As a local girl who grew up in Oahu, Hawaii, I wanted to share a list of 150 things to do in Oahu to help you start planning your trip to Oahu. The list is long (150 things to do in Oahu!) but it’s a good collection of Oahu’s tours, activities, and attractions – both touristy and non-touristy. These are some of the best things to do in Oahu in my opinion and I hope this helps you out!
Aloha with love,
Visit Oahu’s best beaches
There are so many things to do at Oahu’s beaches. We have dozens of world-famous beaches such as Waimea Bay (there’s a fun jumping rock) or Lanikai Beach (incredible view and heavenly sand) that you will have fun spending the day at.
Besides just going to the beach, there are many things to do at Oahu’s beaches such as snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, surfing, and even swimming with turtles (look, don’t touch!).
Spend the day at Lanikai Beach located in Windward Oahu (east). This beach is famous for its powdery white sand and incredible view of the Mokulua Islands (the Mokes).
Kailua Beach is next to famous Lanikai Beach and is equally gorgeous. It’s a very family-friendly beach with plenty of activities such as sailing, kayaking, and stand up paddleboarding.
Go to Waimanalo Beach for a local vibe. Beautiful beach with lovely sand and a great view. Try Bellows Beach if you have a military ID. If not, Sherwoods Beach is just as gorgeous.
Cromwell’s Beach is near Doris Duke’s Shangri-La and is more of a pebble beach than a sandy beach like the rest of Waikiki. It’s a nice place to swim and you can get some really great photos here.
Cockroach Cove is right next to the Halona Blowhole and is commonly referred to as Halona Beach Cove (it rolls off the tongue a little easier I suppose).
Ala Moana Beach is great for families and beach parties and it’s right next to the main hub of Waikiki. There are bathrooms, 2 L&L food stalls, plenty of shade, and showers.
Magic Island is right next to Ala Moana and it’s a manmade island that juts out along the harbor. It’s a beautiful place to stroll, you get a great view of the Friday fireworks from here, and I really like whale watching from the outer rocks.
Waikiki Beach(es) is actually one long stretch of beach split into 9 beaches, each with their own name. It’s a beautiful and safe place to spend the day at the beach.
Sunset beach is gorgeous year round and during the winter the surfing draws spectators in like a magnet.
Makapuu Beach is beautiful and tends to have less people than the crowded Sandy Beach next door.
Baby Makapuu is right before Makapuu Beach and is perfect for little children and toddlers to get their feet wet in the tidepools.
Search for turtles at the North Shore of Oahu. Laniakea Beach is very popular for tourists, but I really like SUP (stand up paddleboarding) in Anahulu River in Haleiwa. The river is teeming with turtles going in and out from the river out to the ocean.
Jump in with sharks in a shark cage. This isn’t my cup of tea (I’m a proud non-risk taker), but I know many of my readers would love try this out.
Swim with dolphins in West Oahu. Hawaiian spinner dolphins are known to hang out in this area. I recommend taking a dolphin snorkeling tour for beginner snorkelers. Advanced snorkelers can try snorkeling out at Electric Beach to catch a glimpse.
Find Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa (whew!). Snorkel at Hanauma Bay State Park if you’re a beginner.
Visit Chinaman’s hat by kayak – a small island accessible from Kualoa Regional Park. Even if you decide not to go out to Chinaman’s Hat, the park has an amazing view!
Learn to SUP (stand up paddleboard). You can do this at several beaches, but Waikiki and North Shore are most popular for SUP lessons.
Dive down in a submarine or ride a glass-bottom boat to see some fish, turtles, and wrecks. It’s a fun and relaxing way to go underwater if you’re traveling with very young kids or people who can’t swim underwater.
Try yoga on a stand up paddleboard to start your day off right. Not only does this add a whole new dimension to your yoga routine, but it’s incredibly relaxing. There’s also a nighttime SUP yoga version, too!
Do some deep sea fishing. My cousin and her husband (from Seattle) are hooked and now do at least one fishing tour each time they visit us.
Enjoy a sunset cruise where you’ll ride along Oahu’s coast and maybe even see turtles, dolphins, and whales!
