Oahu Attraction Guide

Wondering what the best attractions on Oahu are? Check out my Oahu Attraction Guide.

Oahu sightseeing is truly magnificent...there are incredible sights to see, as well as top-notch attractions to visit. The list of "must-sees" include breathtaking views and important historical sites.

Whether you are renting a car, riding "The Bus", or taking a guided tour, here is a taste of the best that Oahu has to offer.

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 tours, I recommend using Barefoot's Cashback Tours because their superb service, quality of tours, and "Low Price Guarantee" can't be beat.

Pearl Harbor and The USS Arizona Memorial

Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor--A top Oahu attraction in Hawaii.

Atop the battleship USS Arizona stands the USS Arizona Memorial. This Oahu attraction is one of the island's most popular, bringing over 1.4 million visitors each year.

This is a "must-see" for a couple of reasons...

  • First of all, it is such an important piece of American and world history.
  • Second, the program is simply outstanding.

The National Park Service provides this superb program that lasts approximatley 1 hour and 15 minutes. It begins with a documentary film followed by a short boat ride to the actual memorial (pictured above).

After all the times I've taken countless visitors there throughout the years, you would think I would get tired of the place...Not so.

Every time I visit this Oahu attraction, I am reminded of its enduring significance. This is a very solemn and sobering experience so be prepared and be respectful.

Enjoy this short video on Pearl Harbor and beyond...

The Arizona Memorial is open seven days a week except Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.

  • Hours--Park is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The first program begins at 8:00 a.m. (7:45 a.m. in summer), and the last one is at 3:00 p.m.

    It is best to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon because the middle of the day gets crowded.

  • Cost--Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Right next to the USS Arizona Memorial are the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum (pictured), and the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial. The USS Bowfin is one of only 15 World War II submarines still intact today.

The USS Missouri was the site of the signing of the peace treaty between the United States and Japan at the end of World War II. There is a charge for both of these Oahu attractions.

Sidebar--Be careful not to leave any valuables in the car as break-ins have been reported here. Also, security has become very tight since 9/11. Strollers, diaper bags, backpacks, or any other type of bag are no longer allowed. Cameras and video cameras are permitted.

Polynesian Cultural Center

This famous Oahu attraction is located in Laie, on the Northeast shore, about a one hour drive from Waikiki. It is the #1 paid attraction in Hawaii having over 31 million visitors since it opened in 1963.

The cultural center is actually a nonprofit organization founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of the employees and performers are students at adjoining Brigham Young University Hawaii.

Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu

Upon arrival at the cultural center, you will learn about various Polynesian cultures including Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, the Marquesas, and Tonga.

You will then have the option to experience an authentic Hawaiian luau. Without a doubt, the highlight of this Oahu attraction is the evening show, Horizons: Where the Sea Meets the Sky.

  • Hours--Open Monday thru Saturday (closed Sundays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Presentations begin at 12:30 p.m. and end at 6:30 p.m. Luau runs from 5:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Evening show starts at 7:30 p.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m.
  • 2008 Rates--varies from $58-$215 for adults (ages 12 and older) and $47-$165 for children (ages 3-11). Children under 3 are free, but don't get their own seat at the evening show. The price varies due to different packages, and whether or not you need transportation.

    The most popular package is the Alii Luau Package which costs $83 (without transportation) for adults and $59 for children. It includes admission to the exhibits, luau, and evening show.

My Suggestion--Although this is an extremely popular Oahu attraction, here is my honest opinion...Either do a luau OR the Polynesian Cultural Center. Do not do both.

If you are really interested in learning about different Polynesian cultures and history, you will definitely enjoy this. Otherwise, you might feel this place is overrated. You can get a similar experience at a luau for less money.

Another thing to consider...the cultural center is at least an 8 hour event. The exhibits open at 12:30 p.m., and you don't want to get there any later than 2:00 p.m. if you plan to see everything. The evening show ends at 9:00 p.m. If you are staying in Waikiki, it is an hour drive each way.

Nevertheless, I do think the exhibits and presentations here are of very good quality. If they weren't, this wouldn't continue to be the #1 paid Oahu attraction.

If you decide to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, get the Alii Luau Package ($83) which includes the exhibits, luau, and evening show.

If you are planning on attending another luau and would still like to check out the PCC, get the package that includes the exhibits and evening show only (no luau). The cost is $58 for adults and $47 for children (transportation not included). You can explore the center in the afternoon, and either eat at the snack bar, or there are a few places to eat down the road. Then come back for the show at 7:30 p.m.

