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19 Things to do in Oahu – The Adventure Awaits

Oahu – A Hawaiian tropical-styled paradise where nature is rich, sunsets are magical; waters are pristine, and beaches are stunning. The landscape is lush, rainforests house unique species, geographic features stand iconic, historic significance is notable, vacation is priceless, and things to do in Oahu are never-ending.

Welcome to Oahu, a small Hawaiian island nestled in the Pacific waters, encompassing some of nature’s beautiful creations.

Brace your heart for what you are going to see is going to be one of its kind experiences. Your cameras can’t capture the moments, but you can take home a bucket full of memories.

1. The Things to Do in Oahu

Oahu flaunts its geographical features by intervening them with man-made provisions to ensure you come, stay, enjoy, and fulfill your vacation drama here in the heart of Hawaii.

With more things to do in Oahu than you can count on, here’s a short list for you to complete your dreamy island vacation.

1.1. Fall In Love With the Turquoise Waters At Waikiki Oceanfront

Let the white sand of Waikiki beach get stuck in your feet while you enjoy the pristine waters of the Pacific at the Waikiki oceanfront.

Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular beach attractions in Oahu. Its fascinating features include a package of everything you can think of. The white sand beaches, clear sea waters, thoroughfares, and Diamond Head standing in the backdrop create a picturesque landscape.

Waikiki Beach is a surfing hotspot that attracts surfers across the globe. Moreover, it is home to the famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Visiting the Waikiki oceanfront in Hawaii is one the best things to put on your things to do in Oahu.

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Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash

1.2. What’s Better Than Whale Watching?

I need not tell you that whale watching should be one of the must things to do in Oahu!

Considered to be one of the best Hawaiian islands for whale watching, Oahu will guarantee you sightings of these majestic sea creatures. Bless your eyes with the beautiful sightings of humpback whales when you visit Oahu during your Christmas vacation.

One needs to get a tour scheduled or charter a boat to catch glimpses of these beautiful creatures. Some of the most popular locations for whale watching include Makapu’u Lighthouse, Hanauma Bay, and Diamond’s Head. If you happen to get lucky, you can also spot the giant fishes occasionally while enjoying your time on beaches.

Don’t miss the magic when these giant sea creatures choose to have a showtime.

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Photo by Mike Doherty/Unsplash

1.3. Remember Significant Chapters of World History at Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Yes! The name makes your mind flip back history pages of World War II. Visiting this historic location to step back in time and remember the awful attacks is a must-do thing in Oahu.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial was built to commemorate the events of 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and thousands of people died due to this incident. The Pearl Harbor Memorial is a complex that encompasses exhibit galleries, outdoor exhibits, a bookstore, an audio tour, and a theatre.

The visitor center here takes visitors through the incident and acknowledges the events of World War II. Apart from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the place also has several other historically significant sites. It consists of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

1.4. Catch a Glimpse Of Manoa falls In Hawaiian Rainforests

Hawaiian rainforests hold some of the natural wonders within them, 150-foot-tall Manoa Falls being one of them.

Nestled amidst the tropical Hawaiian rainforests setup, no doubt the location is so picturesque and thrilling. The waterfall flows down to form a pond below, making it accessible to enjoy for family and kids alike. To reach the Manoa waterfalls, you will first have to take a Honolulu Makau trail hike through the Hawaiian rainforests.

Manoa Waterfall

You would have figured by now that it is one of the perfect locations to be photographed as the location is quite famous. Relish your time here with your family and have a good grab of snacks and drinks by the waterfalls.

While you fulfill your refreshing time at the Manoa waterfalls, another fascinating place to visit nearby is Lyon Arboretum which houses the species of endangered Hawaiian plants.

1.5. Stay Awestruck by 360-Degree Views Atop Diamond Head

Sitting at the edge of the Waikiki neighborhood, Diamond Head is a volcanic cone that adds to be a scenic backdrop to Waikiki beach.

Enjoy the views atop Diamond Head by taking a hike at one of Hawaii’s most recognized natural landmarks. Apart from being one of the iconic natural landmarks, Diamond Head remains to be one of the historical fortifications of the early days, making it a significant part of Hawaii’s history.

After a moderate hiking experience, you are blessed with jaw-dropping vistas of the coasts and city skyline. The hike is kid-friendly and one of the easiest ones on the island of Hawaii.

