Arriving to Oahu by flight means that you will fly into Honolulu Airport.
You probably won’t be able to do ALL of these things on the list below during your short time on Oahu.
But when it’s your first trip to Hawaii, the things to do on Oahu that are on this list can be perfect for a first-time visitor to Hawaii.
There will be a little bit of hiking…
There will be some waterfalls…
A little bit of snorkeling…
A little bit of Hawaiian culture…
Of course beaches…
TONS of amazing views!
These great Oahu activities are listed below to give you ideas for things to do in Oahu!
There are affiliate links on this page. I may earn a commission from this.
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
PLUS... Oahu tour, or on your own: Can you visit Pearl Harbor without a tour?
30+ things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii
If you are simply overwhelmed by the amount of activities to choose from, also have a look at this Oahu itinerary that breaks things down by region with just a few of the top picks – closer to top 10 things to do on Oahu!
See below for the Oahu bucket list!
In addition to TONS of FREE things to do in Oahu, it also includes some of the best Oahu tours for more epic Oahu experiences!
The order of these things more or less goes around the island in a loop:
What to do on your trip to Honolulu!
1. Waikiki Beach
As the most popular area to stay on Oahu, you probably won’t have to try hard to make it to Waikiki Beach!
Do expect crowds, but it also does come with convenience by staying in a tourist area!
Iconic hotels in Waikiki
Views of Waikiki Beach flying into Honolulu.
Here are Waikiki resorts you can see or visit, even if you’re not staying there.
Royal Hawaiian pink hotel: The pink hotel you can spot from a plane as you’re flying into Honolulu airport! There’s the Royal Hawaiian bakery here if you want to stop in. 👇
Hilton Hawaiian Village: There’s a beachfront lagoon in front of the resort with beach rentals. They also do Friday night fireworks every Friday (although you might want to catch that away from the hotel for the best views!) If you watch Hawaii Five-0, you’ve probably seen this hotel a lot on TV! 👇
Moana Surfrider: Called the “First Lady of Waikiki,” it’s on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. You can admire the architecture of this heritage hotel as you’re walking on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki! 👇
And being a popular Oahu resort area, there are a number of amazing tours that you can take directly from Waikiki Beach. Get out on the water to sail the ocean off the shores of Waikiki! These are tours that start in Waikiki:
- Morning snorkel sail along Waikiki Beach
- Waikiki sunset cocktail cruise
- Group surfing lesson along Waikiki Beach
Look for the tour reviews!
Plus, you can make it an Oahu circle island tour with hotel pick-up from Waikiki included:
- Hidden gems of Oahu circle island tour with North Shore snorkeling and swimming with turtles (snorkeling is ocean permitting! aka if the waves aren’t rough.)
- Waimea waterfalls and circle island adventure tour
2. Duke Kahanamoku Statue
Stop for a photo opp in the heart of Waikiki!
3. Kuhio Beach sunset hula show
FREE hula show in Waikiki right by the beach, usually in the evenings on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. See updated timings for the Kuhio Beach torchlighting and hula show when your 2021 Honolulu vacation dates get closer. (This hula show was cancelled in 2020.)
4. Waikiki marine life conservation district
5. Diamond Head Hike
A 1-2 hour hike with views of Waikiki. This is the most popular hike near Waikiki, and there are many ways to get to Diamond Head.
6. Kuliouou Ridge Trail
A half day hike with ocean views.
7. Koko Head Hike
Basically you’re climbing straight up an old railway – this hike has also been called nature’s stairmaster! A strenuous hike that leads to amazing views!
8. Hanauma Bay
Cost: $25 (starting July 2021)
One of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu.
IMPORTANT!!! The cost to visit Hanauma Bay has gone up recently so be sure you are getting the most accurate cost info before you go. Check current entry fees from the County of Honolulu.
Starting July 2021, the Hanauma Bay entry fee is $25 per person, age 13 and older.
Alternative to Hanauma Bay: If you’re willing to pay for snorkeling (because it’s HAWAII and you’re willing to pay for amazing experiences!), then be sure to look at one of the best Oahu snorkeling tours from Waikiki. That will get you a boat ride on the ocean too! And if you’re staying in Waikiki, you don’t have to think much about how to get there. (With Hanauma Bay, you need to take the Oahu bus, you need a car, or you need to book a shuttle.)
9. Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail
Paved coastal trail with chances of seeing whales from far away during whale season, which generally speaking is winter months. There are binoculars on the trail, or bring your own!
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is near Sea Life Park.
10. Makapuu Beach
Try this beach for boogie boarding. You can buy boogie boards at the ABC store (convenience store) in Waikiki. There is one of these stores on practically every block.