Sidebar--If you drive yourself, it will be 9:00 p.m. when the show finishes. Much of the road along the North Shore is not very well lit. If you are unsure about how to get back to Waikiki, just follow all the tour buses...:)

Oahu Luaus

"Luau" is probably one of the first words you associate with Hawaii...and a very popular Oahu attraction. It is simply a get-together with family and friends for some good food and good times.

Delicious Luau Food!

Luaus are one of Hawaii's signature attractions, and Oahu offers four of them. They all offer traditional Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua pig (cooked in an underground imu, or oven), laulau (pork and butterfish wrapped in taro leaves), lomi salmon (salmon, tomatoes, and onion), and haupia (coconut dessert). Some offer American dishes as well.

  • Germaine's Luau
  • --Located on the leeward (west) coast about a 30-45 minute drive from Waikiki. It includes all-you-can-eat buffet with American and Hawaiian favorites. This comes with three drink coupons and complimentary soft drinks, coffee, and tea.

    The show features authentic entertainment from Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand. Roundtrip transportation is provided from Waikiki. This bus ride is actually one of the best parts of the experience because the guides are excellent and make you feel like family. Click here for more information.

    Paradise Cove Luau

  • Paradise Cove Luau
  • --Also located on the leeward (west) coast in the Ko Olina Resort about 5 minutes from Germaine's Luau. Paradise Cove has Hawaiian and American dishes as well. They also invite you to participate in traditional crafts and activities. Click here for more information.

  • Polynesian Cultural Center Luau--See information above.
  • Royal Hawaiian Luau--This is the only luau in Waikiki and is on the grounds of the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

    • 2008 Rates: $99.25 for adults and $55.25 for children 5 to 12 years old (children 4 years and under free).
    • Hours: Begins at 6:00 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays
    • January 2008 Update--The luau will not open on 4/7/08 and 4/10/08. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel will be closing for a major renovation beginning in June so the luau will not be open from June 2008 until further notice.

My recommendation--If you want a good basic luau, go to Germaine's. If you want to do a little bit more like participate in arts & crafts...or activities, go to Paradise Cove.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Nuuanu Pali Lookout--A beautiful Oahu attraction...and one of the windiest spots in Hawaii

This Oahu attraction offers one of the best views on Oahu. The lookout is nestled amidst the Koolau Mountains and overlooks the windward (east) side of the island.

The first thing you will notice as you approach the lookout is the drastic change in climate. It will feel cooler and more wet than Waikiki on the southern shore.

The other thing you will notice is the gusting wind travelling up the side of the mountain. Hold on to your hats because this is one of the windiest spots on the island!

  • Cost: This Oahu attraction is the best kind...Free!
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily

Punchbowl Crater

The view from Punchbowl Crater--The National Cemetary of the Pacific...one of the best free Oahu attractions.

This is another historic Oahu attraction. Within Punchbowl Crater lies the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific. 33,230 U.S. service men and women from four wars are buried here.

Once you're in the crater, you will get a great view of Honolulu, starting from Diamond Head all the way to...appropriately, Pearl Harbor.

At the top of the memorial, there is an inscription that describes this Oahu attraction perfectly. It reads: "The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom"--Abraham Lincoln.

  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily

Sidebar--I know that many of my website visitors are in the military. Just a quick "shout-out" to all of our brave men & women..."THANK YOU...THANK YOU...THANK YOU...Hope to see you in Hawaii soon!".

Dole Pinneapple Plantation

Dole Pineapple Plantation--A tasty thing to do on Oahu, Hawaii.

What is a trip to Hawaii without having some Hawaiian pineapple? This is one Oahu attraction you will definitely have to taste. Click here to read more....

Sea Life Park

Dolphin Cove at Sea Life Park--One of my favorite Oahu attractions!

This may be my favorite Oahu attraction...I know it is my kids' favorite! When I was a kid, I never got tired of it, and I still enjoy going there. Click here to read more...

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace--The only royal palace in the United States.

This Oahu attraction is the only royal palace in the United States. It was the residence of Hawaii's last two monarchs: King Kalakaua, and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani. Here you can learn about Hawaiian history before statehood.

  • Cost: Guided Grand Tour-$20 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-17. Children under 5 are not permitted on the guided tour. Self Gallery Tour-$6 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-17.
  • Hours--Open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
  • Phone: (808) 522-0822

For a complete list of Oahu attractions and activities with a "Low Price Guarantee", check out Barefoot Cashback Tours.

Looking for more active pursuits? Check out my Oahu Activity Guide.

Want some aquatic ideas? Check out my Oahu Water Activity Guide.

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