The Best Things to do on Oahu, Hawaii

The 25 Best Things to Do on Oahu

Nicknamed the “Gathering Place,” Oahu is the most visited Hawaiian Island. A perfect slice of paradise, it’s best known for its state capital of Honolulu, historic Pearl Harbor, North Shore surfing mecca, and world-famous Waikiki Beach. 

This picture-perfect Hawaiian Island is much more than that, however, as you’ll find a long list of interesting places to explore. From incredible coastal hikes and remote snorkeling spots to adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures, Oahu offers a range of bucket-list-worthy experiences. 

Oahu’s sun, sand, and surf make it a hotspot for all types of travelers, while nature lovers will delight in the opportunity to paddle, surf, skydive, or even swim with sharks! In addition to being a popular culinary destination, Oahu offers family-friendly excursions in the form of scenic drives, botanical gardens, and authentic luaus. 

With so many exciting things to see and do on Oahu, you might have trouble creating your vacation itinerary. We’ve done the hard work for you, compiling a list of the best things to do on Oahu and its most famous must-see sights. From epic outdoor adventures to the most beautiful beaches, this Oahu bucket list includes a mix of island activities. 

Don’t forget to check out our web story: The Best Things to Do on Oahu!

25 Cool and Unique Things to do on Oahu

1. Learn to Surf on Waikiki Beach

Cool Things to do on Oahu: Surf on Waikiki Beach

One of the most famous beaches in the world, a visit to Waikiki Beach is a top thing to do on Oahu. Boasting picture-perfect views of the Leahi (Diamond Head), it offers a picturesque shoreline backed by shopping, dining, and entertainment. Located on the south shore of Honolulu, it’s one of the best places in Hawaii to learn how to surf.

Along with a renowned collection of luxury oceanfront resorts, the calm waters of this beautiful two-mile stretch of beach are the perfect place to try a surfing lesson. Hans Hedemann Surf School Waikiki, Kahu Surf School, Big Wave Dave at Surf & Coffee, and Sparky’s Surf School are just some of the top-rated surfing schools you’ll find in Waikiki. 

Once you’ve learned the basics and how to catch a wave, you can improve your skills at one of the many popular beginner spots in Waikiki, such as Queens at Kuhio Beach Park or the Waikiki Wall. Longboarders will love the big waves at Queen’s Surf, while Publics is the perfect spot to escape the crowds. 

Just an FYI, Waikiki Beach, Duke’s Beach, Kuhio Beach, and Queen’s Surf Beach in Waikiki are all small beaches that interconnect into one larger beach, making it easy to beach hop in one day. If you’re not interested in surfing, Waikiki’s beaches are also ideal for swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, and kayaking.

2. Take in Honolulu Views from Diamond Head

Fun Things to do on Oahu: Diamond Head

If you’re looking for incredible views over Honolulu, hiking Diamond Head should be at the top of your Oahu bucket list. Considered one of the most beautiful hikes in all of Hawaii, this iconic state monument and volcanic crater offers impressive 360-degree coastal views at its summit. 

Gracing postcards from the Aloha State, the bird’s-eye view at its 760-foot summit only takes about an hour to reach. It’s a 1.6-mile roundtrip hike with its steepest portions including stairs, which makes climbing the path straightforward and safe for hikers. If you need a break, there are benches and lookouts along the way. 

It’s worth the effort to reach the summit and enjoy the stunning views of Honolulu, Waikiki, and the southern coast of Oahu. If you’re worried about the heat, arrive early to avoid the mid-day sun and crowds. While you can drive yourself, most travelers opt to take the bus, Waikiki Trolley, or rideshare. 

After your hike, cool off with a visit to nearby Diamond Head Beach Park where you can watch surfers catch waves. Families might want to combine a visit to Diamond Head with other attractions, including the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, and Kapiolani Park. 

3. Explore the Royal Residence of Iolani Palace

What to do on Oahu: Iolani Palace

The Iolani Palace is one of the most unique attractions on Oahu. It’s not only a national historic landmark but it’s also the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. Built in 1882, this 10-room historic house was once the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs.