Take surfing lessons in Waikiki or at the North Shore. This is a family-friendly activity and even kids can do it.
Paddle an outrigger canoe. If kayaking makes you uncomfortable, then an outrigger canoe is the way to go as they are incredibly stable.
Reach the Mokulua Islands (the mokes). You’ll have to book these in advance before arriving at the beach.
Parasailing is a ton of fun. You’re way up high with gorgeous Oahu to look at and the ocean beneath your feet as you fly higher and higher.
Snorkeling and diving
Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is popular for snorkeling and cruises as the view in this area is amazing and the coral is abundant.
Snorkel at Shark’s Cove in Oahu’s North Shore. I suggest this for intermediate snorkelers – get ready to see plenty of fish!
Dive down to Baby Barge (and Mini Barge) for 2 artificial shipwrecks and the marine life it hosts.
Queen’s Beach and San Souci Beach has the best snorkeling in Waikiki. The rest of Waikiki is better for surfing, boogie boarding, body surfing, and stand up paddleboarding.
Electric Beach (Kahe Point) is a fantastic snorkeling spot where you’ll have a chance to see dolphins! Intermediate snorkelers and above.
Hanauma Bay is perfect for beginner snorkelers and even experienced snorkelers will enjoy themselves. The bay is a protected area so the fish are used to humans swimming around.
Kuilima Cove is another great place for beginner snorkelers to get their feet wet. Located at the Turtle Bay Resort with plenty of parking, bathrooms, and showers.
Three Tables is on the North Shore and is often overlooked since its neighbor, Shark’s Cove, gets so much attention. The snorkeling here is great, but just keep an eye out on the weather as it can get rough here.
Makaha Beach in West Oahu is a great place to snorkel with turtles.
Eat (real) local food
Almost every “local food list” on the internet recommends the same foods for you to try: spam musubi, shave ice, loco moco, etc. If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, you’ve probably seen these suggestions already.
One of the best things to do in Oahu is to eat real local food! As the island with the most people, there is plenty to taste (and sip). These are just a few of my suggestions to things to eat in Oahu.
Eat the “normal” local food. Just in case you haven’t stumbled on a “things to eat in Oahu” on the internet yet, common suggestions are: spam musubi, shave ice, loco moco, kalua pig, poi, haupia, and lau lau.
Shrimp plate lunches are sold at shrimp trucks in Haleiwa and Kahuku (North Shore of Oahu). Giovanni’s, Romy’s, and Fumi’s are the most popular shrimp trucks in Kahuku.
Eat kalua pig from a restaurant. It might be a surprise that most (not all, but most) luaus in Oahu get their kalua pig catered. Sometimes from the same company. For some great kalua pig, check out Kono’s North Shore while you’re in Haleiwa.
Kona coffee is probably the most famous Hawaiian coffee among tourists. But talk to a few local residents and you’ll hear a different opinion. Try Waialua coffee from Oahu’s only coffee farm. Their physical store in Waialua at the old sugar mill has a free tour and I love the local products in there. Try the dark roast.
Poke (seasoned raw fish) might not sounds pleasant, but it’s a HUGE hit in Hawaii. There’s always poke at a party and it’s usually the first to disappear. Foodland has a great selection. The annual PokeFest is a great way to try some awesome poke by local chefs and restaurants.
Malasadas makes almost any Hawaii food list out there. Leonard’s Bakery malasadas is a popular choice.
Manapua are the local version of the Chinese bao (steamed bread with a meat filling inside). I like Char Hung Sut in Chinatown (no-frills and the run out every day) and Aiea Manapua & Snacks has a great filling.
Lesser known foods
Halo-halo is originally a Filipino dessert, but you’ll find a range of different halo-halo recipes here in Oahu (if you know where to look). Personally, I enjoy the halo-halo at Dave’s Ice Cream – an old school, local ice cream shop.
Drink a lava flow at a Waikiki bar or at a luau. It’s a frozen pina colada topped with strawberry syrup and just looks really cool for your selfies.
