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30 Bucketlist Things to do on Oahu

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What are the best things to do on Oahu?! Planning a trip to Hawaii can be daunting because there are so many different parts of the island and SO much to see and do!

There are adventurous hikes with incredible views, waterfalls, snorkelling tours, surfing lessons, delicious restaurants and more!

Couple having fun in the hoomaluhia botanical garden

Oahu is one of my favourite places on the planet because the landscape is so crazy. You get tropical beaches with amazing snorkelling opportunities which are right next to insane mountains to climb with thick lush green rainforests and waterfalls.

With this guide, you will be able to plan a trip to Oahu that you will remember forever and hopefully you will love it there as much as I do.

Quick Tips for Planning a Trip to Oahu, Hawaii

Are you planning a trip to Oahu, Hawaii? Here are some quick tips to help you plan your visit.

Where to Stay: Budget | A Little bit fancy

Best Time of the Year to Visit: Between March and September for the best weather.

Where to Fly into: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu International Airport)

Should you rent a car: If you are wanting to explore more of the island than just Waikiki, yes! This is our go to for the best rental car deals ➡ Rentalcars.com

Top things to do in Waikiki:

Top things to do on the North Shore:

The Best Things to do on Oahu

Oahu is a pretty large island so it can be overwhelming when trying to plan what to do there. This list Oahu activities should help you get to know what there is to do so that you can plan your trip!

1 Hour Helicopter Flight – Doors on or off

View from Helicopter Tour on Oahu
Credit: Rainbow Helicopters (via Viator)

Doing a helicopter flight in Hawaii is a true bucket list experience and one of the best ways to see the island of Oahu. On this flight, you will see loads of places such as Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Sacred Falls, the Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbour.

With this tour company, you are also able to choose whether you want to have the doors on or off!

I recommend this exact helicopter flight so that you can fly with the doors off for a more thrilling experience!

Traveller’s Tip: Book ahead of your trip, to make sure you don’t miss out!

Whale Watching Cruise

Favorite Oahu Whale Watch! (2 Hour Tour! Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu
Credit: Lahaina Cruise Company / Hawaii Ocean Project (via Viator)

“Guaranteed whale sightings or you can go again for free!” This is what we like to hear for these kinds of tours.

This 2 hour tour operates during the whale migration period from December until May, when humpback whales come to Hawaii’s warm waters to breed. During the tour, you will learn about the Humpback Whales’ different actions such as breaches, flukes, tail slaps, movements in the water from your guide.

🐳 Book your tour ahead of time so that you don’t miss out!

Learn to Surf on the North Shore of Oahu

Dog on surfboard in Oahu
Credit: Sunset Suzys Surf School (via Viator)

If you are going to learn to surf anywhere, you may as well make it the North Shore of Oahu! Plus, the instructors dogs will be joining you too! You will even get a free turtle tour!

Book your 2 hour surfing lesson here!

Alternatively, if you are staying in Waikiki and would prefer to surf there here are the best rated surfing lessons:

Snorkel with Turtles from Waikiki on a Boat Tour

Turtle Canyons Snorkel Tour Oahu
Credit: Island Splash Tours (via Viator)

I don’t know about you, but snorkelling with turtles was something that I had as my number one priority on my Hawaii Bucketlist.

This small group snorkelling tour is Oahu’s most popular snorkel tour! You will get to snorkel with Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and they promise that you will see turtles or else they will let you go again for free!

🐢 Turtle Snorkelling Tours are one of the most popular activities in Hawaii so make sure you book ahead.

Polynesian Canoe Sunset Sail

Polynesian Canoe Sunset 
 Tour
Credit: Kamoauli (via Viator)

Join a small group and experience an important part of Hawaiian culture on this Polynesian Canoe Sunset Sail. You will sail along Waikiki’s coastline and hear stories of native Hawaii, myths and legends.

You will get to join in on cultural activities such as making food, clothes and more while listening to ukulele music and traditional chants.

Book your Tour: Polynesian Canoe Sunset Sail

Hike to Koko Head aka The Koko Crater Stairs

Distance: 1.6 miles / 2.6km | Elevation Gain: 912 ft / 277m | Time: 1.5-2 hours

The hike to Koko Head is a popular trail but also quite challenging. It will be crowded on the weekends so if you can, try to go on a weekday.

