Best Attractions in Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu attractions are quite diverse with a wide variety of activities for you experience from snorkeling among the coral reefs to watching the surfers battle the Banzai Pipeline to an invigorating hike up the 1,200 stairs to Nu’uana Pali Lookout. The island of Oahu is home to some of the most exciting sightseeing adventures you can find in Hawaii. Oahu also has some of the best beaches in the world such as Sunset where you can gaze at incredible colors at twilight time while you walk the white sandy beach. If you like to learn about the cultures of the world than Oahu is the ideal place for gaining knowledge of the Polynesian people. There are relaxing adventures such as the Byodo-In Temple where you can master meditation or you can visit the movie set at Kualoa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed. So whether you have an hour after your cruise ship docks or several days, you can find interesting and fun-filled excursions to keep you active while on Oahu.
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Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is the ideal Oahu attraction for first-time guests and families to the island. Located about an hour from Waikiki, this cultural center has eight distinct villages that highlight the cultures of indigenous people from Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, the Marquesas and Tahiti. Each village is unique and offers cultural attractions from each island. Patrons will be thrilled while participating in such activities as hula and ukulele lessons as well as canoe riding in the lagoon. This package includes all entrance fees and travelers can choose to add the best luau in Oahu for an exciting dinner adventure. This activity is a must do for all patrons traveling to Hawaii.
Photo by Daniel Ramirez
The Kauloa Ranch is one of the most memorable Oahu attractions you can visit. The Kauloa Ranch has everything that is pure about the Hawaiian landscape from white sand beaches to serene countryside to incredibly rugged mountains. Once you enter the Kualoa Ranch you will be amazed at the beauty of this former working cattle ranch. Another great thing about Kauloa Ranch is that everyone seems to have the child within brought to life by touring the ranch on a horseback ride or whether your adventure includes a drive on an all-terrain vehicle. Added bonuses of Kauloa Ranch are the numerous interpretive signs and knowledgeable guides that take you through this pristine landscape which includes areas that block-buster like movies like Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park and even episodes of Hawaii Five O where filmed. Whether you decide to include a stop at Kaulua Ranch with other exciting attractions like Diamond Head or the North Shore, you will surely remember this place that time forgot.
Photo by Daniel Ramirez
When you visit the island of Oahu you cannot miss traveling to the famed North Shore where surfing is king and the beaches are spectacular for watching the world class athletes compete. The North Shore is a must see Oahu attraction that will leave you speechless as you watch the waves break over the ocean. When you visit the North Shore you will view such hotspots as Waimea Bay, the Banzai Pipeline and the quaint little town of Haleiwa. One of the exciting things about the North Shore is that you can learn from the experts how to surf and find the big waves to cut into while you glide over the water. Excursions vary from a stunning sunset helicopter ride to a full-day tour with stops at Hanauma Bay, the USS Arizona and you can combine a zipline ride which makes for an adrenaline filled day when combines with surfing. For others who are comfortable in the warm waters there is a shark dive or just simply snorkel the coral reefs just off-shore.
Sea Life Park
If you have always been curious of what lives in ocean or underwater then a trip to the Sea of Life Park will cure all of your inquisitive thoughts. This Oahu attraction is ideal for families and anyone who loves the water. At the Sea of Life Park you can swim with sea lions, dolphins, stingrays and even feed the majestic sea turtles. The Sea of Life Park is a true aquatic adventure with many options for you to choose based on budget, curiosity and the age of your children. The Sea of Life Park can be an all-day experience or you can spend as many hours as you wish and its prime location just north of Hanauma Bay is spectacular for viewing the colorful coral reefs and swimming in the calm lagoons which are encompassed within the park. Another added bonus the making of a perfect day is including a luau which features the hilarious Chief Sielu who will have your stomach hurting from the laughter.
