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Visiting Oahu for the First Time

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Oahu is a cosmopolitan city that has something for everyone to enjoy. In addition to the natural beauty that can be found everywhere on this island, Oahu offers activities and attractions to help the visitor learn more about the islands and various cultures that have influenced Hawaii. One can experience Hawaii on so many levels, including through the cuisine. This guide is written from the perspective of a local resident who has loved hosting family and friends and showing them our island home. Aloha, and we're so happy you're planning to visit Oahu!

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Like a Local

14 Places

4 City Tips

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Map

14 Places

House Without a Key

Restaurants

Nico's Pier 38

Restaurants

Happy Days Seafood Restaurant

Restaurants

Pearl Harbor / WW II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Historic Sites, Historic Walking Areas, Military Bases & Facilities

Waikiki Beach

Beaches

Iolani Palace

Historic Sites, History Museums, Specialty Museums

Kailua Beach Park

Beaches

Battleship Missouri Memorial

Historic Sites, Ships, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Bishop Museum

Specialty Museums

Polynesian Cultural Center

Civic Centers

Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives

Specialty Museums

Hawaii Plantation Village

Specialty Museums

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Valleys, Lookouts

Saturday Farmer's Market KCC

Farmers Markets

aloha056's City Tips

  • Sample the cuisines influenced by various cultures -- Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Korean -- you can find all of it and more here on the island!
  • Definitely visit the most popular attractions, but also seek "local" experiences that present themselves during your visit. Check the local paper for what's going on around town.
  • Be sure to try the local food -- malasadas, manapua, shaved ice, lomi salmon, kalua pig, poke, passion orange guava (POG) juice, and so much more!
  • Oahu has an excellent public transportation system (TheBus) and, if you're not planning to rent a car, the bus does offer an option to get around.
  • Save
    House Without a Key
    Restaurants (American, Polynesian, Hawaiian)
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    This is a very relaxing place to enjoy dinner and drinks as you watch the sunset and enjoy the tropical breezes. Enjoy the pleasant sounds of local entertainment and the graceful hula dancers. This is a go-to place where we always take visitors. Lunch is also very pleasant, and service is gracious. Dine at leisure, and be sure to save room for the delectable macadamia cheesecake for dessert!

    Good for
    • Family
    • Friends
    • Couples
    Tips
    • Valet parking is available at the Halekulani Hotel.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #83 of 2,964 restaurants in Oahu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing 09/19/2018
    • Upscale Wonderful experience! 09/16/2018
    • House Without a Key
    Address:
    2199 Kalia Rd
    Halekulani Hotel
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815-1936
    Phone:
    +1 808-923-2311
    Price range:
    $20 - $35
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Nico's Pier 38
    Restaurants (American, Seafood, Hawaiian)
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    This place would make a great stop for lunch or dinner on the way back to Waikiki from a visit to the Arizona Memorial/Pearl Harbor/Swap meet. Lunch is nice and casual. Just walk in and order at the counter and then find a seat. You can dine outside, under the umbrellas, but, eating inside, you can still enjoy the balmy breezes, and it's more comfortable.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Enjoy their delicious desserts.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #118 of 2,964 restaurants in Oahu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great atmosphere 09/16/2018
    • Great place for poke fish burgers and beer 09/13/2018
    • Nico's Pier 38
    Address:
    1129 N Nimitz Hwy
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96817-4522
    Phone:
    +1 808-540-1377
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
    Mon - Sat
    6:30 AM - 9:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Happy Days Seafood Restaurant
    Restaurants (Chinese, Asian, Seafood)
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    Eat like a local and have your dim sum experience at Happy Days Seafood Restaurant in Kaimuki. Admittedly, it can be somewhat overwhelming to have all these options wheeled over to your table via cart, but, just take your time, and enjoy. To this day, I still don't know all the names of the things I like, but I usually just point. No matter what you pick, you won't go wrong.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Park in the lot behind Happy Days Restaurant. It's usually pretty easy to snag a parking place.
    • To experience more of the area, after eating, stroll around the neighborhood. There are lots of eateries, and you can even stop at a place to round off your meal with dessert.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #424 of 2,964 restaurants in Oahu
    • Cheap and cheerful yum cha 07/23/2018
    • Family reunion at Happy Days 07/05/2018
    • Happy Days Seafood Restaurant
    Address:
    3553 Waialae Ave
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96816-2701
    Phone:
    +1 808-738-8666
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 10:30 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Pearl Harbor / WW II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
    Historic Sites, Historic Walking Areas, Military Bases & Facilities
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    To me, a visit to the Arizona Memorial is an absolute must for any first-time visitor to the islands. The historic significance of Pearl Harbor makes this an educational and unforgettable visit.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Admission to the USS Arizona is free. Make a reservation on-line (http://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/index.htm) in advance for your tickets. Walk-in tickets are also available.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Memorable 09/20/2018
    • You have to go here... 09/20/2018
    • Pearl Harbor / WW II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
    Address:
    1 Arizona Memorial Place
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96818-3103
    Phone:
    808-422-3300
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    7:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Waikiki Beach
    Beaches
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    You can't come to Oahu for the first time without having visited Waikiki Beach. And, even better, make sure you dip your feet into the Pacific Ocean while you're there. Waikiki is always interesting and makes for great people watching. It's not a "hidden gem," as evidenced by the crowd, but, as a first time visitor, you should plan to visit Waikiki, check out the beach, and cruise Kalakaua.

