Of the six Hawaiian islands to visit, Oahu offers the most city life along with gorgeous beaches and beautiful hikes. Here are the best things to do on Oahu including the capital city of Honolulu. You can enjoy culture, food, nightlife, shopping, sunsets and more. First and foremost, relax and enjoy the island life!
Visit the National Monument Pearl Harbor while on the island of Oahu and learn about important pieces in history. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the museums and the grounds are free to visit. You are also able to visit the USS Arizona with a short boat ride. At this time, a reservation is required for a $1 fee.
Guided tours are also available that include transportation.
Kualoa Ranch was a top favorite of our activities! It is the set for many shows/movies including Jurassic Park. You can explore the grounds by ziplining, ATV, bus expedition, biking, kayaking or horseback riding. There are also options to spend the day on their private beach or on a boat ride. Gorgeous scenery, fun tour guides and hours of fun will fill your time at Kualoa Ranch.
There are so many options of tours. However, make sure you book in advance as the popular tours will sell out. We enjoyed the movie set tour so much that we tried to book another tour too but they were sold out for the next several weeks.
Polynesian Cultural Center
This was another one of our favorite activities on the island of Oahu! The Polynesian Cultural Center is a living theme park with six villages that represent the different Polynesian islands. Each village has activities and shows that represent its homeland. From hula dancing to spear throwing, games, eating coconut, learning about coconut oil and enjoying boat rides, you will want to spend all day here (or from open to close). In addition, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers an evening performance of Ha which is a musical dance performance that tells the Hawaiian story of life.
Without a doubt, we met some of the nicest people ever at the Polynesian Cultural Center. All the employees were extremely friendly and excited to share information about their culture. We absolutely loved chatting with them!
Waikiki beach is an area of Honolulu and is another gorgeous beach area. There are tons of restaurant options and beautiful beaches. The Waikiki beaches are absolutely a perfect spot for an evening walk along the beach while also enjoying the sunset.
Diamond Head is a volcano. You can hike to the summit and enjoy great views of the land, sky and water. The hike includes abandoned military stairways through the side of the crater so be prepared. It is 1.6 miles roundtrip with 325 stairs to climb. There are shops and restaurants at the summit.
In heart of tropical rainforest, Manoa Falls is a 150-ft waterfall that empties into rock pool. It is Oahu’s highest waterfall and a two-mile hike into deep rainforest. Start the hike at the Lyon Arboretum. One caution tip is not to visit on a rainy day due to the possibility of landslides.
Sea Life Park
We enjoyed the dolphin experience at Sea Life Park which also offers experiences with sea otters and sting rays. For the dolphin experience, you stand in water that is about waist deep and are able to interact with the dolphin as the dolphin swims in front of you. Not only was the dolphin experience and the dolphin show was great but our boys also loved feeding the birds in the aviary.
Alternatively, Dolphin Quest Oahu is another option for a dolphin experience. We went to Sea Life Park so I am not able to compare the two but its an option! We used the Go City Oahu pass for admission to Sea Life park and several other attractions (more details below).
For a pineapple experience, visit the Dole Plantation. It offers a train tour through farmlands where tropical fruits are grown, a garden tour and a garden maze. The gift shop is massive. Of course, the most important part of visiting the Dole Planation is enjoying some delicious dole whip! Yum!
Chinatown Historic District is the place with shops, stalls and markets. It is the best place for a hand-made lei.
Lanikai Pillbox hike and beach
For amazing views, put on your hiking shoes for the Lanikai Pillbox hike. It is a little under two-miles round trip. Lanikai beach offers turquoise waters, soft sands, snorkeling and swimming. It is a great snorkeling spot for beginners because the waters are typically calm. There is no parking lot so only street parking is available.
The Halona Blowhole is one of the most dangerous landmarks in Hawaii due to fierce currents beneath the cliffs. Water shoots up like a geyser. However, from a distance, it is a safe, beautiful and a natural wonder of Hawaii.
Duke Boulevard is an alley, which runs between Kuhio and Kalkaua Avenues, next to the Hyatt Centric. It is a string of stalls set up by small vendors that offers every Hawaiian craft and souvenir. It is a place for bartering and negotiation.
If you want more shopping options, the Ala Moana Center is a four-level open shopping center.
Lions, tigers and sloths…oh my! Enjoy a zoo in the beautiful tropical paradise with monkeys, elephants, porcupines, lemurs, cheetahs and more!
The Byodo-In Temple is a scale replica of famed Buddist temple in city of Uji (Japan). You will enjoy gardens, peaceful pathways and a koi pond.
When in Hawaii, you must eat malasadas which are a cultural touchstone of Hawaii. Malasadas are a fried, hole-less donuts covered in powdered sugar with your favorite fillings. Leonard’s Bakery gets very busy so I recommend going as early as possible.
The North Shore
After spending most of our time on the south side of the island, we drove to the north side to check out the beauty. In March, the waves are definitely larger and look more powerful than the south side. There were lots of surfers.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Waters are clear, sand is full of seashells and bits of coral. Sea turtles are a common site and schools of parrotfish. It sounds like a tropical paradise! Swim, snorkel, lay on beach, surf, dive. This could be considered one of the top things to do in Honolulu. However, because its such a great place, it is also nearly impossible to get reservations. Once the parking lot is full, no further access is allowed for the day so arrive early if you plan to go. It is 10-miles east of Honolulu. Snorkeling gear is available for rent and guides are available to help identify fish, squid, eels, octopus, and sea turtles.
Last but certainly not least, make sure to enjoy lots of beach time! You obviously cannot visit an island and not spend time relaxing in the sun. Just make sure to cover up with lots of reef safe sunscreen. Sans Souci Beach Park offers shallow waters and clean shorelines to enjoy a mellow waterfront. The waves are mild and palm trees offer shade. Ko Olino lagoon is a great place to learn to snorkel. Waimea Bay has big wave surfing and bodyboarding. However, it is on the north shore so better to visit in the summer. Baby M’akapu’u beach is great for exploring the tide pools.
There are several beaches that you can rent chairs, an umbrella and surf boards for the day. Without a doubt, it is a perfect beach day!
Go City Oahu
The Go City Oahu pass is a way to enjoy many activities at a discounted price. Buy your pass here and use it for so many options from Sea Life Park to Diamond Head to Pearl Harbor to surfing lessons. It is as easy as downloaded the app to your phone, linking your passes to your phone and showing your app when you arrive to the activity.