Top Things to Do on Oahu

Aerial view of H-3 Interstate highway, Oahu
••• Royce Bair/Getty Images
  • 01 of 30

    Attend a Luau

    Hawaii, Oahu, Man blowing conch shell in Hawaiian dressings. Blurred background .
    ••• Rita Ariyoshi/Getty Images

    Oahu is the island most often visited by travelers to Hawaii. It's known as "The Gathering Place." There are so many things to do that you'll never be able to do them all in just one visit. We've chosen our top things to do on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

    Attend a Luau

    Oahu offers a number of excellent luaus. Germaine's Luau is held on a private beach on Barber's Point east of Honolulu. The Polynesian Cultural Center's Ali'i Luau is held in La'ie on Oahu's North Shore. The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa has an excellent luau, Waikiki Starlight LuauTM on the resort's Rooftop Garden.

    For something a bit different, and more refined, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort offers 'Aha 'Aina, a Royal Celebration which pays homage to Helumoa, the legendary playground of Hawaiian royalty and where the Royal Hawaiian now stands, with a modern interpretation of the traditional Hawaiian feast and great entertainment.

    My favorite luau on Oahu is the Paradise Cove Luau which is held...MORE on a 12-acre beach at the Ko Olina Resort and features great food, Polynesian entertainment, traditional Hawaiian games, and lessons in lei making.

    More Information

    Book Your Stay

    Book your stay in Honolulu or Waikiki with TripAdvisor.

    Continue to 2 of 30 below.
  • 02 of 30

    Walk Around Historic Honolulu

    King Kamehameha statue in front of Aliiolani Hale (Hawaii State Supreme Court), Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, United States of America, Pacific
    ••• Michael DeFreitas / robertharding/Getty Images

    Located in the heart of Honolulu you'll find many of Hawaii's most historic buildings including the 'Iolani Palace home to Hawaii's last monarchs. It is the only royal palace on U.S. soil.

    You'll also want to visit the Hawaii State Capitol, the Kamehameha I Statue, Kawaiaha'o Church - the first Christian church in Hawaii, the Mission Houses Museum and the Old Federal Building. All of historic Honolulu is within easy walking distance of downtown parking at the equally famous Aloha Tower.

    More Information

    For details on all of these locations, check our Walking Tour of Historic Honolulu

     

    Continue to 3 of 30 below.
  • 03 of 30

    Drive to Oahu's North Shore

    Hawaii, Oahu, North Shore, spectators watch crashing surf from sand.
    ••• Vince Cavataio/Getty Images

    Known as the "surfing capital of the world," Oahu's North Shore spans from La'ie to Ka'ena Point. Still, it's an area that far too many visitors never take the opportunity to see.

    An easy hour-long drive from Waikiki will bring you to lovely Haleiwa town where the North Shore begins. From there you can drive in an eastward direction around the North Shore.

    Oahu's North Shore is home to the top world-class surfers in the world when the winter waves reach their majestic heights. Be sure to stop at the Banzai Pipeline where you can see surfers make their way through the middle of a wave.

    Other North Shore places to visit include Kahuku with its shrimp trucks, Turtle Bay, Waimea Valley, Waialua, Mokule'ia and Kaena.

    More Information

    For more information, check out our Driving Tour of Oahu's North Shore

    You may also enjoy our Hawaii Surfing Photos

     

    Continue to 4 of 30 below.
  • 04 of 30

    Explore the Bishop Museum

    Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu, Bishop Museum, Hawaiian Hall with sperm whale exhibit.
    ••• Greg Vaughn/Getty Images

    The Bishop Museum is recognized as the State Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

    While the name of the museum is officially the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, the museum was actually established by her husband Charles Bishop to whom Bernice had left her personal property upon her death in 1885, fulfilling their dream of preserving Hawaii's cultural heritage.

    Bishop Museum is the largest museum in the state of Hawaii and the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific. The museum houses the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural and scientific artifacts.

    Throughout its history, the museum's commitment has been the gathering and the dissemination of information on Hawaii and the Pacific.

