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One of my favorite Hawaiian islands is Oahu. It has all of the best things to do, and I’m certain, it’s the next island you’ll want to visit. I had the chance to spend an epic week when I went there with my family this spring experiencing all of the best things to do in Oahu.

Oahu is known for many things, including the state capital Honolulu, historic Pearl Harbor, and iconic Waikiki Beach. But there’s so much more to discover on Hawaii’s most popular and populous island. Its 600 square miles encompass towering mountains, beautiful beaches, and top-notch cuisine.

What I love is that you had this incredible blend of culture meets cosmopolitan, and nature meets relaxation. Some of our best days exploring Oahu were spent with relaxing mornings at the resort, and beach hopping in the afternoon, all followed by a wonderful meal with ocean views. It’s a trip we still talk about to this day, second to our time on the Big Island (which is vastly different.).

What I love is that the island offers many activities for all kinds of travelers. You can enjoy nature by watching animals, visiting botanical gardens, or hiking. You can also relax on the beautiful beaches or try exciting activities like ziplining, helicopter rides, or UTV tours.

So I’ve put together some of my favorites, and all of the best things to do on Oahu! Read on for my top picks for Oahu things to do!

How Many Days Is Ideal for Oahu?

As a starting point, I would suggest a week to fully enjoy Oahu and see a good part of the island. You could also easily stay longer with so much to take in. If you opt for a shorter trip, I recommend staying in one location for ease.

Where Should I Book My Tours?

Throughout this article, I’ve sought out and reviewed over a hundred tours on Oahu. I recommend using Viator because you can see reviews and get a sense of quality. The second best thing is taking advantage of their “reserve now and pay later.” As long as it’s three days prior to your tour date, you’re able to change most bookings. The other element is a lot of top things on Oahu require a guided tour and booking, so I’ve included those as well.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Tours and Hotels in Oahu:

Tours

  1. All-Inclusive Ultimate Circle Island Day Tour with Lunch and Waimea Waterfall
  2. Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial Guided Tour
  3. Oahu Shark Dive Experience

Hotels

  1. Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, for the best luxury resort
  2. Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, for the best Waikiki resort
  3. Turtle Bay Resort, for the best North Shore resort
  4. Moana Surfrider Resort and Spa, for the best luxury Waikiki hotel
  5. The Royal Hawaiian, for the best classic Waikiki hotel

If you’re planning a trip to the island, don’t miss my posts about the top restaurants, family-friendly hotels, and an overall guide to Oahu family travel!

Want to Explore Several Sights and Ticketed Experiences on Oahu?

Consider booking a Go City All-Inclusive Pass that includes 40+ Attractions!

The 16 Best Things to Do in Oahu


1. See the Byodo-In Temple

Things to Do in Oahu

This gorgeous, non-practicing Buddhist temple is at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains. It was established in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants. The peaceful grounds have a reflecting pond, waterfalls, and meditation areas that are perfect for strolling and reflecting. I blocked about 30 minutes to an hour to come in to see the temple and meander the gardens and temples. I will warn you that the parking lot can be quite full, so plan to wait to park during peak hours. This full-day island tour includes a stop there.

2. Go Diving With Sharks

Go swim with sharks in the Pacific Ocean from inside an underwater cage. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ll see these fascinating predators up close in a safe environment with a professional and skilled crew. This tour will also provide opportunities for viewing turtles, dolphins, and whales. We were traveling with my family so I didn’t have the chance to get on this tour this trip, but have it bookmarked for my next. Book the tour here.

3. Spend a Day on the North Shore

You can easily spend a day on Oahu’s North Shore between all the incredible things to do there. Pass the time admiring the scenery on the Kamehameha Highway, watching the world-class surfers at Banzai Pipeline, or going for an active adventure with a hike up to Ekuhai Pillbox (not to be confused with the Lanikai pillbox hike near Lanikai Beach). This was one of my favorite things to do on Oahu during our trip. The North Shore has so much to offer, so you’ll want to bookmark a proper day for it. For all my favorites, check out my guide to the best things to do on the North Shore!

4. Hike Through Waimea Valley

This sacred historical site is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty and includes a stunning botanical garden. Within the valley, you’ll find a trail to Waimea Falls, a 45-foot waterfall that you can’t miss. Hiking to the falls will take you about 3.5 miles along a mostly flat, paved trail, so it’s accessible for many visitors. Note that there is a fee to access the trail. If you can get an early start, it’s well worth it to beat the crowds. There is a small cafe as well if you need to get coffee like we did!

5. Eat Your Way Through Waikiki

Things to Do in Oahu

Waikiki has many great restaurants that showcase Hawaii’s famously fresh food, like fruit, vegetables, and seafood. From the incredible sushi and udon spots showcasing the state’s Japanese influence, to family-owned Hawaiian restaurants that are favorites among locals, you can easily spend a day sampling cuisine throughout the area. Here’s my roundup of the best restaurants in Waikiki.

6. Ride on A Glass Bottom Boat to See Turtles

Hawaii is known for its marine life and one of the best ways to see it is by getting out on the water in a glass-bottom boat. I took this one-hour family-friendly tour and the sea turtles, also known as honu, awed me. You’re also likely to see other animals such as eels, reef sharks, dolphins, and fish along the tropical reefs. It’s an unforgettable way to experience the island’s diversity. Book the tour here.

