ALOHA!

 

So you are thinking about making a trip to the beautiful East Oahu aka the windward coast of Oahu!

The most popular tourist town on the east side of Oahu is Kailua.

Some of the most incredible views on Oahu can be found on the east side of Oahu!

So if you’re staying in Waikiki, it’s a MUST to go!

 

Best things to do in East Oahu

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1. Hanauma Bay

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Hanauma Bay is located at the southeastern point of Oahu.

 

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This is one of the most popular spots for snorkeling on Oahu.

So if you want to get some good snorkeling in when you’re on Oahu, this is one spot to consider.

 

things to do in east oahu: snorkeling at hanauma bay. east oahu snorkeling. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

things to do in east oahu: snorkeling at hanauma bay. east oahu snorkeling. honolulu, oahu, hawaii



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It’s a pretty easy drive to get here from Waikiki.

There used to be a direct bus to Hanauma Bay.

You can still get from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay by bus if you don’t mind a lot of walking with your beach gear. It’s around a 20 minute walk from the bus stop to Hanauma Bay.

But there’s local food near the bus stop to make up for your effort!

The bus stop you’ll get off for Hanauma Bay is near Koko Marina Center, which is where you can find local food like malasadas at the Leonard’s Bakery food truck or a Hawaiian plate lunch at Fatboy’s. (map)

Tickets for Hanauma Bay can sell out, and it costs $25.

Although there are limited walk-in tickets available every morning, it’s best to make reservations for Hanauma Bay before you go.

 

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Things you might want to pack for your Hawaii vacation
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  • For women: Search for a rash guard for swimming and you won't have to worry as much about putting on sunscreen!
  • Water shoes for snorkeling if you won't be wearing fins, or just generally for the beach!
  • Cheapo waterproof phone case so you can capture pictures of colorful fishies swimming underwater!
    • I always have a camera float attached to my phone case that I put around my wrist
  • Snorkeling set: mask and fins
    • Fins allow you to propel further faster (aka see more in less time and energy!)
    • Go cheap if you accept that you need to come up for air frequently: regular swimming googles. They are not as fashionable but if you get swimming goggles, make them the clear kind so you won't be seeing dimmed colors of the colorful fishies!
    • If you are able, I recommend trying out the mask at your local lake (in summer) or pool so you will be good to go in Hawaii when there's actually stuff to see!
  • Travel-friendly turkish towel for the beach (lightweight compared to regular beach towels)
  • For women: Teva walking sandals (one of the best sandal brands for the outdoors, perfect for lots of walking around outside - that's not a lava field!)
  • For men: Teva sandals
  • For women: Merrell hiking shoes (one of the best outdoor shoe brands)
  • For men: Merrell hiking shoes
  • For more ideas, do a search for hiking clothes or swimming clothes!

*As a Viator partner and Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission.


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2. Koko Head hike

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If you’re looking for a good workout in which you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, hike the Koko Crater Railway Trail aka the Koko Head hike!

This hiking trail has also been called nature’s stairmaster because the hike is basically a whole bunch of stairs to reach the summit of Koko Crater.

But there are amazing views waiting for you at the top which could make it worth your effort!

 

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things to do in east oahu: hiking the koko head hike. east oahu hikes. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

things to do in east oahu: hiking the koko head hike. east oahu hikes. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

This crater is basically right across the street from Hanauma Bay.

 

 

3. Lanikai Beach

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For picture perfect beach views, Lanikai Beach can be one of the best beaches on Oahu!

It has even made the list of one of the best beaches in the world by a number of publications.

 

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things to do in east oahu: lanikai beach. east oahu beaches. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

This is also where you can go to see the famous twin islands of Oahu, aka the Mokulua islands aka the Mokes.

One of the negative parts of going to this beach though is that parking can be a struggle.

Another down side of Lanikai Beach is that there are no proper beach facilities here.

 

 

4. Lanikai Pillbox hike

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The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another East Oahu hike that you can get iconic views.

You can make this into a longer hike or a shorter hike.

For the longer hike, it can be a point-to-point hike basically making this a ridge trail as you walk along the mountain range. (Of course, you can also make it an out-and-back hike!) You can consider this the full Kaiwa Ridge Trail.

 

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things to do in east oahu: hiking the lanikai pillbox hike. east oahu hikes. honolulu, oahu, hawaii



 


 

But more popular is to do the short version, starting on the beach/coastal side, and then going a short distance up to the pillboxes, and then going back down.

