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Top Things to do in Hawaii Oahu

by Pankaj Upreti
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Things to do in Hawaii Oahu

Oahu is an island in the Hawaii
Hawaii – Oahu | Photo Credit – Bevis Chin

Oahu is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago that is also the home of the city of Honolulu, which is the state capital of Hawaii. While you are on the island, you will be able to find a lot of things to do and see. Being an island location, Oahu is a place where you can enjoy the best of beaches and surfing and also enjoy a peaceful vacation at a resort on the island.

What’s more, apart from all the usual things that you can expect from an island getaway, one of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii is to enjoy the serene natural beauty of the island. There are many lush forests, mountains and more natural features such as waterfalls to enjoy while you are in Oahu. A number of state and national parks exist on the island, making your trip to Hawaii memorable, fun and fulfilling in all ways possible.

Oahu is a  that has been known for a number of famous things such as movies being shot like Jurassic Park. An all round destination, you will be able to find everything from beaches to farmers market places at Oahu.

With the help of this article, we hope to bring to you all the best of stuff to do while in Oahu Hawaii. Keep reading more below to find out all the relevant information that you need to know before booking a flight to the island. From cheap things to do, to the unique stuff on Oahu, we have it all covered to sit back, relax, and keep scrolling down to find out about the absolute best that Oahu has to offer you.

North Shore

Oahu Hawaii North Shore
Oahu Hawaii North Shore | Photo Credit – Anthony Quintano

While many of our astute readers will point out that North Shore is a location that is best known for its waves and surfing tournaments, we would like to tell you that one of the greatest things that you can do while at the North Shore is to Sky Dive. Sign up for the Tandem Skydive Tour on the North Shore for something you are going to remember for a lifetime.

Another great thing to do at North Shore is to undertake the Peace Hike whose end point is a location with great views. You will find that the Peace point is somewhere from where you can watch huge waves that the North Shore is famous for.

Hanauma Bay

Hawaii Oahu
Hanauma Bay | Photo Credit – Dalton Reed

One of the most well known attractions in all of Hawaii, Hanauma Bay is known to be a great location for snorkeling but one of the attractions that people usually miss out on is hiking on the cliffs in the area.

Beaches of Oahu

Hawaii Oahu
Sunrise at Lanikai | Photo Credit – Jan Arendtsz

There are some extremely awesome beaches in Oahu, you must take some time and try to visit as many of them as you can. Kailua beach park is a great beach that is really long and features calm waters. You can swim and surf at the Kailua beach. Another great beach in Oahu is the Lanikai Beach which is known to be a very beautiful beach.


Oahu, while having the best in resorts and beaches, also has its fair share of hiking trails such as the Koko Crater Railway Trail where you can climb what was an earlier railroad. The trail offers great views of many Oahu staples such as Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay and other landmarks.

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a classic paved trail that you can enjoy. Also try the Manoa Falls trail, the Kaena Point State Park and the Kuliouou Ridge Hike.


When you are in Hawaii or Oahu, one thing that will most certainly catch your eye and senses is the delicious food. The best thing to try is the seafood in Oahu. Enjoy fresh produce from the Farmers Market and stalls that are a dime a dozen on the island.

Examples include the Hawaii Farm Bureau and the KCC Farmers Market also known as the Diamond Head farmers market. There are juice bars and the best attraction of them all: luaus, where they serve the most delicious food.

Bishop Museum

Hawaii Oahu
Bishop Museum | Photo Credit – Ray_LAC

This is the largest museum in the state of Hawaii. Not only does it feature the natural culture and history of the island state, but also artifacts and more such things. One of the best attractions of the Bishop Museum is the planetarium that features a traditional voyage on the deck of the ship Hokulea.

During this show you will be able to learn about the ways of navigation from the crew that don’t feature compasses or GPSs, but rather the sun and stars.

There are many more attractions on Oahu for you to find and enjoy such as the Diamond Head area and the Ala Moana. Keep on reading this article as it will tell you about the nuances regarding things to do while in Oahu, starting with the do’s and don’t’s of the island.

What should you not miss on Oahu?

Oahu is a magical place. There is a lot of stuff to do here and some things are a Hawaiian staple. Some things are such that if you find yourself on the island of Oahu, you certainly should not miss them.

This section of the article on the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii will focus on what you definitely shouldn’t miss while you are on the island. Keep reading more below.

