What are the best things to do on Oahu?
This is the question I get over and over and is the reason why I decided to create this website. This question is always being asked because most websites just list off a long list of things you could do while not being practical about the things you should do on Oahu. Oahu is a small island allowing you to conquer this bucket list in just a couple days. I built the list for someone staying in Oahu for a week that wants to see and experience the whole island and still have time to relax. Note: I didn’t include the best places to eat in this post. I’m creating a separate post with the best places to eat that should be included in your Oahu to-do list. For more Things to do in Oahu visit our homepage & checkout the latest.
Here is our list of the things you should do on Oahu:
#1 Learn to Surf in Waikiki
Waikiki beach has calm warm and shallow waters making it the perfect place to learn to surf for any age. I’ve seen people in their 70’s to kids who hardly know how to walk. Waikiki is the birthplace of surfing, and going home with a picture of you standing up on a wave will last a lifetime. This is one of the best experiences that you don’t want to miss!
#2 Soak In The Sun At Lanikai Beach
If any of my friends or family visit town, you can be sure this is on the list. Lanikai beach has always been ranked in the top 5 beaches in the world. Calm crystal-clear waters with the softest white powder sand; It’s the perfect spot for kayaking, Stand Up Paddle boarding, and relaxing. You can also do the Lanikai Pillbox hike, which is also included below in this list.
#3 Snorkel With Dolphins & Sea Turtles
One of my personal favorite things to do on Oahu is jump in the water with dolphins. On this tour you’ll get to swim with wild dolphins, turtles, and hundreds of fish. Oahu is the only island where you can do this with a guarantee to see dolphins. You’ll head out on a catamaran for a few stops on some amazing snorkeling destinations. The tour also provides Stand Up Paddle boards and kayaks to play around, and you’ll end the tour with a hula lesson. It’s great for all ages, and transportation from Honolulu is provided.
#4 Hike To Manoa Falls
This waterfall hike is extremely easy to get to from Waikiki and is good for all ages. It is a very popular hike for good reasons, a lush rainforest trial that ends with a 100ft waterfall. It’s a perfect hike that everyone should do while visiting Oahu and staying in Honolulu area. It’s one of Oahu’s Best Hikes.
#5 Waikiki Sunset Catamaran Cruise
There is no better way to watch the sunset than from the ocean. Not only will you have the best view but also frequent encounters with dolphins and jumping whales during their migrating season. There are two types of Waikiki sunset Catamaran cruises and I recommend: The sunset booze & dinner cruise or even better the Friday sunset dinner & Fireworks cruise. This is one of the funnest things to do on Oahu, where you’ll meet plenty of locals & visitors alike.
#6 Hike Diamond Head
This is the closest hike to Waikiki and a great hike for all ages. One of the cool parts about this hike is you hike through a man made cave and climb steps through the volcanic crater to reach the top. You’ll have an amazing Waikiki Beach and Honolulu city views. Many people walk from Waikiki to Diamond head, where you’ll also find some great food stops along the way.
#7 Hanauma Bay Snorkeling
One of the most amazing places in the world to snorkel and great for all ages. This volcanic crater is filled with marine life. You’ll find yourself swimming through underwater roads of reef and fish. You’ll also learn a little history about Hawaii and it’s ocean reefs. It’s one of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches and one of the most popular tourist attractions for a good reason. Don’t forget its closed on Tuesday.
#8 Makapu’u Beach & Light House Trail
Makapu’u Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu with a lighthouse you can see from the shore. I always take my friends here to grab some photos, and if the water is calm we jump in. There is a lighthouse hiking trail which is good for all ages if you want to get a closer look at the lighthouse and Pacific ocean views. I usually skip the trail and just enjoy the beach. There is the Makapu’u lookout just before you reach the beach that’s not hard to find. It’s perfect for getting an amazing photo to make your friends at home jealous. After that head down to the beach parking lot where you’ll see some tide pools and can spot the lighthouse.
#9 Jump Off The Rock At Waimea Bay on North Shore
A fun adventure during the summer time is to jump off the lava rock at Waimea Bay. Waimea Bay on the North Shore, is a great beach to spend the day and has clear waters good for snorkeling and swimming in summer. During the winter time the waves here can reach up to 50ft and it’s famous for the Eddie Aikau Surf Competition. Obviously, you don’t want to jump off the rock or even think about getting in the water then, but it’s amazing to watch the waves from shore.
#10 Pali Lookout on Oahu
The Pali highway drive takes you through the middle of the island connecting the windward side and downtown Honolulu. This is a beautiful drive from city to rainforest with amazing ocean and mountain range views. The Pali lookout is a great spot to pull over and get a view of east Oahu, and learn about its historical significance. It’s a quick stop just before you enter the tunnel. You can also add Lulumahu Falls to this adventure which is a hike just before the lookout.
#11 Pipeline & Sunset Beach on North Shore
The famous North Shore surf beaches you don’t want to miss. These are two great spots to check out while venturing the Oahu’s North Shore. During the winter, you might catch a surf competition and during summer they’re beautiful beaches with calm waves and you can jump in the water or just relax in the warm and beautiful sand.
