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Oahu is a true paradise with the idyllic sandy white beaches, scenic coastline, and endless adventures. Oahu, also known as “The Gathering Place,” is home to two-thirds of the Hawaiian population. The state capital, Honolulu, is on the southeast coast of the island. The most well-known features found on Oahu include Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Lanikai Beach, Hanauma Bay, and North Shore. Renting a car and road tripping around Oahu is one of the most popular things to do to see it all. If you are ready to experience the Aloha Spirit, then check out our favorite things to do around Oahu:
Waikiki was once an exclusive surfing beach for Hawaiian royalty. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main resort area with world-class shopping, dining, entertainment, and more. The beach of Waikiki is known for its calm waters and beautiful landscape. If you’re looking for a place to learn how to surf, Waikiki is a great place to start. The beach also holds many events including surfing competitions, hula dancing, canoe races, and more.\
One of the best ways to see everything that Waikiki has to offer is with the Waikiki Segway tour! The guides will take you to see stunning areas around Waikiki, Diamond Head, Kaka’ako Park, and Magic Island Beach Park. You will learn historical facts about the area, see spectacular ocean views, and panoramic views of the Kaiki Channel and outer islands. Do this tour at the start of your trip because it provides a great overview of the area and will give you plenty of ideas for fun things to do!
Photo Credit: Hawaii Food Tours Facebook
The Hawaiian resorts are truly world-class but don’t neglect to escape the resort to experience authentic Hawaiian food. Hawaiian cuisine is a melting pot of many different cultures. Native Hawaiian cuisine has become influenced by Portuguese, American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Polynesian flavors. The results are so unique and delicious!
If you want to eat award-winning dishes and learn more about the culture and history of food here in Hawaii, then I highly recommend Hawaii Food Tours. Celebrity chef, Matthew Gray, started Hawaii Food Tours in 2004. They have been on the Food Network and MSNBC called them “One of the best food experiences in the world.” If you want a genuine Hawaiian experience, then look no further than the Hole in the Wall tour. This tour takes place all over Honolulu and away from the touristy areas of Waikiki. You will taste, touch, and visit authentic local places offering food gems that contribute to Hawaii’s delicious and diverse melting pot.
Lanikai Beach is known for its extremely soft powdery clean white sand. The water temperatures are generally between 75–80 °F (24–26 °C) so you can spend plenty of time in the water. Lanikai Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in America and the only beach in the USA that has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world. Many famous models and photographers frequent this beach because of the picturesque two islands in the background, called the Na Mokulua or “mokes.” The only downside that there is no public parking lot and the area lacks facilities like restrooms, showers, or lifeguards.
Hanauma Bay is both a nature preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District. The bay is known for its abundance of green sea turtles as well as being home to over 400 species of fish! Hanauma Bay is the most famous of all of Hawaii’s snorkeling beaches. The bay protects it from the big ocean swells, making it a wonderful place for snorkelers of all ages. Hanauma Bay receives around 3,000 tourists per day, so it stays quite busy. However, the pristine marine ecosystem here is totally worth a visit.
The North Shore is known for its massive waves, which makes this beach the surfing mecca of the world. Every December, the area hosts three competitions for both men and women, which makes up the Triple Crown of Surfing. Many professional surfers live in the area and practice in popular surfing spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Ehukai Beach. While the North Shore is most famous for its surfing, there are many other popular activities including hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin tours, and more.
Pearl Harbor is a National Historic Landmark with four historic sites. It is possible to visit all four of the sites in roughly six hours, but if you don’t want to miss a thing, then I would recommend making a full day out of it. Start your trip at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center where you can purchase tickets to the attractions. You can visit the USS Arizona Memorial for free. The program includes a short boat ride to and from the memorial and a 23-minute documentary. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is located within the Visitor Center. You can climb aboard the USS Bowfin and get a glimpse into life on a WWII-era submarine. The Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are both located on Ford Island. Shuttles buses depart from the Visitor Center every 15 minutes. You can take a guided or self-guided tour of the USS Missouri, which is known as America’s mightiest battleship. The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum showcases the battle-damaged airfield and control tower of historic Ford Island. You will also get to step inside two WWII-era hangars that house vintage aircraft.
Iolani Palace is the only official royal palace in the United States. King Kalakaua was the last reigning King of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He built Iolani Palace in 1882 after becoming the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe. King Kalakaua spared no expense when building the castle and it surpassed the White House at the time in innovation and technology. His successor, Queen Liliuokalani, also had the honor of ruling the Kingdom of Hawaii from this palace. In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the building was renamed the Executive Building of the Republic of Hawaii. Eventually, it became the office of the Governor of Hawaii. In 1969, government offices vacated the Palace and moved across the street into the current State Capitol building. The Iolani Palace went under extensive renovations to return it to its regal glory.
You can take tours of the palace on Monday-Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. It is possible to take a guided tour with a Palace Docent or take a self-led audio tour. You will get to walk through the first two floors as well as explore the basement gallery exhibits.
Also, known as the Kaiki Scenic Shoreline, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is the second most popular of all the Oahu hiking trails. It is an easy to moderate summit trail and has stunning views overlooking Makapuu Beach, Koko Head, and Molokai and Lanai islands. Along the way, you will discover giant tide pools, a hidden blowhole, and the popular Makapuu lighthouse landmark. The hiking trail is paved from the parking lot to the top, which makes it ideal for the whole family. It will take about 30 minutes to reach the top. Once you reach the top, there is a metal platform where you can enjoy breathtaking views of Makapuu Beach.
Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone that is part of the Honolulu Volcanic Series. It is the defining feature of the Oahu landscape near Waikiki and was declared a National Natural Landmark. Diamond Head Trail was originally built for the US military, but today it is the most popular Oahu hiking trail. The trail appears more challenging than it really is, as it only takes about 40-60 minutes to reach the summit. Children, golden agers, and people who do not regularly exercise are typically fine to do this trail. There are many stairs to the top, but the 360-degree views are worth it. You can even climb up 1100 more steps to get to the Koko Crater if you’re up for it! The Diamond Head Crater holds the record for the longest recorded land views in the world. The panoramic views are absolutely stunning. I hope you do this hike on your next Oahu vacation!
A photography tour is an amazing way to see Hawaii and take the best part of it back home with you. Your photos will make it feel like you have Hawaii with you at all times. From sea cliffs to secret caves and high lookouts, you will never see Hawaii the same again. You will visit the prominent hot spots to capture the stunning natural beauty of Oahu Island. Oahu Photography Tours has so many unique excursions and you will come home with a wealth of unbelievable pictures.
Considering visiting Maui island? Check out our list of What Not to Miss in Maui to help you plan your vacation.
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We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.