7. Experience a Luau in the Waimea Valley

Don’t miss the chance to attend a luau in Waimea Valley when visiting the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a must-do experience, and there are several to choose from on the island. You’ll be immersed in Hawaiian culture while watching dance performances and enjoying local dishes, all in the sacred Waimea Valley among its tropical plant life. The luau ticket includes entrance to Waimea Valley, making it a great way to explore the grounds as well if you want to combine your visit. Book the luau here.

8. Beach Hop in Ko Olina

Things to Do in Oahu

Ko Olina, on the west side of the island, is famous for its 642 acres set across four lagoons, giving you plenty to explore. The protected lagoons ensure calm water year-round and are open to both the public and hotel guests. They’re also shallow until you get far out, making them a safe place for littles to swim. Expansive sandy and grassy areas also provide room to play and do come early to snag a parking spot here.

9. Visit the Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial

Things to Do in Oahu

The Pearl Harbor National Monument is a top attraction in Oahu and one you won’t want to leave without seeing. To guarantee your entry, including boat tickets to the USS Arizona, you can take this Pearl Harbor tour where a guide will give you a tour of the visitor’s center. The center exhibits events that led to the U.S. entering World War II. Then, you’ll take a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. Book the tour here.

10. Do a Self-Drive UTV Tour Through Kualoa Ranch

Things to Do in Oahu

Kualoa Ranch is a popular filming site for Hollywood movies, some of which you might know, like Jurassic Park. This 2-hour UTV tour offers a unique way to see a part of the island outside of the typical resort and beach areas by buckling you in for a ride in an open-air, four-wheel drive UTV that passes over streams and through mud. This 2.5-hour tour of the Jurassic Park filming sites is another great option. Book the UTV tour here.

11. Go Ziplining on The North Shore

Ziplining

For an epic adventure that will get your adrenaline pumping, try ziplining on Oahu’s North Shore. The area has the longest zip lines on the island, reaching up to 2,400 feet. You can get there by taking a quick ATV ride to the mountaintop. Panoramic ocean and mountain views await, as do rappels, sky bridges, and scenic boardwalks. There are age requirements, so be sure to check before booking. Book the tour here.

12. Explore Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Things to Do in Oahu

The beautiful Ho’omaluhi Botanical Garden, opened in 1982 to protect against floods, has plants from tropical regions around the world. It covers 400 acres of windward Oahu. The gardens have sections for the Philippines, Malaysia, tropical America, Polynesia, Africa, and more. You can see plants from all over the world there.

13. Hike to Manoa Falls

Things to Do in Oahu

If you like hiking, trekking to Manoa Falls is a great option. It’s the tallest waterfall in Oahu, reaching 150 feet. It’s only accessible via a 1.5-mile round-trip hike through the rainforest. This half-day tour is a great option for enjoying the scenery with a knowledgeable guide’s help. It also includes a stop at Tantalus Lookout. Book the tour here.

14. Spend the Day at Hanauma Bay

Things to Do in Oahu

You can easily spend hours enjoying Hanauma Bay, a volcanic crater that’s now a protected marine-life conservation area. Its coral reefs, teeming with tropical fish, make it a top snorkeling destination on Oahu. You can either go on your own or avoid the hassle of driving, parking, and renting your own gear by joining a tour (which is what I recommend). This snorkeling tour includes round-trip transportation from Waikiki hotels. Book the tour here.

15. Hike to Diamond Head Crater

Things to Do in Oahu

One of Oahu’s most popular hikes, Diamond Head Crater offers jaw-dropping views from its 760-foot summit. This self-guided tour provides everything you need to enjoy the moderate hike at your own pace, including round-trip transportation and a map. The early-morning hotel departures ensure that you’ll avoid the big crowds that hit the trail later on in the day and have amazing views. Book the tour here.

16. Take a Helicopter Tour

Nothing compares to a helicopter tour for experiencing a completely unique perspective and views you can’t get anywhere else. This tour visits famous places on the island like Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and Waikiki, with recorded explanations. This tour, meanwhile, offers the chance to go doors-off for an extra thrill as you pass over the island’s landmarks. Book the tour here.

17. Hike the Koko Crater Stairs

Things to Do in Oahu

The Koko Head Stairs are a popular hiking spot on Oʻahu that offers a great workout and fantastic views, whether you go in the morning or evening. But here’s the thing to know: it’s a bit of a tough climb, with almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain in just under half a mile. The reward at the top is some breathtaking views of southeast Oahu. I recommend doing it when it’s cooler, either early in the morning or late in the day.

18. Visit Makapuʻu Beach Park

Things to Do in Oahu

Nestled in east Oʻahu, Makapuʻu Beach Park is a picturesque coastal gem, conveniently situated a short drive from the renowned Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail. However, it’s essential to exercise caution, as the swells at Makapuʻu Beach can vary in size and pose potential hazards for swimming. So be sure to do some research ahead of time as always before visiting the beaches on Oahu.

19. Spend the Day at Kailua Beach

Things to Do in Oahu

Kailua Beach, situated on the windward coast of Oahu, is another one of those top beaches on the island. It has powdery white sand stretching for miles. It’s super popular for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. I loved popping by here and then afterward into the town of Kailua for its quaint shops and local eateries.

20. Get Breakfast at The Sunrise Shack

Things to Do in Oahu

If I could pick one restaurant to eat at every day while visiting Oahu, it’s The Sunrise Shack. I loved their North Shore location. This small yellow “shack” is just off the road. You can’t miss their papaya bowls, their smoothies, and bowls.


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20 Best and Unique Things to Do in Oahu

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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