Things to do on Oahu, Hawaii
What to do on the island of Oahu, Hawaii
- Lanikai Beach-one of the worlds greatest beaches
- Kailua beach-good too, more amenities (bathroom)
- Koko Head Crater: Sometimes overshadowed by Diamond Head, this crater is a popular hike, but I’ve been told it makes Diamond Head seem easy. It’s 1000 steps (on old railroad ties) straight to the top
- Kahana Bay: This beautiful bay is such a gorgeous spot to pull over and make a pit stop. You’ll find the famous Crouching Lion hike along this ridge, as well as a phenomenal beach.
- Hike Diamond Head: This is probably the most iconic thing to do in Waikiki. It’s a mild hike and only takes about 30 minutes to get to the top but once you do you’ll have a fabulous view of Waikiki and Honolulu. Go early since there’s no shade. It’s $5/car to drive in (if there’s space available), and $1/person to walk in.
- Pearl Harbor: Really if there’s one “not to be missed experience” on Oahu, visiting Pearl Harbor is it. Get tickets here in advance to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Tickets to the Arizona Memorial are free but limited.
- Find “Turtle Beach” on the North Shore. Laniakea Beach is the best place in Oahu to find Hawaiian green sea turtles. Not only can you see them swimming through the reefs just off shore, but at this beach they actually swim ashore to rest and sun themselves in the sand.
- HALEIWA beach/surfer town
- Weima Bay
- Kapena Falls
BEST DRIVING ROUTE:
- Leaving Kailua and driving north. The drive along the windward coast towards the north shore is one of my favorite things to do on Oahu. You’ll be sandwiched between majestic green mountains on one side and stunning white sand beaches on the other.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH BEACHES:
- Leahi Beach Park – east of Waikiki and where a lot of locals BBQ
- China Walls – it’s not really a beach but there are huge rocks and even bigger waves and it’s an epic spot to watch sunset
- Makapu’u Tide Pools – also not a beach but amazing tide pools that are perfect for a swim! Be sure to go at low tide and be careful of the blow holes!
- Shark’s Cove – on the North Shore. There is also a great food truck nearby which bears the same name.
- Kaena Point – if it weren’t for this bit of land on the far west end of the island, you’d be able to drive a full loop around the outer edge. The further you head toward the point, the more secluded the beaches get. Beware the last couple miles of road are for only the most rugged 4×4 vehicles (and the shoreline is rocky once you go past where the pavement ends).
- Koko Head Crater Trail – railway ties were stacked into stairs that climb up the side of a mountain. It is short but strenuous and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views from the top!
- Makapu’u Tide Pools – the hike down to Makapu’u Tide Pools is a difficult scramble so this isn’t a great one for kids (or anyone that is afraid of heights). Once at the bottom there natural pools that are perfect for swimming and even a blow hole. Only swim during low tide and be careful of big waves – they can be dangerous.
- Lanikai Pillboxes – another short but strenuous hike up to old bunkers that overlook the spectacular Lanikai beach.
- Three Peaks of Olomana – disclaimer: we’ve only made it to the first two peaks of this challenging hike (several people have died from falling off of the third peak so exercise caution). There is a skinny beaten path that runs along the jagged ridge line with steep drop-offs on either side. The first peak is scary but doable and it gets progressively more terrifying the further you go. But the views are second-to-none and the hike is an epic adventure!
- Lulumahu Falls – this hike starts with an easy hike through a bamboo forest and then follows a river up to a small waterfall at the end. It’s not strenuous and would be a good time for the whole family.
BEST BREAKFAST PLACES (Kailua):
- Boots and Kimo’s (macadamia nut sauce on pancakes-Show up right when they open)
- Cinnamon’s is a Kailua institution (and Hawaii famous)
- Moke’s Bread and Breakfast (lillikoi pancakes, no wait)
- Eggs ‘n Things pancakes are worth the wait
- ARVO: hipster coffee shop
- Sunrise Shack (roadside) delicious and healthy/Vitamix’s, fresh fruit/coffee
- Goofy Cafe & Dine: hidden location worth finding. Open-air, surfer vibe, use local and organic food
BEST LOCAL FOOD:
- Helena’s Hawaiian Food: true local joint, welcoming to tourists
- The Rainbow Drive-In is also a don’t miss
BEST 'FANCY' DINNER:
- Haleiwa Joe’s: The location in Kaneohe (Haiku Gardens) is one of the loveliest spots on Oahu. Delicious food, special atmosphere. Good for special occasions.
- Govindas is a literal hidden gem. It’s tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Honolulu, and for $13 you have access to an all you can eat lunch buffet located on the grounds of a Hare Krishna temple.
- Banan food truck serving up healthy (vegan friendly) soft serve made from bananas and other locally sourced produce
- Leonard’s (famous for their malasadas-Portuguese style donuts)