    Find out some more information about the Bishop Museum

    Continue to 5 of 30 below.
  • 05 of 30

    Hike to Makapu'u Point in Southeast Oahu

    Makapu'u Point Lighthouse on Oahu, Hawaii
    ••• Anna Gorin/Getty Images

    One of Oahu's most rewarding hikes is the 2.5-mile round trip hike to Makapu'u Point, the most eastern point of Oahu.

    The hike to the point is mostly uphill and takes about an hour each way. If you take the hike, do it early in the day when the sun will be behind the cliff face as you climb.

    The views of Waimanalo Bay to the north and Sandy Beach and Koko Head to the southwest are spectacular. Is a a great spot for whale watching from December to May.

    Check out our Makapu'u Point Hiking Information and photos.

     

    Continue to 6 of 30 below.
  • 06 of 30

    Honor America at Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial

    Hawaii, Oahu, Pearl Harbor, Arizona Memorial Aerial View With Ship Visible Below A42A
    ••• Dana Edmunds/Getty Images

    Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial remain top tourist destinations in Hawaii with over 1,500,000 visitors annually.

    A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is a solemn and sobering experience, even for those who were not alive when the attack occurred. You are literally standing over a grave site where 1177 men lost their lives.

    The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park at Pearl Harbor offers visitors the chance to tour the World War II submarine USS Bowfin and view submarine-related artifacts on (the) grounds and in the Museum.

    The USS Missouri or Mighty Mo, as she is often called, is anchored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor within a ship's length of the USS Arizona Memorial, forming fitting bookends to the involvement of the United States in World War II.

    The Pacific Aviation Museum - Pearl Harbor (PAM) opened to the public on Dec. 7, 2006, the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Hawaii.

    More Information

    Be sure to read our feature on Visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona...MORE Memorial.

    You may also enjoy our feature on the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.

     

    Continue to 7 of 30 below.
  • 07 of 30

    See Waikiki and Oahu from the Top of Diamond Head

    Honolulu skylinefFrom diamond head
    ••• Jesse Warren/Getty Images

    Diamond Head looms large over the Waikiki. Actually named Le'ahi by Hawaiians, it received its more well-known name in the late 1700's when British seamen saw calcite crystals sparkling in the sunshine and thought they had found diamonds.

    A hike to the top of Diamond Head takes about an hour over a well-worn path. The trail up, for the most part, is not too difficult. There are handrails along the entire 1.4-mile round-trip journey. There are also benches to sit on if you want a break. Some people actually run the trail "for fun."

    The summit offers a spectacular 365-degree view of Oahu and is a must trip for photography enthusiasts.

    More Information

    Read guest author Jo Levy's feature on Diamond Head State Monument.

     

    Continue to 8 of 30 below.
  • 08 of 30

    Shop in Waikiki and in the Greater Honolulu Area

    Crazy Shirts-along Lewers Street and the Waikiki Beach Walk.
    ••• Ann Cecil/Getty Images

    Waikiki is a great place to shop and offers such prestigious retailers as Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as more modest stores such as the ever-present ABC Stores and the world-famous International Market Place.

    The Royal Hawaiian Center has undergone a major renovation and contains 150 stores and restaurants on four levels.

    New in recent years, Waikiki Beach Walk, has a number of excellent shops and restaurants on its two open-air levels.

    The DFS Galleria the only place for foreign guests in Hawaii to enjoy duty-free savings on the world's leading luxury brands.

    More Information

    Check out our feature on the Best Places to Shop on Oahu.

    An excellent resource on shopping on Oahu is a book written by Kathryn Drury Wagner called The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on O'ahu.

     

    Continue to 9 of 30 below.
  • 09 of 30

    Tour the Polynesian Cultural Center

    Hawaii, Oahu, Laie, Polynesian Cultural Center
    ••• Tibor Bognar/Getty Images

    The best place in Hawaii to learn about the culture and people of Polynesia is at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Laie, the gateway to Oahu's North Shore. The Center has been Hawaii's top paid visitor attraction for over 35 years.