The thing that makes the Koko Head hike special is the 1,048 railroad ties which are the “steps” leading you up to the lookout. This is the reason that the hike is so challenging. The railroad stairs also get steeper and steeper as you get closer to the top. It’s an exhausting hike, but satisfying all the same not to mention a great work out!

Don’t feel comfortable hiking the Koko Stairs yourself? Join this full day tour which takes you not only to Koko Head, but also to some local favourite beaches on Oahu!

Go Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay

photo of humuhumunukunukuapua'a fish in Hawaii

Hanauma Bay was one of our favourite snorkelling spots on Oahu! In a nutshell, Hanauma Bay is a huge Marine Park which you can visit for 1 hour, 2 hours or the whole day, snorkelling and relaxing on the beach.

The cost for the day is $25 per person and there is a parking lot there for $3 if you have a car. If you don’t have a car, you can join this tour from Honolulu to Hanauma Bay (snorkelling gear included).

🐟 Snorkelling Tip: Look out for the fish in the above photo. They are the humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish – The State Fish of Hawaii!

Hike to Diamond Head

Distance: 1.9 miles / 3.1km | Elevation Gain: 515ft / 156m | Time: 1-1.5 hours

The Diamond Head Crater Summit Trail is a popular hike to do on Oahu at any time of the year.

From the top, you get incredible 360-degree views of the ocean, Diamond Head Crater and the Ko’olau Mountains as well as the coastline all of the way from Waikiki to Waianae.

Diamond Head is an easier hike than Koko Head Crater still with fantastic views so if you are trying to choose between the two of them, this might help make up your mind.

🚶‍♀️ If you don’t want to hike along, you can join this hiking tour!

Explore Jurassic Park at Kualoa Ranch

Jurassic Park Tour at Kualoa Ranch
Credit: GetYourGuide Tours & Tickets GmbH (via Getyourguide)

Did you know that Jurassic Park was filmed on Oahu? You can book a tour to see real filming sites from the Jurassic Park film series!

You will drive through the Kualoa, Hakipu’u, and Ka’a’awa Valleys in an open-air vehicle so you will feel like you are actually in the real Jurassic Park. You will see the paddock, bunkers, dinosaur cages and more!

This is something that we didn’t end up doing while we were in Hawaii and I have regretted it ever since. 😩

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Visit the Dole Plantation

What is the Dole Plantation you might ask.

The Dole Plantation started as a simple fruit stand in 1950. Now, it is one of Oahu’s most popular attractions and has more than one million visitors a year!

At the Dole Plantation, you will experience Pineapple EVERYTHING! There is a Pineapple Garden Maze, a Pineapple Express Train Tour and Pineapple merchandise which you can buy at the gift store.

Take a stroll through the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Girl standing look up at the mountains in Hawaii

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden become famous through Instagram when visitors began taking photo at the photogenic entrance on the road. This is actually no longer allowed and if the security guard sees you get out of your car at all, he will tell you to get back in straight away. We know.. we tried. 😅

The garden itself is beautiful however, so if you have the time then it is worth it to visit. It reminded me of Jurassic Park a little because you can see the classic jagged Hawaiian mountains from the gardens.

The garden is closer to Kailua than Waikiki. It is a 40 minute drive from Waikiki and a 20 minute drive from Kailua.

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Take Sunset or Sunrise Photos at Lanikai Beach

Couple in the water on Lanikai Beach Oahu at sunrise

Lanikai Beach is famous for being one of world’s most beautiful beaches. It’s also where Dave and I got engaged!

The beach has the most beautiful white sand and blue water with a couple of small islands called the Mokulua Islands which you can see from the shoreline which you can actually paddleboard to!

From Waikiki, it’s about a 40 minute drive to Lanikai Beach, or you could stay in the nearby town Kailua, which is what we did. The town of Kailua is only a 5-8 minute drive to Lanikai and it’s a nice little town! Kailua Beach is also worth visiting while you are in the area if you have the time.

