Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island and is the base for the Honolulu International Airport and home to the state capital, Honolulu. Sometimes called the Gathering Place, it’s a comfortable fusion between Eastern and Western cultures that are ingrained in the Native Hawaiian’s values and traditions. There is so much to do including tours, surfing, snorkeling, festivals, and luaus, just to name a few; but only the top 10 have made this list.
10. Hawaiian Food Tours
When visiting a new place, it can be difficult to find authentic, great tasting places to eat. Many times, travelers make do with the food that they are comfortable with such as fast food. Well, there are several food tours available to help visitors get a taste of what Hawaii has to offer. These food tours include excursions for food and wine lovers, for those who are more daring and want to experience local, ethnic, and exotic restaurants, or those who want to do an all-day outing to the North Shore and experience the scenic views along with foods such as garlic shrimp, genuine Hawaiian food, roadside grinds, and more. Whatever your choice is, you will be sure to be in the know by the time you are done.
9. Aloha Festivals
The Aloha Festivals started in 1946 when a group staged a grassroots cultural celebration in honor of Hawaii’s heritage. Today, it is a non-profit, statewide, multi-cultural two month long festival that begins in September. It’s also considered Hawaii’s biggest party with free admission and nearly a million people attending. The festival has over 300 events six islands and includes parades, street parties, pageants, hula shows, live performance, food booths, and so much more. It is the only statewide celebration and is run by nearly 30,000 volunteers with the same mission in mind: to preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture and to celebrate the diverse customs and Aloha Spirit of Hawaii. So take a weekend and enjoy all that they have to offer.
8. Big Island Day Trip
The Big Island is a wonderland of micro-climates where you can explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO-listed site. Visit Hilo Bay Beachfront Park, take a hike along a crater rim, see the Rainbow Falls, tour the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, see the beaches of red, green, yellow and black sand, or stroll through the Akatsuka Gardens to appreciate the $20,000 orchid. On top of that, you will learn about the history and geology of this beauty place. There are many tours to choose from but all include round-trip coach-class air travel from Oahu to the Big Island and optional pick-up and drop-off from your hotel.
7. Polynesian Culture Center
Polynesia has over 1,000 islands located within a triangle from New Zealand, east to Easter Island, and north to Hawaii and there are over 25 separate cultures among these islands. The Polynesia Cultural Center gives a very unique and insightful opportunity to those who visit. This is your chance to watch the Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant and learn about the culture and people of Polynesia through the sharing of arts, crafts, culture, and an outstanding 90 minute long evening show. It’s one of the most popular paid places to visit in Oahu, and you will not be disappointed.
6. Paradise Cove Luau
There are several Luaus on Oahu but Paradise Cove has been raved about from so many visitors that it made the list. This luau takes people back in time by creating an authentic experience by allowing participation in activities such as creating a lei, Polynesian entertainment, traditional Hawaiian games, weaving a headband and throwing a spear. Once the festivities begin, you will be able to partake in a feast that includes lomi salmon, taro bread rolls, and a coconut Jell-O desert called haupia, among others. The luau is held on a 12-acre beach at the Ko Olina Resort.
5. Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum is one of the best museums for friends and family to enjoy exhibits that are engrossing and interactive. You can participate in lab activities in the Living Islands Zone, explore the interior of a volcano, travel back through time when you proceed down the Hawaiian Origins Tunnel, and travel the realms of Hawaii between legends and beliefs, land and nature, and then the realm of the gods. This only touches the tip of what Bishop Museum has to offer and it is an experience that you should not miss.
4. North Shore
The North Shore is an easy hour long drive from Waikiki and is home to the top world-class surfers in the world during the winter months. It spans from La’ie to Ka’ena Point and tends to be the perfect place to find some solitude away from busy Honolulu. Though North Shore is considered to be the surfing capital of the world, many visitors overlook it, which means that it is rarely too crowded. Places to visit include Turtle Bay, and Waimea Valley. Other things to do in Oahu, especially the North Shore are going to small mom-and-pop places or shrimp trucks to eat, along with stores specializing in shaved ice and bakery goods.
3. Diamond Head
This 300,000 year old crater looms large over Waikiki and offers a spectacular, panoramic view of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Diamond Head was created in a single, explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles into the air. Once they settled, they cemented together into a rock called a tuff, creating the crater. The walk to the top is less than a mile on smooth ground with handrails, but it is exerting as you will be hiking 760 feet up through a lighted 224-foot tunnel to enter the Fire Control station which was completed in 1911. At the summit, you will see bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917. Though it’s a long way up and can be a rough climb, the beautiful views are worth it.
Cool off at the world-famous, most visited tourist attractions in Oahu, Waikiki. It was once the playground for 19th century Hawaiian royalty to surf and swim; today, is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area. Have some fun with the kids at the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and then hit the calm waters for swimming and surfing lessons. Before night falls, take some time with your loved one and watch the romantic sunset before experiencing the amazing nightlife and live music. When you are ready to take a break from the outdoors, there are world-class restaurants and shops lining Kalakaua Avenue which runs beside the beach. Some points of interest nearby include Ala Moana Center and the arts district of Chinatown.
1. Pearl Harbor, USS Missouri, and Arizona Memorial
The USS Arizona is the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 Navy and Marine men killed on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. This attraction commemorates the events of that day and is the most visited World War II museum and memorials in the United States. The lines are long and there is always a crowd, but most visitors agree that the experience is worth it. The tour is on a first come, first serve basis unless you reserve your free, timed tickets online; just remember to pick them up an hour before your tour. For $7.50, you can get a one hour audio tour that gives you more information on World War II history and explains the significance of the memorial.
The average temperature for Oahu is 75o F to 85o F year round so anytime is a good time to visit. Bring a light jacket if you are traveling between December and March and to wear during the evenings. You should also bring semi-casual clothes for restaurants, but suits and ties are rarely worn. If you plan on going to the Big Island, keep in mind that you can ski there, but you should bring appropriate winter weather clothes.