Either way, you’ll get those amazing views of the Mokulua Islands from above!

 

 

5. Kailua Beach

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Kailua Beach is another one of the popular beaches in East Oahu.

 

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Kailua Beach might be a bit more convenient than Lanikai Beach in many ways, because of the parking situation and beach facilities.

As a proper beach park, Kailua Beach has a parking lot, bathrooms, showers, and lifeguards on duty too.

Getting around Kailua by bicycle can be a fun little thing to do!

 

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things to do in east oahu: kailua bike rental. east oahu biking. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

 

6. Mokulua Islands

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If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to do East Oahu, you can go kayaking!

It’s possible to go kayaking from Kailua Beach as a guided kayaking tour, or you can rent the kayaks to go kayaking on your own.

 

 

7. Waimanalo Beach

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Waimanalo Beach is another one of the most scenic beaches in East Oahu.

This is a beach that doesn’t get as many tourists as some of the other beaches on Oahu.

So there might be a better chance that you can get a little bit more of a quieter beach experience if you go to Waimanalo Beach.

 

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things to do in east oahu: waimanalo beach. east oahu beaches. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

If you’ll be driving to Kailua or Lanikai, you can make Waimanalo be on the way from Waikiki if you make it a drive along the coast (as opposed to an inland drive). So you could stop to check it out along the way!

 

 

8. Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail

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This is a paved coastal trail that will offer you stunning views of East Oahu nearly the entire way!

 

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If you’ll be on Oahu during whale season, it could be a good place to try your luck for spotting whales from far away.

 

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There are binoculars on the trail for you to attempt to spot whales.

 

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Generally speaking the best time for whales on Oahu is considered to be January through March, although the season in which whales visit Hawaii are said to be from November to May.

But even if you won’t be on Oahu during whale season, the ocean views will always be there!

 

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things to do in east oahu: hiking the makapuu point lighthouse trail. east oahu hiking. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

 

9. Byodo-in Temple

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A replica of a temple by the same name in Japan, the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park is a symbol of Japanese culture in Hawaii.

This is the famous Japanese temple in Hawaii.

You’ll get a beautiful backdrop of a mountain range too!

 

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10. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Going to the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden means seeing amazing mountain views!

There are also several small loops you can walk to see a wide variety of plants.

You’ll get mountain views just by driving through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, and there’s also the Kilonani Mauka overlook you might want to stop by!

 

 

 

11. Puu Maelieli Trail

Best things to do in Oahu. puu maeliaeli trail hike in kaneohe, windward east oahu. Hawaii travel blog.

 

The Puu Maelieli Trail is a 1-2 hour hike with views of Kaneohe Bay.

This means you will get amazing views of the east side of Oahu, mountains and ocean!

The Puu Maelieli trailhead is located directly alongside the main road.

It’s also in front of the Valley of the Temples, so it can be perfect to do alongside a trip to Byodo-in Temple.

 

 

12. Kuliouou Ridge Trail

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And finally… if you are looking for a slightly longer hike that’s so Hawaii, then you’ll want to look at doing the Kuliouou Ridge Trail!

This is a half day hike that will having hiking up the mountain with a destination of ocean views of the windward coast of Oahu!

Because of trail access, it’s best to have a car to do the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. (Otherwise, you’ll be adding extra walking getting from the bus stop!)

 

Can you take a bus to East Oahu?

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Yes, you can go to East Oahu by bus!

There is a bus that goes around Oahu, and that includes East Oahu!

You can get to East Oahu by bus from Waikiki, among other places.

But as it goes with taking the bus, it does require time and patience!

But, it is there for you if you are on Oahu without a car!

See more about taking the Oahu bus.

 

Waikiki to East Oahu

East Oahu scenic drive. honolulu, oahu, hawaii

 

Because Waikiki is a bit of a distance from the east side of Oahu, going by car can be the most convenient.

Driving time from Waikiki, although always dependent on traffic, will generally be:

  • To Hanauma Bay – 20-30 minutes
  • To Makapuu area – 30 minutes
  • To Waimanalo area – 30-40 minutes
  • To Kailua area – 30-40 minutes

Also see: Things to do in Waikiki without a car (for VIEWS!)

 

And those are some of the best things to do on the east side of Oahu to consider making a part of your trip to Hawaii!

 

More for beyond East Oahu:

 

HAPPY TRIP TO EAST OAHU!