Honolulu and Waikiki are amazing fun, but don’t spend all your time here. The rest of Oahu has incredible hikes, beaches, and historical sites. Here’s a roundup of our favorite places to visit on the island.View Larger
Ko Olina Lagoons
These manmade lagoons are a calm place to swim, snorkel, and paddleboard. Reserve tickets on a boat tour to see more marine life and learn more about Hawaiian history.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Gorgeous marine life and pristine corals make this a prime snorkeling spot. The preserve allows a limited number of visitors per day, so make your reservation as soon as possible.
As one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, Lanikai Beach is a great place to kayak and catch a glimpse of green sea turtles. It’s also a prime spot for windsurfing or watching the sunset from the beach.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
If you visit Lanikai Beach, don’t forget to explore this nearby delightful trail. It’s a medium difficulty hike and rewards you with the most stunning views on the windward side of Oahu.
You’ll have to trek three quarters of a mile through a lush rainforest to visit this 150-foot-tall waterfall. Wear sturdy shoes because the path can get slippery and muddy.
Nestled in the Waimea Valley, this 45-foot waterfall is stunning after a hike past various historical structures.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
A favorite with birders. This hidden gem is easy to find and has multiple tropical gardens beside a lake. And did we mention that it’s free to enter?
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is FREE. Actually, visiting Pearl Harbor is entirely free, and so is parking. It just requires planning in advance.
From the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, you’ll get lovely views of the coast, a dormant volcano crater, Makapuu Beach, and some of the outlying islands. Built in 1909, the lighthouse is on the trail and is worth the visit.
Diamond Head State Monument
Hike a dormant volcano and feast your eyes on the gorgeous views of the coastland, hills, and natural valleys. There are handicap-accessible areas on the trails too.
Koko Head Hike
If you want a challenging hiking trail, head for this abandoned railway track. The views are worth it.
Explore Hawaii the Smart Way
Tips for Exploring the Smart Way
- There’s a lot of traffic on Oahu. Leave earlier than you think you need to leave.
- Make reservations for everything as far in advance as you can. Many places now require reservations in advance, notably Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay.
- Don’t leave valuables in the car when beach hopping. If you must leave something in your rental car, at least make sure that it’s not visible.
- Try authentic Hawaiian food. Some local favorites are kalua pig, laulau, poi, poke, lomi salmon, squid luau, and shaved ice.
- The North Shore has enormous waves in the winter but no waves in the summer.
- The North Shore is quite far from Waikiki. Plan on spending the entire day if you are going up to the North Shore. Because of traffic, the way back to Waikiki/Honolulu can take more than two hours.