Taking Surfing Lessons

Hawaii Oahu
Surfing Lesson | Photo Credit – The U.S. Army

Surfing is synonymous with Hawaii. The beaches of Hawaii has been known to be surfing hotspots not only in recent and modern times but also with the native populations of the Oahu and Hawaiian islands. Locals have been known to surf the waves for a long time, and now that Hawaii has become a well known tourist hotspot, people from all over the world come here to surf.

While you are in Oahu, it might be worthwhile to sign up for surfing lessons at the Waikiki beach. This beach is particularly well suited for learning to surf as it features light waves and a number of organizations that teach people how to surf.

Sign up with them and have them provide you with not only the instructions but also the gear required. A great company to sign up with for surfing lessons is the Waikiki Beach Services. They have been training people to surf for a long time (since 1955) and if you are not really into surfing, they also offer you paddle boarding lessons as well as canoeing and more services.

Kualoa Ranch

Hawaii Oahu
Kualoa Ranch | Photo Credit – Thank You (20,5 million

This scenic location has been the filming location of a number of movies and shows. The wide jungle and mountains of the Kualoa Ranch are a location that you absolutely cannot miss while you are here.

There is a hell of a lot of stuff to do while you are here such as zip lining, ATV touring, horse riding and even tours of famous movie sites such as the classic Jurassic Park and Godzilla.

Attending Luaus

Luau Hawaii, Oahu
Luau Hawaii, Oahu | Photo Credit – Deb Nystrom

Luaus are a thing that Hawaii is known for. The island of Oahu has these crazy parties almost every night and if you find yourself in Hawaii, then attending a Luau is something that you absolutely cannot miss.

The hallmark of these parties are the song and dance, the entertainment and the greatest of all, food to die for. One of the best places in Oahu for a Luau is the Paradise Cove. Aptly called so, the Paradise Cove is a great place that features some of the best parties on the entire planet.

You can also take hula lessons here, along with a lei making class and cultural demonstrations before the event. Another great place for a Luau is the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Stuff in the Water

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay | Photo Credit – JD Lasica

While you are in Hawaii, you are probably there for the water. From beaches and rivers that run abound in the island, Oahu has so much to offer when it comes to water activities. There are so many options to choose from that a trip to Hawaii might even last indefinitely because you won’t be able to do it all.

That being said, this section of this article will let you know all about the water activities that you absolutely cannot afford to miss while you are on Oahu. We have already covered surfing as an activity that you absolutely cannot miss. Let’s move on to snorkeling. One of the best snorkeling spots in Oahu is the Hanauma Bay.

The reef of Hanauma Bay is great for snorkeling as it offers a large number of species living there and is also protected from the ocean. Hanauma Bay is one of the exclusive snorkeling spots as only a limited number of people get to come here everyday, so book your spot early.

Another great water activity that you cannot miss while you are in Hawaii is swimming and diving with marine animals. From snorkeling with green sea turtles at the Catamaran Tour which guarantees you a turtle spotting or you get to go again, or diving with the sharks if you are an adventure lover, Oahu will mesmerize you and surprise you with a plethora of activities that you cannot miss.

You can also swim with wild dolphins in their natural habitats. These warm and affectionate sea mammals are a wholesome treat and you should definitely not miss swimming with the dolphins while you are in Oahu  in Hawaii.

Visiting the North Shore

The Original North Shore Country Market | Photo Credit – sctt_fstr

Hawaii is a location that you can enjoy all around the year. If you are here in the winter months, then what you absolutely cannot miss is the North Shore of Oahu. This is a prime surfing location as it features the biggest waves on the planet. If you are not an experienced surfer, then you probably will avoid the water of the pacific ocean.

But that does not mean that you cannot make the best out of your North Shore experience. You will be mesmerized by the huge waves and even more delighted to see surfers battling them. In December, there is a tournament of surfing known as the Triple Crown of Surfing that features huge crowds coming to see the surfers.

The Triple Crown of Surfing is not the only thing that you shouldn’t miss while you are in Oahu. The North Shore is full of things that you absolutely cannot miss while on your Oahu and Hawaii vacation. A quaint little town that is known for its natural beauty and also the plethora of things to do, Haleiwa is a surfer’s paradise. From food trucks to shave ice and more, Haleiwa is a somewhere you will love.

