17 Awesome Things to do in Oahu

12 mins read
oahu
photo by Jess Loiterton



Oahu is the most visited Hawaiian island and is known as the Gathering Place. It’s best known for Honolulu, the state capital, historic Pearl Harbor, the North Shore surfing destination, and the world-famous Waikiki Beach and there are lots of things to do in Oahu.

This picture-perfect situation However, Hawaiian Island is much more than that, with a large list of intriguing sites to visit.

Oahu offers a variety of bucket-list-worthy activities, from magnificent coastline treks and secluded snorkeling locations to adrenaline-fueled outdoor excursions.

 

The sun, sand, and surf of Oahu draw visitors from all over the world, and nature enthusiasts will adore the ability to paddle, surf, skydive, or even swim with sharks!

Oahu provides family-friendly excursions like scenic drives, botanical gardens, and traditional luaus, in addition to being a popular culinary destination.

With so many great things to see and do on Oahu, planning your holiday schedule may be difficult.

This Oahu bucket list contains a variety of island activities, from huge outdoor experiences to the most stunning beaches.

oahu
photo by Jeremy Bishop / pexels copyright 2019

17 cool and unique things to do at Oahu

1. Waikiki Beach is a Great Place to Learn to Surf

A visit to Waikiki Beach, one of the world’s most renowned beaches, is a must-do in Oahu. It boasts a scenic beachfront backed by shopping, restaurants, and entertainment, as well as picture-perfect views of the Leahi (Diamond Head).

It’s one of the greatest spots in Hawaii to learn to surf, and it’s located on Honolulu’s south coast

The tranquil seas of this magnificent two-mile length of beach, together with a famous collection of luxury beachfront resorts, are the ideal site to attempt a surfing lesson.

Top-rated surfing schools in Waikiki include Hans Hedemann Surf School Waikiki, Kahu Surf School, Big Wave Dave at Surf & Coffee, and Sparky’s Surf School.

2. Take in the Sights of Honolulu from Diamond Head

Hiking Diamond Head should be at the top of your Oahu bucket list if you want to see spectacular views of Honolulu.

This landmark state monument and volcano crater provide magnificent 360-degree coastline views from its peak, making it one of Hawaii’s most attractive treks.

The bird’s-eye vista from its 760-foot top, which graces postcards from the Aloha State, takes roughly an hour to reach.

It’s a 1.6-mile roundtrip journey with the toughest sections featuring steps, making it simple and safe for hikers to ascend. There are seats and lookouts along the route if you need to take a rest.

3. Visit Iolani Palace, the Royal Residence

One of Oahu’s most unusual sights is the Iolani Palace. It is not just a national historic site, but it is also the United States’ sole formal state house of royalty.

This 10-room historic mansion, built in 1882, served as the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s final two rulers.

It’s an interesting look at Hawaii’s culture, set in the municipal center in downtown Honolulu.

Inside, you’ll find a gorgeous koa staircase, luxurious furnishings, big paintings of Hawaiian nobility, and royal presents from all around the world.

The gardens around the palace are also worth seeing, since Aliiolani Hale and the King Kamehameha I monument are located across South King Street.

You may also visit the neighboring State Capitol building, Washington Place, and the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives if you’re interested in history.

oahu
photo by Jess Loiterton / pexels copyright 2020

4. Take a Tour of Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, roughly 30 minutes from Waikiki, is one of Hawaii’s most historically important landmarks.

For history aficionados, it’s one of the best things to do on Oahu, with five historic sites commemorating the events that took place at this National Historic Landmark.

The day that will live in infamy is the catastrophic events of December 7, 1941. The United States entered World War II after a surprise Japanese air raid killed thousands of people.

The Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are all free to see at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which is located at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

It’s a significant landmark in Hawaii, with dramatic displays detailing the events leading up to and after the assault on Oahu.

5. Take a Snorkeling Trip at Electric Beach

Locals call Kahe Point Beach Park Electric Beach because it is one of the top snorkeling places on Oahu.

The warm, crystal-clear water in this location draws a plethora of marine life, thanks to a nearby power station.

