The most visited of all Hawaiian Islands, Oahu offers visitors a unique experience set against the backdrop of lush jungle and pristine coastlines. Home to the capital city of Honolulu, Oahu boasts endless things to see and do, within and beyond the city boundaries.
From stunning natural landscapes and world-famous hiking trails to historic sites and the filming locations of popular movies, Oahu is packed with points of interest that will make you fall in love with the place. Keep reading to find out what 10 unforgettable things you should do while visiting Oahu, Hawaii.
10 Wander Through The Botanical Gardens In Kaneohe
The Hawaiian Islands are home to some truly amazing natural scenery. There are plenty of stunning plants and flowers to see just walking around Oahu, but if you’re really a botanical enthusiast, then you have to visit the Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe.
Travel blogger Laura Radniceki recounts that visiting the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens will make you feel like you’re lost in the lush jungle. The gardens come with sweeping views of the surrounding island that you’ll find at the top of the hiking trails. This is definitely the place to come when it’s time to escape from the world!
9 Explore The North Shore
A lot of people coming to Oahu for the first time tend to not to venture too far out of Honolulu. While Honolulu is an amazing city, there is plenty more to see on the island too, including the North Shore, which is one of the more peaceful areas of the island.
The views from the North Shore alone are worth visiting for, but there are also a lot of secluded beaches in the area. Plus, you’ll get the chance to sample world-class shrimp from the iconic Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.
8 Soak Up The Views From The Top Of Diamond Head
No visit to Oahu is complete without a trip to Diamond Head. If you’re into spectacular vistas, this is the place to come. The best thing about Diamond Head is that you definitely get great views when you reach the summit, but the actual hike up isn’t too difficult, even if you’re not a pro-climber. It is certainly worth the effort that it does take.
The iconic volcanic landform doesn’t actually contain any diamonds, by the way. British sailors in the 19thcentury believed the calcite crystals they could see on the nearby beach were diamonds, hence the name.
7 Learn To Surf At Waikiki Beach
Depending on how much time you have in Hawaii, you might not be able to learn to surf like a pro. It is much harder than it looks if you’re a total beginner! But you can still take a surfing lesson at the famous Waikiki Beach. There are several fully licensed instructors and surf schools available who love passing on the joys of the sport to students.
If surfing is not your thing, it’s still worth visiting Waikiki Beach for a swim, or even a stroll along the sand. Just be prepared for crowds, especially if you’re visiting during the peak season!
6 Check Out An Authentic Luau
One of the best things about Hawaii is the beautiful spirit of the locals. The Polynesian culture can open your eyes up to a completely different perspective and is definitely worth exploring while you’re on Oahu. While going to a luau seems touristy, it’s actually a great way to learn more about the local culture and to have a bit of fun along the way.
When attending a luau, you’ll get a chance to taste some authentic Polynesian food at a generous buffet and will witness examples of native dancing, music, sport, and art. Also, Mai Tais!
5 Swim With The Fish At Hanauma Bay
You won’t be able to leave Oahu without swimming in the crystal-blue waters at least once. Many seasoned travelers recommend the idyllic Hanauma Bay for swimming, mainly because the cove is the top place on the island to see a world of underwater life.
Hanauma Bay is actually a nature preserve and many people come here to snorkel and check out the various sea creatures and colorful reefs. According to the Y Travel blog, it costs under $10 to enter the bay. There’s no problem if you’re not comfortable with snorkeling either, as you can also book a snorkeling tour here.
4 Ride A Horse Around The Kualoa Ranch
While the coastline and scattering of secluded coves and beaches on Oahu are absolutely stunning, there are also phenomenal sights to be seen inland, where you’ll find rugged mountains and jungle terrain. Be sure to visit the Kualoa Ranch to immerse yourself in a luscious green nature preserve.
The ranch offers a variety of tours and activities, from horseback riding and ATV tours to zip-lining. There’s also meals and a gift shop available selling all kinds of souvenirs to take back home. On the tours, you’ll get to see the filming locations of various famous movies, including Jurassic Park.
3 Indulge In Pineapple At The Dole Plantation
The tropical fruit in Hawaii is to die for. For an explosion of pineapple, add the Dole Plantation to your Oahu bucket list. One of the most popular family attractions on the island, the plantation receives more than one million visitors every year.
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At the Dole Plantation, you’ll get a chance to tour the plantation garden and learn more about the production process. There is also the Pineapple Express Train Tour to catch and the Pineapple Garden Maze to get lost in. And when you’re finished with all that, be sure to sample some delicious DoleWhip ice cream.
2 Take A Royal Tour Of Iolani Palace
During your visit to Oahu, you’ll get the chance to learn more about the royal history of Hawaii. If you’re interested in the local history, you’ll want to visit Iolani Palace, which was the official residence of the monarchs during the 1890s. As the Travel Channel points out, this is the only real palace to exist in the United States.
A tour of the palace will show you the state dining room where royal feasts were held as well as the private chambers of the royal family and the imprisonment room where Queen Liluokalani was confined.
1 Pay Your Respects At Pearl Harbor
There’s one historical site that nobody can afford to miss during a visit to Oahu, and that’s Pearl Harbor. Before visiting the sunken Arizona Memorial, where more than 1,100 sailors and marines were entombed, you’ll be able to learn a little about the history of World War II in the museum.
While not as relaxing as lounging by the beach, Pearl Harbor is a great place to include on your itinerary for the purposes of education and paying respect to the fallen.