Aloha! If you are here today is probably because you are planning a trip (or maybe just thinking about it) to the Hawaiian islands, and I can’t wait to inspire you to do so! If beach life combined with city vibes is what you are looking for, Oahu island is right for you! I have created a full Oahu travel guide with everything you need to know to enjoy this island to the fullest.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Where are located the Hawaiian islands?
The Hawaiian islands are composed of eight major islands: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Overall the archipelago has much more isles and atolls, but they are uninhabited. The Aloha state, located 2’000 miles West of the California coasts right in the middle of the Pacific ocean, has 1,4 million residents. English and Hawaiian are the two official languages. Each island is different and unique to the other with its scenery.
When to visit the Hawaiian islands?
The Hawaiian islands can be visited all year round offering nice temperatures between 20°c and 35°c. However, some periods of the year are more propitious to visit with notably less risk of tropical storms. Consequently, I strongly advise you to visit the archipelago between May and June. In my opinion, this is the best time of the year to discover the islands as the weather is mostly dry and not too hot. Above all, the locals and the rest of the US are not on summer break just yet. Therefore, most of the famous places are not too crowded at this time.
“In case you cannot visit the Hawaiian islands during this period, just try to avoid April (spring break) as well as July and August (summer break).“
How long to stay on Oahu?
Alright, to discover the top attractions of Oahu, I strongly recommend staying on the island for at least one entire week. Indeed, there are various things to do, so you won’t get bored! Of course, if you can slowly travel, I would highly suggest spending a month on Oahu to experience all the secret parts and hidden gems.
However, if you have limited time available, you might cut your trip to five full days, but be prepared it may not be relaxing at all.
Where to stay on Oahu?
Due to the small size of the island, you can easily stay at one single place during your stay. This option is the best deal in case you are going to rent a car or are willing to take public transportation to explore the surroundings. Accordingly, I strongly advise you to stay around Waikiki to enjoy also the city life combined with green scenery. In fact, from this area, you can conveniently visit the rest of the island with short rides.
Otherwise, if you are looking for a less busy place, I would suggest staying on the North shore of Oahu, around Haleiwa.
In terms of accommodations, Oahu offers different possibilities such as hotels, resorts, and Airbnb, depending on your budget. During our stay, we booked a little apartment via Airbnb and it was perfect! Feel free to send me an e-mail if you want more information about our accommodation.
What to do on Oahu?
As mentioned, Oahu has so much to offer with lots of diverse activities and different types of landscapes! On top of that, all parts of the island can be easily discovered by car or public transportation quickly. Throughout the next paragraphs, I share the must-dos you should visit during your trip to this heavenly island.
Lanikai pillbox trail
Be ready for some hiking adventures! Indeed, the Lanikai Pillbox trail is a medium-level hike including notably some difficult steep, and slippery parts to climb! Rest assured, your efforts will be rewarded since the top of the climb offers a spectacular view of the East coast of Oahu.
“The trail is perfect to enjoy a great sunrise or sunset, but bring some flashlights!“
no parking at the beginning of the trail
sunrise to sunset
1,8 miles / 2,9 km (return)
Manoa falls trail
Located in Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, Manoa falls trail is an easy hiking trail that leads you into the tropical jungle of Oahu island to incredible waterfalls. What I like the most about this hike is the feeling of being alone in the vast forest with the sound of the wild fauna. On a side note, keep in mind you are not allowed to swim into Manoa falls to protect the place.