Set in the civic center in downtown Honolulu, it’s a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s culture. Step inside to admire its ornate interior, which features a beautiful koa staircase, opulent furniture, large portraits of Hawaiian royalty, and royal gifts from across the globe. 

A self-guided audio tour leads through the palace’s American Florentine-style throne room, reception, and dining room, which bring to life the lavish state dinners and balls that were once held here. Walk downstairs to the basement level to see the collection of swords, antique jewelry, and shimmering crowns of the King and Queen. 

The grounds surrounding the palace are also worth exploring, as across South King Street you’ll find Aliiolani Hale and the King Kamehameha I statue. If you’re a history lover, you can also explore the nearby State Capitol building, Washington Place, and the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives

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4. Tour Historic Pearl Harbor

Unique Things to do on Oahu: Pearl Harbor

Located about 30 minutes from Waikiki, Pearl Harbor is one of the most historically significant sites in Hawaii. It’s one of the top things to do on Oahu for history buffs, featuring five historic sites honoring the events occurring at this National Historic Landmark. 

The devastating events of December 7, 1941, are known as the “date which will live in infamy.” A surprise air attack by the Japanese claimed thousands of lives and launched the United States into World War II. 

Visit Pearl Harbor so you can hear first-hand stories from survivors and learn about what it was like during that fateful morning on Battleship Row. Some of the highlights include walking through a historic airplane hangar, as well as the chance to peer into the harbor where the famed USS Arizona rests. 

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is a free attraction at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, offering access to Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. It’s an important landmark in Hawaii, featuring moving exhibits that highlight the events leading up to the attack on Oahu and its aftermath. 

5. Snorkel at Electric Beach

Oahu Bucket List: Electric Beach

Kahe Point Beach Park, also known as “Electric Beach” by locals, is one of the best spots on Oahu for snorkeling. Thanks to a nearby power plant, the warm, crystal-clear water in this area attracts an abundance of sea life. 

On your snorkeling adventure, you can get up close to turtles and dolphins, colorful fish and eagle rays, as well as white-tip sharks and octopuses. Once in the water, you’re surrounded by reefs teeming with underwater life! 

For a unique experience, swim in front of the power plant and follow it to the two pipes pushing out warm water. The area attracts a lot of sea life and you’ll be swimming in school after school of tropical fish. Less of a beach area, if you want to laze on the shoreline after your snorkel, head to nearby Makaha Beach or Yokohama Bay. 

Kahe Point is located on the west side of the island, about a 45-minute drive from Waikiki. Entry is free, and it requires about an intermediate level of swimming to snorkel in this area. 

The waves can break right where you enter and there are no lifeguards stationed at Electric Beach. May to October is the best time for calm waters. 

6. Spot Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Best Things to do on Oahu: Green Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Animal lovers looking for an encounter with Hawaii’s famous green turtles should head to Laniakea Beach. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, its nickname is actually “Turtle Beach” after the turtles that can frequently be seen basking in the sunshine along its shoreline. 

A stroll along this sun-kissed shoreline will have you mesmerized by its giant sea turtle residents who call this place home. It’s one of the must-do things on Oahu for families who want their fill of turtle photos. 

For decades, these Hawaiian green sea turtles have frequented this beach more than any other spot on Oahu. It’s said they love the rocky cove because it provides a feeding ground with all of the kelp and green moss seagrass that grows on the rocks above and below the waterline. 

However, be aware that it is against the law to touch, provoke, or get too close to the turtles. After admiring the turtle scene, you can walk down the beach about 300 feet to discover a beautiful stretch of sand for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing at nearby Chun’s Reef. 

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7. See the Pineapple Fields at the Dole Plantation

Best Things to do on Oahu: Dole Plantation

Transforming from a roadside pineapple stand to one of Hawaii’s top attractions, the Dole Plantation is a fun excursion for the entire family. In addition to pineapple treats, it features fascinating tours, kid-friendly train rides, and the world’s largest maze. 

Families will love riding on the narrated Pineapple Express train, which offers beautiful North Shore views as well as the story of how James Drummond Dole founded his world-famous agricultural empire. You can also opt for a self-guided Plantation Garden Tour and stroll through the beautiful landscape of the site’s ripening tropical fruit. 

