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Plan Your Trip to Oahu: Best of Oahu Tourism

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By travelmeisteren

PLAN YOUR TRIP Oahu

Oahu is a never-ending photo op, with tropical breezes, lush foliage, volcano-studded landscapes—basically everything Hawaii’s known for. It also has a serious historical side: You'll find the Pearl Harbor memorial here, as well as Iolani Palace, the former royal residence. Oahu's surfing legacy goes back before the 1800s—and ask anyone who knows their way around a longboard, the waves are some of the best in the world. Beyond that, travelers head to the island for its shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. But back to those views: Don’t leave without taking in Manoa Falls, exploring Waimea Valley, and hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse trail.

Travel Advice

Essential Oahu

How to do Oahu in 5 days

Famous beaches, historic sites, and fresh poke
Read on

6 Oahu beaches you can’t miss

Having spent many vacations searching for the quintessential sun-kissed beach, I can confidently say that Oahu’s are among the finest in the world. They epitomize what a beach should be: pristine waters and colorful marine life in a stunning natural setting. So, grab your “slippahs” (local slang for flip-flops) and reef-safe sunscreen, and set off to discover a few of my favorite spots.
Charlene Fang, Florida Keys, FL
  • Lanikai Beach
    3,094
    Renowned for its crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand, Lanikai is the perfect place for spending the day leisurely dipping in the water or lounging on the sand watching kayakers and outrigger canoes offshore. Parking is limited, so take an Uber or park at nearby Kailua Beach Park and walk from there. This beach is in a residential area, so stick to designated access points and keep noise and litter to a minimum.
  • Ala Moana Beach Park
    2,005
    For those looking to swim, paddleboard, and possibly spot turtles against the backdrop of the majestic Diamond Head volcano, Ala Moana Beach is the place to be. Popular among locals—especially on weekends—the beach comes alive with blaring boom boxes, barbecues, and bouncy castle birthdays along its half-mile sandy stretch. Conveniently located opposite Ala Moana Center, you can easily grab a poke bowl from Foodland Farms and relax like a true local.
  • Waimea Bay
    1,300
    In summer, this North Shore beach is a favorite for its soft deep sand and gentle waters. Come winter, it’s a prime spot to catch surfers tackling 40 foot waves. Snorkeling reveals vibrant schools of fish and the occasional Hawaiian sea turtle. Onshore, you might stumble upon a sand surfing session—yes, you can ask to join in the fun. It’s also famous for its enormous half-submerged rock and the thrill-seekers who backflip into the crystal waters below.
  • Sandy Beach Park
    389
    This South Shore beach is a vibe. There’s always music blasting, plenty of body surfing happening, and bodyboarders facing off huge barrel waves that defy the imagination. Due to the dangerous combination of a powerful shorebreak and shallow water, you should always consult a lifeguard or local before entering the water—and heed any warnings to avoid learning why it’s ominously nicknamed “Breakneck Beach.”
  • Yokohama Bay
    137
    A 90-minute drive from Waikiki, this picturesque beach has stunning turquoise waters and a dramatic setting in the shadow of the rugged Waianae mountains. On some days, you—and the lifeguard—might be the only people there. Swimming is recommended only in summer and only when the sea is calm. Otherwise, it's a perfect spot for contemplation, watching the mesmerizing hill-shaped waves, and keeping an eye out for breaching whales offshore.
  • Waikiki Beach
    18,816
    Waikiki Beach gets a bad rep for being overcrowded and commercial—and it is—but it’s also where you can easily surf two- to four-foot waves, do some decent snorkeling on Queen’s Beach, join in a pick-up volleyball game, and spend the whole day people watching. Go before 11 a.m. to grab a chair, or come a couple of hours before sunset when the scene is more relaxed and the sky is painted in hues of pink and purple.

Oahu Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips or experiencing Oahu

Frank S

Breathe, slow down, get in the slow lane of life. You live in the fast lane back home.