You may see turtles and dolphins up close when snorkeling, as well as colorful fish and eagle rays, white-tip sharks, and octopuses.

Once you’re in the water, you’ll find yourself surrounded by coral reefs alive with marine life!

Kahe Point is roughly a 45-minute drive from Waikiki on the west side of the island. Entry is free, and snorkeling in this region needs an intermediate skill of swimming.

There are no lifeguards on duty at Electric Beach, and the waves may crash exactly where you enter.

The months of May through October are ideal for calm seas.

6. Visit Laniakea Beach to see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

Laniakea Beach is a great place to visit if you want to see Hawaii’s famed green turtles. 

Its moniker, Turtle Beach, comes from the turtles that may often be seen lounging in the sun along the coastline on Oahu’s North Shore.

A trip down this sun-drenched beach would have you enthralled by the enormous sea turtles that call this spot home. It’s one of the must-see attractions in Oahu for families looking for turtle images.

Be advised, however, that it is illegal to touch, agitate, or approach the turtles in any way.

On Oahu’s north shore, cruise around 7 miles of world-famous surfboard beaches while sampling local specialties.

After appreciating the turtle scene, travel approximately 300 feet down the beach to Chun’s Reef, where you’ll find a magnificent length of sand for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing.

7. Visit the Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Fields

The Dole Plantation, which has grown from a roadside pineapple shop to one of Hawaii’s top attractions, is a pleasant family outing.

It has informative excursions, kid-friendly train rides, and the world’s biggest labyrinth, in addition to pineapple delicacies.

The narrated Pineapple Express train provides spectacular North Shore vistas as well as the tale of how James Drummond Dole created his world-famous agricultural enterprise, which will appeal to families.

You may also take a self-guided Plantation Garden Tour and wander around the lovely scene of ripening tropical fruit.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Dole Plantation is also home to the world’s biggest labyrinth.

It covers three acres and has 2.5 kilometers of trails made from more than 14,000 Hawaiian plants. Along the course, there are eight mystery stations, and the quickest finishers get a surprise!

After viewing the park, refuel at the on-site Plantation Grille with island specialties.

Its menu includes traditional dishes including teriyaki chicken, kale pork, and loco moco, as well as the famed Dole Whip soft-serve dessert.

Of course, you may buy fresh pineapple to take home with you

8. Skydiving on the North Shore Will Give You an Adrenaline Rush

oahu
photo by Russ Jani / pexels copyright 2022

There is no excitement quite like skydiving, but skydiving in Hawaii?

That is the pinnacle of bucket-list activities! Soaring over Oahu’s iconic North Shore is one of the best things to do on the island if you’re an adrenaline addict.

Pacific Skydiving is one of Oahu’s most popular skydiving tour providers, with qualified instructors accompanying you every step of the way.

It’s a world-class skydiving facility with a stellar safety record that offers aircraft tandem trips as well as the highest tandem skydive in Hawaii, the High Altitude Halo Tandem!

Another skydiving tour option is Skydive Hawaii, which offers tandem skydives at 12,000 and 14,000 feet.

On your skydiving excursion, you’ll get the opportunity to experience free-fall and get a bird’s-eye perspective of Oahu’s gorgeous landscapes after receiving training.

9. Visit Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack for Garlic Shrimp

While there are many great foods in Oahu’s food scene that earn a position on your schedule, Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack is a must-try.

Not only is it the island’s most well-known shrimp truck, but it also lives up to the hype!

This North Shore institution has been a neighborhood eating favorite for over two decades, and it’s a great place to stop for lunch or supper.

This gourmet favorite serves shrimp, including shrimp scampi, which is a popular dish.

The shrimp are marinated in a flavorful combination of olive oil and fresh garlic, then topped with garlic-lemon butter.

10. Go North Shore Shark Scuba Diving

Adrenaline enthusiasts who want to see a shark may find it simpler than they thought to cross this trip off their Oahu bucket list.

North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters provide guided shark diving trips on the North Shore for up-close views of Hawaii’s most ferocious monsters.

