Oahu is an amazing place. Between its picture-perfect beaches, rich history, amazing attractions and natural landmarks, the island is a paradise like no other. It is not only home to the Hawaii state capital, Honolulu, but also home to renowned sites like Waikiki Beach and Banzai Pipeline, Diamond Head, and Pearl Harbor.
Things to do in Oahu
When it comes to things to do in Oahu, there are no shortages. From sightseeing by helicopter to snorkeling in the warm Hawaiian waters, Oahu is full of attractions.
Things to do in Oahu #1
Sightseeing Tours – Get a guided tour of Oahu, where visitors experience local stories and history while seeing sights often missed. Guide tours allow you to see the best of Oahu according to your personal interests. If mountains, or waterfalls, or beaches are your preference, you can select from a variety of sightseeing tours. From Pearl Harbor to pineapple farms, guided tours help bring visitors closer to this amazing Island and are great things to do in Oahu!
Oahu Helicopter Tour
Discover hidden Oahu on this exciting helicopter tour! You’ll sweep across the island, grabbing glimpses of Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, Sacred Falls, and the Dole Plantation. $219/Person
There are obviously a lot of things to do in Oahu. Take a walking or Segway tour of downtown Honolulu, and you’ll see the famous statue of King Kamehameha I, who united the Kingdom of Hawaii, as well as Iolani Palace, the seat of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Prefer nature to local culture? Then come to Oahu during the winter and take a boat cruise out to spot humpback whales. Or take to the air any time of year, and you can fly over many of the top natural attractions the island has to offer, like the 760-ft. tuff crater, Diamond Head, and the scenic Hanauma and Waimea Bays.
Segway Tour of Honolulu
Leave the foot pain behind! Instead, weave along the walkways of Waikiki and Honolulu on the Segway, a smooth-riding personal transportation system, and visit all the area’s main attractions.
Things to do in Oahu #2
Beaches – While you’re in Oahu, a definite activity should be to spend some time on the island’s world-famous beaches. There’s a lot of them, so you’ll need to pick and choose; but their consistent quality means that you won’t have to worry about “buyer’s remorse” or regret no matter where you go. Two of the top surfing spots in the world are located on Oahu. Head to the north shore for Waimea Bay and Ehukai Beach, more popularly known as Banzai Pipeline—a truly dangerous surf spot. Nearby, for those not surfing-inclined, is Turtle Bay, a wonderful place to enjoy fairly placid waters and to marvel at the many endangered monk seals and Hawaiian sea turtles that frequent its beaches. One final noteworthy beach is the renowned Waikiki Beach. The beach welcomes four million visitors annually, who come in order to catch both its views of Diamond Head and its waves. Waikiki happens to be one of the best places for surfing lessons, as well.
Things to do in Oahu #3
Boating and Sailing – Getting out on the ocean should top your “things to do in Oahu” list. With the magnificent Pacific Ocean surrounding Oahu, one of the top ways to explore the area is by boat. You can hop onto a catamaran, a fishing charter, or some other type of boat for peaceful waves, relaxation, seasonal whale-watching (December to early May), or perhaps a dinner/sunset cruise. There are tons of boating options in store for you here. You can take a Polynesian catamaran out to sea for a midday buffet full of good eats like kalua pork and teriyaki chicken, while you revel in the sights and sounds of traditional Hawaiian music and dance. Or you can charter a boat to take you out for sportfishing, whether you’re on the hunt for Ahi, Mahi Mahi, Ono, Marlin, or one of the 40 species of sharks in Hawaii’s waters! If that’s not exciting enough for you, high speed ocean rides are also available. The Honolulu Screamer, for example, will send you flying with its 1,420 horsepower, twin diesel engines! For a full 30 minutes, you’ll be approaching speeds of 40 miles per hour as you cut to and fro on the water’s surface. As always, a host of ocean dwellers will greet you along the way, including dolphins and sea turtles.
Oahu Sail and Snorkel
Climb aboard a catamaran and cut through the pristine waters of the Pacific on your way to a snorkeling adventure.