Chris O

There’s a reason why this far-flung archipelago of tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is considered a surfer’s paradise: big waves! Swim with caution.

konagirl

What to pack: Shorts/T-shirts for anyone, sundresses for ladies if you like ... or capris. Most everyone wears slippers (flip flops/thongs). Weather is plenty warm. You will want a light jacket or sweater for the evenings as the weather can be cooler, esp with a breeze. (But not cold, mind you.) Jeans for the plane, and if you are planning to hike or do a lot of walking you might want tennis shoes. Dress is super casual.

aloha056

Sample the cuisines influenced by various cultures -- Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Korean -- you can find all of it and more here on the island!

ZeeGee808

Make sure you wear comfortable shoes for a day of exploring...don't wear your flip-flops like the locals unless you are used to it!

Frank S

Oahu is a place for all people to slow down, relax, decompress. There are numerous things to do on the island. Tastes from around the world to enjoy, and golf as well as shopping. Sitting on a rock under a palm tree on the North Shore and watching the big surf is something you cannot do in Cleveland.

Luvaloha

Oahu offers something for everyone. From the hot tourist attractions, to the authentic Hawaii - Oahu has it all for every type of vacation wants.

Gary W

Hawaii is truly a world class vacation destination that can offer you some of the greatest experiences of your life if you know what to do and where to go.

RonSlee

Honolulu is a vacation paradise. Waikiki presents some of the finest beaches for sun and people watching. Food options are plentiful for all categories. A nice libation can be had as well. There are many activities for all ages and energy levels.

What is the best way to get there?

flying

Honolulu is served by the Honolulu International Airport, a 15-minute drive from downtown Honolulu.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting Oahu from overseas, use the State Department’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Oahu is during a shoulder season: from mid-April to early June or between September and mid-December. Attractions are less crowded, rates are lower, and there are lots of festivals taking place. Expect temperatures in the low 70s (21°C) to high-80s (31°C) in either season.

Get around

car

Renting a car is essential for those who wish to independently explore the island. Rentals are available at the airport and various locations downtown.

bicycle

Biki is a bicycle-sharing program on Oahu. Visitors can purchase passes for a one-way trip or for multiple stops.

bus

The public bus service oh Oahu is called TheBus, which runs services around the whole island, including the North Shore. If you are planning to make multiple journeys, you can purchase a day or monthly pass. Note that transfers and large luggage are not allowed.

taxis

Hailing a taxi on the street in Waikiki is usually easy. In Honolulu, it is easiest around Ala Moana, Downtown, and Pearl Harbor, or the nearest hotel. Elsewhere, call ahead.

ridesharing

Uber and Lyft are readily available in Honolulu on your smartphone.

On the ground

What is the timezone?

Hawaiian-Aleutian Time Zone

What are the voltage/plug types?

The standard voltage in the United States is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The plug has two flat parallel pins.

What is the currency?

The U.S. Dollar.

Are ATMs readily accessible?

Yes.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes.

How much do I tip for...?

Bartender

$1 a drink or $2 for a more labor-intensive cocktail

Restaurants

15-20%

Bellman

$1 to $3 per bag

Housekeeper

$2-$3 per night

Taxis/rideshare

15-20%

Shuttle driver

$1-$2 per person

Tour guide

10-20%

Are there local customs I should know?

Drinking

The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old.

Public transport

Allow others to disembark before boarding, don’t take up more than one seat, and stand to offer seating to the elderly, pregnant women, or someone with a disability.

Take your shoes off

In Hawaii, it's customary to take your shoes off before entering the home.

Practice beach etiquette

Malama ka ʻaina, or, “take care of the land.” Dispose of your trash properly and keep your distance from turtles and other wildlife.

Say “Aloha”

It’s considered rude to ignore others. Smile and say hello, or “aloha” to passersby.

Slow down

You’re on Hawaiian time, and it is considered improper to show impatience in line or to honk your horn.

Surfers

Dropping in (taking off on a wave when you don’t have right of way) is a big no-no in Hawaii. The surfer who is closest to where the wave is breaking has priority.

Respect Kupuna

Hawaiians typically have great respect for their kupuna (elders). Let older people go in front of you and hold doors open for them.

Give wildlife space

Be respectful of Hawaiian wildlife, keep your distance from sea turtles, monk seals, and anything else you may come across.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oahu