Snorkel and Dive with Sharks in Hawaii with One Ocean Diving

One Ocean Diving Shark tour on Oahu
Credit: One Ocean Diving (via Viator)

If you want to snorkel or dive with sharks in Hawaii, this is the company to do it with! One Ocean Diving is run by Ocean Ramsey & Juan Oliphant who I have been following on Instagram for years because I am so in awe of what they do.

They are are the first company in the United States & Hawaii to offer freediving with sharks without a cage. You will be taught loads about sharks from shark expert guides who will be with you the entire time.

🦈Book your shark dive here: One Ocean Diving Shark Snorkel / Dive

Do an Introductory Scuba Dive in Honolulu with Take Home Video Footage

If you are looking to try scuba diving for the first time, what better place to try than in Hawaii?!

This small group lesson and scuba tour includes Go Pro footage which you will get to take home with you.

You don’t need to be certified to do this tour and it is perfect for complete beginners or certified divers who are looking for a refresher.

🐟 Book your scuba adventure here: Beginner Scuba Diving Adventure with Videos in Honolulu

Hike the Crouching Lion Trail

Crouching Lion Hike Viewpoint Oahu Hawaii

Distance: 0.8km / 0.5 miles | Elevation Gain: 90m / 300 ft | Time: 1-2 hours

The Crouching Lion Hike was the first hike that we did in Hawaii and were a little out of our comfort zone with the scrambling along the trail but the views at the end made it 1000% worth it! The trail is located on the East Coast of Oahu in Kaaawa and the insane views at the top look out over Kahana Bay.

The trailhead is located about 1 hour from Waikiki and you can park in the small parking lot across the road. If you don’t have a car, you can still reach the trail head by public transport but it will take you double the time.

I have more information in my hiking guide on how to get there and find the trailhead.

Go Horseback Riding at Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch - Horseback Walking Tour
Credit: Kualoa Ranch (via Viator)

Kualoa Ranch is one of the best places to go horseback riding on Oahu because of the surrounding jaw-dropping Kanehoalani Mountains.

You will also get to see locations where many Hollywood movies were filmed, including Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbour and can choose between a 1 hour or 2 hour trail ride.

🐴 Adventure traveller tip: Book your horseback riding tour now so you don’t miss out.

Try the Garlic Shrimp from one of the food trucks!

You can’t visit Hawaii without trying the Garlic shrimp! One thing you will notice in Hawaii, is that there are loads of food trucks selling different kinds of food. One of the favourites is the garlic shrimp which is served with rice and oh so delicious!

You will find lots of these food trucks up on the North Shore at Pupukea. This is where we first tried Garlic Shrimp. To get there, use google maps to direct to “North Shore Shrimp Truck.”

Snorkel at Shark’s Cove

Girl snorkeling with a sea turtle in Hawaii

Shark’s Cove is one of the best snorkelling spots on Oahu and is located up on the North Shore. It is almost right across the road from a garlic shrimp food truck which is where we had our first garlic shrimp!

This snorkelling spot is a protected area which you can access either off the rocks or from small sandy spots on the shoreline.

While you are snorkelling, look for the “Aloha” on the ocean floor, made from shells and pebbles.

Hike a Hawaiian Ridge Trail!

girl standing near the top of the Wiliwilinui ridge trail hike on Oahu

When we went to Hawaii, one of the things I desperately wanted to do was to hike one of the insane ridge trails!

I did loads of research on which one to do. We wanted one with great views but not too exposed. If you have ever been hiking in Hawaii, you will know that the hiking is on another level!

We settled on the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail and it was great! We felt safe the entire time. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather because it can change suddenly and if it rains the trail will become extremely slippery.

The Wiliwilinui trail is one of the best non-touristy things to do on Oahu so if you are looking to get away from the crowds and other tourists, this hike is for you!

Read the full hiking guide here!

Visit Pearl Harbour

At Pearl Harbour, you will visit the USS Arizona Memorial, where you can learn about a key chapter of World War II history. You will be able to walk through exhibits which will teach you about the events leading up to the attack on Oahu and the aftermath and Interpretive Wayside Exhibits.