Things to do in Oahu #4
Diamond Head State Monument – Come visit one of the most iconic Hawaiian landmarks with a stop at Diamond Head. So-named because of the diamond-like crystals that were present on its slopes during the 19th century, the 760-ft. tuff cone is an amazing place to enjoy a view or a hike. Even though it is just three-quarters of a mile long, the Diamond Head trail is moderate in difficulty, largely due to its two sets of steep staircases. On your journey here, you’ll also get to go into underground tunnels and military bunkers, built in 1908 to take advantage of Diamond Head’s strategic location on the heights. The trip to the rim of the crater should take roughly two hours. At the top is an amazing vista that overlooks Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean and is one of our top recommendations for things to do in Oahu. Admission to the park is $5 per car or $1 for pedestrians. Hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., 365 days a year; the final entrance for the hiking the trail, however, is at 4:30 p.m.
Things to do in Oahu #5
Kualoa Ranch – Kualoa is a cattle ranch that is surrounded by rainforests, sandy beaches, open valleys, and many other things that have been there since its establishment in 1850. There are adventure tours offered that will shuttle you through and around Kualoa, both to dazzle and excite you. One of the best ways to see the area is on a two-hour horseback tour that will take you deep into Ka‘a‘awa Valley, famous for its appearances in the movie Jurassic Park and the TV show Lost. If you’re pressed for time, then take a one-hour tour to Kualoa Ranch’s 800-year-old fishpond and vistas that overlook Mokolii Island, popularly referred to as “Chinaman’s Hat.” ATV tours are similarly available, as are jungle expeditions aboard a 6-wheel Swiss military utility vehicle.
On the other hand, if land attractions don’t suit your fancy, then take a sailing tour. You can board a luxury catamaran for awesome views of the Kualoa and Koolau Mountains, as well as Mokule‘a Beach. Once you’re back on shore, you’ll be hungry—but you’re in luck! Because Kualoa Ranch is an operational ranch, you’ll be able to stop by the visitor’s center for a farm-fresh beef burger at Aunty Pat’s Café.
Things to do in Oahu #6
Nuuanu Pali Lookout – If you want a combination of historical intrigue and natural wonder, take a trip to Nuuanu Pali Lookout. On the way, you’ll pass through dense tropical forests, and upon arriving, you’ll hear about lookout’s significance, and experience its amazing vistas firsthand. Nuuanu Pali Lookout allows you to gaze beyond what you’d normally be able to see. At 1,000 ft. above sea level, you’ll not only be able to perceive Kailua, Kaneohe, Mokolii, and Coconut Island, but also, the stunning cliffs of the Koolau Range. This is definitely one place you’ll want to put on your things to do in Oahu agenda – bring your camera and a telephoto lens!
But Nuuanu Pali Lookout isn’t just a pretty face—she’s got a rich history, too. Once you’re here, you’ll want to explore the site of the Battle of Nuuanu. It was on these grounds in 1795 that King Kamehameha I finally won a long-fought war, and brought Hawaii under his rule to establish the Kingdom of Hawaii. Before you enjoy the terrace and cliffs of Nuuanu Pali, please make sure you bring a jacket and brace yourself for whipping winds. After your visit, you’ll understand why they call this the “Windward Coast.”
Things to do in Oahu #7
ATV Tours – Because Oahu is so scenic, it is an excellent place to go for an ATV ride. There are so many unique places you can explore, and none will leave you disappointed. You can explore Kualoa Ranch on ATV and discover the filming locations located within. Movies shot here include Jurassic Park and Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates. You’ll also carve your way through tropical rainforests on the way to remote beach getaways, and catch breathtaking glimpses of the Kualoa Mountains. If you’d prefer some independent exploration, have no fear! Oahu boasts over 30 trails that can be traversed by foot or by ATV. Perhaps you can take your four-wheel-drive vehicle up to Diamond Head, or perhaps you’d like to head west through the wild to Kaena Point. Whatever you choose, we can promise you two things: a rush of adrenaline and fantastic scenery – one of the many adventurous things to do in Oahu.
Things to do in Oahu #8
Visit Pearl Harbor – Pearl Harbor plays a significant role in U.S. history, and while you’re in Oahu, you can see where one of the country’s most infamous events took place. A visit here is one of the most popular things to do in Oahu.
Travel back in time to December 7, 1941, when America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, with tours of the many nearby landmarks and museums. When you arrive at Pearl Harbor, one of the first things you’ll want to do is pay homage to the 1,000 fallen soldiers that were aboard the USS Arizona. You can do this by taking a boat out over the USS Arizona Memorial, which lies directly above the ship’s sunken remains. You’ll also be able to see the USS Missouri, which is where Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces less than four years later. In addition, your tour to Pearl Harbor could include stops at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, where you can tour the WWII-era vessel and find out more about the role of submarines in battle. You can also swing by the Pacific Aviation Museum for highlights on the history of aerial combat, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial, which pays respect to the ship and her 429 crew members that died when hit during the Pearl Harbor attacks.
