Travel Guide: 7 Can't-Miss Things to See & Do in O'ahu, Hawaii

By - Marie Titcomb

Beautiful Woman

You've been working hard all year long, and you deserve a long, luxurious trip away from everything and everyone. The question is, where do you go? How do you choose from all the amazing vacation sites? The answer is simple: you need to go to O'ahu, Hawaii. Whether you've been before or always dreamed of visiting this Pacific Island, you can't go wrong with flying to this picturesque destination. Hawaii is a life-changing experience everyone should enjoy. No matter your preference of destination, the island of O'ahu has the perfect accommodations. So, take note of these attractions on O'ahu, pack your bags, and say 'Aloha' to your new favorite vacation getaway!


Everyone obviously thinks of the beaches in Hawaii. The golden sand, the hot sun, and the giant waves are perfect for surfing. Nothing says luxurious like lounging on a Hawaiian beach, sipping your favorite drink. Waikiki beach is the most recognizable name and probably the first one you thought of in association with Hawai'i. Waikiki is a beautiful, white sand beach centrally located on the South Shore of the island in downtown Honolulu, easily within walking distance or a short drive from most hotels. When you're ready for a break from sunbathing, hop into a nearby ABC Store (they're everywhere on the island!) and pick up some souvenirs. Feeling hungry? Choose from any of the restaurants that line the beach. You can even visit the Honolulu Zoo and see beautiful birds of all different shades and hues.


Moving a bit further inland, Honolulu is the biggest city in the Hawaiian Islands. Walking through the city is enchanting. Coming from the mainland, the city feels almost like another country. Every sign is written in English, Hawaiian and Japanese (don't let the Hawaiian names of the streets overwhelm you). Wandering through the city, you can find small boutiques, bakeries, and bars. If you're feeling like you want a glam addition to your wardrobe back home, plan a spree to Luxury Row! Featuring name-brand designer stores like Gucci, Chanel, and Miu Miu, this is one street you don't want to miss! Check out the Aloha Stadium swap meet for authentic pieces to add to your beach-chic collection, like a hand-carved Maui hook or seashells and shark teeth. The stadium is northwest of downtown Honolulu, next door to Pearl Harbor. Remember, though, that if you want to browse all the wonderful vendors at the swap meet, they are only there on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8 AM to 3 PM.


Speaking of Pearl Harbor, this historic memorial makes a marvelous day trip. Several monuments and museums commemorate the events of December 7, 1941. Sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona is still at the bottom of the harbor as a memorial to the soldiers that gave their lives that day. Tour boats sail out there every day for visitors to pay their respects. Make sure to get tickets before flying to Hawaii or schedule online as far in advance as possible because seats on the boat to the USS Arizona are limited and sell out quickly. You can also take shuttle buses to see the USS Oklahoma, USS Utah, and USS Missouri battleship memorials, all of which offer guided tours. Want more military history on your trip? The Hawaii Army Museum Society offers a deep dive into the history leading up to and during WWII. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is yet another sobering and worthwhile excursion that anyone with a historic fascination will appreciate.


Now that you are in a historical mindset, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center for an authentic look at life in the Pacific Islands. Choose from four different package experiences that include walk-throughs of six different island cultures, a luau buffet, and live entertainment. This immersive experience is an adventure both adults and children will enjoy. If this is something you would like to participate in, it's recommended that you schedule far in advance. It might be a good idea to plan your vacation around this event as, per their website, tickets are already sold out until July 21, 2022.


This is a must-see for all movie buffs! Kualoa Ranch offers guided tours of various filming sites for movies like Jurassic Park, Kong Skull Island, Jumanji, and Godzilla. Tours are offered on horseback, ATV, zipline, or Jeep. You can also visit Secret Island Beach and enjoy several ocean activities such as kayaking and canoeing. Finally, the Ranch also offers tours of the areas where they cultivate tropical fruits and flowers. Kualoa Ranch will not disappoint, so be sure you have your tickets in hand at least a week in advance, as availability is unpredictable.


Often recommended as a must-visit, The North Shore is one of the most picturesque locations in Hawaii. Surfing fans will recognize the area as it is the site of Waimea Bay, where the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is held in the winter. November to February is surfing season, so expect those months to see an uptick in tourists and steer clear if you're trying to avoid large crowds. (If you want to learn to surf, lessons are given all over the island, but Waikiki is regarded as the most accessible spot for beginners.) In the summer, however, when more people visit Waikiki and the South Shore, Sunset Beach is the perfect spot to end a long day of site seeing. Also on the North Shore is the famous site where the Lost pilot episode was filmed. Mokulē'ia Beach and Waimea Valley Audubon Center are locations that Lost fans will recognize. Still, most other sites are located within Kualoa Ranch.


For the outdoor enthusiasts, Manoa Falls Trail is an approximately two-mile hike that ends at a gorgeous waterfall. Adjacent to Manoa Falls is the Lyon Arboretum, where you'll hike through the stunning Hawaiian foliage, colorful flowers scattered everywhere. If you are looking for something more challenging, try the Ka'au Crater Trail, which features three waterfalls you can hike to, and you can even climb up the last one. Hiking trails are one of the simplest ways to immerse yourself in the postcard views of Hawaii.

There is so much to see and do in Hawai'i that it cannot be properly contained in a single article. To truly experience Hawai'i, grab two or three friends, rent a car and wander all over the island to your heart's content. Take the Dole Pineapple Plantation tour and enjoy Pineapple Whip that can't be recreated anywhere else. Find random Hawaii Five-0 filming locations. Go to Leonard's in Honolulu and try malasadas, aka Portuguese donuts. Walk along Turtle Beach and take pictures of any turtles you may stumble upon. However you vacay, nothing beats standing on the beach, watching the most beautiful Hawaiian sunset imaginable, and knowing that you've found your happy place. Aloha.

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