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25 Top Things to do for Your Oahu Bucket List

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If you’re working on your Oahu bucket list, you’ve come to the right post! 

Oahu has some of the most beautiful views, rich history, cultural experiences, and endless opportunities for adventure. 

There is a reason that Oahu is one of Hawaii’s most visited islands in Hawaii. From incredible beaches, hiking, and water-sports, it’s the perfect destination for creating unforgettable memories. 

Since there are so many things to do in Oahu, it can be hard to narrow down the list. If you are planning a trip to Oahu, you will not want to miss these top 25 bucket list experiences. 

Get ready to have a dream vacation on one of Hawaii’s best islands. Let’s dive into the top things to do for your Oahu Bucket List! 

Map of the Best Things to Do in Oahu

Here is an interactive Google map with the locations of the best things to do in Oahu. You can click each location to get more info.

Oahu Bucket List Ideas

1. Hike Diamond Head

A must-do on your Oahu bucket list is hiking to the top of Diamond Head Crater. You can see this iconic Oahu landmark right from Honolulu. 

The Diamond Head Summit Trail is just a few minutes outside the city. The 1.6-mile round trip hike, while steep in certain sections, is daily easy and paved to the top. 

Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with an epic view of Honolulu City and Waikiki Beach. Some even say that this is the best view in all of Hawaii! 

Tip: This hike does require reservations in advance, so make sure you reserve your time slot here

view from Diamond Head Crater oahu
View from Diamond Head Crater. Honolulu, Hawaii.

2. Snorkel in Hanauma Bay

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay is a must for your Oahu bucket list. This protected marine life conservation area is one of the top places to go snorkeling in all of Hawaii. 

Home to a wide variety of colorful fish, coral reefs, and marine life, this is a unique opportunity to explore Hawaii’s underwater world. 

The crystal clear waters make it easy to see fish and coral up close. The bay is also well protected which keeps the water calm making it the perfect snorkeling spot for beginners. 

snorkelers at Hanauma Bay
Snorkelers at Hanauma Bay.

3. The Polynesian Cultural Center 

This is one of Oahu’s top tourist attractions, and it’s a full-day experience. Think of this like a mini Hawaiian theme park. 

The Polynesian Cultural Center is the perfect place to learn about different island cultures.

You can interact with locals from a variety of nations and participate in demonstrations.

Spend the day touring the six island villages, take a canoe tour and watch traditional island games and entertainment. 

4. Drive the North Shore 

The North Shore of Oahu is worlds apart from the more touristy side of the island. Wake up early for a short road trip to Oahu’s North Shore. It’s only about a 60-minute drive from Honolulu. 

Slow drive down this beautiful lush countryside, and make sure you stop to take in the chilled-out surf vibes.

Explore Haleiwa Town for some of the best souvenir shopping, check out the local surf shops, and eat at one of the town’s many roadside food trucks. 

view of Haleiwa Town, North Shore, Oahu
Haleiwa Town, North Shore, Oahu.

5. Visit Pearl Harbor 

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is one of the most visited sites on Oahu and is the perfect place to go back in time and learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Wander around the four different Museums and pay tribute to all that lost their lives in the attack.

6. Take a Helicopter Tour

A helicopter tour of Oahu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

From the air, you will get a bird’s eye view of this island’s incredible landscape, lush rainforest, pristine beaches, and iconic landmarks such as Diamond Head. 

From the air, you will get a unique perspective of the island, and get a chance to see hidden gems that are inaccessible by land. 

looking down on oahu from the air
View of Oahu from helicopter.

7. Attend a Luau

Attending a Luau is a must-do activity in Oahu and an experience that you will never forget. Traditional Hawaiian Luaus include hula dancing, live music, and an authentic Hawaiian feast. 

It’s a great way to learn about the island’s rich culture, history, and traditions. Plus, you will get to try some delicious Hawaiian food. 

There are many Luaus to choose from in Oahu, but Paradise Cove Luau is the most popular. 

8. Learn to Surf at Waikiki Beach

Hawaii is known for its surfing! From top surf competitions and big waves to the fact that surfing is part of Hawaii’s history and culture. 

One of the best beaches on all the islands for learning to surf in Oahu. The gentle rolling waves at Waikiki Beach make it the perfect place for a first-time surfer. 

If you have surfing experience, you can rent a board at the beach. If you are a complete beginner, many surf schools offer private or group lessons. 

aerial view of surfers at Waikiki beach
View of Waikiki Beach.