The Dole Plantation is also home to the world’s largest maze, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Stretching over three acres, it includes 2.5 miles of paths created from over 14,000 Hawaiian plants. There are eight secret stations along the way, and the fastest finishers win a prize!

After touring the attraction, fuel up with island favorites at the on-site Plantation Grille. Its menu not only features the famous Dole Whip soft-serve dessert, but it also includes traditional fare such as teriyaki chicken, kale pork, and loco moco. Of course, you can also purchase fresh pineapple to take home. 

8. Get Your Adrenaline Rush Skydiving on the North Shore

Must do things on Oahu: Skydiving on the North Shore

There’s no adventure more thrilling than skydiving, but skydiving in Hawaii? That’s the ultimate bucket list activity! One of the coolest things to do on Oahu if you’re an adrenaline junkie, soaring above the island’s famed North Shore is an experience you won’t ever forget. 

You can experience the feeling of flight on the sensation-packed adventure, where your free-fall speed can reach up to 120 miles per hour. Most tours reach an altitude of 9,000-14,000 feet, and free-fall time lasts about 20 seconds. Most tours also include a photo and video package to purchase and keep as a souvenir. 

Pacific Skydiving is one of the most popular tour operators for skydiving in Oahu, offering experienced instructors attached to you every step of the way. It’s a world-class skydiving center with an excellent safety record, offering airplane tandem rides as well as High Altitude Halo Tandem, which is the highest tandem skydive in Hawaii!

Skydive Hawaii is another skydiving tour option featuring tandem skydives at 12,000 and 14,000 feet. After instruction, you’ll have the chance to experience free-fall and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Oahu’s beautiful landscapes on your skydiving adventure. 

9. Eat Garlic Shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack

Fun Things to do on Oahu: Garlic Shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack

While Oahu’s food scene is full of delicious eats that deserve a spot on your itinerary, eating shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Shack is a must. Not only is it the most well-known shrimp truck on the entire island, but it actually lives up to the hype! 

A local dining destination for two decades, this North Shore staple makes for a convenient stop for lunch or dinner. Shrimp is on the menu at this foodie favorite, with its shrimp scampi being a popular choice. The shrimp are marinated in the perfect blend of olive oil and fresh garlic and drizzled with garlic-lemon butter. 

Other menu items include hot and spicy shrimp, lemon-butter shrimp, and a jumbo garlic hot dog, with all plates served with two scoops of rice. You’ll find several benches and tents set up in front of the trucks for digging into the hearty platters. 

Be aware that they only accept cash, so come prepared. They currently have three locations, two on Kamehameha Highway and one on Keawe St. in Honolulu.

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10. Go Shark Diving on the North Shore

Best Things to do on Oahu: Shark Diving on the North Shore

Adrenaline junkies looking to experience a shark encounter might find it easier than expected to tick this adventure off their Oahu bucket list. For up-close views of Hawaii’s most fierce creatures, North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters offer guided shark diving excursions on the North Shore. 

Your adventure starts by venturing three miles out to sea. Along the way, you might spot some of Hawaii’s other local wildlife, including dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and humpback whales (from November to May). 

Enjoy the view of Oahu’s North Shore as you make your way to the cage diving site, where shark sightings are 100% guaranteed. Visibility is so good (about 150 feet or more), that you’ll spot the sharks swimming up from the deep blue sea. 

Galapagos and Sandbar sharks are commonly seen. They can reach up to 12 feet in length! And if you’re lucky, you might see blue sharks, tiger sharks, and even hammerheads.

It’s not only a thrill-seeking adventure but you’ll also be educated on the importance of the ocean and Hawaii’s diverse ecosystems. Guides will highlight the vital role sharks play in the oceans and how these predators maintain a balance for the ocean’s survival. 

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11. Cool Off with Hawaiian Shave Ice at Matsumoto’s

Must do things on Oahu: Shave Ice at Matsumoto’s

Sampling shave ice on Oahu is a signature Hawaii experience and as iconic as some of the island’s top attractions. No vacation is complete without indulging in this frozen shave ice treat, and one of the best places to try it is Matsumoto’s Shave Ice

Not only is it the longest-running North Shore Hawaiian shave ice shop (since 1951), but it offers a long list of flavors to choose from, including cotton candy, guava, honeydew, and coconut. You’ll be treated to a heaping bowl full of shave ice that has been a staple of Haleiwa town for 70 years. 