Plate lunches are a local-style lunch originally served with 2 scoops of rice, 1 scoop of mac salad and an entree. My whole family loves Rainbow Drive-In, but you can find great plate lunches everywhere in Oahu.
Macadamia nut pancakes from Koa Pancake House are heavenly. Try them with their coconut syrup!
Lychee (or litchi depending on where you’re from) is a summertime fruit that local residents go crazy over. My favorite are the Big Island lychee because they’re big, juicy, and have a small pit.
Crack seed is one of those things my grandparents, parents, and I grew up with as a child. The old crack seed mom ‘n’ pop shops are disappearing, but you can still find a few hanging on. The Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki is one of them.
Curry udon is not really a local food, but I wanted to include it here because I love a good curry udon since I can’t fly over to Japan whenever I want. Ezogiku Noodle Cafe is a no-frills Japanese restaurant with tasty noodle dishes.
Pho has been gaining in popularity the past several years in Oahu with more hip and modern restaurants finding their niche. But local residents will stand in line and wait at Pho To-Chau, an old-school no-frills restaurant that has a reputation (they don’t even have a website).
Saimin is a local noodle dish that resembles ramen, but the taste is completely different. My favorite is from Shige’s Saimin in Wahiawa.
Huli-huli chicken (turn-turn chicken)used to be cooked all day long at large parking lots when I was growing up. Now, very few of these are still going, but Mike’s Huli Chicken is still going strong.
Chicken long rice is more of a local dish, but you’ll sometimes see it on the menu where they sell Hawaiian plate lunches. The noodles are hydrated with broth so each bite is a tasty burst of flavor.
Liliha Bakery is an old local restaurant that has been serving locals since 1950. The food and baked goods are fantastic, but make sure you get a box of coco puffs – the chantilly ones are my favorite!
Nico’s Pier 38 is a popular spot to eat fresh seafood and you’ll usually see this place packed during the working lunch hour. It’s right next to the fish auction where they get their supply of fresh fish.
Chinatown in downtown Honolulu is popular for those small eateries that only local residents seem to know about. Head here during lunchtime on the weekdays and find a long line to stand in.
Food trucks are everywhere in Oahu and the food is usually pretty good. They don’t always show up in the same place though so check their Yelp or IG to see their menu.
Ocean view restaurants are abundant in Waikiki and you really can’t beat watching the sunset go down as you dine. Duke’s Waikiki is very popular and doesn’t have too high of a price tag.
Honolulu Cookie Company is more of a mainstream treat, but they still taste great. Shortbread cookies in the shape of a pineapple – that’s hard to beat!
Ani’s Bake Shop is a tiny bakery in an industrial area – which makes this a gem for local residents as it’s not really on your radar if you’re a tourist. Their most popular pie is the sweet potato haupia pie with a macadamia nut crust.
Ted’s Bakery in Oahu’s North Shore sits across Sunset Beach and is known for their pies (the chocolate haupia is wonderful).
Special events only in Oahu
If you’re looking for special things to do in Oahu, there are a bunch of annual events and unique activities that you can do. Oahu is an easy place to have fun and make memories – there’s always something going on and you can find something to do in Oahu on a daily basis.
One of the most popular things to do in Oahu is to attend an annual event. These are usually cultural events, which makes for a great chance to learn about Hawaii’s history and unique melting pot of different walks of life.
The Lantern Festival is held on Memorial Day at Ala Moana Beach where thousands of people release their floating lanterns out into the ocean and take a moment to say goodbye to loved ones.
The Okinawan Festival is just a few years older than me and they bring in Okinawan, Japanese, and local celebrities and performance groups to entertain all day. Every year it gets larger and more people come out to eat the unique Okinawan food that only comes out once a year. Definitely try the pig feet soup (ashitbichi).
The Ukulele Festival Hawaii is held every year at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, Oahu. Celebrity ukulele maestros and traveling ukulele bands travel to Oahu for this special event.
The Spam Jam is a big hit each year with local residents and tourists alike trying out everything-spam. Spam may not be big on the mainland, but local residents of Hawaii love it.