9. Sunset at Waimea Bay

While in Oahu, you will not want to miss the chance to watch the sunset at Waimea Bay

Located on the North Shore, this beach is known for its beautiful golden sand, crystal-clear water, and towering cliffs. 

While the bay is incredible during the day, the real experience is at sunset when the sky transforms into a mesmerizing blend of gold, pink, and purple, casting a stunning glow over the bay. 

10. Visit Dole Plantation

Visiting the Dole Plantation is a unique opportunity to explore the history of Hawaii’s pineapple industry and learn about this fruit. 

You can hop aboard the Pineapple Express Train for a tour of the plantation or get lost in the Pineapple Garden Maze. 

Don’t forget to try some of the popular Dole Whip refreshing soft-serve ice cream while you are there. 

11. Enjoy Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is one of the best beaches to add to your bucket list. Known as the prettiest beach in Oahu, Lanikai consistently ranks as one of the top beaches in the world! 

From the moment you step onto the soft white sand, you will be mesmerized by the stunning views, calm aqua-blue waters, and the view of the Mokulua Islands in the distance. 

This beach is the true definition of paradise, and you will not want to miss out on spending a day relaxing, swimming, and soaking up the sun. 

white and aqua blue beach in oahu
Lanikai Beach, Oahu.

12. Watch The Sunrise at Lanikai Pillbox 

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is one of the best hikes on Oahu. It has become even more popular as a sunrise hike. 

If you don’t mind waking up early, you can bring a flashlight and follow the trail that leads you up the mountainside about a ½ mile to the “pillbox” and old military bunker and watch the sunrise.

Lanikai Pillbox is one of the best spots to watch the sunrise in Oahu. There are amazing views of Lanikai Beach and the little Mokulua Islands (the ‘Mokes’) out in the ocean. 

Tip: You might want to try this hike at least once in the daytime before attempting the “sunrise hike” so that you know what to expect. 

sunset view over ocean from lanikai pillbox
View from Lanikai Pillbox.

13. See the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden also called “Hawaii’s Best Kept Secret” is a stunning 400-acre garden of paradise. 

Don’t expect to see many flowers in this garden, instead, you will find every shade of green you can imagine. 

It is full of tropical plants from Hawaii, the Philippines, and more. The scenic views of the cliffs in the background make this an incredible destination to take some pictures.

14. Koko Head Railway Trail

If you are up for climbing a mountainside of over 1,000 steps then you need to hike the Koko Railway Trail

While it will be challenging (and you will get your workout in for the day!) you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head Crater, and the incredible coastline of Oahu. 

You should know that this is no ordinary trail. It is steep and when you are climbing the Koko Head Stairs, you are walking up an old railway that is mounted to the hillside. 

You might question why you are doing this as you are climbing up the stairs, but there is no better feeling than once you reach the top! 

This is truly a unique Oahu bucket list experience that you will never forget. 

people hiking up the kook head railway trail
Koko Head Railway Trail

15. Enjoy Nature at Waimea Valley

Experience Hawaiian nature without the busy crowds by taking a day trip to Waimea Valley on the North Shore. 

Entrance to Waimea Valley lets you enjoy a tropical botanical garden, swim at the base of a waterfall, and participate in Hawaiian cultural activities such as learning how to make a Lei Po’o. 

Waimea Valley also offers Luau Shows, and it’s a great place to learn about Hawaiian culture and get a real island experience. 

16. Swim With Turtles at Turtle Canyon

Swimming with sea turtles at Turtle Canyon is a unique and unforgettable experience. 

Located just off the coast of Waikiki, Turtle Canyon is a protected marine life sanctuary where Hawaiian green sea turtles gather. 

The area is only accessible by boat, so you will have to book a tour to swim with the turtles. 

The tours are normally a few hours, they will take you by boat, teach you about the turtles, and provide you with snorkeling gear. 

Don’t miss out on adding this incredible experience of swimming with sea turtles to your bucket list! 

a green sea turtle underwater in oahu
Sea Turtle in the waters off shore of Oahu.

17. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice

No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. This iconic spot on the North shore is the perfect place to cool off while enjoying some of the best shave ice in Hawaii. 

While the lines might be long since it’s so popular, they move quickly and it is well worth the wait. 

With a variety of flavors and toppings to choose from some of the most popular combinations include the following: 

  • Rainbow: Strawberry, Lemon, Pineapple. 
  • Matsumoto’s: Lemon, Pineapple, Coconut. 
  • Hawaiian: Pineapple, coconut, Banana. 

18. Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

If you are looking to see some incredible views, then grab your camera and head to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

Just a short 5-minute drive from Honolulu, this lookout offers one of the most stunning views of Oahu’s Ko’olau Mountain Range. On a clear day, you can also spot Kailua Town and Kaneohe Bay. 

Make sure you bring your jacket because while the views are well worth the visit, the winds can get very strong. 

view of oahu from Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
View from Nu’uanu Pali Lookout.

19. Dive With Sharks 

If you are searching for a thrilling rush of adrenaline, then you will not want to miss out on the chance to go cage diving with sharks while you are in Oahu. 

Experienced tour companies offer the opportunity for you to get up close and personal with wild sharks out in the ocean. 

You will be safe in an underwater shark cage while you get to view a variety of sharks including Galapagos, sandbar, and tiger sharks. 

This once-in-a-lifetime experience will be something that you will never forget! 

20. Visit The Iolani Palace

If you are a history buff, or just want to learn about Hawaii’s past, then a trip to the Iolani Palace should be on your list. 

Built-in 1882 this palace was the residence of the last two monarchs of Hawaii. It’s the only royal palace in the United States. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the rich history of Hawaii, and stand in the halls where royalty once stood. 

21. Manoa Falls 

If you want to visit a waterfall while in Oahu, then Manoa Falls should be on your Oahu Bucket list. 

Located about 20 minutes from Honolulu, this easy but beautiful two-mile round-trip hike leads you through a lush rainforest filled with exotic flora and bamboo trees, ending at the stunning 150-foot waterfall. 

Manoa Falls is the most popular waterfall hike in Oahu, and once you see the waterfall, you will know why! 

22. Kaneohe Bay Sandbar

Located off the shores of the windward side of Oahu, the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is one of Hawaii’s hidden gems that should be on your bucket list. 

This natural sandbar stretches six miles long, making it one of the largest saltwater sandbars in the world. 

Since the sandbar is about a mile out to sea, the best way to get there is by booking a Kaneohe Sandbar Snorkeling tour. 

This is a unique and memorable experience to add to your list of things to do in Oahu. 

people standing on Kaneohe Bay Sandbar
Kaneohe Bay Sandbar off the coast of Oahu.

23. Visit Kualoa Ranch

If you are a fan of blockbuster movies then a visit to Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s windward side is a must. 

This beautiful ranch has been the filming site for many Hollywood movies and tv shows including Jurassic Park, Hawaii Five-0, 50 first dates, and more. 

Choose from a wide range of tours, including a movie site tour, UTV tour, and even zip lines. 

24. Cliff Jumping at Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay is the perfect place in Hawaii to get an adrenaline rush while cliff jumping. 

This popular spot on the north shore is known for its snorkeling, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking views. 

There is a large rock in the middle of the bay that is perfect for jumping from heights ranging from 15 to 30 feet into the waters below. 

While some cliff-jumping spots can be dangerous, Waimea Bay is known to be relatively safe during the summer when the water is calm. 

people enjoying a rock for cliff jumping at Waimea Bay
Popular Rock for cliff jumping at Waimea Bay.

25. Book an Excursion 

With so many unique excursions and tours available on Oahu, it can be hard to choose just one to add to your itinerary. 

From the excitement of riding a submarine scooter, swimming with dolphins, or parasailing above Waikiki Beach there is something for everyone! 

If you are looking to relax and enjoy some beautiful scenery, then you might consider a dinner or cocktail cruise or even a ride in a glass-bottom boat. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How many days in Oahu is enough? 

Since there are so many places to see and things to do in Oahu, you should plan on spending a minimum of three to four days exploring the different regions of the island. 

What is the best month to visit Oahu? 

The best months to visit Oahu are April – May, and September – October. These months are when the weather is decent, and the island isn’t too crowded with tourists. 

What should I not miss in Honolulu? 

When in Honolulu you should make sure to see the famous Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and The Pearl Harbor Monument. 

Do I need to rent a car? 

If you plan on staying in Waikiki or Honolulu then you can get to most places by using Ubers, Taxis, or public transportation. If you want to explore other parts of the Island, then you should consider renting a car. 

In Conclusion

I hope that you can see just how many incredible things there are to add to your Oahu bucket list. It is one of the best islands to visit in Hawaii, and with this list as your guide, you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip to Oahu. 

If you are looking for more information about Oahu, check out these posts. 

If you’ve already been to Oahu and have more recommendations on things to do, feel free to leave a comment below.

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