#12 Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Oahu
SUP paddle boarding is a fun way to explore the ocean and spot marine life. Almost every time I go paddle boarding I spot a sea turtle and plenty of fish. My favorite places for SUP are Lanikai, Waikiki, and even up-stream on the SUP Rainforest Tour. If you love yoga or are just interested in trying, there is a Yoga SUP class in Waikiki you can take that is a great way to start off your morning in Hawaii. It’s easier then you think & you should put it on your Oahu bucket list.
#13 Lanikai Pillbox Hike At Sunrise
This is a great short hike that overlooks Lanikai Beach. This is my favorite sunrise hike and I highly recommend doing this right away before you adjust to Hawaii time. If you’re not a morning riser, this hike is still amazing throughout the day and if you plan on visiting Lanikai beach anyways, I’d do this first so you can cool off in the ocean afterwards.
#14 Swim With Sharks on Oahu
Most people have a fear of being in the water with sharks. However, Oahu offers a much different shark experience then you would think. The North Shore is one of the best places in the world to not only get up close to these magnificent creatures, but also to learn more about the importance of sharks in our ecosystem. It’s so safe they even offer out of cage shark diving tours, and if you don’t have the guts for that you can always do the in-cage shark dive. Put it on your list of things to do because there aren’t many places in the world you can experience such a thrilling adventure.
#15 Friday Night Fireworks in Waikiki
Every Friday night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki there is a firework show at 7:45pm right on the beach. I recommend walking if you’re staying in Waikiki or arriving early to find parking. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend! There is also a great Sunset Dinner and fireworks cruise that offers an amazing experience.
#16 See the Turtles at Laniakea Beach
This beach is a turtle feeding ground and resting place on the North Shore of Oahu. There are almost always turtles sleeping on the beach and close to shoreline feeding. The beach is only feet away from the main road so it’s easy to park for a quick stop and grab that turtle photo! It’s also a great beach to watch the sunset particularly during the summer months.
#17 Free Hula & Lighting Show in Waikiki
Another FREE thing to do is watch the Hula Show & Lighting Ceremony on Waikiki beach at sunset. It’s offered every Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday right next to the Duke Statue on the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound under the large banyan tree. The show is subject to weather and holidays.
#18 Kayak To Moke Islands from Kailua Beach
Yes, another Lanikai Beach adventure. Kayaking at Lanikai is an amazing experience. You can kayak to the Moke islands where you’ll find a small beach looking back towards Lanikai’s shoreline. This bird sanctuary is usually accompanied by sleeping monk seals and turtles.
#19 Koko Head Crater Hike
A beautiful volcanic crater just next door to Hanauma Bay. I like to call this hike the “Hawaiian Stair Climber” because there is a wooden stairway that goes straight to the top which offers a great workout ending with amazing views of the southern & eastern Oahu shorelines. This is another great sunrise hike and very popular among locals.
#20 Sharks Cove Snorkeling & Tidepools
If you’re visiting during Hawaii’s summer (May-September) this is an amazing snorkeling spot great for tidepool exploring. If you have kids the tidepools are shallow and you never know what you’ll find. Next to the tidepools you’ll find a cove full of fish and sea turtles. This is one of my favorite snorkel spots on island. You can rent snorkeling gear right across the street if needed and get some further instruction.
#21 Watch The Shore Break At Sandy’s Beach
This is a great beach for tourist to stop by to watch the powerful shore break waves and grab a few photos. It’s right nextdoor to the Halona Blowhole lookout on your way to Makapu’u Beach. I don’t recommend getting in the water at Sandy beach unless you’re an experienced surfer or bodysurfer. This beach has the highest number of injuries in the world. It’s fun to watch the locals catch some insane waves and get pounded! It looks easy and painless because they’re highly experienced. Even on small days the waves are still powerful and break only inches deep on the shore.
#22 Chinaman’s Hat & Hike on Oahu
Chinaman’s hat is a cool isle just off the shoreline on the north-east side of Oahu. Its name is obviously driven from the shape of the isle. This is a great spot to stop and take some photos, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can kayak out to the island and hike to the top for an amazing view and experience!
#23 Halona Blowhole Lookout on Oahu
The blow hole is a quick stop along your way around the southern point of Oahu. It’s a great lookout for whale spotting and on clear days you can see Maui and Molokai. When the swells are right the blow hole shoots water high into the air making an array of rainbows.
#24 Self Guided Island Tour
The best way to tackle most of the things on this list in one day is to rent a car and do a self guided Oahu island tour. The drive around the south tip of the island and up Kamehameha Hwy takes you through tropical rainforest and amazing ocean views so close that your car may even get wet from breaking waves. The drive will take you directly by most of this list. I recommend doing this yourself because you can go at your own pace and stop where you please.
#25 Spend A Day Just Relaxing
One of the biggest mistakes people make on vacation is trying to do too much. I recommend for every day of full activities have a relaxing day also. So plan your first day on Honolulu to adventure and do hikes or tours and in between days relaxing on a beautiful beach or sipping drinks at your hotel pool bar. It’s always good to plan your trip ahead and book activities before you arrive to insure you can get the most out of your trip. I also recommend making your last day a relaxing day.
Of course, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Oahu that could be added to this list. But these are the top rated things to do on Oahu handpicked by us, other locals, and feedback from tourist. I didn’t want to create must do list with an overwhelming number of activities. I wanted it to be a simple and practical list of the best things you should do that are all near each other and easy to access. Please leave any comments or ideas you have about our list. Mahalo! Check out the latest to find more activities and ideas!