Start your quest by going three miles out to sea

Along the trip, you could see dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and humpback whales, as well as other local animals (from November to May).

Sharks such as Galapagos and Sandbars are often observed

They can grow to be up to 12 feet long! Blue sharks, tiger sharks, and even hammerhead sharks may be seen if you’re fortunate.

It’s not only a thrilling trip; you’ll also learn about the ocean’s significance and Hawaii’s various ecosystems.

The importance of sharks in the seas and how these predators maintain a balance for the ocean’s existence will be highlighted by tour guides.

11. Get Some Hawaiian Shave Ice at Matsumoto’s

oahu
photo by Chelsey Horne / pexels copyright 2018

Having some shave ice on Oahu is a quintessential Hawaiian experience that is on par with seeing some of the most famous landmarks on the island.

Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is one of the top venues to get a taste of this delicious frozen dessert, which is a kind of shaved ice, and no trip is ever really complete without indulging in it.

Cotton candy, guava, melon, and coconut are just some of the varieties that can be found at this North Shore establishment, which boasts the distinction of being the North Shore location serving Hawaiian shave ice that has been in business the longest (since 1951).

You will be served a mountainous dish full of shave ice, which has been a mainstay in the village of Haleiwa for the last seven decades.

After dessert, it is highly recommended that you spend some time experiencing the laid-back atmosphere of the town of Haleiwa.

In addition to being well recognized as a favorite destination for surfers, this area is home to a number of lovely art galleries, apparel boutiques, and boutique shops that are stocked with locally manufactured goods.

On the island’s North Shore, Haleiwa Beach Park is a popular destination for beginning surfers as well as families, whilst Waimea Bay Beach Park is frequented by more experienced surfers.

You also have the option of going to the Haleiwa Art Gallery, which is just a ten-minute walk away from the main part of town and features the works of local artists.

At the renowned seafood restaurant Haleiwa Beach House, you may wind down your day with delicacies that have an island flavor.

12. Go to Waimea Bay to See Surfers Ride Big Waves

Because the North Shore of Oahu is home to some of the most courageous professional surfers in the world, most surfing aficionados make it a point to go there while they are on the island of Oahu.

Even if you’re not a surfer, you should still make it a point to visit Waimea Bay on Oahu since it’s famous for having waves that are up to 30 feet tall.

Waimea Bay is a renowned location on the North Shore, especially during the winter months, and is considered to be the origin of big wave surfing.

This surf break, also known as The Bay, is known for routinely producing massive waves, and it is not uncommon to see professional surfers challenging the challenging waves here.

Although it is recognized primarily as a huge wave surfing area that welcomes spectators, experienced surfers who wish to try their hand at riding a wave should exercise caution since the rip currents are strong.

In addition to this, there is a sharp transition from shallow to deep water along the beach

When you visit Waimea Bay in the winter, you’ll discover a completely different landscape from what you’ll find there in the summer.

Because the seas are so calm at this time, it is a perfect destination for beachgoers, and swimming, snorkeling, and diving are some of the most popular things to do there.

13. Spend the Evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center Enjoying a Traditional Luau

For visitors to Oahu who are interested in learning more about the diverse cultural history of Hawaii, a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is among the most recommended activities.

It is one of the greatest places for families to visit in Hawaii due to the real Polynesian luaus and hands-on island activities that are offered there.

You may learn about the history and culture of the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga, by visiting one of the six Pacific Island villages that are included in this attraction.

Its weekly meals provide the pinnacle of all possible luau experiences, and it is spread out over 42 acres along the North Shore of Oahu.

Because it showcases a bright and dynamic exhibition of Polynesian dances, music, and flaming fire knife demonstrations, the nightly Ha Breath of Life Show at the Polynesian Cultural Center is regarded as a must-see event on Oahu.

The show takes place every evening

Explore the variety of packages that this attraction has to offer; several of them include not just a canoe trip across the lagoon but also a traditional Hawaiian luau feast.

