My old work colleagues used to joke that I worked ‘fly-in, fly-out’ of Oahu because of the amount of times I visit the island. I’ve been six times in the last three and a half years and have more trips planned. I’ve managed to see and do quite a lot on the island, yet there’s still so much more to explore. But to start, here’s a list of the places I have been and the things I have done to date.
Kawela Bay Beach Park (North Shore)
A short walk from Turtle Bay resort lies Kawela Bay. The secluded sandy beach is a favourite spot for resting sea turtles and the bay means the water is often nice and calm.
Turtle Bay (North Shore)
Turtle Bay is located immediately to the West of Turtle Bay Resort. As the name suggests, it’s frequented by turtles but the rocks can make it difficult to get in and out of the water. It’s a great spot for snorkelling as the water is fairly shallow and there’s plenty of things to see just under the water’s surface.
Waimea Bay Beach Park (North Shore)
If you enjoy cliff jumping and nice sandy beaches, then you can’t go past Waimea Bay Beach Park. Sure parking may be an issue and expensive, but it’s worth it. There’s a huge rocky cliff jutting into the water that is a favourite for adrenaline seekers. Just jump. You’ll love it!
Sunset Beach Park, Haleiwa (North Shore)
Sunset Beach Park is a great spot to chill after a run along the beach. As the name would suggest it’s a favourite spot to watch the gorgeous Hawaiian sunsets, but it’s also a great spot to swim during the day.
Lanikai Beach, Kailua
Lanikai is possibly my favourite beach. The sand is so fine that it reminds me of glitter (as in it sticks to everything) and the water is calm and perfect. You can hire a kayak and paddle out to the northern Nā Mokulua Island or just sit back and soak up the sun.
Waimanalo Beach Park, Waimanalo
Waimanalo Beach Park is a great spot for a picnic or BBQ with friends. While the sun may set on the other side of the island, the view from Waimanalo can be incredible as the sky changes colour before going dark.
Waimanalo Bay, Waimanalo
The water at Waimanalo Bay and Beach Park can be a bit choppy at times, but is great if you want to body surf the small waves or just bob around in the water. Waimanalo Bay is one of my favourite photo spots as the tree lined beach makes for beautiful photos.
Kohola Lagoon, Ko’Olina
Kohola Lagoon is a great spot for people wanting to relax in perfectly calm waters. It’s good for those who want to learn how to stand-up paddleboard but aren’t wanting to take on waves or currents.
Waikiki Beach, Waikiki
Anyone who visits Waikiki will end up at Waikiki beach at some stage of their trip. I prefer to head to the southern end of the beach, closer to the Honolulu Zoo, as it tends to be quieter than the main strip. The calm waters and built up walls make it ideal for weaker swimmers. Just don’t be expecting pristine sand as it’s actually pumped in from the ocean floor due to erosion that has occurred at the beach since the 1980s.
Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, Waikiki
The Lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is open to the public and is a quieter alternative to Waikiki beach. I like sitting by the lagoon with a good book before having a dip in the still water.
Koko Head Stairs, Hawaii Kai
Koko Head stairs are also known as the ‘stairs of doom’ thanks to the 1000+ railway sleepers that line the side of Koko Head crater. Easily accessible by bus from Honolulu, the stairs are a popular exercise spot for locals and travellers alike. The views from the summit are incredible.
Early morning is ideal, with sunrise being a popular time to summit. If you decide to go up before sunrise just be sure to bring a torch and allow about 45 minutes to get to the top if you’re planning on taking your time.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike, Lanikai
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike (aka the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail) is one of the easiest on Oahu. The pillboxes are old WWII bunkers are covered in colourful graffiti which can make for incredible photo opportunities. The start of the trail can be steep but the hike can be made as long or as short as you’d like.
The views are phenomenal. The water looks so turquoise against the pristine white sand and green trees. I could have spent hours just sitting on a pillbox and admiring the views.
Mānoa Falls, Manoa
If waterfalls are more your thing, then take a short hike to Manoa Falls. The hike is short and relatively flat and ends at the beautiful waterfall.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, Waimanalo
If you’re lucky enough to be on Oahu during the whale migration season be sure to visit Makapu’u for an easy hike.