    Good for
    • Beach Goer
    Tips
    • Head to the ABC store to pick up relatively inexpensive beach mats/towels for your beach day.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Paradise 09/20/2018
    • Anniversary 09/20/2018
    • Waikiki Beach
    Address:
    Kalakaua Avenuue
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96815
    Other:
  • Save
    Iolani Palace
    Historic Sites, History Museums, Specialty Museums
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    This is another place that I would highly recommend for the first-time visitor to Hawaii. It is a national historic landmark as well as the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. Before entering, you are asked to put on little booties to protect the floors as you tour the palace. It's well-worth a visit and will give the visitor a better understanding of the history of Hawaii.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #23 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Spoiler alert 09/19/2018
    • Multi-level attraction 09/19/2018
    • Iolani Palace
    Address:
    364 S King St
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96813-2900
    Phone:
    +1 808-522-0822
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Kailua Beach Park
    Beaches
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    There are many beautiful beaches in Hawaii, but on Oahu, in my opinion, this is one of the most scenic, next to the North Shore. This is a nice, calm beach that is very picturesque. The water is beautiful, and this would make a nice place to visit when you're exploring the windward side of the island. Drive along the breath-taking H-3 to the windward side, pick up lunch, and include a stop at the Kailua Beach Park. So relaxing!

    Good for
    • Beach Goer
    Tips
    • Pick up picnic lunch at a nearby restaurant/café.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 42 things to do in Kailua
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • WOW 09/18/2018
    • Beach day 09/17/2018
    • Kailua Beach Park
    Address:
    526 Kawailoa Road
    Kailua, Oahu, HI 96734
    Other:
  • Save
    Battleship Missouri Memorial
    Historic Sites, Ships, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    While visiting Pearl Harbor, a trip to the Battleship Missouri would be recommended. At the Arizona Memorial, you can witness the start of the war for America, and, fittingly, the Battleship Missouri, will allow you to see where the end of the war occurred. The tour guides are excellent, and it will also give you a chance to visit Ford Island, where the Battleship Missouri is moored. Ford Island is brimming with historic value, and lends yet more of the historic backdrop for your visit to the Missouri.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • Include this visit during your time in historic Pearl Harbor.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great experience 09/20/2018
    • Amazing 09/20/2018
    • Battleship Missouri Memorial
    Address:
    63 Cowpens St
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96818-5006
    Phone:
    +1 808-455-1600
    Price range:
    $29 - $29
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Bishop Museum
    Specialty Museums
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    There are so many places to see and things to do on Oahu, but I like to recommend the Bishop Museum because it gives an overview of the island's history. A visit here helps you appreciate the uniqueness of Hawaii and her inhabitants. It's a pleasant place.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • A café is onsite.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #24 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Not amazing but not terrible... 09/17/2018
    • Going back for more.... 09/14/2018
    • Bishop Museum
    Address:
    1525 Bernice St
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96817-2704
    Phone:
    +1 808-843-7654
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Polynesian Cultural Center
    Civic Centers
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    Okay, this is a must-see. We bring all of our first-time islands guests to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Located in Laie, another beautiful part of the island, it is a drive or a ride from Waikiki, but it is, in my opinion, so well worth it. Visitors can stroll through different Polynesian lands (Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Marquesas, Aotearoa, Hawaii) and watch shows and experience various activities (dancing, singing, drumming, etc). It's a great overview of Polynesia, and the people you'll encounter in each village are actually from that area. Many of the performers/guides you'll encounter are students at the nearby Brigham Young University. There are staggered showtimes, so, as