After dessert, make sure to explore the relaxed beach town vibes of Haleiwa town. Well known as a popular surf destination, you’ll also find charming art galleries, clothing stores, and boutique shops filled with locally hand-made gifts. 

Haleiwa Beach Park is an ideal spot for beginner surfers or families on the island’s North Shore, while advanced surfers flock to Waimea Bay Beach Park nearby. Alternately, opt for a visit to Haleiwa Art Gallery to see local artists on display, located just a 10-minute walk from the center of town. Wrap up your day with island-style dishes at the popular seafood restaurant Haleiwa Beach House

12. See Big Wave Surfing at Waimea Bay

Best Things to do on Oahu: Waimea Bay

Most surfing fans make a point to see the pro surfers on the North Shore when visiting Oahu, as it’s home to some of the bravest surfers in the world. Famous for its 30-foot waves, Waimea Bay deserves a spot on your Oahu bucket list even if you’re not a surfer.

Waimea Bay is the birthplace of big wave surfing and is a legendary spot on the North Shore, particularly in winter. Nicknamed “The Bay,” this surf break consistently pushes out mammoth waves and you’ll often see pro surfers tackling the impressive waves here. 

Located near Kamehameha Highway, the waves breaking at Waimea Bay Beach Park are the biggest during the Hawaiian winter (from November to April). It’s at this time that deepwater swells hit the local lava shelf and create over 20-foot high waves. 

While it’s mostly known as a spectator-friendly big wave surfing spot, experienced surfers who want to try their hand at surfing a wave should be careful, as the rip currents are powerful. Also, the shoreline drops off quickly from shallow to deep waters. 

During the summer, the scene at Waimea Bay is actually the opposite of what you’ll find in winter. During this time, its calm waters make it an ideal destination for beachgoers and swimming, snorkeling, and diving are popular activities. 

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13. Attend a Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

Oahu Bucket List: Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the top things to do on Oahu for those looking to immerse themselves in Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage. Known for its authentic Polynesian luaus and hands-on island activities, it’s one of the best family attractions in Hawaii. 

It features six Pacific Island villages where you can explore the diversity and heritage of the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Spread out across 42 acres along Oahu’s North Shore, its nightly dinners provide the ultimate luau experience. 

You’ll discover there are multiple dining options to pick from, including the Ali’i Luau Buffet. This option features songs, dances, and celebrations from across the Pacific. However, if you’re hungry, head to the Gateway Buffet, as this dinner option is “all you can eat.” 

The Polynesian Cultural Center’s nightly Ha Breath of Life Show is considered a must-see attraction on Oahu, as it features a colorful and vibrant display of Polynesian dances, music, and blazing fire knife displays. 

Browse the attraction’s array of packages, as many include a luau dinner as well as other perks such as a canoe ride through the lagoon. For a unique souvenir, there’s also a marketplace on-site where you can pick up various Hawaiian and island-themed items such as handiworks, clothing, and jewelry. 

14. Follow Coastal Hikes at Kaena Point State Park

Oahu Things to do: Kaena Point State Park

One of the best things to do on Oahu if you’re a hiking enthusiast, Kaena Point boasts a beautiful coastal route for incredible island views. Located on the western tip of Oahu, its dramatic lava shoreline offers scenic views of the Waianae coast to the south, Mokuleia to the north, and vast Pacific Ocean vistas. 

There are two trailheads to choose from here, both distancing about 2.5 miles. From the Wai’anae side, it follows the shoreline and features boulder beaches, tide pools, and high cliffs. Alternately, from the Mokule’ia side, you’ll discover a flat coastal plain with limestone reefs and sand dunes. 

The trail to Ka’ena Point follows an old railroad bed that leads to Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. This remote, protected area has some of the best coastal sand dune habitats on the island and is home to native seabirds. It’s also popular with whale sightings in winter. 

After exploring Kaena Point, head to Yokohama Bay for a chance to explore one of the most isolated beaches on Oahu. It’s worth the effort to reach this remote shoreline, as the untouched paradise is framed by the Waianae Mountain Range and is often crowd-free, allowing you to explore the sandy beach in peace. 

