best things to do on oahu

12 Best Things To Do in Oahu | The Ultimate (Simple) Guide

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Oahu, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. If you're only visiting for a short amount of time, you'll want to try to fit in the the best things to do in Oahu! I've lived in Hawaii a total of almost 7 years, and these are my favorite things to do.

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best things to do on oahu
best things to do on oahu

Best Things To Do in Oahu

I created a simple and unique guide to the island of Oahu. These 12 things are the highlights of the island if you’re moderately adventurous, like me πŸ™‚ Nothing too dangerous, and nothing too boring! These things to do are great for couples and families, within your own limits of course. Let’s dive in together as we go through these awesome activities on Oahu, Hawaii!

Where to stay on Oahu? My top 3 favorite hotels!

  1. Royal Hawaiian (known as the pink hotel) Super cute hotel right on Waikiki strip!
  2. Four Seasons Ko’Olina (luxury and relaxing experience)
  3. Parkshore Waikiki hotel (budget friendly) with the best view of Diamond Head, it’s at the end of the Waikiki strip

1. Lanikai Pillbox Hike is one of best things to do in Oahu!

Lanikai Pillbox hike is my favorite hike on the island! My favorite time to go is early afternoon. It is pretty hot with no shade, but it only takes about 30-40 minutes to hike up. You’ll drive past the Kailua Beach Park, into Lanikai neighborhood and park on the left side of the road where you can find parking.

The views are 360 degrees of beautiful mountains! You can see the neon blue waters below with the reef peeping through, and the Moke islands on the horizon. Below, you’ll see the neighborhood of Lanikai. You’ll need to go through the town of Kailua to get to this hike.

Parking is free alongside the road in the Lanikai neighborhood. There are certain hours you cannot park there, and the signs along the street will tell you accordingly. Be respectful of the residents that live there, and do not pick mangoes from their trees!

The location of the trailhead is here. It’s 1.7 miles round trip and it’s rated as hard by All Trails. Personally, I don’t think it’s “hard”. I think it’s moderate. It’s steep and the dirt is loose, so you just have to be careful. Know your limits. This hike has no shade and tends to get hot, so bring extra water.

Price: FREE

Best Time To Go: Sunrise or early afternoon

Bring: Water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, hiking tennis shoes

2. Hike Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

The hike to Makapu’u Lighthouse is a paved, uphill road about 2 miles roundtrip. It’s not shaded at all, and it’s a dry environment. It’s best to go early in the morning and not wait until it get so hot that you fry (just kidding). But it does get HOT. You’ll need to bring sunscreen too! I recommend this reef safe sunscreen from Amazon!

There is free parking and a parking lot dedicated to the trail. If the lot fills up, you can park alongside the road beside the parking lot.

You might get lucky enough to see the mongooses here in Hawaii! They LOVE this area and they will quickly scurry across the trail or into the bushes.

Once you get to the top of the trail, the BEST lookout is to the left right before the concrete staircase. The lookout overlooks Waimanalo Beach and Sherwoods Beach. You can also see a few tiny islands in the distance. One of them is nicknamed “rabbit island” because it looks like a little rabbit! πŸ™‚

Price: FREE!

Best Time To Go: Early in the morning

Bring: Water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, hiking tennis shoes

best things to do in Oahu
Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike

3. Visit the original Sunrise Shack (this is a must)

The Sunrise Shack is A MUST. It’s a shack that’s literally painted yellow and has the BEST Acai bowls on the island. It also has Bullet Proof Coffee that’s delicious. It’s locally owned and operated.

Be sure to bring your camera here because it’s an “Instagramable” location!

I get the Monkey Bowl or the Blue Dream Acai bowl and they’re both heavenly! You’ll also find chickens wandering around, I love them! If you’re lucky, you’ll see a pack of wild hogs roaming through the Plumeria farm behind the shack!

Parking is across the street alongside the road for free.

