TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN OAHU, HAWAII (OUTSIDE OF HONOLULU)
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Hello, we're Kristen and Sam. We are travel nurses and spent 4 months in Oahu Hawaii. We have done a TON of things on the island, and we wanted to list our top 10 things to do there.
For a detailed video, watch this below.
SCENIC DRIVE DOWN KAMEHAMEHA HWY
Easily one of the most scenic drives in all of Oahu, Kamehameha Hwy will not disappoint.
We suggest that you start from North Shore and drive all the way down to Kaneohe. We both agree that the drive from North to South is a much better view than starting in Kaneohe, although it is still beautiful if you choose the opposite way.
The drive will take you about 40-45 minutes to complete without stopping, but it will be one of the prettiest drives that you ever take in your life.
On the way, there are several stops that you may want to check out!
Popular locations along this route include Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Park) and Tropical Farms (Macadamia Nuts and Kona Coffee).
Of course Pearl Harbor had to make the list!!
We loved visiting this location so much that we went 3 times during our time in Oahu.
Pearl Harbor is a memorial site on Oahu where Japan bombed the USA bringing the states into World War 11.
I am not going to say much on this topic because I made a very detailed video on visiting Pearl Harbor.
Waimea Valley is a beautiful botanical garden located on the North Shore of Oahu. Not only is the botanical garden beautiful in itself, but it's main tourist attraction here is the amazing waterfall that you can swim in.
General admission is $20 per person. There are discounts for Hawaiian residents, first responders, kids, medical workers, and many more. Check the website for a detailed list.
SHARKS COVE (Pupukea)
Sharks Cove is a very popular spot also located on the North Shore of Oahu. It is a popular snorkel spot due to the many rocks that extend out to the shore. I can definitely agree that this is one of the best places for snorkeling and scuba diving (if not the BEST).
We visited sharks cove many times during our time in Oahu. We never left disappointed! Sharks cove is very family friendly, with a small lagoon that is shallow and safe for kids and beginner snorkelers.
There is also a spot off of the lagoon that can be used for advanced snorkelers, free divers, and scuba divers.
We are both scuba divers and we did a dive about 200 yards out into the ocean and it was definitely the prettiest dive that we have ever done. This dive was so beautiful that I started tearing up into my mask, and at one point I couldn't stop chuckling because it was just so beautiful!
We have seen many amazing fish and sea life here including numerous sea turtles, trumpet fish, huge parrot fish, and other amazing sea life that you can only find in Hawaii!
Be sure to check the conditions if you plan on visiting during off season because the ocean conditions can get really rough. When in doubt, call a local dive shop and ask!
A luau is a definite thing to do when visiting Hawaii in general. Germaines Luau is the one you need to visit! This luau is the one where the locals go to and we really agree that it had a local feel to it.
Cost of attendance is around $100 for general admission. You can also buy the plumeria package for around $140.
General admission gets you the buffet, 1 free alcoholic beverage, unlimited non alcoholic drinks, a table to watch the show, a small shell lei, and a photo opportunity.
The plumeria package perks include everything that general admission gets plus 2 alcoholic beverages, priority to the buffet, closer seating to the show, a free photo, and other perks.
The food here was pretty good, but the Kailua Pork was the best of it all!
Also, if you want to buy more alcoholic drinks, they are very affordable at around $5 per drink!
The show was wonderful! They told you the story behind the traditional luau and where it came from. They also showed you traditions and dances of all of the Polynesian islands (not only Hawaii). We enjoyed seeing this show and were very impressed at the fire dancers.
NU'UANU PALI LOOKOUT
Also known as the Pali lookout by locals.
$5 for parking.
This is by far one of the best and easily accessible views on the entire island! Other than the view, what is so awesome about this location is that this is the spot of the final battle that united the Hawaiian islands.
This lookout is super windy and in fact the name itself means "windy cliff".
You get the most gorgeous views of the east side of the island and out into the ocean.
This was one of our first stops when we visited Oahu and we had to go back to see it for one of our last stops before we left.
KAILUA BEACH PARK
I have to say that this is by far our favorite beach on the island. It is a very popular beach along with it's next door neighbor beach Lanikai Beach. I could argue that these beaches are basically the same. Kailua beach is the most easily accessible out of the two, so we frequented this beach a lot.
Kailua beach is located in the city of Kailua. There is a small parking lot at this beach, but keep in mind that it fills up fast. There were several times that we had to park on nearby streets and walk to the beach because it was so crowded. Parking in the lot is free.
There are restrooms, showers, and life guards at this beach so it is very family friendly.
The water is a crystal clear green color which makes it a perfect beach for swimming, snorkeling or just handing out. There are algae and plants on the ocean floor which attracts sea turtles to the area. Please DO NOT touch sea turtles and keep a safe distance as they are endangered and it is ILLEGAL to touch them.
You will see people doing many water activities here such as kayaking, paddle boarding, wind surfing and many more! This beach is so active!
See our video below over Kailua Beach and our next spot on the list Lanikai Pillbox Hike
LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE
This hike is one of the most popular hikes on the entire island (and for a good reason).
Keep in mind that this hike is not for the faint of heart and is actually pretty challenging with very little shade.
It is rated as a moderate hike by the all trails app. It is 1.8 miles and is an out and back trail. You do have some scrambling up rocks which makes it not very kid or older adult friendly. We actually saw families struggling to finish the trail with their children, and many had to turn back. Please wear hiking shoes for your safety and the safety of others as the dirt is very slippery when climbing up the steep trail.
If you are able to finish the hike (or even hike part of it) the views are absolutely stunning!!
We also hear that this is an amazing spot for sunrise or sunset.
HO'OMALUHIA BOTANICAL GARDENS
If you want an amazing view of the beautiful mountains on Oahu, then look no further than these botanical gardens. These gardens are located in the beautiful town of Kaneohe. Admission is free into the gardens. The grounds are HUGE with tons of beautiful plants to see from all around the world.
Here there are numerous walking trails, a lake, visitor center, and camping grounds all within view of the amazing mountains.
Honestly, you really don't even need to get out of your car to see the amazing views, although I would recommend to exit your car, haha!!
We had to put 2 beaches on this list because Hawaii, duh! Waimanalo beach is our second favorite beach on the island.
Be very respectful if choosing to come to this beach because it is more of a local beach. There is plenty of sand and space to spread out, and I think in fact it is the longest beach on the island.
Waimanalo beach is nestled in the mountains with a cliffside jutting out onto the sand.
I think this is one of the most picturesque beaches that we have ever seen.
During summer the waves are very rough and not optimal for swimming. We did see people swimming in it, but I wouldn't call it very relaxing, haha! We also visited during early fall and it was much more calm to swim.
The sunset is unreal at this beach as well. When we watched the sunset here, the moon peeped out over the island in the distance. Also right before sunset, the sky and water had this most amazing blue hue.
Those are our top 10 spots to see on Oahu! We could definitely name many more locations that we loved, but if you HAVE to choose you cannot go wrong with these :)
Have you ever been to Oahu? What are your favorite spots on the island?