Photo by MarlonBu
The Byodo-In Temple is a spectacular must see Oahu attraction which is situated in the lovely Ko’olau Mountains within the Valley of Temples. The Byodo-In Temple is serenity filled sanctuary which is modeled after the 1,000 year old Buddhist temples in Kyoto, Japan. The architecture is stunning and peace radiates throughout this gorgeous place as you learn about the Buddhist priests and way of life from interpretive signs as well as interactive exhibits. The Byodo-In Temple is situated a short distance from the town of Kane’ohe and there are a variety of excursions that will take you to this magical place which includes the Golden Buddha statue. Tours include stops at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Pearl Harbor as well as the Dole Plantation and you can decide on what size of group you are comfortable traveling with from small to large.
Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout
One of the best vantage points on the island of Oahu is located atop a stunning 1,200 foot cliff and is called the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. At this Oahu attraction you can gaze out over such incredible places as Chinaman’s Hat and the sparkling waters of the Kane’ohe Bay. Getting to the top of Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is half the fun as you travel up the very windy Pali Road which travels through tunnels within the tropical landscape of the Ko’olau Range. Once on top you can learn the history of the battle that tookplace in 1795 when the mighty King Kamehameha forced hundreds of enemies off the side of this sheer cliff. To reach Nu’uanu Pali Lookout you can participate in wide variety of excursions that include this gorgeous vantage point along with stops at Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and even the North Shore beaches such as Sunset as well as the eclectic community at Haleiwa.
When you think of pineapple, you probably think of the company named Dole. Over the years dole has become synonymous with pineapple and the Dole Plantation has become one of the most popular Oahu attractions for many years. The Dole Plantation was founded by James Dole who started growing pineapple on the island over a hundred years ago. The Dole Plantation is a fascinating place which mixes the culture of business and the culture of the island into an incredible experience of learning. As you walk through the Dole Plantation you will treated to many interpretive and interactive exhibit which explain the history behind the fabled plantation. Once at the Dole Plantation you can ride the Pineapple Express Train through the fields, smell the sweet scent of hibiscus in the air and even taste the wonderful flavors of innovative island cuisine at the Plantation Grille. You can visit the Dole Plantation in mixture of ways from a large guided tour bus to a private coach with stops at Waimea Waterfall to an excursion of the North Shore where you can visit the plantation and beaches like Sunset as well as view the Banzai Pipeline.
Photo by Prayitno
He'eia State Park
Situated on the beautiful Kane’ohe Bay on the eastern coastline of Oahu, He’eia State Park offers plenty of adventure from relaxing to water activities. This Oahu attraction is a great place for you to explore everything that the east coast of the island has to offer. He’eia State Park is located between the He’eia Fish Ponds and He’eia Kea where you will find stunning views of the Ko’olau Range, picnic tables and several hiking trails for your enjoyment. There are numerous ways to visit He’eia State Park which include excursions that sport standup paddleboard lessons to snorkeling in the warm waters to catamaran sailing to a guided tour of the He’eia Fish Ponds. No matter which you choose you will be pleased with serenity of the 18-acres of tropical landscape that encompasses He’eia State Park.
Photo by Lee Harkness
Most people who visit the tropical landscape within Ko’olau Range belief the area to be a mountain range with its varied terrain which includes slopes that peak out at 3,100 feet. But this Oahu attraction is actually a portion of the larger ancient Ko’olau shield volcano. The Ko’olau Range begins behind Honolulu and extends to the islands eastern coastline where a millennia ago half the volcano fell into the ocean. From the top of many undulating hills you can view spectacular rainbows and the Ko’olau Range has many small cascading waterfalls that are created from the regular rainfall. There are a number of quality hiking trails for you to travel on with ease as you explore this lush green tropical area. Accessing the Ko’olau Range is easy by car as you wind around on Pali Road which features many tunnels cut into the volcanic rock. You can also take numerous excursions which feature a helicopter flyover or a day of surfing on the eastern coastline or view the Ko’olau Range while kayaking from Kailua Beach.