Price: Avg. $10.95 – $11.95 for an Acai bowl

Best Time To Go: Anytime

Bring: Camera & wallet πŸ™‚

4. Kayak to the Mokes

This kayak trip is beautiful and something unique to do on Oahu, Hawaii. It takes about an hour and a half one way depending on the conditions to paddle out to these islands. You could just kayak around Kailua Beach Park and around by Lanikai beach. You don’t really have to go to the Mokes if you don’t want to. It’s just a really unique and fun option! There’s options to take the tour as well. If you’re an experienced swimmer and have kayaked before, you can do this on your own. But if you feel uncomfortable and would like to have more guidance I recommend taking the tour.

Rent a kayak or use one that you already own, and you can rent for a half day or a full day by visiting Kailua Beach Adventures!

You can park at this location here and simply take the kayak to Kailua Beach Park. You’ll drag it across a small pond that’s knee and ankle deep water out to the beach, put the kayak in to the ocean, and hop in! You’ll want to hang to the right, staying alongside Lanikai beach until you need to take a sharp left, straight forward to the Mokes. You don’t want to go diagonally against the beach the entire time, because the reef and waves get a little stronger out there. It’s easier to kayak if you hug the shoreline until you need to head straight out to the Mokes.

Once you reach the island, be sure to drag your kayak securely onto the beach. Be sure to bring your tennis shoes with you if you want to look around. There’s some lava rock areas with a small trail you can walk around if you’d like.

The views anywhere on the island looking towards Lanikai and Kailua are breathtaking! I’d recommend wearing a swimsuit and sunglasses when paddling out.

Price: FREE! Excluding kayak rental of ranging from $69- $109 depending on the type of kayak and how many hours you want to book

Best Time To Go: Early in the morning or afternoon

Bring: Swimsuit, water bottle, snacks, sunglasses, reef safe sunscreen, hat, hiking tennis shoes, waterproof packaging for cell phone and cameras

Kayaking to the Mokes at Kailua Beach

5. Get a professional photoshoot (Why wouldn’t you while you’re here?!)

If you’re traveling with your family or your loved one… Why would you NOT get a professional photoshoot? Out of all of the beautiful places on Oahu, you definitely want to book a professional to capture your loved ones for your special Hawaii trip. This is one of the best Oahu activities for couples and families!

Why wouldn’t you want to use your iPhone? Well, because a professional photos honestly just don’t compare. iPhones are for sure high-tech right now, but the comparison still isn’t there for iPhone photos vs. professional photographer photos.

Another reason is because a professional photoshoot is like you’re booking an experience as well. You want to relax, have fun, and be stress-free. Let someone else tell you the best and most aesthetic poses and have a good time with your loved ones capturing the most unique shots, that you just can’t get on your phone.

Here are the photographers I recommend and why:

  1. Aloha Dreams Photography
  2. Jenna Lee Pictures
  3. The WanderingB Photography

Aloha Dreams Photography has a simple and very easy booking system, so you can book online! They specialize in one and two hour portrait sessions for couples, families, engagements, proposals and elopements. They have a 7 day quick turnaround, drone option, and the editing style is bright, colorful and vibrant!

Jenna Lee Pictures specializes in couples, particularly weddings and elopements! They’re adventurous! They also have the Tribe, which is a team of photographers that specialize in family and couple portraits. The sessions are an hour to two hours and has a drone option. They have a light and airy editing style!

The WanderingB photography specializes in the adventurous couple for portraits, elopements and weddings. She’ll take you on epic hikes and overlooks to get the shot you’re looking for. Her sessions are one hour to two hours. Her editing style is warm, soft with pops of orange, teal, and green.

best things to do in Oahu
Family photoshoot at Kailua Beach with Aloha Dreams Photography

6. Catch the sunrise at Lanikai Beach

Lanikai beach sunrise are the BEST. If you’re staying in Waikiki, it’s about a 40-45 minute drive. To be honest, it’s so worth it. The sun rises above the ocean, and lights up the Moke islands and the crystal clear waters of Lanikai beach. In the summertime, you can expect the sun to rise around 5:40-5:50am. In the winter, the sun rises 6:40-7:00am approximately. This is honestly one of the best things to do on Oahu, Hawaii!

