Top Activities in Oahu
From world-famous Waikiki to the surf spots on the North Shore, Oahu’s beaches are the stuff of legends. Luxurious expanses of white sand and jewel-tone water look like postcards come to life. The island’s most storied beach has a big reputation, and Waikiki is everything you’ve heard.
The underwater world off Oahu might not be as famous as some of the other islands, but it's still Hawaii-caliber… which means it’s pretty incredible. Specialized tours lead snorkelers and divers on expeditions to top sites, while many visitors prefer to buy or rent a snorkel set and fins and explore calm spots on their own.
The five exhibit halls in this museum tell the tale of Hawaii and its Pacific neighbors. This is the largest museum in Hawaii and covers everything from volcanology to Hawaii’s gods to Polynesian garments to a Hawaiian Sports Hall of Fame.
Move over Will and Kate, Hawaii has its own royal stories to share. The reach of alii, Hawaiian kings, is still evident throughout the Islands, but a visit to these homes puts the focus on the royal ladies, plus a third who just lived like royalty.
Hovering above the shadowy remains of the USS Arizona is a memorial experience unlike any other. There’s a solemn air on these hallowed grounds, where remnants of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor draw visitors of all ages and nationalities.
The winter waves on Oahu’s storied North Shore are notorious for challenging even the most seasoned surfers, while Waikiki has its own fame as the modern birthplace of the sport and a popular place to learn.
It’s not all about the beach on Oahu. Soaring peaks, dramatic shorelines and lush forests promise a trail for every pair of feet. Most hikes are doable in a day, and trails range from flat paved walkways to rugged terrain. The most famous hike is also one of the most accessible: Diamond Head.
Odds are, if you’re visiting Oahu you’ll be spending at least part of your vacation in Waikiki. And you’re in good company—there’s a reason Hawaiian royals vacationed here, modern Hawaiian tourism started here and the majority of Oahu’s hotels are concentrated here.
Oahu’s got what it takes to give the Garden Isle of Kauai a run for its title. From a rainforest atop a plateau to cacti deep within a crater, Oahu’s botanical gardens present a variety of magnificent sanctuaries.
You may physically be on Oahu, but you can island-hop to beautifully recreated villages from the islands of Polynesia at this Epcot-like attraction. The PCC caters to families, but kids or not, visitors don’t just watch the attractions; they participate in them.
Home to Honolulu and three-quarters of Hawaii’s population, Oahu is the most visited of the Islands. While some people hop off to the Neighbor Islands to get away from it all, Oahu lures city-slickers looking for shopping, dining and nightlife with a tropical twist. It’s here that skyscrapers stand against a backdrop of dormant volcanic craters and traffic fills the freeways while waves lap against the sands of Waikiki beach. A trio of world-renowned icons—Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head—keep many people occupied along the island’s south side. Yet Oahu isn’t all buildings and business. A short drive from the city unveils a more laid-back—some say more authentic—Hawaii. Rustic shrimp trucks and farmers markets tempt drivers to stop along the road. The epic North Shore draws pilgrims to its famous beaches, where surfing is the true religion. Unspoiled valleys and mountain vistas beckon hikers and bikers. Whether you’re looking for city fun or a natural adventure, Oahu answers the call.
Facts & Figures
The Gathering Place
Plate lunch, shave ice, seafood, loco moco, malasadas
Mai tai, lava flow, Blue Hawaii
Aloha shirt, macadamia nut products, tropical soaps and candles
Honolulu is the largest city in the world: the state constitution declares any island not named as belonging to a county belongs to Honolulu. This includes the entire island of Oahu, plus the other small uninhabited islands, islets and atolls in Hawaii. This makes Honolulu about 1,500 miles long—the distance between Los Angeles and Denver.
Iolani Palace, located in downtown Honolulu, is the only Royal Palace in the United States.
Waikiki attracts 72,000 visitors each day.
The hang loose sign (shaka sign), a common surf greeting, was made popular in Laie, on the North Shore. It stems from a local leader who lost three fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident. When he waved at somebody, it looked like the hang loose sign.
On the Windward side in the bay, just offshore sits Coconut Island, which was used in the opening scene for "Gilligan's Island".