Hiking the Diamond Head crater to catch stunning views of the surrounding landscape is a must on your things to do in Oahu.

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Photo by Chase O on Unsplash

1.6. Gaze at Scenic Landmarks While Hiking Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

A single famous trail along the southeastern coast takes you through some of Oahu’s major and beautiful landmarks.

The hiking experience will bless your itinerary with some of the most beautiful breathtaking Hawaiian land and water vistas. Catch views of Kaiwi state’s scenic shoreline. As the name signifies, you can spot the iconic Makapu’u Lighthouse, which is a century old, during your hiking journey.

With paved pathways and less distance to travel, the trail is perfect for families and friends to take up without difficulty.

If you turn out to be lucky enough, you can spot several sea birds and whales, but your naked eyes won’t be enough, so make sure you carry your binoculars. Witness the splendid surroundings overlooking Makapuu Beach, Koko head, and neighboring Islands like Molokai and Lanai.

The trail is just another way to experience the beauty of Oahu so make sure you take up Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail on your things to do in Oahu for that promising sightseeing.

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Photo by Karson on Unsplash

1.7. Visit The Crater-Made Beautiful Hanauma Bay

Located on the southeast coast of Oahu island, Hanauma Bay is one of the popular places to have on your things to do in Oahu.

This renowned location was made owing to the impacts of craters, giving it a ring shape that encompasses within it that include around 400 different species of tropical fish, coral reefs, and green sea turtles that happen to be here in abundance.

Hence, the place is now called Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve. It is renowned amongst other beaches for snorkeling and spotting some of the several species of the bay that inhabit the bay. During the winters, you can occasionally spot dolphins and humpback whales here at the bay.

Visit Hanauma Bay with your family to relish your family time here with the serene waters and beautiful horizons across and rich Marines life.

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Photo by
Cosmin Serban/ Unsplash

1.8. Gawk At Art Treasures At the Honolulu Museum of Art

Step a foot into a collection of more than 60000 art pieces to gawk at!

The Honolulu Museum of Art will soon be reaching its century milestone as it opened in 1927. With this milestone, the art museum is Hawaii’s largest and most magnificent fine arts museum.

The collection of art is spread across collection rooms and courtyards that will take you through Asian and Pan-Pacific art. Spend your time here admiring the art done by world-renowned artists and sculptors. The establishment houses art exhibits from some world-class artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Paul Gauguin, and many more.

You will be surprised to know that it’s not just the paintings that will blow your mind but the collections of 3D art as well. The museum will keep you busy with its exhibits as well as other establishments like innovative exhibitions, an art school, and a theatre for independent art.

All of these things might fascinate you to add the Honolulu Museum of Art to your things to do in Oahu.

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1.9. Catch the Cultural Vibe At Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most beautiful locations located on the Northern Shore of Oahu.

This living museum will add an unmatchable and unique experience on your way back home. The location encompasses within it a theme cultural park that represents and recreates different villages of Hawaiian islands and exhibits their spirit for visitors to know about it.

The Polynesian Cultural Center also hosts events. Luke Huki is what they call a celebration that involves signature dances of respective Polynesian culture.

A family-friendly and culturally significant destination is one of the best things to be on your things to do on Oahu.

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By Wikipedia

1.10. Dip the Pacific Waters in the Atlantis Submarines

If snorkelling, scuba diving, and getting wet in the waters are not your thrilling adventure, then Atlantis submarines have your back.

Enjoy a dip in ocean waters by taking up the opportunity to be a passenger in the Atlantis submarine to explore the wonders that the underwater holds. Explore and gawk at the underwater world and while you amuse yourself by spotting different marine life creatures. The guides provide details about the richness of marine life and its creatures.

The shipwrecks and airplanes at the bottom might be fascinating to watch from a submarine. Knowing that they were intentionally placed there to help coral reefs thrive and protect them will further interest you.

So gather this unmatched and memorable experience of underwater exploration with your family, making it one of the best things to do on Oahu.

1.11. Kualoa Ranch, Aka Jurassic Park in Hawaii

Watching the locations you once saw on TV as a kid and then watching it on your vacation to Oahu sounds fun right?

Kualoa Ranch, the world-famous destination, is a whopping 4000-acre private property where the series Jurassic Park was filmed. With lush green landscapes and forests spread, the Kualoa Ranch is one of those exemplary places that was once sacred to the Hawaiians and is now a popular tourist attraction point.