Price: FREE!

Bring: Towel, swimsuit if wanting to swim, camera

Best things to do on oahu
Sunrise at Lanikai Beach

7. Watch the sunset at Sunset Beach on the North Shore

Make it a North Shore Day Trip! On the North shore of Oahu, I like to first stop by the Sunrise Shack and get an Acai bowl. Then head over to Sunset Beach for a beach day! After that, my favorite food trucks are here (North Shore Tacos is my FAV!) You can enjoy watching all the chickens at this food truck location! Be aware… They will actually jump up on the table if you let them!

North shore Oahu To Do: (my favs!)

  • Sunrise Shack
  • Sunset Beach
  • Keiki’s Beach
  • North Shore Taco Truck
  • Dole Plantation
  • Haleiwa town shopping

Price: FREE! Unless you buy food/shopping of course πŸ™‚

Best Time To Go: Early afternoon and stay for sunset at Sunset Beach

Bring: Water, snacks, sunglasses, hat, swimsuit, sunscreen, beach towels, extra change of clothes for the day

best things to do in oahu
Sunset Beach, North Shore Oahu at Sunset

8. Book a tour of Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Park Oahu)

I’m not huge on tours and having tour guides, but this experience, is WORTH IT! Kualoa Ranch is where Jurassic Park was filmed, along with over 200 other Hollywood movies and TV shows! Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, 50 First Dates, You, Me and Dupree, Hawaii Five-0, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbor, Windtalkers, Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Jumanji, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle… to name drop a few! If you’re looking to tour the famous Jurassic Park in Oahu, don’t miss this!

The two-hour Raptor Tour is what you want to book. It does cost $ but trust me, if you’re coming to Hawaii to visit and want something epic to do and have a little “fun” money, this is an experience you’ll want to pay for. It’s a minimum of two passengers for this reservation. The ATV’s sit up to 6 guests, and a vehicle will be reserved for every 6 passengers in the reservation.

When I did this, I was with a friend and we got our own ATV Raptor vehicle to rip around! We switched off and on driving. The tour itself is about two hours, and you’ll be driving in a line behind other vehicles most of the time. You won’t be able to go off roading alone! But it’s still LOTS of fun and the most beautiful views of Kualoa Ranch!

IMPORTANT TO NOTE:

  • Tours go out rain or shine, so conditions may be dusty or muddy and you may get dirty.
  • Minimum driver age is 21 years old. Minimum rider age is 5 years old.
  • Drivers must have a valid driver’s license and may be liable for any damages to the Raptors if damage is caused by negligence or recklessness.
  • A liability waiver must be signed by all guests prior to departing on the tour.
  • When reserving online, one vehicle is reserved for every 6 guests included in the reservation.
  • We suggest wearing appropriate clothing, footwear and bringing sunglasses.
  • Advanced reservations are recommended as tours may sell out.
  • 2-hour tour time includes training and safety briefing

Price: Adult $144.95 & Child (5-12) $69.95

Best Time To Go: Anytime!

Bring: Water, sunglasses, camera

best things to do in Oahu
ATV Tour at Kualoa Ranch

9. Hike the Crouching Lion Hike

Crouching Lion hike is so beautiful overlooking the lush green mountains and the bay! This hike is a must see if you’re an avid hiker! The hike itself is moderate-hard and takes about 15-20 minutes without stopping to reach the top. Be sure to park in the little dirt area off the road by the hike. There’s limited parking, so it’s best to do this hike early in the morning or late morning to avoid parking issues and crowds.

