Oahu Activity Guide
Wondering which Oahu activity is a must-do? Let me share with you the best things to do on Oahu...things that you simply must-do while you are there.
Whether you are renting a car, riding "The Bus", or taking a guided tour, here is a taste of the best activities to do on Oahu.
Remember, contact a knowledgeable Hawaii Travel Agent to get the best rates on rental cars or better yet...combine it with air and/or hotel in a package deal.
If you are planning on taking any guided activity tours, I recommend using Barefoot's Cashback Tours because their superb service, quality of tours, and "Low Price Guarantee" can't be beat.
Oahu Circle Island Tour
I recommend you do this Oahu activity when you first arrive. Going around the island is the best way to familiarize yourself with it.
It is a great way to see the different contrasts of climate, scenery, and lifestyles within Oahu. You will get a little taste of everything. Besides, you can always come back to your favorites.
NOTE: This tour was created as if you only have one day on Oahu and want to see everything. Pick your stops according to your personal situation.
- USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Try to get there early before the tour buses. The park hours are from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Programs start at 8:00 a.m. (7:45 a.m. in summer) and run every 15 minutes. They last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. The last one is at 3:00 p.m.
- Head up toward Oahu's North Shore
Stop at the Dole Plantation and have some pineapple or Dole Whip or both! Learn about Hawaii's plantation history, and see how pineapples are grown.
As you come down Kam Highway through the pineapple fields toward the North Shore, Waikiki will seem like a world away. You will get the feeling that you are about to see something special...and you will. Welcome to Oahu's North Shore!
Stop at historic Haleiwa town on the North Shore. Soak in the laid-back lifestyle...and downshift to the relaxed pace. Take your time and browse through this cool town.
Grab a great burger for lunch at Kua Aina Burgers. For dessert, try some shaved ice with ice cream at Matsumoto's Shaved Ice.
Stop at one of the many great beaches like Haleiwa, Waimea, Ehukai, or Sunset. During the winter months (November-February), be ready to see some world-class surfing. This is a picture of the famous "Banzai Pipeline" at Ehukai Beach Park...look carefully at how small the surfer is on the wave!
Shark's Cove is one of the best spots on Oahu for one of my favorite Oahu actvities...
snorkeling (and diving).
Caution--During the winter (November-February), Shark's cove is too rough and dangerous to be in the water. Snorkeling (or any other Oahu activity) should only be done from March-October...or when there is no surf. Large surf can still hit the North Shore at any time so exercise caution.
As you head toward Kahuku, keep an eye out for fresh fruit stands along the road. Stop and sample some great local fruit. Notice the stark contrast to Honolulu. This is what we call "the country".
You will pass the Polynesian Cultural Center and the towns of Laie and Punaluu. You will probably find it difficult to believe that there can be such a contrast between this side of the island and Waikiki. Welcome to the windward side!
- Chinaman's Hat
Chinaman's Hat gets its name from its resemblance to what Chinese workers used to wear...makes sense right?
Technically, Chinaman's Hat is a cone-shaped lava formation located off of Kualoa Point. You can actually walk out to the island during low tide.
- Pali Lookout
This is a great view of the windward side of the island. Hold on to your hats, because this is one of the windiest spots on the island.
Head back down the Pali Highway and drive toward Waimanalo. If you look very carefully, you will spot the house from Magnum P.I. It is on the beach side as you leave Waimanalo before hitting Sea Life Park.
- Sandy Beach
This is a popular beach for bodysurfing, boogie-boarding, and surfing.
Caution--DO NOT TRY TO SWIM HERE. IT CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
- Halona "Blow Hole" Lookout
The "blow hole" is actually a lava tube which waves blow water through.
Right next to the blow hole at the bottom of the cliff is a little sandy cove where From Here To Eternity was filmed.
From the "Blow Hole", drive along the coast toward Hanauma Bay. This may be the most scenic coastline on Oahu.