    The PCC features seven Polynesian "islands" in a beautifully landscaped 42-acre setting. Young men and women share the arts, crafts, and culture of their homelands with visitors.

    The Center's Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant show is performed daily on the main lagoon. The PCC is also home to Hawaii's first and only IMAX™ Theater.

    The Center's evening Ali'i Luau is followed by their new spectacular 90-minute evening show, Ha: Breath of Life.

    Continue to 10 of 30 below.
  • 10 of 30

    Visit the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium

    Entrance to Waikiki Aquarium.
    ••• Linda Ching/Getty Images

    Located in Kapi'olani Park on the east end of Waikiki, the Honolulu Zoo is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles. It is too often overlooked by visitors.

    The Honolulu Zoo is ever changing and modernizing. Beginning in the 1990's, numerous exhibits were redesigned to feature more natural settings for the animals on display. That work continues today.

    Located nearby at the shoreline, the Waikiki Aquarium offers exhibits, programs, and research focus on the aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific.

    Over 3,000 organisms are on exhibit representing more than 500 species of aquatic animals and plants. The aquarium is located next to a living reef on the Waikiki shoreline.

    For more information check out our features and photos of the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium.

    Continue to 11 of 30 below.
  • 11 of 30

    Get a Taste of Honolulu with Hawaii Food Tours

    Fresh fruits at Oahu Market, Chinatown.
    ••• Linda Ching/Getty Images

    Hawaii Food Tours was born to help people find some of the great places to eat in the Honolulu area. Together with his partner and wife, Keira Nagai, Matthew Gray (an accomplished chef and former food critic for the Honolulu Advertiser), will take you on one of the most fun adventures you've had on any vacation.

    Hawaii Food Tours ​offers three tours. Their Gourmet Trilogy Tour, offered twice weekly for groups of 8 or more, is a must for food & wine lovers featuring a multi-course dinner at 3 top eateries in Honolulu, each course paired with an extraordinary wine.

    Their most popular tour is their Hole-in-the-Wall Tour® which is offered daily from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. visiting several mouth-watering local, ethnic, and exotic restaurants and marketplaces, primarily in Honolulu's Chinatown, and two of Hawaii's most famous bakeries.

    In 2013, they began to offer a North Shore Food Tour, offered two days each week.

    Hawaii Food Tours was selected as your Favorite Oahu Activity Company in the...MORE 2013 About.com Readers' Choice Awards.

    For more information, you can read our feature on Hawaii Food Tours and visit the Hawaii Food Tours website.

    Continue to 12 of 30 below.
  • 12 of 30

    Spend an Evening With Elvis and Friends at Legends in Concert Waikiki

    Rock-a-Hula Hawaii
    ••• Courtesy of Rock-A-Hula Hawaii

    I admit that it may sound a bit odd to recommend that you go to Oahu and spend an evening at a Las Vegas type show, but that's precisely what I'm recommending.

    Legends in Concert Waikiki's "Rock-A-Hula" show runs nightly Tuesdays through Sundays at the Royal Hawaiian Theater on the top floor of the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki.

    The show is performed by some of the best tribute artists in the business as only Legends in Concert knows how to do. They have hit shows running in numerous US locations.

    While the show has great segments with artists portraying several big stars, the star of this show is Elvis Presley. Portrayed in both his young and older years, there's no surprise that the Waikiki show centers around the artist who has become such an integral part of Hawaii and remains so even now 35 years after his death. You'll hear all of the songs made famous in one of the Elvis movies filmed in Hawaii or performed in his historic 1973 Aloha From Hawaii concert that was beamed...MORE across the world to record audiences.

    Several pre-show options are available. I experienced the Green Room package that includes cocktails, a "green room" meeting with one of the show's stars, a backstage tour, and dinner.

    Continue to 13 of 30 below.
  • 13 of 30

    See Oahu from the Air

    Aerial view of H-3 Interstate highway, Oahu
    ••• Royce Bair/Getty Images

    As is the case with all of the Hawaiian Islands, there are many areas of Oahu that can only be viewed from the air. Even places that you're used to seeing from the ground gain a whole new perspective when viewed from above.

