Oahu is such a huge island with so much to offer. It has everything that you could imagine when thinking about the island life: beautiful beaches, gorgeous hikes, abundant wildlife, a lot of shops, fabulous restaurants, nightlife and so much more. The list of best things to do in Oahu can get truly endless. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Oahu just keep reading.
We spent 7 days on Oahu trying to do as much as we can, and of course, it still wasn’t enough. Planning our activities on Oahu was probably the hardest part because of its abundance. So, here is my list of the best things to do in Oahu. It will show you the places to visit and where to eat on Oahu.
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Where to stay in Oahu
When it comes to Hawaii, Airbnb is going to be hands down your best choice of accommodation. The list of amazing places on Oahu is endless and for sure you’ll be able to find something that suits your taste and your budget the most. Here is the list of my personal favorites to make it easier for you.
Best Places to Visit in Oahu
This place is your ultimate Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience”. Opened in 1989, they know a lot about pineapples here. It provides fun activities like taking a Pineapple Express Train Tour around plantations ($11) or Pineapple Garden Maze. They offer a lot of educational displays all around the Dole Plantation. You can even see how they grow. If you’re traveling with kids this is a must-visit place on Oahu.
You can see how they grow and of course even try one. They have a huge store offering a variety of Dole Plantation gifts, drinks, and most importantly sweets. Everything that we ate there was delicious. Don’t forget to try their famous Dole Whip.
Diamond Head hike
Of course, when visiting the island, you have to spend as much time in nature as you can. Diamond Head became the most iconic site of Oahu, Its skyscrapers standing against the stunning mountain backdrop. Created by the volcanic explosion. Diamond Head Hike will be your best choice. You don’t even have to go that far from Waikiki.
It’s an easy and pretty popular hike that offers gorgeous views of Oahu. The most popular time to do the Diamond Head hike is during sunrise or sunset. So be prepared that you won’t be alone surrounded by nature. It’s a must-do on Oahu.
Hanauma Bay snorkeling
Hanauma Bay State Park is one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. Keep in mind though that it’s probably the most touristy one as well. This cove was once a volcanic crater. It’s very picturesque, full of fish and other marine life. If you’re lucky you can even find turtles here.
Try to go as early in the morning as you can because usually, it gets very busy. If you don’t have your own snorkel gear, you can rent it there for $20. You’ll also need to pay for parking if you’re traveling by car.
Pillbox hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)
It’s hard to choose the best hike on Oahu because there are many great ones. However, if I had to choose only one, it would be the Pillbox hike.
It’s not the easiest hike of your life but it probably will be the most rewarding one with the least amount of effort. When you get to the top and see that panoramic ocean view from the top it will all be worth it. You can see the whole Ko’olaupoko area including beautiful Lanikai Beach, where we went after the trek to relax.
In my opinion Pillbox Hike should definitely be on top of your list of things to do on Oahu.
Manoa Waterfall Hike
Another great hike to take if you would like to be closer to Hawaii’s unique nature and jungle. Manoa Waterfall Hike is another very accessible hike that gets you through stunning jungle/forest land and leads you to a beautiful waterfall at the end.
However, I wouldn’t hike this trail only to see the waterfall. Considering the fact that it’s a very popular and easy hike, it was very busy and crowded when we got there. Instead, just enjoy the hike itself and don’t rush to get to the waterfall.
Kualoa Ranch (Private Nature Reserve) guided tour
Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve preserves Kualoa’s sacred lands and celebrates its history. This place offers every kind of adventure that you could imagine. It truly deserves at least half a day from your Oahu itinerary. It’s also a location where over 70 Hollywood movies were filmed. Such as Jurassic Park, Lost, and 50 First Dates.
They offer different guided tours through the valley such as Mountain Bikes, ATVs, Zipline, Horseback, Trolley, Bus, Boat, Kayak, Jeep, Catamaran. I’m sure you can easily find something that suits you the most.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Thanks to places like this one you can educate yourself while having fun. Here you can learn and experience a rich history of six different island nations: Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Aotearoa.
Learn about the ways of how natives used to live, and even take part in authentic Polynesian Luau dinner. Enjoy different dance and song celebrations from across the Pacific.
Travel Tip: Don’t leave without seeing the breathtaking evening show “Ha: breath of life.”
Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
If you’ve ever looked more into Hawaii and especially Oahu, I’m sure you’ve seen a hike called Stairway to Heaven. It offers the most breathtaking experience and unreal views over Oahu.
However, not everybody will be willing to walk 3,922 steps. Oh, also it’s very dangerous and illegal to climb.