Moku o Loe - Coconut Island
Coconut Island is a wonderful small island off the shoreline of Kane’ohe Bay and is an Oahu attraction that is packed with a beautiful tropical landscape. Coconut Island is only 28-acres in size but has plenty to offer from stellar beaches to interesting history. Originally used the native Hawaiians for farming and fishing, Coconut Island was once owned by an heir to the Fleischman Yeast fortune. After purchasing Coconut Island Christian Holmes expanded the size from 12 to 28-acres and constructed a private residence with a saltwater swimming pool and outdoor bars which featured a collection of exotic animals from around the world. During World War II soldiers stationed at Kane’ohe Bay used the facilities for recreation of leave. Another interesting twist to Coconut Island was its appearance on the Gilligan’s Island show as well as other program cameos. Today you can view the pristine tropical landscape on several excursions that range from a catamaran and snorkeling adventure to kayaking around Coconut Island to an all-day tour which includes a trip to Volcanoes National Park.
Photo by Edmund Garman
When you are tired of the crowds and the urban center of Honolulu, then you should try this relaxing Oahu attraction which will take you the North Shore and Haleiwa. This small community is ideal for you when you search for something unique with an attitude all of its own. Once at Haleiwa you will experience community at its finest from small boutique stores to vendors on the beach to trucks packed with surf boards traveling the two lane road. Haleiwa has a dual identity and summer brings a laid-back atmosphere for beach barbequing under the sun and plenty of flat waves for boogie boarding the shoreline. When winter hits Oahu, the surfers hit the big waves at Haleiwa for fun and for competition. You can access this piece of paradise by taking a seaplane excursion or a tour of the North Shore and once there you can even take a surfing lesson at Haleiwa Beach Park. One thing for sure when you visit Haleiwa you will enjoy an excellent day on the beach.
Photo by Clement Faydi
Mokoli'i - Chinaman's Hat
One of the popular sightseeing destinations for you in Oahu is a trip to take photgraphs of the famous island of Mokolii or Chinaman’s Hat. Located off the coast of Kuala Point, this Oahu attraction has been viewed for centuries by the native people of Hawaii and is now easily accessed by several ways where you can explore the pristine coastline of this tiny island. Chinaman’s Hat is small but worth the effort to reach by kayak or by boat and when the tide is out you can even walkout to the island. Chinaman’s Hat has two golden sand beaches for you to relax upon while soaking up the sun and is you are shape you can take the 20-minute climb to the top of the island. You can include this exciting location in numerous excursions that range from a ride along the North Shore to horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch to snorkeling in the surrounding coral reef to a safari jeep which will take you through the jungles and beautiful beaches of Oahu.
Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park
The Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park is one of the last original ahupua’a that is still intact on the island of Oahu. Before the native Hawaiians had contact with the outside world their belief system did not allow for land ownership but rather a community of peoples would receive a sectional piece of land that would extend from the mountains to the sea. The formation of ahupua’a ensured that each community had sufficient water and land to sustain the community. The Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park is situated between the Koolau Mountains and is a fabulous 5,300-acre preserve which reminds people of the traditional belief systems of Hawaiian people. This Oahu attraction is ideal for nature viewing and hiking where you can travel the Kapa’ele’ele and the Nakoa Loop trails which take you into a picturesque valley that contains an ancient fish pond, and a gorgeous beach park. You can camp year-round in this portion of paradise and Kahana Bay maybe shallow but swimming can be dangerous. You can reachAhupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park with several excursions such as a ride in a seaplane or helicopter as well as by a coach.
Photo by Ken Lund
If you are searching for an interesting cultural Oahu attraction that will please all of senses and leave you with a happy stomach than you should try visiting Paradise Cove for a spectacular luau. The luau at Paradise Cove is a fabulous mixture of culture, entertainment and great food. Paradise Cove is fashioned after a Hawaiian village where you will watch a stunning sunset from the beach before partaking in an excellent evening of native presentations that teach you the culture and history of the Polynesian people of Hawaii. At Paradise Cove you will watch the beautiful traditional hula dances of the Polynesian peoples and learn how the Polynesian’s cook their pig in a traditional Imu or underground ceremonial oven. Your meal is served family buffet-style where you can indulge in a tropical mai tai before and during your feast. With transportation included with most excursions you night at Paradise Cove will be fun and relaxing.