15. Go On a 4×4 Tour in Kualoa Ranch

Fun Things to do on Oahu: Kualoa Ranch

Kuala Ranch is a popular attraction on Oahu for thrill-seekers, as the 4,000-acre Private Nature Reserve and working cattle ranch deliver endless adventures. In addition to adrenaline-fueled ATV tours, this nature retreat offers a chance to sign up for zip-line excursions, explore beautiful beaches, and go on a behind-the-scenes tour of famous Hollywood film locations. 

If an ATV adventure is calling your name, hop in the multi-passenger vehicle and get up close and personal with Kualoa Ranch as you drive through the beautiful Kaawa “Jurassic” Valley and lush Hakipu’u rainforest. You’ll have a chance to traverse through the mud and cross over seasonal streams, as well as pass multiple cascading waterfalls and movie sites. 

Kuala Ranch has options for one and two-hour ATV tours, with a chance for adults 21 and over to drive the open-air vehicle themselves through the landscapes. Heading out rain or shine, these tours traverse the scenic valleys and remote areas rarely visited by others. 

The other guided tours available at Kuala Ranch are just as thrilling, with the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour taking you to where Jurassic World was shot, as well as the boneyard from Kong Skull Island, the Jumanji area, and Godzilla’s massive footprints. You’ll also have the option to add zip-lining, mountain biking, horseback riding, and jungle exploring to your itinerary. 

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16. Stroll the White Sands of Lanikai Beach

Cool Things to do on Oahu: Lanikai Beach

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu, Lanikai Beach is a destination unto itself. It’s a must on your Oahu bucket list, featuring a paradise landscape of fine white sand, clear blue waters, and calm surf. 

The beach boasts a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere just south of Kailua Beach Park. There are no parking lots or facilities, and it takes a bit of effort to reach the shoreline via pedestrian walkways that pass residential waterfront properties. However, once you reach the powdery white sand, you’ll realize why the effort is worth it. 

Take in the gorgeous view of two offshore islands, known as “the Mokes,” then throw a towel out and sunbathe or enjoy snorkeling or kayaking. Its calm waters make it an ideal spot for paddling excursions, with rentals available at Kailua Bay. 

If you’re up for an adventure, follow the scenic trailhead for the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, one of the most popular hikes on Oahu. There are no services available at Lanikai Beach, so pack a picnic lunch or head to nearby Kalapawai Market for hearty sandwiches.

17. Kayak to the Beautiful Mokes

Best Things to do on Oahu: Beautiful Mokes

Sitting past the crystal clear waters of Lanikai Beach are two twin islands in the distance. Called the Mokulua Islands, they are known locally as “The Mokes.” Paddling to these picture-perfect islands is at the top of many traveler’s Oahu bucket lists, as the adventure offers a true Hawaiian experience. 

Get up close to the open waters as you head to the larger island, named Moku Nui. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to soak up the beautiful views of Oahu’s eastern coast. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the island, and once you arrive, you can swim to shore and explore the island. 

Bring your snorkel gear, as you’ll want to see the vibrant coral reefs and different species of aquatic life that live here, including Hawaiian sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. You can also hike along the rocks or go for a swim in the Queens Bath tidal pool. 

Kailua Beach Adventures offers guided tours to the Mokulua Islands and includes snorkeling and a free lunch. You’ll depart from Lanikai’s white sand beach, then visit a seabird sanctuary and snorkel near Kailua’s turtle feeding grounds. For experienced kayakers, there’s also an option for a self-guided kayak rental. 

18. Try Windsurfing or Kitesurfing at Kailua Beach

Unique Things to do on Oahu: Windsurfing or Kitesurfing at Kailua Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in Oahu, Kailua Beach features turquoise blue waters and white powder sand. Stretching for 2.5 miles, it sits conveniently next to another one of Oahu’s famous beaches, Lanikai Beach. 

With its strong winds, this is the top spot in Oahu to try thrilling water sports activities such as kitesurfing and windsurfing. Strong and steady breezes are frequent at the beach due to its location on the island’s windward side. If you want to add this activity to your itinerary, Hawaiian Watersports rents out equipment and offers lessons for beginners. 

