the artificial reefs is part of an airplane, and one of the artificial reefs is a sunken boat. If you get lucky, you might see a reef shark hanging around one of the artificial reefs like we did.

View of a shark under an artificial reef from the Atlantis Submarine. One of the best things to do in Oahu.
Artificial reef with a reef shark swimming underneath.

Getting To and On the Atlantis Submarine

To get to the Atlantis Submarine, you will take a transfer boat that leaves from Port Hilton, the boat dock on the beach outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The transfer boat takes you off the coast of Waikiki to where the Atlantis Submarine is located. You will know when you get there when you see bubbles created by the submarine as it ascends from the ocean depths. Typing “ocean depths” makes it sound very deep, but it really does go down only about 100 feet, the depth of the water is a little over 100 feet, and is very safe. Riding on the Atlantis submarine was one of the most enjoyable things to do in Oahu.

Getting onto the Atlantis Submarine is easy. You will step onto the submarine from the transfer boat and go down a ladder to enter the submarine. The submarine was spacious, and the viewing windows were a good size for two people to share. We had four adults in our group and had more than enough space to look out the windows.

Visit Green World Coffee Farm

Want to try some great coffee and walk around a coffee farm in Oahu? Then you should visit Green World Coffee Farm. They had several coffees and a couple of teas available for tasting when we visited. As an added treat, they also had chocolate available to taste. If you like the coffee and would like to grab a cup to go or enjoy on the property, you can order from their espresso bar. 

Sign at Green World Coffee Farm in Oahu
Entrance to the farm at Green World Coffee Farm

Take a Self Guided Tour at Green World Coffee Farm 

Outside the main building, you will see several coffee trees from the property. You can walk around this area and take a self-guided tour of this small coffee farm. There is a sitting area on this small coffee farm where you can relax and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. The sitting area offers a peaceful resting place where you can enjoy some solitude surrounded by beautiful coffee bean trees.

Coffee Trees at Green World Coffee Farm.
Walking path in the coffee farm at Green World Coffee Farm

Visit the Shop at Green World Coffee Farm

The shop at Green World Coffee Farm is amazing and has many coffee-themed items available for purchase. My favorite was a mug and T-shirt with a caffeine molecule. The shop has a wall with all the types of coffee Green World Coffee has available for purchase. There are one-pound, half-pound, and mini-sample bags. The one-pound and half-pound bags of coffee are sold as whole beans, but you can ask any of the workers to grind the coffee for you. 

While there, we bought the Green World House Blend, Leilehua Pahala, and Hawaiian Coffee Cake coffee beans. The Green World House Blend is my mom’s favorite of the ones we bought. The Green World House Blend has a smooth, rich flavor that is great black or with a splash of cream. If you like bolder coffees, you will enjoy the Leilehua Pahala blend, which is my favorite. The Hawaiian Coffee Cake blend is similar to their coconut coffee flavor but with hints of cinnamon, which I love since I put cinnamon in my coffee every now and then.

We also bought the Na Pua Mana (Flower Power) tea. I am more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker, but this tea was amazing, especially as an iced tea. The tea has spearmint, which helps give the tea a refreshing taste, but I also like teas with mint flavors.

Coffee wall at Green World Coffee in Oahu.
Various types of coffee available for purchase at Green World Coffee Farm

How to Get to Green World Coffee Farm

Green World Coffee is about 35 to 40 minutes from Waikiki off Kamehameha Highway. If you come from Waikiki, Green World Coffee will be on the left-hand side before the Dole Plantation. Green World Coffee is open from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and 7 am to 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Get a Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation

What is a trip to Oahu without getting a Dole Whip? Yes, this is the Dole whip you may know about if you have visited Disneyland. There are several places to get a Dole Whip in Hawaii. However, it is more fun to get it straight from the source at the Dole Plantation. After tasting several Dole Whips, we firmly believe that the Dole Whip tastes better at the Dole Plantation. We recommend getting the Dole Whip with pineapple chunks and pineapple juice. It is amazing!

Enjoy a Few of the Excursions at the Dole Plantation

There are several things to do at the Dole Plantation for people of all ages. If you want to see the pineapple farm and other things grown on the property, like cacao, then ride the Dole Plantation train, The Pineapple Express. Want to get lost in a maze? Check out the Dole Plantation maze and find the eight stations hidden in the maze, highlighting the different Hawaiian Islands. 

