Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the US and a place I have probably visited back most times in all my travels! So far I have been to Hawaii 10 times and have now visited all the 4 main islands of Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. All the islands are so easy to get to from the US mainland and are well connected with many airlines. Being in California, its especially easy – just a 5 hour direct flight and we are already in paradise! Each island is so unique and beautiful in its own way, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. If you are looking for travel guides for the other islands check out my travel guides to Big Island, Maui and Kauai in the linked posts.
Even though I have been to Oahu thrice before, this was Anush’s first time to Oahu so it was fun playing tourist visiting some of my old faves and rediscovering new spots. In this travel guide Ill be rounding up the best things to do in Oahu from my experiences going the past 4 times.
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU?
Having been many times I have stayed in Honolulu, the North Shore and on the east coast too. Each part of the island has a differnt vibe so if you have the time I would split it between different areas. If its your first time staying in Honolulu would be pretty central. But if you are looking for something a lot less touristy and moreauthentic – the North Shore is unbeatable. Some of my favorite places we have stayed at in the past in Oahu are :
1 ) Hilton Hawaiian Village ( Waikiki, Honolulu)
Hilton Hawaiian Village is Waikiki’s only true resort destination located on the widest stretch of beach in Waikiki. With their own lagoon, Waikiki beach and five pools to choose from you are spoilt for choice! This resort is at a very central location in Waikiki, being close to all the fun tourist attractions that Waikiki has to offer including Waikiki Beach, International Market Place, Honolulu Zoo, Diamond Head and shoppers paradise Kalakaua avenue.
2 ) Turtle Bay Resort ( North Shore )
This time when we went, Anush and I were celebrating our 16 years of being together so we wanted to celebrate the special occasion at someplace special. The newly renovated Turtle Bay Resort couldn’t have been a more perfect choice for this. Situated an hour from the airport and away from the touristy hotspots in Honolulu, this resort was exactly what we were looking for. Turtle Bay is the only resort that is set on the rugged untouched North Shore of Oahu and spans across nearly 1300 acres of lush, historic land, featuring five miles of unspoiled coastline and twelve miles of breathtaking trails. It recently underwent a massive renovation and the sprawling new resort looks beyond incredible. The entire resort had the perfect mix of luxe contemporary meets laidback surf vibes. Read more in my blog post here.
3 ) Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina ( Koolina area on the west coast)
Located on O’ahu’s sun-drenched, western Leeward Coast, on an expansive white-sand beach, Four Seasons is set on one of my favorite stretches of beach in Oahu! Ko Olina has 4 incredible lagoons and with the Four Seasons hospitality you really wouldn’t even want to leave this part of the island!
GETTING AROUND IN OAHU :
Unless you plan to just stay and relax in your resort, then having a car is a must in Oahu. If you plan to go off roading or to some difficult terrain locations you will need a 4 wheel drive, something to keep in mind when you are booking a car.
THINGS TO DO IN OAHU :
Since we were there this time only for 3 days I am listing out things to do from what I have done the past 4 trips to Oahu. Ideally I think 4-6 days is a good time period to spend on the island. Here are some of my recommendations on things to do in Oahu :
1 ) Favorite beaches on Oahu
Here are some of my favorite beaches in Oahu :
- Lanikai beach
Lanikai beach-my fave!
- Kaawa beach
- Waimanalo beach
Do not miss out on Waimanalo!
- Koolina lagoons ( 1, 2 3 and 4)
Picture perfect lagoons at Ko Olina
- Ahupua’a O Kahana state park
Like a postcard at Ahupua’a O Kahana
- Kawela Bay
- Sunset beach
- Waimea Bay
2 ) Spending a day in and around Waikiki
Beach time at Waikiki beach, walk/shop along Kalakaua avenue and the International Market Place and grab a bite after. You can spend a whole day at the Waikiki area!
3 ) Watch a traditional Luau ceremony
I did this the first time around to Oahu with my family. We went to the Polynesian Cultural center and it was lovely! This cultural evening and dinner will be such a fun thing to do with friends and family.