This natural reserve is nothing less than a stunning setup and undoubtedly a perfect place to visit on your things to do in Oahu.

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Photo by Cosmin Serban on Unsplash

1.12. Catch Sacred Vibe At Oahu’s Byodo-In Temple

With exciting sightseeing locations to witness and thrilling adventures to participate in, Byodo-In temple must make a place into your things to do in Oahu.

Among the hidden treasures of Oahu, the Byodo-In temple is one of such picturesque locations that will be blissful for your soul throughout your itinerary.

Adorned with lush green landscapes, reflection ponds, spaces for meditation, and waterfalls, the destination is one of the popular locations that wins the hearts of its visitors. Apart from landscaped grounds, one can also delight in spotting wild peacocks on the premises.

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1.13. Escape Into Charms Of the Northern Shore Of Oahu

Undoubtedly one of the best places to witness the gravity of the extraordinary spirit of Hawaiian islands is the North Shore.

With a bucket full of activities to endeavor, the North Shore is renowned for its stretch of coast and big waves, ideal for surfing. You can participate or just be a spectator for the surfing contests that happen at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. The thrill of watching surfers with huge waves chase them is one of a kind experience to undergo.

Surfing, screaming, and thrills are not all North Shore offers. One can avail themselves of calming activities like snorkeling at Shark’s Cove, especially in summer. Take a dip in the ocean waters with your snorkel gear and witness the magical flashy coral reef and fish swimming around you.

Sea turtles, eels, parroting, and butterflyfish are some of the marine life you can spot while snorkeling at Sharks Cove. Other fascinating points on the North Shore are the hiking trails at Waimea Valley, tropical gardens at Dole Plantation, Sunset Beach Park, and restaurants to eat at.

Amongst all your other things to do in Oahu, a visit to the North Shore is a must.

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Photo by Luke McKeown on Unsplash

1.14. Swim Alongside Turtles in the Turtle Canyon

If the cute sea creatures called turtles fascinate you, then visiting Turtle Canyon on the southern shore of Oahu should be one of your things to do in Oahu.

An abundance of green sea turtles, also called Hawaiian sea turtles, give it the name Turtle Canyon. Apart from the turtles, you can also spot a variety of tropical fish while snorkeling here.

Snorkel with abundant turtles around you and other marine life. Located near the coast of Waikiki, the Canyon is accessible by boat ride. Enjoy your boat ride with drinks and lunch and spot the migrating marine creatures like dolphins and whales.

1.15. Strike the Beach Town Kailua

Kailua Beach town is a blissful location out there on the Hawaiian Islands, blessed with extraordinary stretches of sand and oceanfront.

The beach town features long sandy beaches on the eastern coast of Oahu, and the beaches here are ideal for water sports activities. It attracts ample visitors to indulge in water sports activities like windsurfing and kayaking owing to its gentle waves, unlike those on the North Shore.

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By Wikipedia

Keeping aside the beautiful beaches of Kailua, the town is also renowned for its lip-smacking restaurants and markets. Moreover, one of the best things to do here is to pay a visit to Hawaii’s largest wetland which serves as a sanctuary for endangered wet birds.

If tropical adventure is what you are looking for on your trip to Oahu, then a visit to Kailua Beach town is one of the essential things to do in Oahu.

1.16. Relish Over Hawaiian Flavours On A Food Tour!

What is better than an excellent relishing food tour to amplify your vacation to Oahu?

Boasting some unique flavors, a Hawaiian food tour shouldn’t miss your things to do in Oahu. Plenty of restaurants offer good food in beach towns, and if you are willing to try local food, there are plenty of hidden gems to explore.

Food tours will keep you equipped as you try the unique flavors, and sightseeing will be added to them.

Must Try EATS Around OAHU Island | Hawaii Food Tour

1.17. Soar High Above the Island of Oahu

If you want to have it all, experience the sight of everything you have heard of Oahu like its beautiful beaches, tropical forests, neighboring islands, and vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean around it, then simply board and opt for a helicopter tour.

View the unreal location from thousands of feet above and take as many pictures as possible since every angle holds a different charm. The helicopter tours take you above some of the popular landmarks like Hanauma Bay, Kualoa Ranch, beach parks, etc.