If you want to do something other than the Dole pineapple plantation tours, you can walk around the visitor center shop. You can find many souvenirs as well as pineapple snacks and candy. You can even grab a cup of coffee before you head out and explore more of Oahu. If you are hungry, you can order some food at the Plantation Grille, which is the same place where you can order your Dole Whip. The Dole Plantation is a top place to visit in Oahu for families.

View of the entrance of the Dole Plantation in Oahu.
Entrance to the Dole Plantation in Oahu

Getting to the Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation is about 40 minutes from Waikiki off Kamehameha Highway, going towards the North Shore through Central Oahu. You can also get to the Dole Plantation via The Bus, or you can use a rideshare App if you did not rent a car for your trip to Oahu. If you do drive, parking at the Dole Plantation is free. The Dole Plantation hours are from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm daily. If you are going later in the day, you should verify their closing time, as we were surprised during one of our visits to discover that the plantation was closing at 4:30 PM. If you plan on doing the Pineapple Garden Maze, Pineapple Garden Tour, or the Pineapple Express Train Tour, give yourself extra time to do the tours and be aware that ticket sales end 30 minutes before the Dole Plantation closes.

Explore Oahu’s North Shore

When staying in Oahu, we recommend exploring other parts of the island, like the North Shore. You can find many locally-owned restaurants and shops selling local artwork and souvenirs. The North Shore has more of a laid-back country vibe. Even though the North Shore has a laid-back vibe, there are several things to do on the North Shore of Oahu.

You can support local farmers in the North Shore area by buying locally grown produce at one of the several farmer’s markets on the North Shore. Some farmers’ markets on the North Shore include the Waialua Farmers’ Market and the Hale’iwa Farmlovers Farmers’ Market. 

Additionally, you can find several adventurous things to do on the North Shore. You can go ziplining, do an ATV adventure, or go on a scenic horseback riding tour of the North Shore. There are beautiful beaches from which to watch the sunset. If you are highly experienced, preferably a professional surfer, there is amazing surfing in the winter months.

Spend a Day at Kualoa Ranch – One of the Top Things to Do in Oahu

Kualoa Ranch is a popular destination for people to visit when on Oahu. The claim to fame for Kualoa Ranch is its use as a filming location for the Jurassic Park movies. Numerous other movies and television shows have also been filmed on the property. Some of the television shows and movies filmed at Kualoa Ranch include Lost, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Kong: Skull Island. While on an excursion at Kualoa Ranch, you will be able to easily identify the areas portrayed in some of these movies and television shows.

Kualoa Ranch offers many tours where you can visit the areas where movies have been filmed. There are also other types of excursions offered at Kualoa Ranch. Some popular tours are the Kualoa Ranch zipline and the Kualoa Ranch UTV tour. I have done both of these tours, and I had a blast. Ziplining is one of my favorite things to do, and at Kualoa Ranch, the views are amazing, even on a cloudy day. If you do the Kualoa Ranch UTV tour, wear clothes that you are okay with getting dirty because it will get dusty during the drive around the property. Visiting Kualoa Ranch is one of the top things to do in Oahu for families. There is something available for everyone in your party!

Kualoa Ranch Oahu
UTV Tour at Kualoa Ranch

Visit the Byodo-In Temple on Oahu

The Byodo-In Temple is in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The Byodo-In Temple is a smaller-scale replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan, which is nearly 1,000 years old. Spending time at the Byodo-In Temple is very peaceful and serene, especially with the ringing of the Sacred Bell and the sound of the water. I could have stayed at the Byodo-In Temple for several hours enjoying the peacefulness of the temple. You can feel the serenity and peace as you cross the bridge and see the Byodo-In Temple as you arrive there. Read our in depth blog post about visiting the Byodo-In Temple If you would like more information about visiting the temple in Oahu.

View of the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu. One of the top things to do in Oahu.
Byodo-In Temple in Oahu

If you plan to enter the temple to light a candle, dress in clothing that is not revealing, as this is a Buddhist temple of prayer and meditation. If you are wearing beach attire, we recommend walking along the outside of the temple to be respectful of those inside of the temple. When entering the Byodo-In Temple, you will need to remove your shoes. There are areas outside the entrances to the temple to place your shoes while you are inside.