    From a helicopter, you'll be able to see the oil slick that still gently flows from the hull of the sunken USS Arizona and you'll really be able to appreciate the beauty of the sandbars off of Kaneohe on Oahu's eastern shore.

    I have flown with two companies on Oahu. Paradise Helicopters flies out of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore. Makani Kai Helicopters flies out of the Honolulu International Airport and the Ko Olina Resort and offers free roundtrip transportation from Waikiki.

    Read Our Reviews and View Our Aerial Photos:

    45 Aerial Photos Taken on My Makanai Kai Helicopter Tour
    Review of Paradise Helicopters from Turtle Bay
    62 Aerial Photos Taken on My Paradise Helicopters Tour

     

    Continue to 14 of 30 below.
  • 14 of 30

    Listen to Some Live Hawaiian Music

    Hawaiian music band under palm trees sunset
    ••• TheBigPineapple/Getty Images

    I'll always remember the first time I heard Hawaiian music in Hawaii. We had just checked into the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa almost 20 years ago and had entered their elevator. They were playing selections from ​​Kawaipunahele, the first album by Keali'i Reichel who has since gone on to be one of the big superstars of Hawaiian music. My wife and I were both hooked.

    During the course of that 10-day trip, we heard lots of Hawaiian music and bought quite a few CDs, but the best experiences were when we had the chance to hear live performances.

    Back in 1994, there were far fewer live performances in Waikiki than there are today. Hawaiian music has really seen a renaissance in the last two decades and visitors to Oahu can now catch live performances by some of the biggest names almost every evening somewhere on the island.

    Read Our Related Feature:

    Best Places to Hear Hawaiian Music on Oahu

     

    Continue to 15 of 30 below.
  • 15 of 30

    Visit Kualoa Ranch on Oahu's Windward Shore

    Hawaii, Oahu, Cows On Kaaawa Valley And Kualoa Ranch With The Koolau Mountain Range In Background.
    ••• Dana Edmunds/Getty Images

    One of my favorite places to visit on Oahu is Kualoa Ranch on the Windward side of the island. It is a working cattle ranch whose owners have dedicated themselves to keep the ranch, including its two majestic valleys and large fish pond free of commercial development and in as natural a state as possible.

    In order to accomplish this goal, the ranch has developed a number of activities/tours which have become more and more popular every year. These include a Hawaiian Experience tour, Movie Site & Ranch tour, Jungle Expedition, Fishpond & Garden tour as well as ATV tours and 1 and 2 hour horseback rides.

    The ranch is also available for concerts, weddings, corporate events and has, in recent years, become a major filming location for both motion pictures (50 First Dates, Godzilla, Jurassic Park and more) and television (Lost, Hawaii Five-0, and The Last Resort.)

    Read Our Related Feature:

    Exploring Kualoa Ranch and the Ka'a'awa Valley of Oahu

     

    Continue to 16 of 30 below.
  • 16 of 30

    Drive to Oahu's Leeward Coast

    Yokohama Beach on leeward side of island.
    ••• Linda Ching/Getty Images

    With the increased development of the nearby Ko Olina Resort, highlighted last year by the opening of the Disney Aulani Resort, more visitors are choosing to explore the Leeward Coast since it is closer to their accommodations than most other areas of the island.

    The Leeward Coast is a beautiful part of Oahu with quite a different geography than you'll see elsewhere.

    There are strikingly beautiful valleys such as Makua and awe inspiring coastlines such as you'll find at the end of the road at Yokohama Beach and Kaena Point.

    Along the coast, there are some great hidden wonders such as the Kane'aki Heiau in Makaha Valley.

    Wild Side Specialty Tours which sails out of the Waianae Boat Harbor offers several excellent environmentally responsible tours.

    Read Our Related Features:

    A Driving Tour of Oahu's Leeward Coast.