The Aloha Festival is the biggest festival in Hawaii as it takes place across the islands.
The Haleiwa Arts Festival is held on the North Shore where vendors of art, jewelry, crafts, etc. come to sell their handmade goods. I’ve bought some really unique jewelry here before that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
The Made in Hawaii Festival is a unique and huge collection of Hawaii vendors that make products in Hawaii. From fashion to food to art, this is a fantastic place to support local and buy souvenirs.
Eat The Street is a monthly event where 40 eateries (restaurants, food trucks, and food stalls) get together in different neighborhoods and local residents come out to eat.
Honolulu City Lights is a festival of Christmas held in downtown Honolulu. The big Christmas decorations are brought out of storage and people come out to stroll and enjoy the holiday festivities.
May Day in Hawaii is Lei Day and a celebration of flowers, lei, haku, and the Hawaiian culture is celebrated. The lei design competition is my favorite – the intricate designs are amazing!
The Eddie is a surfing tournament that isn’t held every year. In fact, it’s only a go if the waves in Waimea Bay reach a consistent 20 feet. In recent years, The Eddie has had problems with funding and organization, but I expect another sponsor to pick it up eventually as this is a huge surf tournament in surfing circles.
The Billabong Pipe Masters surfing competition takes place at Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) and is one of the Triple Crown of surfing events.
Get married! How can I not include this? Oahu has a TON of wedding resources so it’s actually really easy to figure out the logistics for your special day.
Vow renewals are also a fun and memorable thing to do in Oahu to celebrate your time together.
Neighborhood Christmas lights are scattered around Oahu and several homes in the same year will team up to create one big holiday light festival. My favorite one is in Waikele on Anapau Place.
Oahu’s best hikes and trails
Manoa Falls is a popular hike that goes up to the Manoa Waterfall. You can expect to get some mud on your shoes, but in general this is a hike that even kids can handle.
Koko Head is a hike to be challenged. It’s a long set of train tracks that go straight up, up, and up and never seem to end. This is a hike that will test your endurance and is great for group bonding!
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a very easy hike that’s great for any age. If you have a harder time walking, this might be a good trail for you as it’s a paved path all the way up to the viewpoint.
Kaena Point Trail from Makaha is in West Oahu and there’s a good chance you’ll see Hawaiian Monk Seals and maybe even dolphins. This trail ends at the Kaena Point Bird Sanctuary.
Kaena Point Trail from Mokuleia has the same destination as above but skirts the North Shore instead. You’ll also have a good chance of seeing some Hawaiian Monk Seals here, too.
Maunawili Falls is a popular hike for both local residents and tourists. Expect to get a little muddy so wear good shoes.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail is highly recommended because it’s short and gives you an awesome view of the Lanikai and Kailua Beaches.
Kuliouou Ridge Trail is one of my favorite hikes in Oahu. It has a little bit of everything and is more on the challenging side when I want to work hard for that view.
Olomana (3 Peaks) is a hike for the advanced and in shape. It does get dangerous the farther you go so be aware of your surroundings and be careful.
Aiea Loop Trail is a very popular hike for local residents since it’s centrally located. This hike is shady all the way, has a beautiful midpoint view, and is relatively easy even for beginners.
Manana Ridge Trail is a hike I do often since it’s closer to my house. There’s a nice view on both side of the ridge and it’s about 45 minutes to the picnic table.
Cardiac Hill shares the same trailhead as Manana Ridge Trail. Just follow the signs and I wish you luck coming backing up!
Tantalus to Pauoa Flats Trail is relatively flat and very shady. It ends at a bench with a lovely view of the mountains and sky.
Makiki Valley Loop Trail is more of an exercise trail popular with joggers and running hikers. Depending on which direction you go, you can either have a gradual incline or a steep, stair-like run.
Kealia Trail on the North Shore has ocean views every step of the way and is an easy switchback trail starting from the Dillingham Airfield.
Diamond Head State Park is Oahu’s most-visited trail. The view is unlike any other as you get to see Waikiki from a unique vantage point.