Visit the Gift Shop

You will find a gift shop to the right of the Temple where you can buy souvenirs such as  Buddha statues, Japanese Lucky Cat figurines, and other items. Additionally, you can get an omikuji, a written oracle about future luck and fortune, to see how lucky you are. You can tie the omikuji to trees outside the gift shop or keep them. It is recommended to tie unlucky omikuji to the designated trees outside of the gift shop, according to a document by the box in the gift shop where you pick your omikuji. There are restrooms located behind the gift shop.

View of the bell at the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu.
The bell at the Byodo-In Temple

Getting To and Parking at the Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is about a 35 to 40-minute drive from Waikiki in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park off Kahekili Highway. When you get to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, follow the signs towards the Byodo-In Temple. The parking lot is on the smaller side, which means you may have to wait for someone to leave so you can park. The Byodo-In Temple is one of the stops on the Circle Island Tours, so there may be a crowd present if you get there when a tour bus is there. There is a fee to go to the Byodo-In Temple. The general entrance fee is $5 for those aged 13-64, $2 for those aged 2-12, and $4 for seniors 65 years and older.

Visit the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar

The Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is in an area in Kaneohe Bay where a sandy area appears in the middle of Kaneohe Bay at low tide. As the tide rises, the sandbar disappears in the bay. You can book a tour boat that takes you to the sandbar for several hours or rent a kayak in Kaneohe Bay to kayak out to the sandbar yourself. You can rent kayaks in Kahaluu and He’eia State Park if you do not want to purchase a tour to take you to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar.

Kayaking to the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar can take at least 30 minutes or more, depending on the wind in the bay and your kayaking experience. Kaneohe Bay is about a 35-minute drive from the Waikiki area. There are reefs around the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar where you can snorkel, and you may even see a sea turtle. Visiting the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is one of the best unique things to do on Oahu.

Eat at Local Places

We recommend eating at local restaurants whenever you can. Local restaurants have better prices, great atmospheres, and can feel like home cooking. Eating at local places is also a great way to meet locals and learn about other restaurants you should try and other non-touristy things to do in Oahu. Asking the tour guides on your excursions can lead to great tips about places to eat and places to visit.

Need a Taco Fix

If you want some tacos and you are near the Waikiki area, check out South Shore Grill. South Shore Grill was a recommendation from one of the boat decks when I went parasailing. I had shrimp and chicken tacos and shared an order of garlic butter fries with a friend. 

Visit a Great Breakfast Spot

If you are looking for a breakfast and lunch spot, I recommend Cafe Kaila. I go to Cafe Kaila for breakfast every time I am in Oahu. I especially love their waffles and french toast and getting a side of Portuguese sausage. They also have specials. We once got the pineapple upside-down waffle, which was delicious.

French Toast and Scrambled Egg breakfast at Kaila Cafe in Oahu
Breakfast plate at Cafe Kaila

Check Out Some Local Food Trucks

If you are driving near Kahuku, some food trucks are set up down the road from Kahuku High School. We highly recommend walking down to The Corndog Company of Hawaii, which is across the street from Kahuku High School. They have the best corndogs we have had in years. They have the perfect crunch, and they use all beef hotdogs. The last time we went, we also got the fried pineapple with coconut sauce, which was delicious. If you are in the area, it is a must-visit food truck!

Picture of The Corn Dog Company Food Truck. One of the best food trucks in Oahu.
The Corn Dog Company food truck
Picture of a corn dog and fried pineapple from the Corndog Company in Oahu.
A corn dog and the fried pineapple. Delicious!

Visit a Great Local Coffeehouse

If you need a caffeine fix, check out Island Brew Coffeehouse. Island Brew Coffeehouse is right on the water in Hawaii Kai. They have a seating area that overlooks the water and indoor seating. The last time I went, I had the Haupia Latte, which was absolutely delicious.

View of the bay at Island Brew Coffee House in Oahu.
View of the bay at Island Brew Coffeehouse
Fresh Coffee from Island Brew Coffee House in Oahu.
A cup of coffee from Island Brew Coffeehouse

Visit the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

One of our favorite places to go when we want to buy Hawaiian souvenirs is the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. Yes, you read that right, a swap meet. The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is about 20 minutes from Waikiki near Pearl Harbor and is one of the top places to visit in Oahu for souvenirs. The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is very different from your usual swap meet. You will not find any used items. Instead, you will find local vendors selling souvenir-type items. Many souvenir items available at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet are similar to those you find in tourist areas around Oahu but at a lower cost. You can also purchase other handcrafted items and local art.