Handicrafts, apparel, and jewelry with a Hawaiian or island motif may be purchased in the on-site marketplace, which also serves as a great spot to pick up a one-of-a-kind memento for a friend or family member.

14. If You Visit Kaena Point State Park, Be Sure to Go on the Coastal Hikes

oahu
photo by Jess Loiterton / pexels copyright 2022

Hiking along the stunning coastline of Kaena Point at Kaena Point is one of the most breathtaking things to do on the island of Oahu and is highly recommended for anybody who enjoys the sport.

Its rugged lava coastline gives picturesque views of the Waianae coast to the south, Mokuleia to the north, and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.

The westernmost point of Oahu is where it can be found. 

Here, there are two trailheads available for you to select from, and the distance between them is around 2.5 miles.

It begins on the Wai’anae side of the island and travels down the coastline, passing through boulder beaches, tidal pools, and towering cliffs.

On the other hand, if you approach it from the Mokule’ia side, you will find a flat coastal plain that is characterized by limestone reefs and sand dunes.

Following your exploration of Kaena Point, you should make your way to Yokohama Bay, which is home to one of the most secluded beaches on the island of Oahu.

It is well worth the effort to get to this distant seashore since it is an unspoiled paradise that is enclosed by the Waianae Mountain Range and is often devoid of crowds, enabling you to explore the sandy beach completely alone.

15. Take a Four-by-Four Adventure at Kualoa Ranch

The 4,000-acre Private Nature Reserve and operating cattle ranch at Kuala Ranch is a favorite destination for thrill-seekers on the island of Oahu.

Here, visitors may experience a never-ending variety of exciting activities

This nature retreat provides guests with the opportunity to sign up for adrenaline-filled ATV rides, visit stunning beaches, and go on a behind-the-scenes tour of iconic Hollywood film sites, in addition to offering the ability to participate in zip-line adventures.

Go up and personal with Kualoa Ranch as you travel through the stunning Kaawa Jurassic Valley and the verdant Hakipu’u rainforest on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

Hop in the multi-passenger vehicle and get as near as you want to the ranch as you make your way there.

You will get the opportunity to go through the mud and cross over seasonal streams. In addition, you will go by a number of cascading waterfalls and filming locations.

The other guided tours that are offered at Kuala Ranch are quite as exciting. The Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, for example, will take you to the location where Jurassic World was filmed, as well as the boneyard from Kong Skull Island, the region from Jumanji, and Godzilla’s enormous footprints.

You will also have the opportunity to include activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, zip-lining, and exploring the rainforest as part of your program.

16. Take a Walk on the Pristine White Sands at Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is a destination in and of itself and is often considered to be among Oahu’s most beautiful beaches.

It should be at the top of your to-do list for Oahu since it resembles a tropical paradise with its powdery white sand, crystal clear seas, and gentle waves.

Located to the south of Kailua Beach Park, the beach is known for its relaxed vibe and welcoming nature toward families.

There are no parking spaces or amenities, and the only way to access the coastline is by pedestrian paths that wind their way past private buildings located on the lake.

Getting there requires some work. When you do get there, though, you’ll see that the effort was well worth it because of the powdery white sand.

Follow the gorgeous trailhead to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, which is one of the most popular walks on Oahu and will provide you with an exciting opportunity for outdoor exploration.

Because there are no services available at Lanikai Beach, you will need to bring your own lunch or visit the Kalapawai Market, which is located close, to get some substantial sandwiches.

17. Paddle Your Way to the Stunning Mokes

Two identical islands may be seen out in the distance, separated only by the incredibly pure seas of Lanikai Beach.

Locals refer to them as The Mokes, while their official name is the Mokulua Islands.

Paddling these picture-perfect islands is at the top of the Oahu bucket lists of many tourists since the experience provides a genuine Hawaiian one.

As you make your way to the bigger island, which is known as Moku Nui, you will get an up-close look of the surrounding seas.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the stunning scenery of Oahu’s eastern shore as you make your journey there.

After a journey of around half an hour, you will finally reach the island, at which point you will be able to swim to the beach and begin exploring the island.

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