“Be aware that bad weather can make the trail a bit slippery and muddy. Therefore, I highly advise you to check the forecast before going.”
free access if you come by foot
US $5 per vehicle for parking
6 am - 6 pm
1,7 miles / 2,7 km (return)
Koko crater trail
Situated on the East side of Oahu, the Koko Crater trail is a famous hike that includes about 1048 steps to reach the top! Even though it is a short trail, the hike is quite challenging and not suitable for everyone. Indeed, the path is only made up of broken and irregular stairs. Despite that, a 360° panoramic view awaits you at the top, which is worth all the effort!
free parking at the beginning of the trail
closed during dark hours
1,5 miles / 2,5 km (return)
Hanauma Bay Nature preserve
Oahu travel guide
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is considered as the best place to snorkel on Oahu and I can confirm it! As the entrance is based on reservations only, the location is preserved and there will never be too many people at the same time. Furthermore, since Hanauma Bay is a protected area, you must leave most of your belongings in a locker before entering the beach. Finally, snorkel gear can be rented at the entrance if needed, which is super convenient!
“If you need to maximize your time, I highly recommend visiting Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve during the morning and then heading up to Koko Crater trail, which is 10 minutes away.“
US$ 7,50 per adult
US$ 1 per vehicle for parking
6:45 am to 4:30 pm
Ho'omaluhia botanical garden
Ho’omaluhia Botanical garden is sited in the greenest part of the island (East side). That is why the garden is a great place to see different native plants and flowers with spectacular lush mountains in the background. Surprisingly, some parts of the botanical garden can only be visited in your car as it is forbidden to get out and pull out. You probably all know the famous photo of the long road surrounded by palm trees and mountains, however, the reality is that you are not supposed to stop the car there to take pictures.
“Once you have completed the tour by car, I suggest you stop at the visitor center before walking inside the gardens in order to learn more about indigenous flowers and trees.“
group tour available for visiting the garden
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
marked path through the botanical garden
Diamond head crater trail
Located only a short drive away from Waikiki, the Diamond Head Crater trail is a smooth and marked hike offering a breathtaking view of the crater, Waikiki beach, and the South shore of Honolulu. Diamond Head is a dormant volcano and is considered a monogenetic field, which means it has already erupted once and should never again.
“To get a spot in the only parking located at the entrance of the trail, you need to come at 6:00 am. Otherwise, you will have to come by foot or by a shuttle bus.”
US $1 per adult or
US $5 per vehicle for parking
6:00 am to 4:00 pm
closed on Wednesday
1,6 miles / 2,6 km (return)
Waimanalo Bay beach Park
Alright, so Waimanalo beach is without a doubt my favorite beach of all Oahu! In other words, this heavenly location is 5 miles / 8 kilometers of white sand surrounded by opulent green mountains. Moreover, since the beach is one of the longest on the island, you will easily find a spot not too crowded. In addition, there are picnic tables and restrooms with showers which is super convenient.
free parking spaces
7:00 am to 7:45 pm
Byodo-in temple is located in the middle of a memorial park that commemorates the anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to come to the Hawaiian islands. In addition to its beauty, the Byodo-in temple offers a place to meditate and relax for people of all faiths. Moreover, the place is often used for wedding ceremonies by both locals and visitors.
US$ 5 per adult
8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Situated on the North shore, Laniakea beach is a secret place where Hawaiian green sea turtles stop to feed and rest before traveling to their nesting place. Frankly, it was such a great moment to see those giant creatures in their natural habitat. We spent the whole afternoon on this remote beach, spotting turtles coming to the beach.
“Please be kind to the Hawaiian green sea turtles by keeping a distance of approximately 10 ft and of course do not touch them!“
free parking along the road
Haleiwa Beach Park
Haleiwa beach is one of the numerous surfing paradise spots on the North shore of Oahu. Most of the surf schools will bring their students there. However, keep in mind that surfing on the North Shore is dedicated to good surfers. Indeed, we got a hard time catching the big irregular waves as we are beginners. If this is your case too, I strongly advise you to surf at Waikiki instead which has smaller waves.
“Once you have finished your surf lesson, head up to Haleiwa village to eat a rainbow ice cream!”
free parking along the road
6:00 am to 10:00 pm
Not only Kualoa Ranch is located in the lushest part of the island but it is also a place where numerous movies have been filmed! To name a few, Jurassic park and King Kong have been recorded there. This nature park is a private reserve that offers different tours and activities like ATV tours, linesline, mountain biking, and much more.