Things to do in Oahu #9
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling – These ocean activities certainly tops our list of things to do in Oahu. One of Oahu’s most popular spots to snorkel is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. It has some of the clearest waters, filled with plenty of colorful, tropical fish. The waters are calm, so it’s ideal and safe for you to snorkel even if it’s your first time doing so. While Hanauma is the most popular snorkeling destination, there are many other beaches that you can visit as well, including the white sands of Kailua Beach, located on the Windward Coast, in the shadows of the Koolau Mountains. Kailua Beach is an especially awesome place due to its proximity to offshore islands, which allows for unlimited exploration possibilities. Don’t feel comfortable going alone? Don’t worry. There are plenty of lessons that can take you safely into the Pacific, whether you’d prefer to scuba or snorkel. At the same time, more experienced divers who don’t need instruction can venture out a little further into the ocean on guided tours to the San Pedro and Sea Tiger ship wrecks, or the Kewalo Pipe, Nautilus, and Turtle Canyon reefs.
Oahu Surf Lessons
Starting At: $104.98/Person
Surf’s up! Get in the waves even if you’re a beginner, and learn to ride the waves like a pro.
Things to do in Oahu #10
Surfing and Surf Lessons – You cannot visit Hawaii without learning to surf, and Waikiki is one of the best beaches to for doing exactly that. You can learn to surf from local guides who have been teaching lessons for decades. Expect to spend an hour or two in the water, first paddling out on a long board—the ideal board type for figuring out how to stand up in the ocean—and then getting your feet under you as a wave comes in. Waimea Bay is also considered an excellent place to go surfing, especially if you’re comfortable with bigger waves. Due to its massive winter swells, this beach is home to the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event, which attracts elite surfers from around the world. If you’re up for the challenge, you can take a crack at riding these waves, which regularly top 20 ft. in December and January. So no matter your skill or experience level, you’re sure to find a surfing opportunity on Oahu that will suit your needs and desires. Here, you can get up for the first time, fine-tune your technique, or tackle some of the toughest waves on the planet. If you are still looking for things to do in Oahu, why not try it!
Things to do in Oahu #11
Valley of the Temples – For a look at Eastern religion, there’s no better stop on Oahu than the mysterious Valley of the Temples. The collection of religious landmarks, which are located within the Koolau Mountain Range, are highlighted by the famous Byodo-In. Meanwhile, a Japanese garden and fishponds decorate the temple grounds. The elaborate Buddhist temple was built in 1968, and is a replica of a 900-year-old temple in Kyoto, Japan. Within Byodo-In stands an 18-ft.-tall Lotus Buddha, finished with gold leaves and lacquer. Visitors are permitted to light incense there, although the temple is technically not active. Outside Byodo-In is a five-foot-tall brass peace bell that is meant for guests to ring in order to ensure a long and happy life. In addition to these architectural feats, the landscaping is breathtaking. Walk around the garden and over the small bridges that traverse the ponds. You should also take time to admire the mountainous backdrop, as well as the koi fish that inhabit the waters around you.
Things to do in Oahu #12
Waikiki Aquarium – If you haven’t seen enough animals on your hiking, scuba diving, and snorkeling tours, head to the Waikiki Aquarium right along scenic Waikiki Beach. With over 3,500 aquatic life forms and 500 unique species, it’s sure to satisfy your craving and to teach you a thing or two along the way. Among the many fascinating exhibits at the Waikiki Aquarium is “Hunters on the Reef,” which features predatory species like the blacktip reef shark, so-named for its black-tipped fins, and the giant trevally, a fish that frequently tops 100 lbs. There’s also a squid exhibit that features the color-changing bigfin squid, and an octopus exhibit that contains an Hawaiian day octopus, master of disguise! One exhibit you can’t miss is the Hawaiian monk seal habitat, which displays the critically-endangered seal species. The Waikiki Aquarium has two monk seals—significant considering there are only about 1,100 left in the world! Admission to the Waikiki Aquarium is $9 for out-of-town guests, and $6 for residents, active members of the military, students, and seniors, with appropriate ID. The aquarium is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. WEBSITE