4 ) Visit Pearl Harbor
Visit USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. I did this the last time I was on Oahu and it was very insightful to visit this historical landmark that is one of the most pivotal moments in US history.
5 ) Sailing and Snorkeling
Adventure sail and snorkel with the spirit of Aloha. This catamaran starts right from Hilton Hawaiian Village and takes you to Turtle Canyon Reef, which is a site inaccessible from the main beach. Again we were unable to do this cos of the weather, but I definitely have this on my itinerary for the next time. Another favorite place I love to go snorkeling in Oahu is Hanauma Bay. This marine reserve is voted as one of the best places to snorkel in all of Hawaii! I went here the last time I was in Hawaii and the plethora of fish and marine life that I saw here was absolutely phenomenal.
6 ) Hikes in Oahu
Some of my favorite hikes in Oahu :
- Diamond Head crater hike (Diamond Head State Monument offers breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu.)
- Lanikai Pillbox hike ( easy and one of the most popular hikes!)
- Crouching Lion hike
7 ) Visit Kualoa Ranch
8 ) Botanical Gardens :
Some of my favorite botanical gardens to visit on the island :
- Ho’omaluhia Botanical gardens (stroll or drive through this free to enter botanical garden which has plantings from major tropical regions around the world)
- Waimea Valley and falls ( Deeply rooted in authentic Hawaiian History, Culture, Spirituality and Tradition – Waimea Valley has beautiful flowers, rare plants, cultural sites and a beautiful waterfall for swimming.)
9 ) Beach Picnic :
One of my friends owns a picnic company in Hawaii called Leather & Lei and this time we had the pleasure of having a romantic lunch picnic right on the beach at Turtle Bay! The set up was so gorgeous and the views to die for, They set up picnics all over Oahu and for all occassions!
10 ) Wear a traditional Haku Lei :
Haku Lei by Ocean Dreamerr
PC for the one above only : Ocean Dreamerr
Lei by Ocean Dreamerr
No trip to Hawaii is complete without wearing a Haku Lei! My absolute fave Lei artist in hawaii is Pamakani from Ocean Dreamerr on Instagram. She is beyond talented and makes all kinds of flower arrangements from hakus, leis and other setups for special events such as weddings, etc. If interested in booking a piece from her, send her a DM.
11 ) Island tour :
If you have an entire day to explore the island I highly recommend you take a tour with Blue Hawaii Photo Tour company. Our guide was absolutely amazing and so knowledgable. We made our way all around the island and made several stops along popular tourist spots as well as hidden locations and favorite local spots that only our guide knew of! A few of my favorite highlights and stops along this tour were :
- Lanai point – This lookout point was one of my faves. The blue waves crashing against the lava rock formations was absolutely breathtaking. And of course eating malasadas for breakfast from Leonard’s bakery made it all the more sweeter!
- Makapu’u lookout point – One of my favorite viewpoints in Oahu!
- Laniakiea beach – you will see turtles on the beach here!
FAVE EATS IN OAHU :
Listing out some of my favorite eats in Oahu :
- Giovanni’s Shrimp truck – the best garlic shrimp scampi!
- Haleiwa Bowls – handsdown best acai bowls on the island.
- Sunrise Shack – Ok how cute is this fruit shack?! Im obsessed! Do try the papaya bowls if you go here.
- Leonard’s bakery – for their legendary malasadas.
- Matsumoto Shave Ice – The best place for shave ice on the island!
- Food truck hopping at Sharks Cove in the North Shore. We stopped here for lunch and there were so many good lunch options!
- Nalu Health Bar – yummy smoothies!
- Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi ( at Turtle bay resort)
- Farm to Barn cafe
- Mina’s Fish House ( at Four Seasons Oahu )
- Maile’s Thai in Waikiki
- Sky Waikiki – beautiful rooftop bar and restaurant in Waikiki
If you are looking for travel guides for the other islands check out my travel guides to Big Island, Maui and Kauai in the linked posts.
Thanks for stopping by! xoxo