Shopping at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is a great way to support locals. If you get hungry while walking around, you can find local food truck vendors in parking section 8D. There are usually featured food truck vendors, which you can find on the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet website. You can even buy a refreshing cold coconut to drink as you walk around the swap meet. This is our go-to drink when we visit the swap meet. 

When is the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet Open

The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is open Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and Sunday from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm. General admission to the swap meet is $2.00 for non-Hawaii residents 12 years of age and over. If you are a Hawaii resident or active military with ID, the entrance fee is only $1.00. Only cash is accepted to enter the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, and we recommend having cash on hand as you might come across some vendors who only accept cash.

Island Hop to Other Hawaiian Islands

When flying into Oahu, you will fly into Honolulu International Airport, HNL. If you decide to do a day trip to Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, Maui, or Kauai, you will hop on an inter-island flight from HNL. You can purchase a tour or plan a day trip on your own. If you plan a day trip on your own, you will need to buy airfare and rent a car or book a tour that can pick you up and drop you off at the airport. I recommend renting a car so you can explore freely.

Island Hop on Your Own

If you choose to do a day trip on your own to another Island and rent a car, we recommend having an itinerary with the places you would like to see before going on your trip. There are many things to see and do on all of the Hawaiian Islands. It will be hard to see everything in a single day. When visiting another island for the day, give yourself enough time to drive back to the airport, return your car, and make your flight back to Oahu.

Island Hop to the Big Island

If you would like to visit the Big Island, we highly recommend going to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you are planning your own island hop, we recommend flying into Hilo since Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closer to Hilo than it is to the Kona area, which is where the other airport on the Big Island is located. You can easily see many things at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in one day. You can also spend some time exploring Hilo since this is the location where you will fly to. Hilo is an incredible town and there are many wonderful places to visit in Hilo.

If you would like to see the other side of the Big Island, then flying into Kailua-Kona (KOA) is ideal. There are many places to visit on the west side of the Big Island, including some amazing beaches on the Big Island. You will need to make an itinerary and choose the places you would like to visit, as it will be close to impossible to see all the amazing locations and beaches on the Big Island

View of the coastline of the Big Island of Hawaii
View of the ocean from the Big Island of Hawaii

Island Hop to Maui

If you would like to island hop to Maui, there are many amazing places to visit there as well. We recommend taking the Road to Hana and visiting the sites on this road.  You should avoid entering private property to hike and heeding any “No Trespassing” signs.  A great place to eat is Huli Huli Chicken. Huli Huli Chicken is not too far past Hana at Koki Beach Park. Hulki Huili Chicken became popular after Gordon Ramsey visited the location for a bite to eat. It really is a great place to stop and eat. 

View of the coast in Maui.
View of the Coast in Maui
View of the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii
The road to Hana in Mau

Island Hop to Kauai

There are many amazing places to see on Kauai, including Waimea Canyon State Park, Wailua Falls, the Na Pali coast, various lookouts, and many beautiful beaches. You can take tours around the Na Pali coast via boat tours, by helicopter, or by Cessna plane. The Na Pali coast is amazing and beautiful to see. Unfortunately, it is not accessible by car.  

View of Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai.
View of Waimea Canyon in Kauai

Purchase a Day Trip Tour to Another Island

If you purchase a tour to visit another island for the day, you do not need to worry about figuring out your itinerary. Purchased tours usually have a set itinerary of the places you will visit for the island you have chosen for the day. This may be your best option if you want to avoid figuring out airfare, car rentals, and an itinerary. You also will not need to worry about finding things around the island. Just be aware that these tours come with a price, but everything is pre-planned for you. The flights to your destination and your return flight are usually included in the overall price.

Get Out There and Explore Oahu!

No matter what you choose to do on your vacation to Oahu, explore more than the Waikiki area. Not only are there many things to do on Oahu, but there is so much more to see than Waikiki. There are beautiful mountains to see while you drive around Oahu. Many lookout points where you stop to enjoy picturesque ocean views. There are many cultural and historical sites, and other amazing activities to fill your day. You will not regret spending your vacation on the beautiful Island of Oahu!

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