You can also join a tour to visit the USS Arizona Memorial or both the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

Watch the Sunset at Sunset Beach

Girl on sunset beach at sunset

Watching the sunset on Sunset Beach is one of the best things to do on Oahu’s North Shore. You will find that you won’t be completely alone as it is a popular sunset spot. However, I think it’s worth it.

Funny story, this is where Dave had planned to propose, however I wanted to leave and get cocktails so he decided to wait. 😅

Cool Down with some Shave Ice

After arriving in Hawaii, you will soon realise that Shave Ice is EVERYWHERE. It is colourful, sugary ice that is shaved off and put in a cup for you to enjoy. It’s a great way to cool down on a hot Summer’s day.

It is mainly sold from food trucks which are also all over Hawaii.

Hike to Manoa Falls

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Distance: 2.7km / 1.7miles | Elevation Gain: 185m / 610ft | Time: 1-2hours

The Manoa Falls Trail is about a 25 minute drive from Waikiki and it is a pretty easy walk to the waterfall through a beautiful rainforest.

You can do this hike yourself or you can join this group tour which includes shuttles to and from the trailhead (which would be an hour on public transport instead of 25 minutes) and lunch!

Relax on a Sunset Cocktail Sail along Oahu’s Waikiki Coast

Moana’s Sunset Cocktail Sail along Oahu's Waikiki Coast
Credit: Tour Provider (via Viator)

Enjoy a 2 hour sunset sail along Oahu’s coastline, sipping on a cocktail while you look out for whales, dolphins and rainbows. If you think of a better way to end a day of adventure in Hawaii, let me know.

Experience a Traditional Hawaiian Luau

Moana Luau Oahu
Credit: Ka Moana Luau (via Getyourguide)

Once of the things we didn’t want to miss out on when we went to Oahu, was a traditional Hawaiian Luau.

In this Luau package, you don’t only get to experience the music and cultural dancing performances, but you also get to enjoy a traditional Hawaiian buffet feast.

Do a Shark Cage Dive

Shark Cage Tour Oahu
Credit: North Shore Shark Adventures (via Viator)

If you don’t feel comfortable enough to go diving or snorkelling with the sharks in the open, now is your chance to try shark cage diving!

This tour starts on the North Shore of Oahu where you will board a boat and sail out into the open ocean. Once you are in the diving cage, you might spot not only sharks but dolphins, sea turtles and even humpback whales in the Winter.

🦈 Book your Shark Cage Dive here: Oahu Shark Dive

Hike to Waimea Falls and go for a swim!

Waimea Falls on Oahu
Credit: Take A Hike Oahu llc (via Getyourguide)

Distance: 3km / 1.9miles | Elevation Gain: 88m / 291ft | Time: 1-1.5 hours

The Waimea Falls Trail is a very popular trail so don’t expect to have it to yourself! However, it is a fun little hike and being able to swim in the waterfall feels like you are truly in Hawaii!

Kayak and Hike on Mokoliʻi Island (Chinaman’s Hat)

This is a pretty unique adventure so if you have the chance to do it you should! Rent a kayak and paddle over to Mokoliʻi Island, more commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat. Once you reach the island, there is a hike you can do to get to a higher viewpoint.

The views you get from both the water as you paddle and from the island are gorgeous so don’t forget a camera of some sort! 😍

Take a Sunset Dinner Cruise in Honolulu

Oahu Sunset Dinner Cruise
Credit: Tour Provider (via Viator)

Book a 2 hour sunset cruise that sails from Honolulu all of way up to Diamond Head and enjoy a delicious 3 course meal onboard followed by cocktails with a view on the upper deck at the Tiki Bar.

Book your Dinner Cruise: Sunset Dinner Cruise in Honolulu

Do a Sunset Photography Tour with Professional Photo Guide

Oahu Sunset Photography Tour
Credit: Oahu Photography Tours (via Getyourguide)

Take photos home from your trip to Hawaii that you will be able to treasure forever and even hang up on your wall because of how good they are!

The great thing about this photography tour is that you will be taking photos at sunset which is the best time of the day for photography. With a professional photographer as a guide, your photos are going to be epic!

💭 Our Thoughts

There are SO many things to do in Oahu and I know if can be overwhelming trying to decide what to do. If I were to go back to Oahu for a few days these are the top 3 things I would do:

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