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Must See
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • There are staggered showtimes, so, be sure once you receive the map, to note which performances you'll want to start with and plan your day.
    • The Samoa performance, featuring coconut tree-climbing and husking, is most entertaining and not to be missed.
    • Check out the canoe pageant.
    • Check the operating hours of the park. The park does not open until noon.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 16 things to do in Laie
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Six Exotic Tropical Islands In One Day!!! 09/20/2018
    • A good sample of various pacific island cultures 09/20/2018
    • Polynesian Cultural Center
    Address:
    55-370 Kamehameah Hwy.
    Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2113
    Phone:
    +1 800-367-7060
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    11:30 AM - 8:45 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives
    Specialty Museums
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    I like this museum, the Hawaiian Mission Homes. It's not the largest museum on the island, but I like that it gives a look at what life might have been like for the missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in the 19th century. Stroll through the restored homes.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • This is not too far from Iolani Palace, so you could visit both in a day.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #115 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    • Well done museum and 08/02/2018
    • A slice of history 07/10/2018
    • Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives
    Address:
    553 S King St
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96813-3002
    Phone:
    +1 808-447-3910
    Hours:
    Tue - Sat
    10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Hawaii Plantation Village
    Specialty Museums
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    I've reviewed this Hawaii Plantation Village more extensively on one of my reviews, but I believe that this should be a must-see on a visitor's itinerary. If you want to understand present day Hawaii and how its diverse population came to be, you will find the Hawaii Plantation Village tour illuminating. I love visiting replica homes showing what it was like for each group who came to the islands during the height of the plantation era. It's fascinating, and, in my opinion, one of the least known historic gems on the island. It's in a part of town called Waipahu that most visitors don't really get to see, but it's well worth a visit. It's not too far from Pearl Harbor and would make a great visit as part of a day spent in the Pearl Harbor area, or a subsequent visit pairing the Hawaii Plantation Village with a visit to the Aloha Stadium swap meet. The guides are great. Not to be missed! You'll gain an entirely new appreciation for the island's history.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Must See
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • Check the website for operating hours.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 11 things to do in Waipahu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Neat 06/18/2018
    • Educational experience of sugar plantation living 04/18/2018
    • Hawaii Plantation Village
    Address:
    94-695 Waipahu St
    Waipahu, Oahu, HI 96797-2601
    Phone:
    +1 808-677-0110
    Other:
  • Save
    Nuuanu Pali Lookout
    Valleys, Lookouts
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    Another place that we love to take visitors to. Other than the price to park in the lot, there is no admission. Come and enjoy the beautiful views and crisp breezes.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Because of the strong winds, you may not want to wear a skirt, unless you have shorts or something underneath.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #68 of 578 things to do in Oahu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Phenomenal views & mean winds.! 09/16/2018
    • The view of a lifetime 09/14/2018
    • Nuuanu Pali Lookout
    Phone:
    +1 859-327-2317
    Other:
  • Save
    Saturday Farmer's Market KCC
    Farmers Markets
    See more photos
    aloha056 Says:

    The Farmer's Market at KCC is a great place to visit. It's a place that locals and visitors alike frequent. It's fun to walk around and look at all the items being sold -- fresh local produce, beautiful flowers, specialty items like honey and lavender, jams, nuts, breads, etc. Plus, you can enjoy food there -- pizza, shrimp, fried green tomatoes, abalone, pastries. You name it, you can find it. It's a very fun activity. There are crowds, and a lot in the crowd are Japanese tourists. But, the crowds are polite and the fact that so many come out to this farmer's market attests to its popularity and value.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Bring a re-usable canvas bag to hold your purchases.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #75 of 352 things to do in Honolulu
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Best farmers market 09/19/2018
    • Reasonable array of food and produce 09/15/2018
    • Saturday Farmer's Market KCC
    Address:
    4303 Diamond Head Rd
    Kapi`olani Community College
    Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96816-4421
    Hours:
    Tue
    4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
    Sat
    7:30 AM - 11:00 AM
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