Diamond Head, Honolulu
The hike to summit of Diamond Head is only 2.5 km (1.6 miles) long but some may find it challenging as it can be fairly steep towards the end. Due to its proximity to Waikiki it’s popular with tourists and families so I recommend going earlier in the day before the crowds. The top of Diamond Head provides the best views of Waikiki and Honolulu.
Bishop Museum, Honolulu
Anyone interested in learning about Hawaiian culture and history needs to take a trip to the Bishop Museum. It’s easy to spend hours wandering through the various exhibits while you learn about how the islands of Hawaii were formed, learn how the Polynesians first discovered Hawaii, and learn how the early Hawaiians lived.
Haleiwa Town, Haleiwa
Haleiwa is the artistic hub of the North Shore and is filled with small boutiques and surf shops. It feels like you’re a million years away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki which is why it’s one of the most popular spots on the North Shore.
Makapu’u Lookout, Waimanalo
Makapu’u is one of my favourite photo spots on the island thanks to its vantage point. Head below to Makapu’u beach for a great view of the lighthouse and rabbit island.
Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout
If you want a panoramic view of the windward (east) side of Oahu, then be sure to make your way to the Pali lookout. The lookout is just one of many historical sites on Oahu and was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history.
Valley of the Temples, Kaneohe
For those looking for something different, a trip to the Valley of the Temples should be on the cards. A replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan, stands in the centre of the valley and is surrounded by lush grounds and plenty of wildlife.
Duke Kahanamoku Statue, Waikiki
The Duke statue is a popular photo spot along the Waikiki foreshore. Ofte adorned with fresh leis, Duke stands proud with his surfboard behind him.
Skydiving was always on my bucket list, so on my first trip to Hawaii I booked in for a jump with Skydive Hawaii. Despite being so nervous that I could barely speak in the plane, as soon as the adrenaline hit I was mesmerised by the amazing view below.
Oahu Photography Tour
To say I’m a fan of Oahu Photography Tours would be an understatement. I have been on four of OPT’s photo tours including the sunrise, sunset and Friday Night Lights tour. Alex and his staff are all knowledgeable, friendly, and great tour guides. If you want to see the island, discover hidden gems and take amazing photos in the process then be sure to book in with OPT!
Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe
If you’re after an adventurous day, then be sure to head to Kualoa Ranch. You can go ziplining, ride horses, go ATVing and then finish the day with a tour of famous movie sets. You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped into the jungle as you explore Kualoa Ranch, complete with incredible mountains in the background.
The best view of Waikiki is not from the water, but 400 feet above it. If skydiving is a bit too daunting for your tastes, then go parasailing and enjoy great views whilst being tethered to a boat. Just remember to wear your bathers as you will get wet!
Big Island Tour
If time constraints mean you can’t visit another island, then opt for one of the one-day tours. On my first trip to Hawaii I splurged and went on a one-day tour of the Big Island (the island of Hawai’i) and had an incredible time. You get to visit one of the world’s most active volcanoes before enjoying fresh macadamias at a nut farm and seeing some beautiful waterfalls.
Maui Mike’s Fire-Roasted Chicken, Wahiawa
When heading to the North Shore be sure to stop at Maui Mike’s for some great tasting BBQ chicken!
Wow Wow Lemonade, Wahiawa or Haleiwa
From fresh lemonade to tasty concoctions, Wow Wow Lemonade had a drink for everyone. One of their stops is opposite Maui Mike’s so stop by for a drink after lunch.
North Shore shrimp trucks – 473 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa
All my friends rave about the shrimp trucks in Haleiwa. Most of the trucks stop serving food at 5pm so get in early for your shrimp fix.
Sandy’s Beach – Watch the sunrise over Molokai.
Koko Head – Head up early and watch an incredible sunrise from the top of Koko Head.
Turtle Bay – Stay on the North Shore and head to Turtle Bay or any other of the beaches nearby for a quiet but incredible sunset.
Waikiki – Waikiki beach may be crowded but it can still be a great spot to watch the sunset.
The following places are still on my list of things to see on Oahu:
- Dole Pineapple Plantation
- Pearl Harbor
- King Kamehameha Statue
- Hanuma Bay snorkelling
- Polynesian Cultural Center
- Sugar Mill