Photo by Jennifer Boyer
Waimea Valley is a fascinating Oahu attraction which combines history, cultural and nature into an interesting journey into the past. Known as The Valley of the Priests the special nature preserve has one of the last intact ahupuaa on Oahu for visitors to see. Waimea Valley is situated on 1,873-acres of tropical paradise with walking trails and plenty of interpretive as well as interactive exhibits explain the importance of the valley to the people of Hawaii. You can visit Waimea Valley while taking several tours which include stops at the Dole Plantation, Waimea Falls, Fern Grotto or include a walk up Diamond Head’s crater for that natural look of the island. You can also select an excellent helicopter excursion which soars high above the best spots on the North Shore like the Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. There is even a dune buggy adventure which is sure to please with stops along the North Shore which includes Waimea Valley. And once you leave the incredible Waimea Valley you will understand why this valley was named the Valley of the Priests.
Photo by Garden State Hiker
Laie Point State Wayside Park
One of the most beautiful Oahu attractions is the Laie Point State Wayside Park on the North Shore of the island. Laie Point State Wayside Park is a little bit of heaven sliced up and put right behind a residential neighborhood. The Laie Point State Wayside Park is remembered for wonderful scene in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshal when Peter and Rachel jump from the lava cliffs into the ocean below. Some people even come to Laie Point State Wayside Park just for this reason: to jump into the ocean but many will find the climb back up the lava cliff very challenging, especially in the winter months when the surf is strong. Even if you don’t jump there are beautiful vantage points to watch Humpback whales migrate in the winter and spring months. There are a number of tours you can take that include a stop at this picturesque North Shore beach. Travel in a luxury convertible at your own pace or take an eco-tour which provides stunning views of several waterfalls or you can choose a nice day that stops at Pearl Harbor as well as the Polynesian Cultural Center. Whether you decide on a small group, private or large group tour, you will enjoy the sights and sounds of the surf at Laie Point State Wayside Park.
Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm
You will probably take some home with you or eat quite a few while you are visiting the island and you will learn that the macadamia nut is actually from Australia. That’s right, Hawaii is not the country of origin for this buttery tasting nut and there are very few orchids that you can visit that have macadamia nut trees. There is one Oahu attraction which will put you in the middle of a great orchid of macadamia nuts. The Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm is a great way to learn more about the history of this nut on Hawaii. The Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm is just north of the Kaneohe as well as a hop, skip and jump from the world renowned Kualoa Ranch which makes touring this plantation even better. You can visit this fun-filled environment in several ways including on a safari jeep ride or a jungle bus and you can usually combine the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm with a tour of the North Shore or Pearl Harbor or the Polynesian Cultural Center. Whichever tour you decide on, you will be happy to know the true history behind this favorite nut of many people around the world.
Photo by Brock Roseberry
Hawaii Plantation Village
The Hawaii Plantation Village is a great Oahu attraction that will intertwine the history of the sugar cane business in Hawaii. Located near the old Oahu Sugar Company plantation the Hawaii Plantation Village lets you explore the diverse culture which was created when migrant field workers from Korea, Japan, Portugal and China arrived to work the fields. Composed of 25 buildings which were either moved to the site or constructed in place, the Hawaii Plantation Village brings the history of these cultural origins into an easy and understandable setting where you will learn about the workers of this once prominent Hawaii business. As you walk through the grounds of pristine tropical gardens you can taste a variety of cuisine which has emerged on Hawaii and nurtured for generations which has joined the flavors as well as cooking techniques from around the world.
Photo by Meredith P.