Unlike Lanikai Beach, this Oahu destination has bathroom facilities, beach showers, and picnic tables, making it a popular getaway for families. Kids can swim in the calm waters, make a splash in the waves with their boogie boards, or try body surfing. 

The long, gentle bay is also ideal for beach strolling. The sun also rises offshore, making it a popular spot to admire one of Hawaii’s beautiful sunrises. Afterward, you can explore downtown Kailua, which is just a five-minute walk from here. 

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19. Marvel at the Views from the Nuuanu Pali Lookout

What to do on Oahu: Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Considered a must-do in Oahu, visiting the Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers some of the most incredible panoramic views in Hawaii. Set on the Pali Highway between Honolulu and Kailua, you can take in vistas of the Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. 

To reach this destination, drive five miles northeast of Downtown Honolulu up the Pali Highway, through its towering trees and dense forest. Surrounded by some of Hawaii’s most beautiful natural landscapes, the lookout is perched over 1,000 feet above the Oahu coastline. Just be prepared – it is windy up here!

On a clear day, you can see the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii, and Coconut Island. After savoring the picture-perfect panoramas, you can continue through the Pali Tunnels to Windward Oahu and decide if you want to go straight to Kailua’s beach town or turn left and explore Kaneohe along the coastline of Haleiwa and Waimea Bay on the island’s famous North Shore. 

Another alternative adventure is to head to the 50-foot-tall Lulumahu Falls, which is tucked away on the Pali Highway. Located near the Kaniakapupu Ruins, the scenic hike leads to one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Oahu. Be aware, however, that it is technically located on private property. 

20. Find Inner Peace at the Byodo-In Temple

Oahu Things to do: Byodo-In Temple

You can find your inner Zen at Byodo-in Temple on Oahu, an off-the-beaten-track attraction on the Windward Coast. Set at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, it’s a scale replica of a temple in Uni Japan, and a hidden gem in Hawaii.

Translating to the “Temple of Equality,” this temple was made entirely without nails. It’s a peaceful oasis home to wild peacocks, turtles, and hundreds of Japanese koi carp, featuring a large reflecting pond, meditation corners, and small waterfalls. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the sacred bell, as its deep sounds fill the temple grounds. It’s customary for visitors to ring the bell before entering the temple and is said to signify happiness and longevity. To sound the five-foot brass bell, you must pull the wooden log (shu-moku). 

The non-practicing Buddhist temple welcomes visitors of all faiths to meditate or appreciate its beauty. You can step inside the temple to marvel at its 18-foot gold leaf-covered Buddha, light incense, and offer a prayer. 

21. Take a Scenic Helicopter Flight Over Oahu

Oahu Bucket List: Helicopter Flight Over Oahu

For a bird’s-eye view of Oahu’s incredible natural landscapes, there’s no better way to see it all than from a helicopter. It’s the perfect way to cap off your trip to the Hawaiian island, where you can soak up the beautiful scenery while listening to expert commentary from your pilot. 

There are many popular helicopter tours on Oahu to choose from, with Rainbow Helicopters taking you to some of the most sought-after sights and attractions. On this tour, you’ll see the South Shore, North Shore, Windward Coast, Ko’olau Mountains, Sacred Falls, and more. 

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is another favorite, offering 50-minute tours of the island’s hidden rainforests, lush valleys, and historic sights. Mauna Loa specializes in private helicopter tours, taking you to the white sands of Oahu’s most iconic beaches. 

Alternately, opt for a thrill-seeking adventure with Magnum Helicopters. Its Doors Off Adventure offers unobstructed views of Oahu’s top sights with the helicopter doors off! Lastly, Paradise Helicopters features nature-themed air tours where you can get aerial views of Oahu’s waterfalls, bays, and mountains that are inaccessible by car. 

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22. Enjoy Sunrise Views on the Stairway to Heaven Hike

Oahu Things to do: Stairway to Heaven Hike

The Haiku Stairs – also known as the “Stairway to Heaven” in Oahu – is one of the most popular (but controversial) hikes in Hawaii. Hikers flock from around the world to follow this trail. However, it’s at your own risk of getting a ticket for trespassing!