The food trucks offer great cuisine that is local and shave ice is a  local delicacy enjoyed by all. While you are at the North Shore, you will find ample opportunities to explore on your own and also enjoy hidden spots and general amenities that have been catering to tourists for a while. Visiting the North Shore is certainly something that you absolutely cannot miss and it might as well be one of the best of the Oahu attractions that you will come across.

What should I avoid in Hawaii?

As a tourist, you are new to a place and it can be overwhelming to miss out on stuff and other things to do. There are many mistakes that tourists make while they are visiting places and Oahu has its own share of common mistakes that you are bound to make if you are not well informed.

In this section of the article we will bring to you the common things that you as a tourist should avoid in Hawaii. Keep reading to find out more below.

Not Getting Cash (Or Enough of it)

Money Dollar | Photo Credit – 401(K) 2012

As there are no major banks on Oahu Hi, using ATMs again and again can stack up quite a toll on you in the form of transaction fees. Many locally owned stores and shops are known to only accept cash so it might be worthwhile to plan ahead and keep them bucks on hand so that your Oahu vacation doesn’t hit a stop. Don’t let this common mistake ruin your vacation.

Not Planning for Essentials

You Oahu vacation will feature a number of things that you will expect and a number of things that you won’t. Don’t make the mistake of not packing the essentials for a beach island vacation. Things such as shoes, beach towels (very important), sunglasses, cash and sunscreen are a must when you are touring Oahu.

Pack with precision and planning and you will surely be patting yourself on the back when you find that you have all that is needed when the need arises.

Never Leaving the Resort

The resorts in Oahu and Hawaii in general have been made in a way that you will be tempted to spend your entire vacation there. With so many things to do in the resort, it is possible for you to never leave it, engrossed in the luxury and relaxation that the resort will offer you.

Please don’t make this mistake or you will be quite disappointed when your trip comes to an end. Oahu is filled with so much to do and see that people find it difficult to pack it all into one vacation and are sold for a return trip.

Get out of your resort and do and see that stacks and stacks of activities that lie in wait for you at Oahu.

The Mistakes you will make vis a vis exploring and scheduling

The magnitude of the things to do at Oahu Hawaii will overwhelm you. You might want to pack it all away into a tight itinerary and cover everything. But what that will lead to is the fact that you will be left sprawling from one activity to the next and with not enough time to enjoy it all.

What’s better is to pick and choose about the things you should do or not, and make sure you have enough time to explore at your own leisure. What is even better is to let the island speak to you and instead of planning down to the minute, you can relax and take a rental car around the island and plan as you go. This idea might be one of the best you will ever have.

Ignoring Local Traditions and Habitats

This is a really important thing to keep in mind when you not only visiting Oahu but any other location in general. The land of Hawaii is made up of a delicate ecosystem and it is this very fact that drives tourists to it in hordes. As you explore and see stuff, you have a responsibility as a tourist to make sure you don’t damage the very thing that brought you here.

While you see animals and natural features, it is important to respect them and most of all, to not bother or trouble the animals that you see such as sea turtles. The Oahu island is filled with corals which are magnificent to look at and are the crux of your snorkeling expedition.

These are delicate marine life forms which may easily be ruined. Take care of them as you enjoy them and whatever you do do not step on a coral. Not only will the coral take damage, but you may also injure yourself.

Another local idea is that taking away the lava rocks and sand with you can bring bad luck. The locals take their tradition very seriously and so be sure to respect them. It might be tempting to take away a souvenir with you but try to enjoy the beauty of nature without appropriating it.

Things to do in Oahu at night

A great location during the day, even greater during the night. Oahu is an island that is filled with activities for all of the twenty four hours of the day and each one of them is better than the last.

This section of the article will explore the best things to do in Oahu while night lays across the sky. Keep reading below to find out more.

Waimea Valley Moonwalks

The Hawaiians are known to honor the moon as part of their culture and history. Take the Moon Walks at Waimea valley and honors the moon in a local way. Here is the link to find out more about the Moon Walks.

Friday Night Fireworks

Hilton Hawaiian Village | Photo Credit – Loren Javier

When you are at Waikiki beach, enjoy the Friday Night Fireworks that are hosted by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Watch them for free from the beach.

Oahu Ghost Tours

Ghost Tours are a nightly staple for many places in the United States. Hawaii is no stranger to them. The spooky aura of the island at nights only adds to the thrill and makes the Oahu Ghost Tours a thing that you definitely should try while you look for things to do at night.

