The tropical island of Oahu has much to offer, from natural beauty to warm crystal clear waters. You likely have heard of the island’s tourist capital, Honolulu, which is the states capital. The largest of the Hawaiian islands you can expect lots of fun things to do in Oahu.
Full of culture, dancing, history and a mighty volcano you are almost guaranteed a vacation of a lifetime. Due to how dynamic this exotic island is, you may be wondering what activities to plan for your next vacation. To help, we have created a list of our top things to do during your visit to Maui, another popular hub in the Hawaiian islands, is less than an hour boat ride away making it a great way to expand your exploring.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Quick Answer: 15 Best Things To Do In Oahu
No tropical vacation would be complete without throwing a mask on and exploring all the life under the sea. Snorkeling in Oahu is guaranteed not to disappoint with warm waters with exceptional visibility. There are many areas around the island where you can enjoy exceptional snorkeling conditions.
Hanauma Bay is the most popular snorkel destination on the island. The sandy beach features calm shallow waters that are protected as a nature preserve. With many colorful fish and turtles, you can expect to see a lot of life below the sea. Sharks Cove is also a popular choice. More known for diving this area is a great place to go if you are looking to avoid crowds. A rocky shoreline keeps the tourists away while being a great hub for snorkeling. Closeby this beach you will find Kuilima Cove which is a great area for beginner snorkelers.
2. Horseback Riding
Horses and beaches, what better two things to combine. You don’t have to travel far to get in on this amazing opportunity as there are many places to do this around the island. Trek through the countryside on trail rides along the north shore of the island. You can weave through forests, orchards and along the water. You can even take one of these horses for a sunset ride along the beach. Talk about romantic.
3. Helicopter Tours
While taking a helicopter tour is likely not something that is always on your radar, it certainly should be when traveling to Oahu. They are surprisingly affordable and give you a unique perspective of this beautiful area. There are many different areas in which to depart on your tour around the island. You will fly above the Diamond Head crater which is a true sight to behold. You will also get a bird’s eye view as you fly above stunning waterfalls, through the lush Nuuanu rainforest, weave through the Waianae mountain range and gaze over the massive pineapple plantations. The crystal clear water gives you beautiful views of the many surrounding coral reefs. Be sure to bring your camera for this one.
For a thrilling bird’s eye view of the island and tropical waters of Hawaii head to the beach and try parasailing. Attached to the boat by a long rope you will fly through the air with a parachute for some unforgettable views. Go on your own or with a friend as you have the experience of a lifetime. The crystal clear waters give you unbelievable views of the ocean. You may even see sharks, dolphins or manta rays swimming through the water below you.
Due to the size of this island there are many stunning beaches to explore. One of the best places for kayaking is in Lanikai. From here, confident kayakers can paddle to the nearby twin islands of Mokumanu and Mokulua. You will find yourself paddling over warm crystal clear waters, be sure to pack sunscreen for your paddle.
Beginner paddlers may be best suited for kayaking in Hanauma Bay. The protected waters have less of a current which allows for an easier and more relaxed paddle. For those in the east end of the island Kaneohe Bay is the perfect spot for some easy paddling that delivers unbelievable views.
If you like hiking at home, you will love it in Oahu. Don’t be scared of the heat as there are lots of lush forests to trek through providing shade. One of the most popular trails is hiking the Diamond Head crater, a less than one mile hiking trail. Erupting around half a million years ago this dormant volcano is safe and stunning.
If you would prefer a walk with a refreshing water source at the end, head to Waimano Falls. Here you will take a 3 mile round trip hike that delivers stunning turquoise pools for you to jump in and cool off. For those looking for a leisurely stroll along the water head to Kaena Point where you will find a beautiful path along the rocky shoreline.
There is a reason so many surfers flock to Hawaii. Stunning beaches deliver impressive waves that any surfer will love. There are many areas for surfers of all skill set to find what they are looking for. With many schools offering lessons, we recommend beginners heading to Waikiki Beach. The waves are smooth and it is incredibly safe. Expert surfers can head to the north side of the island where you will find the site of many premier surfing competitions. For those new to surfing be sure to look for areas that have lifeguards on duty. Winter months produce the heaviest waves making November to February being best for more advanced surfers. There are many rental shops around the island which makes getting into the water even easier.
Oahu is one of the more famous places when it comes to paddleboarding. It has some of the most serene and peaceful spots in the world.
Ala Moana Beach Park is one of these places. It features a sheltered bay with crystal clear waters and the perfect beach. It is near Waikiki Beach but is less busy. You can even try your hand at paddleboard surfing if you paddle past the reef that creates the calm waters.