Sightseeing in Oahu
Halona Blowhole is right past Hanauma Bay and is a fun place to stop on your way to the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. Plus, the view is amazing especially on very clear days when you can see Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.
Haleiwa Town is a big tourist spot as it’s the surf town of Oahu. There are boutique shops and tasty eateries and many North Shore tours will begin from here.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout is where I take all my friends visiting Oahu to when we drive around the island. It’s a beautiful view and the strong winds can physically blow you around.
Cockroach Cove lava tunnel is a small cave/tunnel that you’ll find on Halona Beach.
Exploring Oahu by moped is a cheaper way to get around since it won’t be nearly as expensive as a rental car.
Pele’s Chair is a neat lava rock formation near the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. From the right angle, it really does look like a chair for a goddess!
Tantalus is a magical viewpoint where you can see Honolulu. It’s even better during sunset and at night when the city lights turn on.
Spitting Caves is hidden in a neighborhood but has an amazing panoramic view of the ocean.
Nuuanu Pali Tree Tunnel is a natural tunnel created by trees and it’s a fun spot to stop and take a quick picture.
Laie point is accessible when you drive past several homes and the view here is incredible. You’ll learn about the legend of the giant lizard here and see its “remains” (5 small islands).
Laniakea Beach is a big reason for the traffic in and out of the North Shore because of the turtles that like to come out and sunbathe or play in the surf.
The Pink Pillbox Trail in West Oahu is short, but will still give you a pretty good workout. The view is absolutely stunning – one of my favorites.
Kukaniloko is an off-the-beaten-path point of interest in Wahiawa where future royalty was born with chiefs as witnesses.
Art on the Zoo Fence is only on the weekends, but it’s a fun place to stroll by to browse artwork by local artists and even get to talk to them.
The National Memorial of the Pacific (Punchbowl for short) is free to enter and on the left of its beautiful grounds you get an unadulterated view of Honolulu. No tour buses or shuttles are allowed here so you’ll have to have your own transportation here.
Popular tours and activities
Lost the TV show has gained a popular following and visiting the film locations has recently become a popular thing to do in Oahu.
Lei greetings at the airport used to be free in the days of old when Hawaii tourism was becoming a thing. These days, you need to pay to receive a lei greeting, but it’s worth it to get that fresh flower lei and a smiling face.
Ziplining can be done all over Oahu and makes for a great family-friendly activity.
Day trips to the neighbor islands are a great way to fit more islands into your vacation especially if you don’t have the time. Keep Oahu as your base island and be back in time for dinner!
Food tours are a wonderful way to experience Hawaii’s unique culture. Eat local food and tour the area while you’re at it.
Self-guided circle island tours is something I do all the time. Hop in the car and drive around the islands. Stop when you see something interesting or keep on driving and enjoy the view.
Biki bikes are a popular bicycle rideshare program in downtown Honolulu because of their price and convenience. It’s so easy to hop on one and just go.
Lomi lomi massages are all about kneading and rubbing until you feel like jelly. Many hotels have lomi lomi massage services available on site, but you can also go to a spa or masseuse, too.
Camping in Oahu is possible on Friday thru Tuesday – all you need is a camping permit in advance which can be easily done on the Department of Land & Natural Resources’ (DLNR) website.
Waikiki’s Friday fireworks by Hilton Hawaiian Village is something to look forward to in the evenings in Waikiki.
Koa wood makes for a great souvenir since it’s rare and expensive. But you can find small koa trinkets such as keychains and bookmarks for a cheap price.
Horseback riding is such a fun way to see the island without the crowd.
Hawaii 5-0 (both the old and the new TV show) were huge hits and you can tour the island to see the filming locations.
Golfing is a popular thing to do in Oahu. Many people fly to Hawaii for a round of gold and it’s not uncommon to see golf clubs passing you by on the baggage claim carousel as you look for your luggage.
Helicopter rides are a wonderful way to see Oahu from an aerial view. You also get access to waterfalls and vistas that those on foot can’t reach.
Free hula performances are all over the place in Oahu, you just need to know where to look.