Twilight Tours

Honolulu Zoo | Photo Credit – Studio Elepaio

The Honolulu Zoo is known to host something called the Twilight Tours from 5 30 to 7 30 PM every Friday and Saturday. Including the two hour walking tour that will take you around the zoo with information provided by your tour guides.


The best way to experience the rich culture of Hawaii is to attend a Luau. These nightly parties host the best in food and entertainment and are things that you absolutely cannot miss. Try the Paradise Cove and the Polynesian Cultural Center for the best in Luaus.


The last Friday of every month features the ARTafterDark program at the Honolulu Museum of Art. This art party is hosted from January through October. Along with getting to explore the museum at night, you can also enjoy a great party with food and drink.

Eat the Street

Sunset at Kaka’ako Park | Photo Credit – Jackie

Another great last Friday of the month party is Eat the Street hosted at Kaka’ako Park. Enjoy a diversity of cuisine at the event. Not only this, the Eat the Street organization hosts many events throughout the year. Keep and eye out.

Unique things to do in Hawaii Oahu

There are many things on Oahu that you will not find anywhere else. This section explores for you the most unique things you can do in Oahu. Keep reading to find out more below.

Corsair Plane Wreck Dive Site

This was a plane wreck that happened in the year 1948, luckily with no casualties. One of the most unique attractions on Hawaii, you will be able to find this wreck around 3 miles from Hawaii Kai. Take a boat tour from the Koko boat marina to see the wreck.

Shangri La

ShangriLa-DorisDukeHouse | Photo Credit – Wendy Cutler

This is a mansion that was made for Doris Duke who was known to be an art collector and philanthropist. There are a large number of artworks in Shangri La, mostly from the Middle East and Central Asia.

This unique attraction in Oahu is managed by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

Punchbowl Crater

Punchbowl Crater | Photo Credit – Eric Tessmer

Receiving millions of tourists each year, this distinctively shaped crater is not only a natural scenic site but also a location of history commemorating soldiers of America.

Sky Gate

This is one of the most unique things in the entire world. The Sky Gate is a sculpture that is built atop the subsolar point in Hawaii. Isamu Noguchi designed the Sky Gate, which is a bendy curvy ring whose shadow changes shape constantly throughout the year.

On the days of the sun being directly overhead on the subsolar point, the shape of the shadow changes into a perfect ring. This unique attraction can be one of the most trippy best things to come out of your Oahu Vacation.

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace | Photo Credit-Daniel Ramirez

The Iolani Palace has been the seat of the royal monarchs of Hawaii since the year 1845. It was the state capitol earlier and now has become a museum featuring royal attractions such as the Original Throne Room, the Grand Hall and the Dining Room. Do visit this unique Oahu attraction while you are here.

Cheap things to do in Hawaii Oahu

This section of the article will explore the cheapest things you can find to do in Oahu.

Hula Show

Hula Show Hawaii | Photo Credit – Dennis Sylvester Hurd

The Hula Dancing is local Hawaiian specialty. Find a free to watch Hula Show on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at Kuhio Beach.

Aloha Tower

Built in 1926, this landmark offers tourists a chance to climb the observation deck with no entrance fee. There are shops and markets nearby to make coming here rather a wholesome couple of hours.

Exploring the Island

There are many hiking trails in Oahu and one of the greatest ones is the Manoa Falls trail. Take a hike through the rain forest and reach the Manoa Falls.

This can be a great way to explore the island and enjoy the opportunity to be one with nature.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor was quite a relevant location in the Second World War. The Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1941.

Places to visit when you are at Pearl Harbor are the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial. This is a free to do thing in Oahu.

Dole Plantation

Enjoy a trip to the Dole Plantation to check out pine apple production in Oahu. Free admission with complimentary events, you can even take a tour of the garden of only $11.

We hope that this comprehensive article about the best of things to do in Oahu Hawaii was helpful to you. We have tried to be as inclusive as we can to cover all the best things about Oahu and what it offers you.

Oahu has so much to offer, from local delicacies such as shave ice to farmers market places and some of the best beaches on the planet and areas such as Diamond Head. We hope that this article was helpful to you in preparing for you next trip to Oahu.

Let us know in the comments below if you enjoyed our article or if you have an experience to share from Oahu. You feedback is appreciated and always welcome. In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, please make sure that you take care of all the safety precautions and social distancing norms while you are on your trip. Be safe and enjoy your vacation the best way you can. Good luck and safe travels.

Also read about things to do in Hollywood.

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