“As Kualoa Rach is a private reserve, it can only be visited with a guided tour.“
from US $50 to $150
depending on the activity
8:00 am to 5:30 pm
from easy to intermediate
Oahu travel guide
Did you know that the biggest pineapple plantation in the US is located on the North Shore of Oahu? Indeed, the Dole plantation has hectares of land where pineapples, coffee, cacao, and tropical flowers grow. I loved visiting the plantation, but what I liked the most was tasting different pineapple products! Furthermore, different tours are offered to learn more about the plantation and its gardens.
“If you love pineapples like me, you should stop by on your way to or back from the North Shore!“
from US$ 13 to US$ 25 depending on the tour
free parking at the entrance
9:30 to 4:30 pm
Makaha Beach Park
The West part of Oahu is notably home to wonderful beaches such as Makaha Beach Park. That is to say, this place is a large golden sand beach surrounded by imposing mountains and palm trees.
Pearl Harbor is, from my standpoint, a mandatory stop while you are on Oahu. Indeed, I think it is always important to learn about the history of the places you visit and you can do so by visiting notably the USS Arizona memorial.
“Keep in mind that a reservation online is mandatory exactly 60 days before your visit to the USS Arizona memorial.”
US$ 1 per adult (USS Arizona memorial)
free parking at the entrance
7:00 am to 5:00 pm
Besides being the perfect place to stay to visit the whole island, Waikiki is the busiest district of Honolulu (the biggest city of the Hawaiian islands). If you want to enjoy city life vibes, with lots of restaurants and bars, this place is right for you!
Check out below for the best addresses of restaurants and bars!
Where to eat on Oahu?
Oahu is filled with lots of food options for every budget and every taste! As we stayed only in Waikiki during our journey, I share with you a panel of different restaurants that I would recommend in this district of Honolulu.
- Cheeseburger in Paradise (American restaurant $) – excellent for breakfast!
- California pizza kitchen (American restaurant $) – great for a pizza night!
- Maui Brewing Co (Hawaiian restaurant $) – exceptional poke bowls!
- The Cheescake Factory (American restaurant $$) – great for a typical American dinner!
- Il Lupino (Italian restaurant $$) – perfect for an aperitif with cocktails!
- Sky bar top of Waikiki (American restaurant $$$) – ideal for a fancy night!
What bucket list activity can you do on Oahu?
Oahu is the ideal place to check once-in-a-lifetime activities off your bucket list! Indeed, we experienced one of the craziest adventures so far: snorkeling, cage-free, with Galapagos and Sandbar sharks in the open sea!
Check out here all the others bucket list experiences we did during our trip to the Hawaiian islands!
Swim with sharks Cage Free
Animal lovers are ready to have one of the most thrilling experiences right in the middle of the ocean! One Ocean diving (created by the famous diver Ocean Ramsey), allowed us to swim with Galapagos and Sandbar sharks cage-free. It was such an unforgettable experience and being able to learn more about these mysterious creatures was truly eye-opening.
Frankly, you probably have lots of questions right now, but I have to say that I felt safe during the whole experience and I highly recommend it to anyone!
More details about this amazing adventure on my Youtube channel soon. Subscribe here and stay tuned!
“Keep in mind that a reservation online is mandatory exactly 60 days before your visit to the USS Arizona memorial.“
One ocean diving
US$ 150 per person
In summary, Oahu is the perfect place to enjoy island life with city vibes. Most importantly, Oahu island is a great location for nature and hike lovers! Indeed, I had the chance to visit this paradise island in May 2019 with my hubby it was one of our favorite travel so far it felt like home to us. That is to say, I hope I have inspired you to visit Oahu someday soon and that you will enjoy it as much as we did!
Moreover, you should check out here all my posts related to the Hawaiian islands.
Finally, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. It would be a great pleasure to share with you.!
Sending you lots of love,