So, hiking the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail is a much safer and better option. Offering equally amazing panoramic views from the middle of the island. Takes about 3 hours both ways.
Educate yourself at Pearl Harbor
It was here when on the 7th of December in 1941, the US was attacked and plunged into World War II by the Japanese.
Here you can visit the WWII Valor in the Pacific, Aviation Museum, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and USS Oklahoma Memorial.
Official website: https://www.pearlharboroahu.com/
Surround yourself by peaceful magic in Byodo-In Temple
Beautiful non-practicing Buddhist Temple located in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It’s a smaller-scale replica of the 950-year-old Buddhist Temple in Uji, Japan.
The Temple grounds are full of different flowers, lush green landscapes and even peacocks. You can also find a reflecting pond, small waterfalls, and places for meditation here.
Fun Activities to do on Oahu
Surfing on Oahu
It’s no secret that on Oahu, like on most islands of Hawaii, you can find a lot of amazing places for surfing. It started like “Sport of Kings” in Hawaii, so no surprise that it’s one of the best places in the world to catch some waves. No matter if you’ve never done it before or you’re skilled in surfing, you’ll find the best beach for you.
If you want to learn how to surf, Waikiki Beach will be the right place for you to do that, as the waves here are nice and the water is calm.
North Shore’s Waimea Bay, on the other hand, is the place where big wave surfing was born, so be more careful if you choose to do it there. You can even go there to simply watch the experts riding the big waves, especially in wintertime.
Cage-less Shark diving
If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to try something more special, the best things to do in Oahu that I’d offer you, is swimming with sharks in nature.
The best company to do it with is One Ocean Diving.
This is probably the most exciting thing that I did in Oahu and I highly recommend it.
One Ocean Diving offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to swim with sharks without the cage.
They also take time to educate, protect, and bring more awareness to those beautiful creatures. You will learn about biology, physiology, the behavior of sharks, and how to safely interact with them before going into the water.
The team that we were with on that day was more than helpful, friendly, and welcoming. They were simply outstanding.
It’s a little bit pricey, $165 per person, but it was definitely worth it.
Official website to book and learn more: https://oneoceandiving.com/
My most important travel tip!
If you’re planning on doing a lot of activities during your stay on Oahu I highly suggest you to buy a GoOahu Card.
We bought a 3-Day pass, the price of which was $198 per person. Even though we could have done a lot more in those 3 days, we still managed to save $109!
Official website to get one: https://gocity.com/oahu/en-us
More places to visit in Oahu
- Kapiolani Regional Park
- Crouching Lion hike
- Lyon Arboretum
- Iolani Palace
- Bishop Museum
- West beaches (especially for swimming with turtles)
- Olomana trail
- Lulumahu Falls
- Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
- Nu’uanu Pali
Where to eat in Oahu
Needless to say, not only activities are fun in Oahu but the food here is to die for. We tried so many delicious desserts and savory meals here that now I think that you simply can’t go wrong when choosing your meal in Oahu. Most of the produce is local and very fresh. Especially their fish and fruits. So, these are only some of the places that I highly recommend for you to try!
Ubae – purple cheesecake
•Modo – mochi donuts. We tried matcha green tea, cookies and cream and lilikoi
Kamehameha bakery – best poi glazed doughnuts
Acai bowls – at Crispy Grindz
Samoan half-moon pie – Polynesian Cultural Center
Dole Whip and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake – at Dole Plantation
•Giovanni’s’ Shrimp Truck – the most popular truck on Oahu. There was a line before it even opened. Famous for its garlic shrimp (but in my opinion, the one that we tried in Kauai was better)
Shrimp Shack – another very delicious shrimp truck, where we tried both garlic and coconut shrimp.
•Leonard’s bakery – you have to try the delicious malasadas there. They taste like donuts, but even better and they offer several varieties. We tried: chocolate, original, coconut, macadamia, caramel, guava, and coconut turnover. My favorite was the guava one, and it’s a bright pink color.
•Ramen – at Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. It’s a Japanese food court located in Ala Moana Center. They offer a vast variety of Japanese dishes and fruits. The ramen that we tried there was amazing.
•Cheeseburger in paradise – a great restaurant near Waikiki Beach. The coconut Shrimp is a must try.
Also, don’t forget to try some macadamia nuts. They are delicious and taste way better in Hawaii
How to get around Oahu?
Probably renting a car is the easiest way of transportation because it gives you a lot of flexibility. You can easily rent your vehicle when you get there. So, I guess the most popular choice is renting a Jeep. However, the public transportation system on Oahu is very well developed. So, if you don’t want to rent your own car I highly recommend using public buses, as they are a much cheaper and more convenient option.