Explore Hawaii: Plan Your Oahu Vacation

Aloha! There are obviously countless reasons to love Hawaii. Breathtaking views, pristine beaches, cold Mai Tai’s and welcoming locals, are just a few.

The most populous of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu, is part bustling metropolis, part nature wonderland. For those looking for a romantic getaway or an unforgettable family vacation, it’s sure to delight.

Based on our exploration of the island, we’ve compiled our top picks for sightseeing and relaxation. 

HikingDiamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

The mountainous terrain of Oahu offers unprecedented hiking opportunities. Climb to the top of the ranges for a bird’s eye view of the valleys, beaches, ocean and city below.

The most popular hike on the island is Diamond Head, which takes you up a segment of the Koʻolau Mountain Range to an old military observation platform with views of both the Pacific Ocean and Waikiki Beach below. Like most of the hikes on Oahu, it’s best to do this one in the morning before the afternoon heat arrives.

Our favorite hike, however, is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Kailua. While steep, you can hike the whole thing in about an hour and are rewarded with the most scenic views of the shores below. 

If you’re really feeling adventurous, there’s also the Haiku Stairs, which takes you up 3,922 stairs for a 360-degree view.

A Night Out on the TownHilton Hawaiian Village Fireworks

Friday Night Hilton Fireworks | ©Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

For all the action, head to Waikiki Beach—home to almost all the resorts on the island. Among this tourist mecca, you’ll find some of the best restaurants, shopping, and bars on the island, plus your fair share of street vendors. Enjoy free fireworks year-round on the beach every Friday night, courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village. Watch the night show over a late-dinner, or while enjoying a cocktail or shave ice.
For a bit more laid back atmosphere, but still great dining and some cool local shops, travel to the North Shore.

If you’re there between November and February, you may even glimpse the area’s famous waves, which are legendary throughout the surfing community.

Other cool places to grab a bite while you’re on the island include Kona Brewing Company, home of best craft beer on the island.

Beaches and BeyondHanauma Bay, Oahu

All beaches in Hawaii are public, so there are plenty of options to consider. Due to its proximity to the resorts, Waikiki Beach is often a popular destination. That said, some other great beaches include: Turtle Bay (sea turtles can usually be spotted here!), Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach, among others.

Also, if you’re looking to snorkel, plan a trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or Shark’s Cove. (Note: For the latter, you need your own equipment.) Both offer clear, shallow water that is perfect for seeing marine life.

A Touch of HistoryPearl Harbor

©U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr

Pearl Harbor, the site of a historic World War II battle, is a must-visit destination. Take the ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial to pay your respects to those who lost their lives in the 1941 attack.Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center | ©Joel/Flickr

You can also plan a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here, you’ll find exhibits, food and shows that give you a feel for the history of Hawaii and the cultures that first inhabited it. The Polynesian Cultural Center also has a great luau and fire dancers to end your day with.

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