11. Waimanalo Beach
White sand beach on Oahu that gets less tourist visitors.
12. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
1 hour hike when you start on beach side that will give you ocean views and views of the famous twin islands.
13. Lanikai Beach
Picture perfect white sand beach, along with views of the famous twin islands.
14. Kailua Beach
One of the best beaches on the east side of Oahu with beach facilities.
You can also go kayaking from Kailua Bay to the Mokulua Islands (aka the Mokes) as a guided kayak tour or by renting a kayak from a local shop.
You can also sail to the twin islands off the shores of Oahu: Hawaiian sailing adventure tour to the Mokuluas.
15. Puu Maelieli Trail
A 1-2 hour hike with views of Kaneohe Bay.
16. Byodo-in Temple
A replica of a temple by the same name in Japan, a symbol of Japanese culture in Hawaii.
17. Polynesian Cultural Center
The Hawaii of today has a lot of Polynesian influence. So a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center can also be considered an educational trip to learn a bit about Hawaiian culture.
Do this as an all-day activity to learn about Polynesian culture through hands-on activities as you “experience” different Polynesian islands.
The evening can involve a luau with Hawaiian food and entertainment, and then you can end it with a fire show at the theatre after dinner. I went into the evening fire show without any expectations and I thought it was really awesome!
You can buy an all-day ticket that includes admission for both the daytime activities and evening activities. See more.
18. Kuilima Cove
A snorkeling spot on the North Shore located at Turtle Bay Resort.
Kuilima Cove: See more about this Oahu activity.
19. Sunset Beach
Wide stretch of sand on the North Shore. In winter, this is one of the best beaches for surfing.
A 1-2 hour hike that will give you views of the North Shore coast.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike: See more about this Oahu activity.
21. Shark’s Cove
One of the best spots for snorkeling on the North Shore outside of winter surfing season.
22. North Shore food trucks
Go for some fish tacos at a food truck on Oahu.
23. Puu O Mahuka heiau
See a bit of Hawaiian history with a trip to this ancient sacred Hawaiian temple. Also go for the sweeping views of the North Shore.
This is a visit to the Waimea Valley nature park. You’ll walk through botanical gardens and a Hawaiian cultural site.
Waimea Falls Trail: See more about this Oahu activity.
25. Waimea Bay
One of the best beaches on the North Shore with beach facilities. In winter, this is one of the top beaches for surfing.
26. Laniakea Beach
You might have a good chance of seeing turtles at this beach also known as Turtle Beach.
27. Dole Plantation
It’s free to roam around the grounds, but you’ll at least want to eat a famous Dole whip at THE Dole pineapple plantation!
There are also a few paid activities on-site as well.
28. Kukaniloko birthstones
Make a quick stop here on the way to Dole Plantation to see a bit of Hawaiian history.
29. Keaiwa Heiau
A visit to a state park to see an ancient sacred Hawaiian temple.
29. Aiea Loop Trail
2-3 hour hike on a forest trail in central Oahu at the Keaiwa Heiau State Park. After your hike you can end it with a picnic in the park!
A reflection on a big part of U.S. involvement in World War II. Entering the grounds is free (which can still be worth it), and there are also paid museums to visit too.
This is a national park site in Hawaii that you can find on Oahu, as a designated national memorial.
While it’s popular to go here as a part of a tour, you can visit Pearl Harbor on your own too.
31. Iolani Palace
You can tour the inside of what’s called the only “official” royal palace on U.S. soil. See more.
32. King Kamehameha Statue
If you watch the Hawaii Five-0 TV show, this is kind of a mandatory photo stop!
33. Manoa Falls Trail
A popular 1-2 hour waterfall hike on a forest trail, one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu.
And there are some of the top things to do on Oahu!
How to make some of these top Oahu activities a part of your Hawaii vacation?!
If you have 2 weeks on Oahu, then you might be able to do all of these things.
If your time on Oahu is (much) less, then see ideas for how to put some of the highlights into a 3 day Oahu itinerary!
Oahu travel planning map
For the visual of where these places are located around the island, have a look at this interactive Oahu map to help plan out your days!
Oahu, or another Hawaiian island for your first trip?!
Still undecided on which Hawaiian island to visit?! Also see:
HAPPY OAHU TRAVEL PLANNING!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Oahu maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip to Honolulu!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on the Oahu:
- Sailing the ocean on a Hawaiian canoe to a small island
- Hidden gems of Oahu circle island tour + North Shore snorkeling
- Kayaking the ocean to a small island
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight: Oahu waterfalls, mountains, and valleys including the North Shore and Sacred Falls
- Sunset cruise on the ocean