A good introduction to Hawaii: Oahu. This tourist island is bursting with options, whether you’re looking for adventure, beautiful beaches or tranquility. Oahu has it all! Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu, is not to be missed during your Hawaii tour, honeymoon or fly-drive trip.
16 activities on Oahu
According to a2zdirectory, Oahu, also known as the “gathering place”, is for many tourists the first introduction to the Hawaiian Islands. It is the busiest and most touristic island, so there is plenty to do here! Oahu is best known for the capital Honolulu, the naval base Pearl Harbor and surfing capital Waikiki Beach. Yet there are many more things to experience here. From admiring beautiful natural beauty to climbing a volcano: you can experience it on Oahu.
1. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is one of the most important naval ports in the world. The harbor is still in use: several aircraft carriers can be admired here. Nevertheless, Pearl Harbor is best known to the general public for the Japanese attack in early December 1941. There are still remnants of the attacked ships that remind of the attack. Very impressive is the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona was the first ship to be attacked; more than half of the crew did not survive. Also nice to see is the Battleship Missouri Memorial. This ship was used to defeat the Japanese and the surrender was eventually signed.
Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii. By far the most people live here: about 1 million including the suburbs. For many people, Honolulu is the first introduction to Hawaii. Honolulu is a true holiday paradise with its snow-white beaches, azure blue sea, beautiful shops and vibrant nightlife. Honolulu also contains the Waikiki district, where most of the hotels and other tourist facilities can be found. Yet there are plenty of activities to do in and from Honolulu. Read more about attractions in and near Honolulu below!
3. Iolani Palace
A royal palace in America? Yes, of course! Honolulu is home to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in all of America. It was built in 1898, by order of King David Kalakaua, when Hawaii was still a monarchy. He was inspired during a trip to Europe; hence the palace’s Victorian feel. He used it as his personal residence. The palace is open to the public: admire the royal chambers and the pavilion in the garden where Kalakaua was crowned. Admission is about $8 for adults and $3 for children. The palace is closed on Sundays.
4. Love Tower
Built in 1926, Aloha Tower initially acted as a “Welcome Point” for first-time visitors to Oahu. Today it symbolizes the hospitality of the island and its history. Aloha Tower is located in Downtown Honolulu, about a fifteen minute walk from Waikiki Beach. For a long time, the tower, at 55 meters, was the tallest building in Hawaii. The area around the tower has now become a bustling place: there are restaurants, shops and student residences here. From the observation deck on the tower you have a beautiful view of Honolulu.
5. Hawaii State Capitol
Because Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii, you will find the Hawaii State Capitol on Oahu. This is where the government of the state resides. What is special is that the building is built in the International Style. This makes the Hawaii State Capitol one of the few government buildings that is not built in a likeness of the Capitol in DC. The complex consists of five elliptical buildings, all of which represent the islands of the state of Hawaii. The pond in front of the building symbolizes the Pacific Ocean. The building is accessible to the public. Take a guided tour and learn about the history of democracy in Hawaii.
6. Waikiki Beach
Honolulu is home to the neighborhood that made Hawaii world famous: Waikiki . This used to be the domain where the kings retreated; nowadays the district breathes tourism. Waikiki has a great nightlife with its hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. But perhaps even more famous is the beach of Waikiki Beach. The rustling palm trees and clear blue sea guarantee a wonderful holiday feeling. Because of the good conditions, Waikiki Beach is extremely popular among surfers: sometimes Waikiki Beach is also called the surfing capital of the world. Spot surfers from the beach or try it out yourself at one of the surf schools on the beach.
7. Diamond Head
Not to be missed in the landscape: the volcano Diamond Head. This dead volcano, which bears the name “Leahi” in Hawaiian, is no less than 230 meters high. It owes its name to British settlers, who in the eighteenth century mistook the crystal in the volcano for diamond. A trip to the top is a brisk walk, but the view you get in return is truly breathtaking: Oahu’s south shore stretches beneath your feet. For the really early risers: sunrise from Diamond Head is spectacular.
