Top things to do on Oahu - the Oahu bucketlist

Traveling to Oahu for the first time? You are going to have a blast!

There are for sure way more things to do if you have time but here is a quick guide with my favorite activities on the island!

Waikiki beach and city

Waikiki is probably the most popular and famous place in Honolulu. Here you’ll find the most resorts, restaurants and shops etc.  It is usually the first stop when you arrive in Oahu and will be your base for a lot of activities you’ll do on the island.

Try surfing in Waikiki

Hawaii is really famous for surfing and on your trip here it is a must! The waves in Waikiki is perfect for beginners as well as experienced surfers. There are nomerous places where you can rent a surfboard. The prices may vary a bit so if you want to save som money, ask around the different dealers. 

Roadtrip around the island

The best way to explore the island is by renting a car. Go on a road trip and experience the beauty of Oahu. There is so much to do so you’ll probably need a few days to make it around the island! 

Lanikai Beach

This beach blew me away and became one of my favorite beaches in the world! With the bluest water you have ever seen this beach is definitely a must on your trip to Oahu! 

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Catch the sunrise from the top of Lanikai Pillbox hike. This hike is located just behind the Lanikai Beach and offers a spectacular view of the coast.  


Botanical Gardens

You might have seen pictures of this road, surrounded by a lush forest with the massive mountain ridge rising up just behind it. This is the entrance to the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden and it is truly a sight to see. Take a drive through nature and stop for a walk in the garden to take in the amazing surroundings.

Swim with wild dolphins

Being one of the best experiences I have ever done, I really recommend trying to swim with wild dolphins. You can do this with a tour, or try to find them by yourself, which in my opinion is the best option.  


Diamond Head Crater Trail

The Diamond Head Crater is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes on Oahu which is located a few kilometers from Waikiki. It is possible to walk all the way to the entrance, or you can take a bus. Being located so close to Waikiki this hike is very popular and might be pretty crowded. 

Walk the Makapu'u lighthouse trail

The hike is easy with a paved trail all the way to the lighthouse, which offers you a beautiful view of the coast and landscape around. Keep an eye out for whales as the trail offers a good view of the ocean.


Makapu'u Tidepools

On your way to the lighthouse, you can walk down to the Makapu’u Tidepools. Take a swim in the pools and watch the waves crash upon the cliffs. This in an unmarked trail with slippery and loose rocks, so be careful.

Go on a whale watching tour

The islands of Hawaii are located in the middle of the Pacific, which means there are a variety of marine life! One of the most majestic is the Humpback whale which is possible to see during the winter months. Go on a whale watching tour, trying to get close to one of these giants.


Watch the sunset on the North Shore

Watch the surfers catch the waves in the sunset on the North Shore. Even though it is called the North Shore, a lot of the beaches are facing west, which makes it a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Visit the lagoon next to the Hilton

Walk on the beach all the way from Waikiki Beach to Kahanamoku Beach and the Lagoon. Surrounded by palm trees this really makes you feel like you are in paradise. 

Cockroach cove and Halona blowhole

I do not know where it got its name from but it is may more beautiful than it sounds. Relax on the beach for a while and keep an eye out for turtles which usually are in the area. Just next to the car park is the Halona blowhole which, on wavy days, shoots water several meter up i the air.

Snorkel at Hanauma bay

One of the most popular beaches on Oahu and one of the best snorkeling spots as well. Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and has an entrance fee of 7,5. You can go here by car or local bus, and there are also shuttle services from Waikiki.

See the turtles at Laniakea beach

This beach is knowns as the ”turtle beach” on Oahu. This is because Green Sea Turtles usually rests on the beach and have done so for decades. The turtles have names and the voluntary workers can tell you a lot about them. Remember that it is illegal to touch turtles both in the water and on land.

Koko Head Crater Trail

The trail is made of an old railroad that goes straight up the side of the crater, with over 1000 steps to the top. This is a really popular hike on Oahu but a heavy one as well. The further up the trail you go, the steeper it is. Some people do this hike 300 times per year! I guess the view from the top makes it worth it!


Chinamans Hat

Driving up the east coast, stop at Chinamans Hat. I have heard some people rent kayaks to paddle out to the island, hiking up the top. We just stayed on dry land, enjoying the view from a distance. 

Pink pillbox hike

Located on the west side of Oahu is the pink pillbox. It is painted pink as a testimony to breast cancer victims and survivors. This is a really fun hike with amazing views over the coastline from the top.


West Coast beaches

While driving up the west coast, stop at any of the beaches on the way. Keep an eye out for marine life. On our road trip we spotted some whales, dolphins and a seal off the coast! The west coast beaches are also a perfect place to see the sunset.

Fireworks at the Hilton

Every Friday night at 7:45pm there are fireworks on the beach at Hilton Resort. You can see them from anywhere on the beach in Waikiki bur for the best view head closer to the Hilton. Be on time, though the fireworks only lasts for a few minutes.

Hikes and waterfalls

There are so much many different hikes you can do in Oahu that is is impossible to do all of them on one trip. We did everything listed above but there are a lot of things we didn’t have time to do. 

One of the most famous hikes in Oahu is the Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven), which is in fact illegal. There is a way to reach the top of the stairs by doing the Moanalua Trail. There are also hikes as the Crouching Lion Hike, Ka’au Crater Hike, Ehukai Hike and many more

There are also a lot of waterfalls on Oahu, such as Manoa Falls, Waimea Falls, and Waimano Falls. 

The list with hikes you can do on Oahu goes on and on and since we didn’t do all the last ones mentioned, I won’t go in on any details regarding them. 

Like I said there is so much more do to on Oahu than what I have covered in this guide, but hopefully this will get you started! Let me know what you thought of this guide and if you ended up doing some of these activities listed above!