     

    Continue to 17 of 30 below.
  • 17 of 30

    Take a Drive to the Manoa Valley

    Hawaii, Oahu, Manoa Valley, Chinese Cemetery at Woodlawn, well-known for being haunted.
    ••• Ray Laskowitz/Getty Images

    Located just a short drive from Waikiki on the other side of the H1 Freeway is the Manoa Valley.

    Primarily a residential area, the valley has some great places to visit. It's a perfect day trip for visitors staying in Honolulu and Waikiki who don't want to have to spend most of the day driving.

    Within the valley, you'll find the University of Hawaii's main campus. The campus itself is quite lovely, but for ​me, the highlight is the University of Hawaii bookstore. The University of Hawaii Press publishes some of the best books on Asia, Asian Americans, Hawaii, and the Pacific.

    Between the university and the back of the valley is a highly populated residential area that you need to drive through to get to the valleys true gems, the beautiful Manoa Chinese Cemetery, the Lyon Arboretum, and the trailhead to the Manoa Valley trail which will take you to Manoa Falls. Parking is available at each of these locations.

    Read Our Related Features:

    Exploring the Manoa Valley

     

    Continue to 18 of 30 below.
  • 18 of 30

    Find Places Where the TV Series LOST Was Filmed

    Byodo-In Temple
    ••• Piero Damiani / Getty Images

    It was one of the most popular and talked about TV series of the last 10 years and viewers still continue to talk about its controversial final episode. It is LOST, which ran on ABC from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010.

    The series was centered on an island, presumably located somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but flashback (and flash forward) scenes took viewers to numerous locations on the mainland and around the world.

    What many viewers do not know is that, aside from a handful of scenes, the entire series was filmed on the island of Oahu making great use of the islands diverse geography and architecture.

    Need to show the Sydney Airport? Use the Hawaii Convention Center. Need to show a scene in Nigeria? Use an old sugar mill in Waialua. Can you imagine the home of a rich Korean businessman? Use the Byodo-In Temple near the Kaneohe/Kailua area. Remember those great scenes set hiking across the island? Visit the Ka'a'awa Valley of Kualoa Ranch.

    Even today, years after the show has ended,...MORE Oahu visitors love to seek out the locations where LOST was filmed. They do it on their own using such online features as our series on LOST locations on Oahu or they take a guided tour such as are offered by KOS Tours.

    Read Our Related Features:

     

    Continue to 19 of 30 below.
  • 19 of 30

    See Beneath the Waves with Atlantis Submarines

    Atlantis Submarines, Waikiki
    ••• Atlantis Submarines, Waikiki. John Fischer

    A submarine tour with Atlantis Submarines from the Hilton Pier in Waikiki is both an educational and fun experience. You'll get to see the many and varied sea life that exists beneath the waters of Waikiki. You'll also encounter a few surprises.

     

    Continue to 20 of 30 below.
  • 20 of 30

    Attend an Annual Festival or Event

    A Floral Parade at the Aloha Festival in waikiki
    ••• Yoshio Tomii/Getty Images

    The island of Oahu has more annual festivals and events than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. On almost every weekend you will find something to attend whether it be a wonderful cultural festival or a specialty fair where you're sure to find some great buys.

    Check out our feature on the annual festivals and events on Oahu.

    Continue to 21 of 30 below.
  • 21 of 30

    Drive Around Mount Tantalus on Round Top Drive

    View of diamond head from round top drive
    ••• Melissa Tse/Getty Images

    Whether you're a hiker, jogger, walker or just out for a pleasant car ride, the Tantalus, and Round Top Drive is the perfect place to spend a few hours. The views of Diamond Head, downtown Honolulu, and Punchbowl Crater are fantastic. If you're lucky enough to be on the mountain at sunset, the views of the city's lights are amazing.

    Read our feature a Driving Tour of Mount Tantalus and Round Top Drive

    Continue to 22 of 30 below.
  • 22 of 30

    Pay Your Respects to Our Fallen Heroes at Punchbowl

    Punchbowl Cemetery
    ••• Randy Faris/Getty Images

    Punchbowl is now the site of the 115 acre National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The remains of the ancient Hawaiians now share the land with the bodies of over 38,000 soldiers, more than half of whom died in the Pacific arena during World War II.

