The Insider’s Guide to the Best Things to Do on Oahu
The island of Oahu has been memorialized in TV shows like Hawaii 5-0, Magnum P.I., Lost and in movies such as 50 First Dates, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Descendants. The Oahu receives approximately 400,000 visitors each month!
It is one of the most famous islands in the world, so it is easy to think you already know all the best things to do on Oahu, however you may be missing out!
Keep reading for the ultimate insider’s guide to the best things to do on the beautiful island of Oahu.
9 Best Things to do on Oahu
Best Thing to Do on Oahu #1: Waikiki Catamaran Sail
If you spend any time on Waikiki Beach, you will notice the brightly-colored sails of catamarans launching from the shore. Most of the catamaran tours are very similar, with small deviations in boat size, tour length and crew interaction. Subject to ocean conditions, they launch daily, every couple of hours.
For the most part, these sails last about one hour, and sail out past Diamond Head. As you begin your sail, the crew blows a conch shell to alert swimmers to get out of the way, and then you motor past the all the surfers waiting for “the big one.”
Once you get farther out past the point of Diamond Head, the wind picks up and the sailing begins! There are usually beer and wine for purchase onboard, along with homemade mai tais.
2. Diamond Head Hike
This iconic volcano, named Le’ahi in Hawaiian, is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu, therefore making it one of the best things to do on Oahu. It isn’t to be missed. After all, how often do you get a chance to hike an extinct volcano while taking in magnificent views of:
- Waikiki skyline
- East Oahu
- Diamond Head Lighthouse
- Koolau mountains
This is a fairly short hike, but does have uneven terrain, a steady incline and 175 stairs. At the summit, you will see old bunkers from World War II, and some of the prettiest views on Oahu. The parking lot is extremely limited, so either get there early or better yet, book a self-guided tour to handle the transportation for you.
3. Waiola Shave Ice
We all know Haleiwa is famous for its many shave ice shops, but if you want to go where the locals go, head to this quaint shop tucked away in the residential neighborhood of Mo’ili’ili.
Homemade syrups, in classic flavors, make this shop stand out. Get adventurous and add ice cream, condensed milk, azuki beans – or all three to your shave ice! Open daily from 11:00am -5:30pm (hours subject to change). 2135 Waiola Street, Honolulu.
4. Byodo-In Temple
Established in 1968, this smaller replica of the 950 year-old Byodo-In temple in Uji, Japan was built to honor Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It is a non-practicing Buddhist temple, and people of all faiths are invited to visit, pray or reflect here.
Located at the base of the stunningly beautiful Koolau mountains on the eastern side of Oahu, you must drive through the Valley of the Temples cemetery to reach it. It has been named of one the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world.
This serene temple also features lush grounds and gardens, ponds teeming with koi, turtles and black swans and you may see one of the wild peacocks that live here too! There are restrooms and a small gift shop onsite.
5. Maunakea Marketplace
Located in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown, this tucked away market and food court will transport you to another land! Delight your senses as you experience an exotic food market, where you will see everything from squid to duck to bullfrogs being sold!
This is a great place to pick up Asian delicacies and snacks to take home, as well as more traditional souvenirs. The epicenter of the Maunakea Marketplace is the food hall, where you’ll find almost every Asian cuisine you can imagine – Filipino, Chinese, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and more!
This established neighborhood in Honolulu has experienced a revival in recent years. The “Keep it Kaimuki” movement seeks to highlight the many locally-owned small businesses that make up this thriving district. New and old businesses coexist here, everything from Talk coffee shop (an original 1990’s era hangout for coffee and homemade pastries), Koko Head Café (divine breakfast and brunch options), Kaimuki Crack Seed Shop, Bead It! And so much more.
7. Kaneohe Sand Bar Snorkel & Sail
Sailing out to this pristine strip of white sand located off the coast of Kaneohe, in eastern Oahu, is one of the best things to do on Oahu! Start the morning off at charming He’eia Kea Harbor and sail out to one of the world’s largest sandbars for a day filled with snorkeling, swimming, beach volleyball, relaxing or even “walking on water”.
The scenery is some of the most stunning on Oahu – turquoise ocean water, towering green cliffs and peaks of the Koolau and Mokoi’i Island (also known as Chinaman’s Hat) in the distance. Enjoy a freshly grilled lunch onboard before heading back to land.
Owner’s Best Thing To Do On Oahu #8: Tantalus Lookout or Punchbowl Scenic Lookout
Both of these lookouts offer a panoramic and breathtaking view of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and the valleys that surround them.
Tantalus is our favorite of the two, and offers a better view that includes Hanauma Bay in east Oahu, as well as all the way west as Pearl City. As you drive up winding Round Top Drive, you will see magnificent estates as well as glimpses of the jaw-dropping view that awaits you at the top.
You can keep driving past Puu Ualakaa State Park, and if you do, be sure to roll your windows down so you can smell the eucalyptus forests as you drive! Punchbowl Lookout is located within the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, so here you have the benefit of visiting this solemn memorial to the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.
9. Sherwood Forest Beach
Located off the beaten path in Waimanalo (but not Waimanalo Beach), this stretch of white sandy beach is postcard-perfect! Framed from behind by a forest of ironwood toa, in front by the crystal-blue Pacific and on one side by the majestic, green Koolau mountains, this enchanting beach will be a favorite.
From Honolulu, turn right by Waimanalo McDonald’s. Street parking only.
For Your Dream Vacation to Oahu Take Advantage of Our All-Inclusive Packages
We could keep going and going, but this is a good place to start for things to do on Oahu.
Many of these activities are included in our Oahu All Inclusive Vacation Packages , check them out to see which one is the right fit for you. Happy exploring!