Oahu Hawaii Lanikai Beach

The 12 Best Things to do in Oahu, Hawaii | 2020 Travel Itinerary

If you’re thinking of planning your next big holiday to Oahu, here is a comprehensive travel guide on the main attractions you MUST visit during your time there. Also, do check out my other article – Important Travel Tips for Visiting the Hawaiian Islands to get a better idea of how to prepare and pack for your trip as well.

If you’re visiting Oahu, don’t forget to visit Kauai too! You can take a domestic flight and spend about 4 days on the island. Domestic flights in Hawaii are relatively cheap and we paid about USD 50 to fly from Oahu to Kauai.

Accommodation in Oahu, Hawaii

We spent the most time in Oahu (7 days) during our 2-week vacation to Hawaii as we knew a friend staying here. So we were lucky enough to be able to lodge with him! 

As most of the attractions are found towards the south side of the island (see screenshot map below), you may want to book a place somewhere around this area. For us, we stayed at a friend’s place around Honolulu and found it really convenient.  You can use the map widget below to source for an accommodation around Waikiki area – there are more options here as compared to in Honolulu.



Places of Interest in Oahu

1. Waikiki Beach

The most popular beach in Hawaii. It’s a crowded beach but still a must-see when visiting the island. However, you’ll soon realise there are tons other beautiful beaches, not to mention less crowded as well, around the island.

2. Diamond Head Crater Hike

Another popular tourist spot in Hawaii, a 30-minute hike up this ancient crater will give you a panoramic view of Oahu. It’s a relatively easy hike and yes, you can complete it in flip-flops. 

Take note that you will have to pay USD 5 per vehicle for parking here. 

Diamond Head Crater Hike in Oahu, Hawaii

3. Hanauma Bay

Due to its high fish population, Hanauma Bay has been ranked Oahu’s most popular snorkelling spot. We reached the bay before 7am in the morning as we read that it’s difficult to find parking in the later hours.

I read online that you’d have to pay USD 7.50 for the entrance fee into the bay. Surprisingly, the staff said that since we were early we were allowed to enter in for free. 

In addition, you can also opt for a Hanauma Bay Guided Snorkelling Tour as an instructor can show you to the the best parts of Bay and ensure your safety in the ocean.

Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii

4. Makapu’u Tidepools

A stretch of beautiful coastal tide pools and blowholes made of black lava can be found easily along the South-Eastern coast line. What we did was to drive along the shore where google maps pointed us to and parked when there was a opening. It’s a short trek down to reach the tide pools and you can spend some time swimming in them.

Do make sure to check that it is low-tide before going to the tide pools.

Makapu'u Tide Pool Oahu Hawaii

5. Makapu’u Lighthouse Hiking Trail

Just a short 5 to 10-minute drive down from the tidepools, you’d reach Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. It’s an easy trek up that will take you about 1-hour. You’d be able to witness a beautiful panoramic view of the coastline from high up.

Makapu'u Lighthouse Hiking Trail in Oahu Hawaii

6. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

This is another hiking trail in Oahu that will definitely be worth your time. Just a short walk away from Lanikai Beach, park along the street to access the trailhead (but make sure you don’t park illegally!). It’s a 30-minute  moderately easy hike with some steeper slopes on the way up so it’s better to wear proper shoes for this. For this hike, you’ll see amazing blue ocean views of Lanikai beach while chilling on the pink pillboxes.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu, Hawaii

7. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens

If you’re looking for that classic Hawaii Instagram picture, this is the place to be. With a gorgeous crater backdrop, get ready to whip out your camera. However, due to the increasing number of tourists visiting this area, you’d no longer be allowed to take pictures in the middle of the road near the entrance. So, it’s either you arrive in the early hours of the morning (when the guard isn’t around) to get it done or you drive further into the garden to get your shot. 

As we visited the garden at around noon, we decided to drive to the end of the road to get our shot. Entrance into the garden is free.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Oahu Hawaii - Instagrammable Background

8. Road Trip Along the North Shore

Parking along the north shore can be challenging, but with patience and if you’re ok to do a little bit more walking, it’s not impossible to find a space. The drive along the coast is so scenic and one that you cannot miss when visiting Oahu!

There is a few beaches you can stop by during your North Shore road trip, namely:

a. Banzai Pipeline 
Popular among surfers due to its big waves

b. Laniakea Beach
Famous for it’s sea turtles resting on the beach.

c. Shark’s Cove
A beautiful reef filled with a high population of fishes and is another famous snorkelling site. You’d have to climb down a steep dirt path to reach it. 

d. Three Tables Beach
Another famous snorkelling site for you to swim with a wide variety of fishes.

Laniakea Beach Sea Turtles in Oahu, Hawaii

9. Swim with Wild Dolphins

Waianae is the best place to swim with Dolphins in Oahu. You can either:

1. Swim out to find them yourself
2. Go with an excursion tour company which specialises in finding them

We went with option 2 as we were not confident in finding them on our own. It’s a trilling experience to swim with wild dolphins and we were lucky enough to have more than 10 of them around us!

Wild Dolphins in Oahu, Hawaii

10. Visit to Pearl Harbour

Visiting Pearl Harbour is one of the top tourist attractions in Oahu due the devastating events that happened here in 1941. Learn about the history behind his iconic place as you take a tour through its museum. You can also opt for the Complete Pearl Harbor Tour in Hawaii if you’d like to visit other places such as Iolani Palace and the statue of King Kamehameha as well.

Entrance Fee: US $7.50 (purchase your tickets online)
Opening Hours: Daily, 7am to 5pm

11. North Shore Shark Cage Diving

With crystal clear waters and the sunny skies, Hawaii is probably the best place for a a shark cage diving experience. You’d be able to get up close with Galapagos and sandbar Sharks, and if you’re lucky, tigers and hammerheads as well! There is a North Shore Shark Cage Diving Adventure in Oahu, Hawaii that you can book online for a better price as well!

12. Visit Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location for popular movies such as Jurassic Park. I personally did not visit the ranch as I felt it was way way out of my budget. However, if you’ve the means to spend, you can will have to pre-book the Kualoa Ranch One Day Adventure in Oahu Tour in order to enter the ranch.

Note that you cannot enter the ranch without signing up for one of their tours. It is also important to book in advance as time slots are allocated and seats get filled up really fast.

There are different adventure tours you can choose from which include – Horseback Walking Tours, Secret Island Activities, Jurassic Valley Zipline, ATV Tours and a Movie Sites Tour. Pick the combination that suits you the most!


Important things to bring for your trip to Hawaii

1. Sunblock
2. Rash guard (the waters are freezing!)
3. Swimwear
4. Snorkelling Gear and Fins
5. Walking Stick
6. Jacket or Towel (to cover yourself after getting out of the waters)
7. Beach Chair & Umbrella
8. Sun hat and/or Sunglasses
9. GOPRO and other photography gears
10. Drone (amazing aerial views)

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