Oahu can also be a perfect Hawaiian island to go to if you are looking for classic things to do in Hawaii like hiking and snorkeling.
But really, you can find perfect hikes and snorkeling spots on any island in Hawaii, and that includes Oahu!
Oahu is where you will find the biggest tourist hub in Hawaii of Waikiki!
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.
30+ things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii
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!
You can a number of food spots along Waikiki Beach so you can eat on Oahu with views!
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. You can also go to the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai bar that is a beachfront bar along Waikiki Beach!
Hilton Hawaiian Village: There’s a beachfront lagoon in front of the resort with beach rentals. They also do Friday night fireworks which anyone can watch every Friday (although you can watch the fireworks away from the hotel too!) 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! You can also go to the Moana Surfrider beach bar that is a beachfront bar along Waikiki Beach! 👇
👆 The Moana Surfrider is a famous historic hotel in Oahu. You can join Hawaiian cultural activities like hula lessons and ribbon lei making. Check to see if there will be a historic tour of the hotel while you are in Oahu.
Plus, a spot you can walk to from Waikiki Beach is the Sheraton boardwalk! 👇
See more about things to do in Waikiki for views!
Stop for a photo opp in the heart of Waikiki! It’s the famous Hawaiian surfer statue of Oahu!
For more iconic spots related to surfing, you can also go to the Waikiki surfboard alley!
Amazing Oahu experience you need to consider:
- The best way to swim with turtles in Waikiki: Turtle Canyons snorkeling
There are affiliate links on this page.
📌 Pin this post for later! Save on Pinterest! 👈📌
There is a hula show in Waikiki right by the beach, usually in the evenings on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
See updated timings for the Kuhio Beach hula show when your Oahu travel date gates closer.
You can also see a banyan tree on Oahu when you go to the hula show.
There is a big banyan tree in Waikiki at Kuhio Beach. (This also means you can see it any time!)
See more about this Oahu activity and beyond:
4. Waikiki marine life conservation district
Head to Queen’s Beach for the Waikiki marine life conservation district and the best snorkeling spot in Waikiki when the waters are calm.
The Diamond Head hike is 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.
You need to make a $5 per person reservation before you go to Diamond Head.
Here is the official Diamond Head reservation website.
It’s easier to get tickets if you don’t have a car, since parking requires an extra reservation (+ $10 parking fee) and is more limited.
See more about the Diamond Head hike.
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
Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu.
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 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)
You will want to make a $25 per person reservation before you go to Hanauma Bay.
You can only buy tickets 2 days before, and they go quick. (If you look at recent tickets that have been sold, it tells you when they sold out.)
Hanuama Bay is closed Monday and Tuesday.
See more about how to make reservations for Hanauma Bay.
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
Waimanalo Beach is a beautiful beach that is less crowded.
See more about Waimanalo Beach.
This can be a 1 hour hike when you start on beach side that will give you ocean views and views of the famous twin islands.
Or, you can make it a longer hike and do the whole Kaiwa Ridge Trail!
You can do the Lanikai pillbox hike the front way or the back way!
See more about the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.
13. Lanikai Beach
Lanikai is a (THE!) picture perfect white sand beach, along with views of the famous twin islands.
See more about Lanikai Beach.
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.
See more about Kailua Beach.
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, the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park is a symbol of Japanese culture in Hawaii.
It’s the famous Japanese temple in Hawaii!
You’ll get amazing mountain views as you go towards Byodo-in Temple!
17. 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!
18. 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 theater 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 about Polynesian Cultural Center tickets.
19. Kuilima Cove
A snorkeling spot on the North Shore located at Turtle Bay Resort.
See more about Kuilima Cove.
20. Sunset Beach
Wide stretch of sand on the North Shore.
In winter, Sunset Beach is one of the best beaches for surfing on Oahu.
A 1-2 hour hike that will give you views of the North Shore coast.
See more about North Shore pillbox hike.
22. Shark’s Cove
One of the best spots for snorkeling on the North Shore outside of winter surfing season.
23. North Shore food trucks
Go for some fish tacos at a food truck on Oahu.
24. 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.
See more about Waimea Falls.
26. 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.
27. Laniakea Beach
You might have a good chance of seeing turtles at this beach also known as Turtle Beach.
28. 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.
See about making it a half day at the Dole Plantation.
29. Kukaniloko birthstones
Make a quick stop here on the way to Dole Plantation to see a bit of Hawaiian history.
30. Keaiwa Heiau
A visit to a state park to see an ancient sacred Hawaiian temple.
31. 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.
To go to the famous icon of Pearl Harbor, you will need to make a $1 reservation for the iconic USS Arizona.
33. Iolani Palace
You can tour the inside of what’s called the only “official” royal palace on U.S. soil. See more about a visit to the Iolani Palace.
34. King Kamehameha Statue
If you watch the Hawaii Five-0 TV show, this is kind of a mandatory photo stop!
35. Manoa Falls Trail
A popular 1-2 hour waterfall hike on a forest trail, one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu.
What is Oahu best known for?
If you’ve been planning a trip to Oahu, there’s a good chance you’ve seen both Waikiki Beach and Lanikai Beach in pictures!
Waikiki Beach is THE tourist beach in Hawaii.
There are so many things to do in Waikiki for amazing views!
Lanikai Beach is the famous Hawaii beach photo you’ve probably seen with the “twin islands.”
You need to do the Lanikai Pillbox hike for more amazing views of the twin islands!
Oahu is more than just the beach!
These great Oahu activities are listed below to give you ideas for things to do in Oahu!
There are a lot of things to do in Oahu for FREE!
Do you know where Oahu is located in the Hawaiian islands?! Know where you’re going!
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!
👇 Explore the Oahu map on google maps!
👆 Map of where Oahu is located in Hawaii. The order of the 4 major tourist islands from north to south (west to east) is Kauai (Lihue), Oahu, Maui (Lahaina), and the Big Island (Kona). Explore the Hawaiian islands map.
Oahu, or another Hawaiian island for your first trip?!
Still undecided on which Hawaiian island to visit?! Also see:
HAPPY DOING LOTS OF THINGS ON OAHU!
👇 Explore the Waikiki map on google maps!
See the list:
There are affiliate links on this page. Among other partners, as an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from this.
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!
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.
There are affiliate links on this page. Among others, as an Amazon Associate I may earn from purchases.