The island of Oahu is beautiful and diverse. Many people are drawn to the excitement of Waikiki Beach with its colorful beach clubs and numerous restaurants. Island activities range from surfing lessons and canoeing to swimming with dolphins and scuba diving. To help you choose, we've grouped Oahu vacation ideas by interest, including adventure, romance, family and cultural attractions.
Thrill and adventure seekers can choose from a wide spectrum of water sports and land activities on Oahu. If you want to spend your vacation in or near the water, try surfing on Waikiki Beach, scuba diving and windsurfing. Land adventures include hiking through rainforests, biking along mountain ranges, parasailing and parachuting.
If you are staying on Waikiki Beach, there are several shops that rent outrigger canoes, surf boards and other gear right on the beach. For tennis, archery and jogging, go to Kapiolani Park on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world. It's ideal for beginner surfers because the waves rarely exceed three or four feet. Several surf shops rent surf boards and offer lessons right on the beach. Other things to do on Waikiki Beach include designer shopping, romantic dining, catamaran sailing, canoeing and kayaking.
For the Romantic Couple
Romantic ideas on Oahu range from renewing your wedding vows on Waikiki Beach to luxurious beach service at several hotels. Pink aficionados should stay at the historic Royal Hawaiian hotel which features pink decorative touches everywhere. If you've never tasted pink beer or pink champagne, Mai Tai Bar is the place to go. At Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki Beach, rooms measure 519 to 720 square feet in size and offer private lanai, many with views of the Pacific Ocean.
If you'd rather stay in a more secluded hotel, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, a 10-minutes drive from Waikiki Beach, offers a long sandy beach, attentive service and swimming with Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins.
The island of Oahu offers numerous cultural and historic attractions. Most are located in or near Honolulu, but there is plenty to see throughout the island. Hawaii's Plantation Village exhibits furnished homes, community structures, Asian art and antiques on a 50-acre site. The Polynesian Cultural Center on the island's north shore features different villages, exhibits, and shows at the IMAX Theater.
The International Market Place in Waikiki is an open-air market with over 130 artisan stands, shops and carts. Pick up souvenirs such as jewlery, Hawaii-themed crafts and clothing. The International Food Court offers dining and Hawaiian entertainment on certain nights. The market is open daily from 10am to 10:30pm. It is located at 2330 Kalakaua Ave., next to Waikiki Town Center.
Family Vacation Ideas on Oahu
Oahu is a vacation destination that offers many things to do for the whole family. Choose from children's programs at Waikiki Beach hotels, hands-on programs and a variety of watersports. The Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium and See Life Park Hawaii are just some of the attractions both kids and grown-ups can enjoy.
Waikiki Beach is shallow and the water is calm most of the year, especially in the winter when the surf stays under two feet. Certain parts of the beach have a life guard on duty watching over swimmers and surfers.
If you want to spend some quiet time by yourself relaxing on the beach or at a health spa, many hotels offer children's programs that are both fun and educational. These programs are half- and full-day in length and will set you back around $25 for a half-day session and $50 for a full day. For detailed pricing, call your hotel directly.
Kids ages 5 to 12 at The Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton Waikiki, Sheraton Moana Surfrider and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani get access to the Keiki Aloha Program with activities such as snorkeling, kite flying and cooking.
Hilton Hawaiian Village offers the Rainbow Express Keiki Club year-round. Activities include fishing at Hilton Lagoon, Hawaiian games, reef walking, fish feeding at the koi ponds, and swimming at the keiki pool.
How to Get There
The airport in Honolulu is the largest of all airports in Hawaii and most major airlines fly there. Waikiki Beach is about 30 minutes by car from the airport, althrough the trip will take longer during rush hour).
For all those interested in the Hawaiian culture, Oahu offers a selection of museums, historical attractions and interactive exhibits. The Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore of Oahu offers villages and other exhibits inspired by the Polynesian culture.
In Honolulu, take a tour of Iolani Palace, view the King Kamehameha Statue and visit the Mission Houses Museum. If you are interested in Hawaiian art, the Hawaii State Art Museum showcases art pieces by Hawaiian artists from the 1960s to the present.
Hawaii's Plantation Village exhibits original Hawaiian plantation homes
The Hawaii's Plantation Village offers a glimpse into the past of plantation workers who arrived to Hawaii between the late 1800s and the 1940s. This outdoor museum consists of furnished homes, community structures, Asian art, antiques and relics. The historical museum is located on a 50-acre site. Guided tours of the Village are conducted at the start of each hour Monday through Friday from 9 am to 3 pm. On Saturdays, tours start at 10 am. General admission cost is $10; $7 for seniors; $4 for children ages 5 to 17; free for kids under 4. For more information, call the museum at 808-677-0110.
The Hawaii State Art Museum
Dedicated to showcasing the best art pieces by Hawaiian artists, the Hawaii State Art Museum is located in Honolulu, Hawaii. The museum's inaugural exhibition Enriched By Diversity: The Art of Hawaii includes 360 works by 284 artists dating from the 1960s to the present. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and closed on all state and federal holidays. Admission to the museum is free.
The Polynesian Cultural Center
Located on Oahu's North Shore in Laie, Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center features a number of hands-on cultural experiences and shows. You can watch the Alii Luau, the Rainbows of Paradise canoe show, shows at the IMAX Theater and the evening show Horizons: Where the Sea meets the Sky.
The Center is home to different villages and exhibits set on 42 beautiful acres. The Polynesian Cultural Center features the people and islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga. There is also a Rapa Nui exhibit and an 1850s-era Christian mission complex. The Polynesian Cultural Center is open Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sundays and certain holidays. Driving time to the Center is is about one hour from Waikiki. Tickets can be bought online at www.polynesia.com or by calling 800-367-7060.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts
The Honolulu Academy of Arts is Hawaii’s oldest and largest art museum founded in 1927. 30 galleries surrounding six garden courts exhibit collections of Asian, European, Pacific, American and African art. The Academy's initial gift of approximately 4,500 works of art from founder Anna Rice Cooke has been expanded to the corrent collection of over 34,000 pieces. The Asian collection consists of over 16,000 objects from China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and India. Most Asian art pieces are Chinese and Japanese, including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, lacquer ware and prints.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts is open from Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 4:30 pm; Sundays 1 pm to 5 pm; closed Mondays and certain holidays. Admission costs $7 for adults; $4 for seniors, students and military; free for kids under 12 and academy members. Admission is free on first Wednesday of every month. For more information and to confirm opening times, call the museum at 808-532-8700.
Snorkeling at The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the perfect destination for snorkeling in Hawaii. The large bay, long curved sandy beach, and abundant marine life are ideal conditions for snorkeling.
The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967. The large cliffs on either side of the bay protect it a keep the water in the bay calm and increase visibility underwater. Snorkeling gear can be rented at the bay and there are life guards on duty daily. You may want to check if you can rent a mask and fins from your hotel so that you can save time by not having to stand in line at the beach. Since the bay is a nature preserve you cannot feed the fish, but you won't need to as they will approach you out of their own curiosity.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is about ten miles east of Waikiki just off of route 72. Driving there is easy but you waill ahve to leave early if you want to get a parking spot. Getting one will make your day that much easier and you will beat the crowd to the beach as well. The Bay is open every day, except Tuesdays, from 6am. to 6pm. Admission to the park is $5 per person.