Originally built in the 1940s by the US Navy, the stairs along the hike lead to an old radio transmitter at the peak of the mountain. While it remains one of the most popular hikes on Oahu, it’s a challenging trail and comes with the risk of being ticketed. 

The stairs start in the Haiku Valley, under the H3 Highway, and wind up the side of a mountain near Kaneohe. It’s a grueling 3,922 stairs leading to the mountain ridge at an almost vertical incline, leading to some of the best views on Oahu. 

To avoid fines, a recommended way to hike the Haiku Stairs is to start at the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park. Once you reach Moanalua Ridge, it’s a steep hike up to the radio tower but you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous mountain, city, and ocean views along the way before reaching the famous Haiku Stairs at the top of the Ko’olau Mountains. 

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23. See Tropical Foliage at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Best Things to do on Oahu: Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

For a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Oahu, take a break to explore the gorgeous grounds of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The 400-acre slice of paradise translates to “peaceful refuge” and is a popular stop on East Oahu Shoreline Drive on the way to Waikiki. 

Nestled at the foot of the majestic Ko’olau Mountain Range, these botanical gardens are home to hundreds of unique plant species. Divided into geographical regions, you can travel across the globe to the Philippines, Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, and of course, Hawaii. Stop and read the descriptive plaques to learn more about the global foliage.

As you drive through the palm-lined entrance of the gardens, sit back and marvel at the beautiful backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. While you might be tempted to get out of the car and take pictures, be aware that this is prohibited. Don’t worry, as you’ll have plenty of chances for photo ops when you arrive in the gardens. 

While exploring the gardens on foot is the most popular activity at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, catch-and-release fishing is available as well as drawing and painting opportunities. If you want a unique overnight experience, reserve a campsite and experience the gardens after dark. 

24. Climb the Koko Head Stairs on the Koko Crater Trail 

Cool Things to do on Oahu: Koko Head Stairs on the Koko Crater Trail

Koko Crater Trail, known as Koko Head Stairs, is one of the most popular things to do on Oahu for outdoor enthusiasts. With over 1,000 steps to complete to reach the top, it’s a difficult workout but rewards you with panoramic views at the top. 

A short drive from Diamond Head and Waikiki, the 1.4-mile hike is a steep incline. You’ll traverse up the side of a volcanic crater along this hike, which is actually a former railway that was used to transport supplies to a World War II-era outpost at the top of the mountain. 

Once you tackle the 990 feet incline, you can take a break at the summit to enjoy the stunning views from 1,208 feet above sea level. While most of the hike is sunny, the top features pleasant breezes and shady trees for cooling off. On a clear day, you can spend time admiring views of Hanauma Bay and the Honolulu skyline. 

There is ample parking on-site, and the trail is always open, typically taking hikers about 30-45 minutes to get to the top. To reach the trailhead, you need to follow the path behind the baseball diamond near the parking lot. 

25. Admire Ocean Views Along the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

Oahu Bucket List: Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

The Makapuu Point Lighthouse is an iconic landmark on Oahu. It was built in 1909 on a 600-foot sea cliff overlooking Makapuu Beach. It’s also a popular trail, featuring a moderately easy hike that ends with a scenic viewpoint. 

Located 15 minutes from Hanauma Bay, the parking lot leads to the two-mile paved trail that overlooks the lighthouse. You’ll find incredible lookout points along the trail, with its summit offering beautiful views overlooking Oahu’s eastern or Windward Coast. On a good day, you can even spot Mokokai, Manana, and Kaohikaipu islands visible just offshore. 

This is also a fantastic place to catch sightings of whales during whale watching season (between December and May), as the Molokai Channel runs right past the Makapuu Lighthouse. In addition, the Makapuu Tide Pools, including a small blowhole, are other popular natural attractions found near the trail’s first set of whale information signs. 

You can also find plenty of swimming spots nearby if you want to cool off. Alan Davis Beach, located near Pele’s Chair (a famous rock formation), is a popular swimming area and cove with a secluded beach area. 

There you have it! 25 of the best things to do on Oahu. What’s your favorite thing to do on this beautiful Hawaiian Island?

Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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2 months ago

Thank you for these suggestions! I have done quite a few of these but will make it a point to try surf lessons and skydiving.

Last edited 2 months ago by John
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