Oʻahu is the most populated and traveled-to Hawaiian Island, home to the capital city of Honolulu and most of Hawaiʻi’s major tourist attractions.
Whether you’re visiting Oʻahu for the first time or a returning traveler, here are the must-see tourist attractions you should add to your itinerary.
1. Waikīkī Beach
Your holiday to Oʻahu is not complete without a visit to Waikīkī Beach, one of the most famous beaches on the planet. This popular shoreline is actually made up of seven different beaches.
We recommend heading to Duke Kahanamoku Beach for the broadest stretch of sand, Kūhiō Beach Park for family-friendly ocean pools, and Queen’s Surf Beach to watch the sunset.
Book an umbrella and chair set to really soak up this Oʻahu tourist attraction. As the birthplace of surfing, Waikīkī Beach is the ultimate place to learn to surf and outrigger canoe surf. It also houses an epic snorkel spot, Turtle Canyon.
INSIDE TIP: Our Free Waikīkī Map is the perfect tool for getting orientated with the Waikīkī Beach resort area.
2. Diamond Head
Diamond Head is the iconic backdrop of Waikīkī Beach and a must-hike crater on Oʻahu. It’s been used as a military site since the early 1900s and is now a state monument with a hiking trail.
The 1.6mi (2.5km) roundtrip hike incorporates stairs and tunnels as it ascends 560ft (170m) to an observation deck on the southern slope. It offers breathtaking views over Waikīkī and Honolulu.
Entry and parking reservations are required and can be made up to 30 days in advance. The entry fee is $5 (children under three are free) and parking is $10.
Diamond Head is a 5-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get to there, catch TheBus or Waikīkī Trolley, call Charley’s Taxi, take a ride-share service or rent a car. Alternatively, book a Diamond Head tour or bike excursion.
3. Pearl Harbor
Head to Pearl Harbor if you’d to like learn about the Japanese-led attack on this Hawaiʻi military post. In 1941, this significant event killed 2,403 people and caused the United States to enter into World War II.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial grounds as well as a number of museum exhibits are free to roam. There are also four historic sites to discover: USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
Reservations are required for the USS Arizona Memorial program, which includes a movie and boat transfers. The reservation fee is $1 and parking is $7. The other sites mentioned above do not require reservations but attract admission fees.
4. North Shore Beaches
With world-renowned surf breaks at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and ʻEhukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline), Oʻahu’s North Shore beaches are the epicenter of Hawaiʻi’s surf culture and are totally worth seeing.
In Winter (Nov-Apr), waves on the North Shore can reach up to 40ft (12m), making it a prime time for major league surfing competitions. In Summer (May-Oct), the ocean is calm and more conducive to swimming and snorkeling.
The North Shore is a 60-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get there, catch TheBus (not ideal due to how long it takes with stops), call Charley’s Taxi or rent a car. Alternatively, book North Shore transportation or a North Shore tour.
5. Hanauma Bay
As a dedicated Marine Life Conservation District, it’s no surprise Hanauma Bay is one of Hawaiʻi’s top snorkel spots. The surrounding beach landscape was made famous in the movie Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley.
The ocean here provides a great opportunity to swim with living coral, green sea turtles and tropical fish (including the Hawaiʻi state fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa). Always keep a 10ft (3m) distance from marine life!
Entry reservations are required for Hanauma Bay and can be made up to two days in advance. Walk-in tickets sell out quickly. The entry fee is $25 (children 12 and under are free) and limited parking is $3.
Hanauma Bay is a 25-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get there, catch TheBus or Waikīkī Trolley, call Charley’s Taxi, take a ride-share service or rent a car. To avoid the hassle of driving and parking, book a dedicated shuttle service.
6. Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is a stunning 4,000-acre property in north-east Oʻahu, where you should definitely spend some vacation time! It’s a favored location for filming movies and an activity hub for outdoor adventure.
The ranch offers a variety of tours starting from 7am with departures until 4pm-ish. Many tours, like the Jurassic Valley Zipline and the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, sell out months in advance. Book Kualoa Ranch tours ASAP.
Kualoa Ranch is a 40-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get there, catch TheBus (not ideal due to how long it takes with stops), call Charley’s Taxi or rent a car. Transportation from Waikīkī is available with select Kualoa Ranch tours, check their website.
7. Polynesian Cultural Center
For a cultural deep dive you can explore the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) on Oʻahu’s North Shore. This non-profit organization aims to preserve the traditions, cultural heritage and arts of Polynesia.
On-site villages offer the traditional experiences of Hawaiʻi, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tahiti. Watch cultural presentations, try hands-on activities, take a canoe ride, enjoy dinner, a lūʻau and/or a theatre show.
Choose from five packages: Super Ambassador Lūʻau, Aliʻi Lūʻau, Gateway Buffet, Islands of Polynesia and Islands of Polynesia & Hā: Breath of Life. The Go City: Oahu All-Inclusive Pass includes Polynesian Cultural Center.
Polynesian Cultural Center is a 60-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get there, catch TheBus (not ideal due to how long it takes with stops), call Charley’s Taxi or rent a car. Transportation from Waikīkī is available with select PCC packages, check their website.
8. Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum is the number one museum in the Hawaiian Islands. Located in the Kalihi neighborhood, this tourist attraction on Oʻahu is operated by the estate of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
Find the world’s largest archive of natural history specimens, plants, cultural artifacts, and artworks of Polynesia here. It hosts exhibits on Hawaiian culture, has a large entomological (insect) collection and a planetarium.
General admission from $28.95 per adult. Regular public programs are held on its grounds, along with cultural festivals and musical performances. We highly recommend checking their events calendar to see what’s on during your stay on Oʻahu.
Bishop Museum is a 20-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get to there, catch TheBus or Waikīkī Trolley, call Charley’s Taxi, take a ride-share service or rent a car. The Go City: Oahu All-Inclusive Pass includes Bishop Museum.
9. ʻIolani Palace
Hawaiʻi was once a monarchy and you can uncover this special history at ʻIolani Palace. This Downtown Honolulu palace was home to Hawaiian royalty from King Kamehameha III to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani.
After the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in ʻIolani Palace. Later, it became the territorial capitol and the US military headquarters during World War II. It is the only palace on US soil.
The building is accessible via self-led and docent-led tours from $26.95 to $125 per person. The gorgeous grounds are open to the public and host an array of events including free performances by the Royal Hawaiian Band.
ʻIolani Palace is a 20-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get to there, catch TheBus, call Charley’s Taxi, take a ride-share service or rent a car. The Go City: Oahu All-Inclusive Pass includes ʻIolani Palace.
10. Ala Moana Center & Waikele Premium Outlets
Ala Moana Center is the largest outdoor shopping mall in the world, a maze of 350+ merchants including 70+ dining options. It’s highlighted by a superior collection of luxury retailers, major department stores, Hawaiʻi boutiques, plus free centerstage events.
Ala Moana Center is a 10-minute drive from Waikīkī. To get there, catch TheBus or Waikīkī Trolley, call Charley’s Taxi, take a ride-share service or rent a car. It is possible to walk to Ala Moana Center from Waikīkī.
Waikele Premium Outlets are Oʻahu’s only outlet center. Expect designer brands at heavily discounted prices including Adidas, Coach and Levi’s, to name a few. For extra digital coupons, sign up to the VIP Shoppers Club.
These top tourist attractions on Oʻahu are just a sample of the incredible things to do on your next vacation. Subscribe to Waikīkī Beach Stays monthly mailer to keep up with what’s new on Oʻahu.