Adventures in Kaneohe Bay will leave you awestruck as you wander around this stunning bay. Visiting Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of the island will have you taking numerous photographs of this special place which includes views of five islands such as Chinaman’s Hat. You can decide on a variety of ways to visit Kaneohe Bay which includes kayaking to the soft white sands of the Sand Bar as the tide slowly recedes into the ocean. Although the beach area is not particularly swimmer friendly you can easily paddle around this protected bay. Another bonus of Kaneohe Bay which makes this a stellar Oahu attraction is that you can combine a visit to Kualoa Ranch which has played home to many exciting movies from Jurassic Park to Pearl Harbor. Other fascinating ways to visit is by catamaran which includes snorkeling with a thousand different brightly colored tropical fish. No matter whether you decide to kayak, paddleboard or take a fishing trip you will be pleased with your decision to visit Kaneohe Bay.
Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
The Valley of the Temples is a must see Oahu attraction when you visit the island. Just imagine pristine gardens with a zen like attitude that calms your soul as you walk through and view the several memorials within the Valley of the Temples. The park was created in the 1960s to commemorate the first wave of Japanese immigrants that made Oahu their home some 150 years ago. The Valley of the Temples was designed after the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through this serene place you will be pleased with the sweet smell of incense and the gorgeous landscape of koi-filled ponds. The Valley of the Temples is more than a memorial; the grounds are the final resting place for thousands of Buddhist, Christians and Shinto that have died calling Hawaii their home. There are several ways you can visit including a daytrip which allows for a stop at Waimea Waterfall as well as a half-day excursion around the North Shore of Hawaii. No matter how you choose to go the Valley of the Temples will definitely raise your level of serenity in your mind.
Photo by Kim
Visitors to Ko Olina realize very quickly that there is more to this Oahu attraction than just a few swanky hotels such as the Aulani Disney Resort and Spa or the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. Sure Ko Olina is a master-planned vacation development but visitors can enjoy a variety of activities from watching an LPGA event to lounging on the gorgeous man-made beach which boasts beautiful sand from the island of Lanai. The strategically placed rock levies keeps the ocean calm which makes for ideal swimming conditions. There are numerous ways for you to visit Ko Olina including by helicopter which incorporates a dolphin encounter into the mix or by water on a fascinating catamaran ride which includes snorkeling and even whale watching. So climb aboard and either fly or sail into one of the most pristine vacation developments in the world.
Photo by Haka´s photos
Waimanalo Beach Park
Waimanalo Beach Park can easily be referred to as paradise when you gaze upon the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean while you walk or lounge on the three mile stretch of soft white sand. Over the years Waimanalo Beach Park has become one of the star Oahu attractions for visitors and locals to pass a day in peace or barbeque with family as well as friends. This gorgeous piece of the island is situated between the Koolau Mountains offers stunning views of the bright blue ocean with hints of green and there are numerous large ironwood trees which add a contrasting color to the scenery. During the week you can find solitude at Waimanalo Beach Park with very few visitors unlike at what you will find at the more famously known Waimea Bay Beach. There are multiple ways for you to visit with opportunities from a helicopter tour to renting a convertible car to stopping at Waimanalo Beach Park after you visit the slopes of Diamond Head. If you are a morning person and like to watch the sunrise, then Waimanalo Beach Park has the perfect eastward facing location to view the splendid colors of the sky in the early morning.
Photo by David Siu
Waikele Center Mall
The Waikele Center is the perfect way to indulge in treating yourself to that something special while you enjoy this Oahu attraction. Located in central Oahu in Waipahu, the Waikele Center is home to one of the best outlet malls in the world. If, you got sunburned or the day looks like rain then head to the Waikele Center where you find exciting retailers such as Armani, Local Motion, Michel Kors and many others including Addidas. So when you are looking for something special to remind you of your fabulous trip to the Hawaiian Islands then get your shopping shoes on and hop on one of the scheduled shuttles or tours that will take you to the Waikele Center.
Map of The Best Oahu Attractions