    View our feature and photos of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

    Continue to 23 of 30 below.
  • 23 of 30

    Tour Hawaii's State Capitol Building

    Hawaii State Capitol
    ••• Julie Thurston/Getty Images

    Praised for its unique architecture, self-guided tours of the Hawaii State Capitol are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. year-round, with the exception of state holidays.

    Read our feature on the Hawaii State Capitol.

    Continue to 24 of 30 below.
  • 24 of 30

    Go Surfing

    Surfboards at Ehukai Beach
    ••• Macduff Everton/Getty Images

    It's said that there are two types of people on Oahu - those who surf and those who love to watch surfing. I have to admit that I'm the latter.

    One of my favorite spots to watch surfers is at Oahu's world famous Banzai Pipeline on the island's Fabled North Shore.

    Continue to 25 of 30 below.
  • 25 of 30

    Take a Kos Hummer Tour

    Kos Tours
    ••• Kos Tours. John Fischer

    If you're a fan of the TV shows and movies that have been filmed on Oahu, especially the hit TV series LOST, the best way to see many filming locations in one day is to take a KOS Hummer Tour.

    Read our features on a 5-hour Kos Hummer Movie/Lost Adventure Tour and a 10-hour Kos HUMMER Circle Island Lost Location Adventure.

     

    Continue to 26 of 30 below.
  • 26 of 30

    Play a Round of Golf

    Hawaii, Oahu, Kapolei, Ko'Olina Golf Club, 18th hole at twilight, water hazard, sand trap A18F
    ••• Carl Shaneff/Getty Images

    It's the President's favorite activity on Oahu and it's no surprise since there are so many great golf courses on the island.

    If you don't play but are a fan of the pros, there are both a PGA and LPGA tournament held on the island each year. Read our feature on the Hawaii Professional Golf Season.

    Continue to 27 of 30 below.
  • 27 of 30

    Watch Some Fireworks

    Fireworks from the Hilton Hawaiian Village
    ••• Fireworks from the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village

    Perhaps because it has so many people of Chinese heritage, Oahu loves fireworks, especially around the holidays. You can also see fireworks every Friday at the Hilton Hawaiii Village Beach Resort & Spa as part of their Rockin' Hawaiian Rainbow Revue.

     

    Continue to 28 of 30 below.
  • 28 of 30

    Explore Honolulu's Chinatown

    Man buying a lei at Cindy's Lei and Flower shop on Maunakea Street in Chinatown.
    ••• Ann Cecil/Getty Images

    One place I recommend to all visitors is Honolulu's Chinatown. It's a great place for an early morning walk when the vendors are selling fresh vegetables and other food.

    As the day goes on, some of Honolulu's best restaurants open and you can have a great meal for​ a very little money.

    Continue to 29 of 30 below.
  • 29 of 30

    Step Back in Time at Hawaii's Plantation Village

    Plantation Village Museum, Oahu, HI
    ••• Michele Burgess/Getty Images

    Step back in time to when ‘sugar was King’ and experience the real Hawaii. Hawaii’s Plantation Village is the perfect location for children, family, and all ages to explore a living history museum and botanical garden.

    Hawaii's Plantation Village is an outdoor museum that tells the story of life on Hawaii's Sugar Plantations (circa 1850-1950). 

    Continue to 30 of 30 below.
  • 30 of 30

    Find Your Way Around the Dole Pineapple Maze

    Hawaii, Oahu, Wahiawa, Dole Pineapple Plantation, Aerial Of Pineapple Maze.
    ••• Dana Edmunds/Getty Images

    Dole Plantation's Pineapple Garden Maze holds the record for the world's largest maze from the Guinness Book of World Records.

    Dole Plantation, located outside Wahiawa town on the way to the North Shore of O'ahu, is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily at 64-1550 Kamehameha Highway.