If a helicopter tour seems kind of boring for your adrenaline rush, then you better brace yourself for parasailing over the shoreline of Oahu. You can avail yourself of the parasailing adventure at Waikiki Beach.

The experience is quite different than paragliding since your sailing would be controlled by boat. So you, my friend, decide for yourself how high you can fly! So instead of walking, flying and watching the beautiful Oahu from a bird’s eye view is a must on your things to do in Oahu.

1.18. Capture Splendid Views of the Horizon at Lanikai Beach

Visiting one of the best beaches in the world should surely be one of your things to do in Oahu. Lanikai beach offers some magnificent views of the ocean and the islands of Mokes breaking the horizon line.

Walk the white sandy beach, swim in the pristine waters of the ocean, or calm down at the beach, soaking in breathtaking views of sunset and moonrise. The location is regarded as one of the best places to watch the moonrise because it is located on the island’s east side.

The name Lanikai means heavenly sea; undoubtedly, it’s an apt name for the beach. Gentle waves, glimpses of sea turtles, and proximity to a public park make the Lanikai beach ideal for a family to spend their time together lounging at the beach while witnessing spectacular vistas of the surroundings.

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Photo by Genevieve Perron-Migneron on Unsplash

1.19. Walk the Vibrant Waikiki Neighborhood

Waikiki, the iconic neighborhood, is like the beating heart of Hawaii and is one of the majorly visited tourist spots every year.

Its white sand beaches are ideal for surfing, attracting many visitors every year. Apart from that, this famous beach resort is a blissful place hosting its visitors with loads of experiences in terms of shopping, entertainment, dining in restaurants, and other fascinating museums and zoos.

The avenues in the neighborhood boast of housing designer fashion stores, restaurants, cocktail bars, clubs, and many late-night venues that will make sure you spend your evenings having fun.

Ideal for all age groups, visiting Waikiki is one of the best things to have on your things to do in Oahu.

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By Wikipedia

2. Did You Know?

  1. Oahu is home to two-thirds of the Hawaiian population, with around 1 million people living on the island.
  2. The state flower of Hawaii is the ‘Yellow hibiscus‘.
  3. The water sport activity of surfing was invented in Hawaii.
  4. The stunning beaches of Oahu pull close to 500000 tourists every month, which averages around 6 million visitors per year!
  5. The word ‘Oahu’ doesn’t have a particular meaning in Hawaiian, but the island is popularly nicknamed the “Gathering Place“.

3. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

3.1. Can One Take Up a Road Trip in Oahu, Hawaii?

Ans. Yes! You can drive around Oahu with a rental car witnessing the serene landscape and halting at exemplary locations, and fulfilling your list of things to do in Oahu.

3.2 Where Can You Swim with Sharks on Oahu?

Ans. Swimming alongside sharks is one of the bravest things to do on Oahu.

If one has the heart for it, many tours in Oahu fulfill your adrenaline rush of swimming with sharks near Oahu’s north shore, where they carry you via boat.

3.3 What are the Best Hiking Trails to Take Up in Oahu, Hawaii?

Ans. Oahu is renowned for its dramatic landscape, tropical forests and beaches, and many hiking trails that will acknowledge you with the beauty of Oahu.

Maunawili Falls Trail, Aiea Loop Trail, Ehukai Pillbox Hike, Manoa Falls Trail, Lanikai Pillbox Hike, Kuliou Ridge Trail, and Makapu’u Point & Lighthouse Trail are some of the best trails to put in your things to do in Oahu.

3.4 Where is the Dole Plantation Located in Oahu?

Ans. Dole plantation is located in Wahiawa and is famous for its pineapple garden maze and self-guided educational tours through the garden. This historic plantation is a must on your things to do in Oahu.

3.5 Is There a Jurassic Park in Oahu, Hawaii?

Ans. Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii, is a world-famous location, a 4000-acre private nature reserve where the series Jurassic Park was filmed.

4. Conclusion

Sometimes isolation from the mainland and vacationing on an island like Oahu is key to escaping daily stale life. Create invaluable memories and unforgettable experiences with a touch of Hawaiian culture.

With ample things to do in Oahu, the location is a perfect destination for a dreamy vacation. Alongside beaches, getting your skin tanned while endeavoring water activities, relaxing, swimming with the marine life, and hiking the tropical rainforests.

Treat yourself to Oahu-touched beautiful memories!

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Last Updated on May 14, 2023 by Siddhi Gulvi