- Hanauma Bay
Snorkeling is a must-do Oahu activity and this is the place to do it. Definitely come back here if you have time.
- Kahala and Diamond Head
Drive through the area known as the "Gold Coast of Oahu"...very nice homes here. Maybe you can look for your own piece of paradise. This house is only $15.2 million...
Stop at Diamond Head Lookout for some great pictures.
It should be getting pretty close to dinner at this point so it's time to start thinking about where to eat...How about some Hawaii Regional Cuisine (or Pacific Rim Cuisine)?
Wherever you decide to eat, savor the day's memories and start planning your next Oahu activity...
Oahu Activities in the Water
You cannot leave Hawaii without experiencing the ocean...and I mean really experiencing the ocean. In fact, I made a separate page just for Oahu activities in the water...Click here to see my Oahu Water Activity Guide.
Hike Up Diamond Head Crater
Diamond Head is actually a dormant, or non-active, volcano. The trailhead is actually in the middle of the crater.
It is a short hike, with only a distance of 1.4 miles round trip. However, it is relatively steep with a 99-step staircase at the top. Relax and just take it slow. This hike would be classified as an easy to moderate Oahu activity.
It takes approximately 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to complete, and the view at the top is well worth it. You will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view starting with the entire leeward coast and all the way around to Koko Head.
- Hours--6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The best time to do this Oahu activity is in the morning because it can get quite hot. Bring water, sunscreen, and your camera!
- Cost--$1 admission and $5 for parking.
Watch People Surf
You are where surfing originated, so it would be appropriate to see people participate in the "sport of kings". Depending on the time of year, you will be able to witness great surfing action somewhere on Oahu.
During the winter months, huge waves consistently pound the North Shore, known in the surfing world as the "seven mile miracle".
If you are fortunate enough to be on Oahu when there is a professional surfing contest going on, this is an Oahu activity you won't want to miss. You will be able to watch the best surfers in the world ride some mammoth waves. The main contest venues are Pipeline, Haleiwa Beach, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay.
Here is the scene at Ehukai Beach Park (where Pipeline is) during a contest.
Check this website, www.triplecrownofsurfing.com, to see if there will be any contests going on while you're there. If so, call the surfline number, (808) 596-SURF, to see if the event is on for the day. Regardless if there is a contest, the surf report will at least give you the current conditions for the day.
Caution: During the winter, the North Shore is the "mecca" of the entire surfing world so be prepared for crowds and some traffic.
During the summer months, the best place to witness this Oahu activity is the South Shore, or the "Waikiki side" of the island. The waves aren't as big as the North Shore, but you will still be able to see some great surfing.
Some great places to watch surfing along the South Shore are:
- Sandy Beach-You can see surfers, boogie boarders, and bodysurfers all at the same beach.
- Waikiki Beach-So much activity going on here. You can soak up the whole atmosphere here and watch some mellow surfing.
- Diamond Head-Great vantage point from the lookout of surfers and windsurfers.
Remember to call (808) 596-SURF to get current conditions.
WARNING--Respect the power of the ocean. All that energy that comes toward the shore in the form of waves has to go back out somewhere. Rip currents go back out to sea in the channels between the breaking waves. For the most part, you cannot see these rip currents so BE CAREFUL. Obey all posted signs, and ask a lifeguard if it is safe to go in the water.
Didn't find an Oahu activity that appealed to you? There are many different tours available on Oahu...so there is an Oahu activity for everyone. Click here to find your favorite Oahu activities.
Sidebar--If there is one thing you take from this site, I hope this is it. Please don't forget the most important Oahu activity...enjoy yourself. You are in paradise.
Take in the heavenly scenery, listen to the sound of the ocean, breathe in the refreshing tradewinds, smell the exotic flora.
Enjoy this magical time with your spouse, companion, or friend. Enjoy your children. After all, this is heaven on earth...:)
Click here for Oahu's best attractions.
Click here for Oahu's best water activities.
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