Waikiki Trolley Tours is a unique way to tour Oahu’s popular sightseeing spots and attractions. The trolley lines are designed to stop only at these attractions so you’ll move faster than The Bus.
Stargazing in Oahu is a lot of fun since it’s tied to the Polynesians, their legends, and how they used the stars to navigate their way to these islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Shangri-La is the private home of Doris Duke, a tobacco heiress that collected Islamic art. Her home is a fabulous collection of Islamic art and culture.
Iolani Palace is the USA’s only official royal residence and is where Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, was imprisoned and eventually passed away.
Bishop Museum is the place to be if you want to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture. Their collection is gigantic and they even host visiting exhibits, too!
Coconut Island is the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Hawaii and is accessible by tour. You’ll see sharks and learn the history of the island.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial is all about the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial.
USS Battleship Missouri Memorial is one of the Pearl Harbor historical sites and is located on Ford Island. It took me 3+ hours to finish wandering the entire battleship myself!
USS Bowfin Submarine Park & Museum is located next to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and it’s a lot of fun to walk through this submarine and imagine the life of these men in such close quarters.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is fun for the whole family. They’re always having events for children, so it’s a museum that’s great for any age.
Farms and botanical gardens
Mari’s Gardens is in my hometown and is certainly an off-the-beaten-path destination. As Hawaii’s biggest aquaponics operation, there’s a lot to be learned here! I started my own home aquaponics system with their help, too.
Waimea Valley is more of a botanical garden hike with a waterfall at the end. This valley was once a thriving Hawaiian village and you’ll learn about its history, the native plants, and the Waimea Waterfall while you’re here.
Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in Oahu and the best part is that it’s free! It’s one of my favorite spots to relax in Windward Oahu.
Dole Plantation is more of an attraction these days with its mini tours, enormous souvenir shop, and all things pineapple to eat, but this entire land use to be all pineapples as far as you could see.
Waialua Sunflower Farm is an annual short event where the public is invited to come into the farm and spend a lovely late afternoon taking pictures and enjoying row after row of sunflowers.
Foster Botanical Garden is a world of calm and quiet in the middle of bustling downtown Honolulu. Giant trees, tropical orchids, and a long stretch of grass make this a peaceful place to relax.
Fun and entertainment
Kualoa Ranch is where all those Hollywood movies “filmed in Hawaii” take place (Jurassic Park!). But there are so many things to do here: ATV, movie tours, electric mountain biking, horseback riding, and even kayaking experiences.
Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the biggest attractions in Oahu. Imagine a theme park that was separated into the Polynesian islands – each with their own history, culture, performances, and activities. The evening show is brilliant!
The Honolulu Zoo is a relaxing outdoor activity that’s great for young families. The zoo invites people to come in and picnic on their spacious grounds, too.
Farmers’ markets are all over the place in Oahu, but a popular one for both tourists and local residents is the KCC farmers’ market next to Diamond Head.
Ala Moana Center is Hawaii’s largest mall and it is an open-air shopping experience. If you like branded goods, this is the place to be.
International Market Place was renovated a few years back and is now a classy outdoorsy open-air mall. If not the shopping, at least go to see the original banyan tree that is now a part of the architecture.
University of Hawaii sports is big here in Hawaii. Local residents love their UH ball games like how mainlanders love their pro football, basketball, and baseball teams.
Aloha Tower is a retired lighthouse that sits in Honolulu Harbor. There are a few shops and restaurants here, and you can climb up Aloha Tower and see the view.
Byodo-In at the Valley of the Temples is the sister temple of Byodo-In in Japan. As one of my favorite temples in Japan (fun fact: it’s on the Japanese 10-yen coin), I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered there was a replica here in Hawaii.
Other things to do in Oahu
- Visit my sister site, Aloha With Tours, where you can book directly from local tours and activities that I recommend.
- Visit Hawaii Activities to see all of the different tours and activities available in Hawaii.
- For a condensed list of activities, check out my popular things to do in Oahu post.
- If you need help planning a trip to Oahu, I have plenty of ideas for things to do in Oahu.
- Here’s a 7-day Oahu budget itinerary if you need to watch your spending.