8 things to do in Oahu, Hawaii

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Tina Edwards

Tina Edwards

With 227 miles of shoreline, Oahu* is the most visited of the five Hawaiian islands. Say "Aloha" to its paradise beaches, adventure activities and easy-going residents - there's plenty to love about this stunning destination. Here are eight things to do in Oahu, Hawaii.

The beautiful shores of Waikiki Beach © RB Fact - Adobe Stock Image
The beautiful shores of Waikiki Beach © RB Fact - Adobe Stock Image

Getting to Oahu: browse the latest great deals on fares to Hawaii with major international airlines when you search and book via Kiwi.com*.


If there's one thing that Hawaii is famous for, it's the magnificent beaches. For a spot that feels like yours alone, aim for the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of Kailua Beach or neighbouring Lanikai Beach - lookout closely for the street signs, it's not easy to find!

Waikiki Beach - although busy - is worthy of its reputation. You'll find powdery sands, turquoise waters and an upbeat atmosphere pouring from the bars and cafés.

If you're planning on spending the day at the beach, be aware that most restaurants around Waikiki are notoriously expensive. Happy to splash out? Head to the island's capital, Honolulu, to lounge on the most cosmopolitan rooftop restaurant, The Hideout. Alternatively, pack a picnic and watch the sun go down from your private seat on the sand.

Hike & bike

Hawaii is one of the most scenic archipelagos in the world; if you're after a waterfall, the Manoa Falls trail is one of the most accessible hikes. You'll be met with lush rainforest and groves of bamboo on your way to the top, before being rewarded with the breathtaking sight of water tumbling down from a height of 150 ft.

Hiking the ridge above Waimanalo Beach, Oahu © Marvin Chandrah - Flickr Creative Commons
Hiking the ridge above Waimanalo Beach, Oahu © Marvin Chandrah - Flickr Creative Commons

On the North shore, Waimea Valley is another trove of natural treasures. A much more comfortable incline than Manoa Falls, you can breeze past rare flowers and plants, before reaching Waimea Falls, which you're invited to swim in.

Fancy a pedal? Start at Waikiki Beach and cycle along the promenade to reach Diamond Head, a striking volcanic crater.

Find adventure in the water

Water babies will be spoilt on Oahu. Rent an aqua cycle - a large tricycle that you can pedal in the sea - to spot Hawaiian sea turtles. You'll be in for a memorable kayaking session if you take a paddle around Kane'ohe, with its striking mountains and never-ending views of the Pacific Ocean.

If you're a fan of the waves, you might make the most of them by renting a bodyboard or taking up surfing lessons on the calmer waters in the southwest of the island. Perhaps you'll leave it to the experts and watch them where "everybody goes surfing" - in Waimea Bay.

Surf's up: watch the pros at Waimea Bay © Kelly Headrick - Adobe Stock Image
Surf's up: watch the pros at Waimea Bay © Kelly Headrick - Adobe Stock Image

Adrenaline junkie? Hawaiian Parasail will take you as high as 1,000 feet. Nervous adventurers needn't worry about flying solo - two of you can fly at once. The views of Honolulu and the surrounding volcanic landscape are unforgettable. Go along with a sense of humour - the boat drivers have been known to give flyers a sudden dip in the ocean!

Head to Hollywood's favourite locations

Oahu has an impressively long list of TV and movie credits. Kong: Skull Island, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle are just a few of the more recent movies that have filmed scenes on Oahu.

Rom-com fans will love staying at Turtle Bay Resort where the majority of Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed, whilst following the locations of 50 First Dates will take you to stunning viewpoints.

Peckish? Follow in the footsteps of Drew Barrymore's character Lucy Whitmore in heading to Hukilau Café, a popular neighbourhood food spot that serves mean macadamia nut pancakes.

Try some of the local dishes

A humble and wildly popular meal on Oahu is loco-moco. Order it in its classic form, and you'll enjoy a comforting dish of rice topped with a hamburger, gravy and a fried egg. Across the island, it's reinterpreted with various ingredients - try it with Kobe style beef at Aloha Table on Kalakaua Avenue.

Loco-moco Hawaiian style © Brent Hofacker - Adobe Stock Image
Loco-moco Hawaiian style © Brent Hofacker - Adobe Stock Image

Seafood fans won't be disappointed by the many opportunities to enjoy garlic shrimp - locals make the most of the abundance of these juicy crustaceans in Hawaiian waters. Look out, too, for Japanese-Hawaiian fusions; for poke that's been featured in the New York Times, head to Ono Seafood, a modest hole-in-the-wall that serves eight different kinds.

Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is remembered as one of the most significant events of World War II. The surprise attack on the United States led to the country's formal entry into World War II the next day.

USS Arizona from above at the Pearl Harbor Memorial - photo courtesy of the United States National Park Service
USS Arizona from above at the Pearl Harbor Memorial - photo courtesy of the United States National Park Service

Visitors will find it hard not to be moved by the Remembrance Circle, which pays tribute to military personnel and civilians who lost their lives, while history buffs will be fascinated by the artefacts and memorabilia in the exhibition.

Treat yourself at the shops

In Honolulu, you'll find decadent high-end shopping. Kalakaua Avenue's Luxury Row boasts more than 111,000 sq ft of international retailers including designers such as Chanel, Gucci and Saint Laurent.

Want to take a breather from the sun whilst you browse? International Market Place is a sheltered shopping mall with slightly more affordable stores. There's plenty of places to eat for all budgets here too, from Mexican to Japanese.

Like to boat party? All ahoy!

Oahu knows how to party, and you don't even need to wait until the sun goes down. Boat companies offer morning sailings to the Kane'ohe Bay Sandbar, a raised area of land where you can play volleyball and snack from your boat's BBQ, all whilst playing in waist-height oceanic waters.

If you'd like a calmer cruise, check out Holokai Catamaran, whose attentive bartenders will make sure your glass is always full.

Prefer to stay ashore? Hit the Hilton Hawaiian Village; a free firework display takes place every Friday evening, all year round. Locals and tourists are known to gather to watch the spectacle, whilst residents of the hotel can enjoy a family-friendly pool party with inflatable toys and music to end the night.

Weather in Oahu

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Tina Edwards

Tina Edwards
Posted on Tuesday 14th January 2020 in: Beach Excursions Nature North America

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