If you haven’t been to Hawaii before, it’s probably useful to know that Hawaii is made up of five islands:
- The Big Island: Just as the name suggests, this is Hawaii’s biggest island known for active volcanoes and unique black and grey sand beaches. See here for recommendations of things to do in Big Island.
- Oahu: The most popular tourist destination and most bustling island in Hawaii filled with resorts, beaches, eateries and a boisterous nightlife. Keep reading for recommendations of things to do in Oahu.
- Kauai: The oldest island island in Hawaii, a mostly rural island with plenty of white sand beaches and not a skyscraper in sight.
- Maui: As the second largest island in Hawaii, depending on where you stay it will be a different experience. Enjoy a quiet getaway in the secluded rural towns or a busier atmosphere in the resort district.
- Molokai and Lanai: Two of the smallest and most rural islands of Hawaii with a much more relaxed ambience than the other islands.
So with that done, let’s get into it!
THINGS TO DO IN OAHU:
If you’re after a pristine curved bay with technicolour fish in all directions, Hanauma Bay is the place to be! Despite it being a busy tourist destination, the beach is famous for its long stretch of beautiful marine life so you won’t be short of snorkelling spots. Once you find an area to anchor yourself, you’ll most likely lose track of time chasing schools of fish and sea turtles.
Tips before going to Hanauma Bay:
- Get here early: The parking lot fills up by 7:30am, its best to get here early if you’re travelling by car… but even if you’re travelling by shuttle, you’ll regret not getting here early to spend a full day exploring the bay!
- Avoid Tuesdays: The bay is closed every Tuesday to give the marine area an undisturbed day of rest.
- Pack plenty of food: There is a snack bar at the entrance of the bay but once you reach the sandy shores of the beach, there won’t be any food kiosks or eateries close-by so make sure you pack plenty of food for the day (just drop by an ABC store in the morning and grab a big bottle of water and snacks)
- Entry Fee: It costs $7.50 USD per person to enter the bay
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is an easy 20 – 30 minute walk with extremely rewarding views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach and its surroundings. Its a fun option to do either before or after a visit to Lanikai Beach but is often busiest at sunrise and sunset so we recommend avoiding peak hike time (don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed by the view during the other hours!). We started our walk in the afternoon before our visit to Lanikai Beach and it was definitely not as busy as the other top Oahu hikes.
The first five minutes of the walk is on a medium-to-steep incline so its a good idea to be wearing sturdy shoes for better grip. After this, it’s an easy gradual walk uphill with rewarding water views the whole way through and there are three pillboxes to explore. You’ll reach the first pillbox in 20 minutes, the second will take you an additional 10 minutes and if you’re up for it, there is a final pillbox which will add another 30 minutes to your hike. Most people will start heading back after the first two pillboxes which are equally spectacular in views.
Koko Crater Hike
Koko Crater is one of the most well-known hikes of Oahu and many set afoot on the steep climb during sunset. To avoid the crowds and blistering heat, we woke up in the wee hours to climb Koko Crater for the sunrise. It takes about 30 – 60min (depending on your fitness level) to climb to the top. Be prepared for a steep sprawl up the wooden planks of an abandoned railway and before you know it, you’ll be at the top enjoying the spectacular 360 degree views of the most well recognised landmarks in Oahu. Bring plenty of water and a head lamp if you’re planning to go for the sunrise so your hands are free.
This ranch is the private nature reserve and home to 4000 acres of land where movies such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla and Jumanji 2 have been filmed. There are plenty of activities to do at Kualua Ranch so you could easily spend a whole day here completing activities such as horse-riding or zip-lining. We opted for the 2 hour ATV tour which took us through scenic overlooks, movie locations and wondrous valleys and streams. This was a great break from the back-to-back beach days in Oahu and we highly recommend adding this to your itinerary.
- Book your ATV Tour: Kualoa Ranch ($244.92 USD)
Halona Beach Cove
The Halona Cove is a remote cove along a lava rock shoreline which doesn’t get busy until the afternoon, making it the perfect (and utterly romantic) spot to enjoy the sunrise. During calm waters, the cove is a relaxing swimming location away from the crowds and its situated right near the Halona Blow Hole so you can cross two things off your list in one visit.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
This well paved 3km return scenic walk along the most eastern point of Oahu. At the top of the walk, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the coastlines, Koko Head Trail, Koko Crater and the Makapuu Lighthouse. The carpark here does tend to get full so get there early if you can to save you the headache.
This is the most famous (and busiest) beach in Oahu. It stretches along 8 sections and the best spot for relaxing and snorkelling is the San Souci Beach section. In between our hikes and activities, we sat ourselves on inflatable donuts and just floated on the beach enjoying the water drifts.
Ala Moana Beach Park
This is a free public park which is popular for joggers and family barbecues by the beach. For us, it was a serene spot to enjoy the sunset without the crowds (who are mostly situated on Waikiki Beach). Stop here before dinner, enjoy a sunset then make your merry way to the City streets for a good feed.Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is a historic pineapple plantation located in the North Shore of Oahu. We recommend doing a day trip to the North Shore, stopping by Giovanni’s Food Truck for some garlic scampi then the Dole Plantation for a Dole Whip as your dessert. If you have time, take the Pineapple Express around the plantation or get lost in the world’s largest maze.
Still haven’t found a sea turtle yet? Laniakea Beach won’t disappoint! This is the best spot around the North Shore to view green sea turtles that often come here to nestle in the sand. If you can’t spot one on the sand, you’ll be sure to see some turtle heads pop out of the water nearby.
End your day in the North Shore with a swim at Sunset Beach and watch as the sky changes colour and the sun rests for another day. If you’re not up for swimming, simply sit back on the beach and watch the local surfers along the rolling waves before making your trip back to the main area of Oahu.
Shopping wasn’t on the top of our to do list but we did manage to pop by the Waikele Outlets to grab a few bargains before stopping by Popeye’s for a late night snack.