If you and your partner are looking for a romantic adventure Turtle Bay Resort offers a moonlight paddle board experience. You can even rent paddleboards for an entire day and take them out as the sun is setting for a peaceful yoga session.
An exhilarating yet safe way to tear through the jungle, Oahu offers exceptionally great ziplining tours. The Kualoa Ranch is our favorite as it is where Jurassic Park was filmed. Located on the north east side of the island, we guarantee you and your friends will have the time of your life in this family friendly area. The site offers more than just ziplining as there is a whole eco-amusement park there.
10. ATV Tours
If a wild off roading experience appeals to you, you will love the rugged terrain Oahu has to offer. With many ATV tour rentals around the island you can splash through mud or climb mountains in the sunshine. This is a great opportunity for those fun loving adults who want to get to the wild terrain that you can’t get to by foot. There are multi-rider ATVs that can accommodate up to 5 people so you can travel with your friends.
Are you a thrill seeker? Than canyoneering should be on your radar. This little known sport combines rock climbing with spelunking and rappelling. You will find yourself in chest deep water in a “v” canyon one minute and facing a 40 foot (12 meters) drop through a waterfall as your next obstacle.
Oahu is one of the best places to take part in this activity. Its land features tight areas where you need to be technical all the way to cliff jumping. Needless to say, you will need to have a guide and a low fear response. There are different areas for every skill level so you are guaranteed to have fun.
12. Scuba Diving
This is one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world. It’s tropical climate and warm waters combine with amazing underwater sights to create a diving environment you won’t forget.
If you are just getting into the sport, Oahu is one of the best places in the world to start. Hanauma Bay features waters that range from 10 to 50 feet (3 – 15 meters) and will more than likely be one of your first practice dives. The waters here are calm while still being heavily populated by reefs and marine life.
Hawaii features some of the most unique dives in the world. This is due to the heavy volcanic activity throughout the area. One place you can see this is the Kahuna Canyon. This volcanic activity formed a crater that rises from the ocean and provides a stunning dive. There are caves and coral that you can swim through while keeping your eyes open for Moray Eels, unicorn surgeonfish and even parrotfish.
If you are a more advanced diver you will have to check out the Mahi shipwreck. It sits at 85 feet (25 meters) which means you’ll need your Advanced Open Water certificate from PADI. The ship was sunk in 1982 meaning it is full of coral and marine life. It’s 185 foot (56 meters) body is more than you can get through in one day and will leave you wanting more (in the best way possible).
One thing that Oahu is not lacking is sightseeing spots. It’s truly hard to narrow down everything there is to do.
If you are looking to combine sightseeing with hiking, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse will be one of your best bets. It is a 2 mile (3.2 km) hike along a trail that has amazing sights. Once you reach the end of the trail your payoff is views of the lighthouse which sits on a sheer cliff. This lighthouse is part of the National Register of Historic Places due to its storied past. The trail is a gravel path which doesn’t have restrooms or shade so plan accordingly.
For those who are looking to cool off without going into the ocean, there is the Wet’n’Wild Hawaii. It is a water park that sits on 29 acres of land. There are 25 slides that everyone in the family will enjoy. Young children will love the interactive children’s area while the adults will appreciate the faster paced water slides and relaxing lazy river.
To get the best view on the island, there is the Hawaiian Journey. You will take a flight through some of the most beautiful parts of the island without having to get in an aircraft. This is done by the amazing visuals of IMAX. As you “fly” through the air you will be given a history lesson about each place.
For the history buffs, there is the option of three amazing places: the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the USS Arizona Memorial. Each of these places offers an immersive experience that will teach you about the history of each exhibit. You can even take a boat ride and get up close and personal with the USS Arizona.
More adventurous sightseers will appreciate the tours offered by Atlantis Submarines. If you’ve always wanted to take part in the underwater world but don’t want to get wet, this is the chance you’ve been waiting for. You will get to experience everything from coral reefs and marine life to sunken ships.
Globo Surf Overview
Oahu has something for everyone. If you are adventurous you will love paddleboarding, canyoneering and surfing. For those more laid back, there are history museums that will explain the history of the island. You can even just spend your time on the beach with your snorkel gear. No matter what activity you choose, chances are it will be some of the best in the world. If you are interested in waterproof devices you can our articles for waterproof watches, waterproof mp3 players and waterproof headphones, waterproof duffel bags, waterproof fitbits.
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Have you ever been to Oahu? Let us know what your favorite thing to do was in the comment section below!