This hike is safe! Stay on the marked trails and don’t go too close to the edge. Follow the little pink ribbons that are usually wrapped around the tree branches. It’s uphill and pretty steep, so wear hiking boots with GOOD grip on them. This trail is mostly dirt and rocks that are loose, so be careful. When it rains, it will be VERY muddy. Be prepared to dirty up your hiking shoes!

It’s called “Crouching Lion” because of a rock formation at the top that looks like a…. you guessed it – crouching lion! This hike has 360 views of mountains, valleys and the ocean! This is one of the BEST places to see in Oahu! The view from this hike is breathtaking.

Price: FREE!

Best Time To Go: Early in the morning or late morning

Bring: Water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, hiking tennis shoes (good grip)

best things to do in Oahu
Crouching Lion Hike

10. Go paddle boarding in Waikiki

Paddle boarding is so much fun, especially in the shallow waters of Waikiki! There are so many rental choices, you have a lot to pick from.

Bring your water shoes for stand up paddle boarding! If you fall off the board, there are shallow, sharp reefs here that you can fall onto. It’s no fun to get a sea urchin stuck in your foot! πŸ™

The beautiful clear and shallow waters of Waikiki draw in so many people. It’s fun to get away from the beach crowds, and stand up paddle board. It’s totally safe, and you’ll see there are many other people out there doing it too.

Price: Paddle board rental fee

Best Time To Go: Morning & early afternoon

Bring: Water, snacks, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, swimsuit, beach towels, paddle board, water shoes

Photos by Shylee Stocks

11. Walk downtown Waikiki at night to see the city lights and have a nice dinner

My husband and I enjoy going to Waikiki and having a date night, then walking the Waikiki strip afterwards to look at the lights. This is one of the best things to do in Oahu for couples! You can park for only $6 at the Honolulu Zoo parking lot, then walk over to Waikiki (about a 5 minute walk). You can also park at the Royal Hawaiian parking center and get your ticket validated if you buy something at the shops there or eat at a restaurant. Be sure to remember to validate your ticket and don’t lose it if you park here, otherwise it’s a $50 fee. And yes, we have done that TWICE πŸ™ boooo, sad day!

12. Watch the fireworks in Waikiki on Friday Night

Every Friday night in Waikiki by the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon, there is a firework show! How cool is that?! It starts around 7:45pm – 8:00pm every Friday night. They rope off a part of Waikiki beach, and you can sit outside of this rope. If you decide to park here, it’s better to park a little further away and walk there after the show. Because if you park in the Ala Moana Bowls parking lot, it gets VERY congested and can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and half just to get out!

This is a free firework show! Bring a towel or beach chair to sit in, and enjoy!

best things to do in Oahu
Firework show in Waikiki

best things to do in Oahu

Firework show in Waikiki

Best beaches on Oahu? 8 Best Beaches in Oahu

1. North Shore Sunset Beach

2. Waimanalo Beach

3. Hanauma Bay

4. Waimea Bay North Shore

5. Lanikai Beach

6. Sandy’s Beach

7. Kailua Beach

8. Paradise Cove in Ko’olina

9. Makapu’u Beach

The things you can’t miss…

You just can’t miss going on at least one hike, one tour, and driving around the island to explore the different activities and locations! You can’t miss the North Shore and Kualoa Ranch. Those are must go to places on Oahu! Thanks for reading my blog, catch ya next time πŸ™‚ Be sure to share this with your friends and family!

My photography gear:

  1. Sony ZV-1F Vlog Camera for Content Creators and Vloggers White
  2. Sony a7 III ILCE7M3/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera (base only)
  3. Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 for Sony Mirrorless Full Frame
  4. Camera Backpack 17.3 inch (with laptop flap)
  5. 128 GB memory card SanDisk
  6. 5 TB external hard drive

abby hawaii

Aloha

We are Abby & Nash Hagen, a married couple who lives in Hawaii and loves to travel the world! Our goal is to help you with your travels, and inspire you to get outside to see God’s beautiful world! :)

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