8. Waimea Falls Park
A fun outing for the whole family: Waimea Falls Park. This is one of the most accessible ways to see waterfalls on Oahu. The Waimea Falls are part of Waimea Valley, a large botanical garden. To get to the falls, you walk through the valley. This walk is about six kilometers, but the road to it is mostly flat. If you think this is too far, shuttle buses also drive along the route from time to time. The falls are about 13 meters high and flow into the Waimea River. To get into the park, you pay a small entrance fee.
9. Dole Pineapple Plantation
Characteristic of the island of Oahu: the pineapple plantations. Especially inland you see plantations as far as you can see: you can smell the sweet pineapple scent everywhere. It doesn’t get more tropical than this! By far the most important pineapple plantation is that of Dole Food Company. In the visitor center you will learn more about the types of pineapples and their cultivation; in the field itself you can also taste the different varieties.
10. Honolulu Zoo
Fun to do with kids: a day at the Honolulu Zoo. You have to go for the location alone: Honolulu Zoo is right between Diamond Head and Waikiki. It is the only zoo in all of America built on royal land. A wide range of animal species can be admired in the zoo: from monkeys to crocodiles and from turtles to hyenas. Tickets cost about $20 for adults and $13 for children. Please note, the last entry is at 15:00!
11. Hanauma Bay
In Hanauma Bay you will find Hawaii as Hawaii is meant to be. In this bay, which resembles a crescent in shape, you can snorkel and dive perfectly. This place is even labeled by some locals as the best snorkeling spot in Hawaii. And indeed: swimming above the coral, the clear blue water and fish in all kinds of colors seems straight out of a postcard. Because the water here is relatively calm, it is also an excellent place for novice snorkelers. Prefer to stay on land? Who knows, you might spot a sea turtle! Sea turtles, but also monk seals, lie quietly on the beach here and don’t care about all the tourists. So there is a good chance that you will see one.
12. Nuuanu Pali Lookout
Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is about an 7-mile drive from Honolulu. You get there via a side road off Pali Highway (“Pali” means cliff in Hawaiian). This viewpoint is definitely a must-visit when you are on Oahu. From the point you look, as it were, into a gorge, which is surrounded by rocks of up to 100 meters high. You have a view that reaches as far as Kaneohe Bay and Ko’olau Mountain Range. Please note, Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is known for its strong gusts of wind.
13. Manoa Valley
Bird lovers beware! Manoa Valley, located in Paradise Park, is home to one of the largest birdhouses in the world. All kinds of exotic birds fly freely here. It is no exception to encounter a tame parrot or cockatoo: they provide a lot of entertainment for visitors. There are also gardens with plants from no fewer than five continents. Or take a walk through ‘hau-jungle’: a piece of the last remaining original Hawaiian rainforest. From Waikiki Beach you can take the free bus to Paradise Park.
14. Ko’olau Range
Unmistakable in the landscape of Oahu: Ko’olau Mountain Range. This mountain range contrasts impressively with the Honolulu cityscape on the east side of the island. The mountains are a remnant of a massive volcanic explosion over 1.5 million years ago. Over the years, many of the successive eruptions have given rise to Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay, among others. Geologists believe that the top of the mountain must have once reached 3,000 meters; the highest peak is now ‘only’ 945 meters high. There are three tunnels running from south to north through the mountains connecting the two sides.
15. Lyon Arboretum en de Honolulu Botanical Gardens
With all that natural beauty, a botanical garden cannot be missed. There are as many as five on Oahu. They are each part of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens organization. Foster Botanical Garden, which is located in the middle of Honolulu, is the oldest of the five. The oldest part of this garden dates from 1853 and you can admire several rare plants and trees here. At Lyon Arboretum, which is part of the University of Hawaii, they are researching ways to preserve endangered plant species.
16. Bishop Museum
Very nice to do on a day when the weather may be a bit worse: the Bishop Museum. This internationally renowned museum has one of the largest ethnological collections in the world. In this museum you will learn more about the culture, history and (ancient) monarchy of Hawaii. In Hawaiian Hall, which spans three floors, see capes of ali’i, golden thrones, and important documents. Marvel at the cape of Kamehameha the Great, made from feathers from the now-extinct mamo bird. To make this cape, 80,000 birds were caught and plucked. In the nearby Polynesian Hall you will find more information about Polynesian culture.