Honolulu - Oahu Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Hawaiian Islands
Credit

Courtesy of Andrey Popov/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Honolulu - Oahu

The island of Oahu has a great mix of activities, particularly in Honolulu. Take your kids surfing and snorkeling, hike around Manoa Falls or soak up local history at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace. And then there's the island's plethora of World War II attractions, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. But no trip to Oahu would be complete without visiting some of the island's world-renowned beaches; a few popular options include the water sports-focused Kailua Beach Park, the family-friendly Lanikai Beach and the resort-strewn Waikiki Beach.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated January 25, 2018

  • #1
    Things to do in Honolulu - Oahu
    View all Photos
    #1 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty used to come to the Honolulu neighborhood ofWaikikito relax andsurf, just as scores of tourists do today. That's because this area's famous beach (which is a string of several beaches dotting the island's southwest coastline) is the go-to spot for its soft, honey-colored sand and the high

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
    View all Photos
    #2 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located northwest of downtown Honolulu in the Central Oahu region of the island, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is the final resting place of 1,177 sailors killed during the Pearl Harbor attack. The sunken battleship is still

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Lanikai Beach
    View all Photos
    #3 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Travel about 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu to the Windward Coast and you'll discover two of the island's most popular beaches –Kailua Beach Parkand Lanikai Beach. Of the two, Lanikai is more tranquil, offering relatively calm waters and a mile of white sands. This family-friendly beach is also within view

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    Surfing
    View all Photos
    #4 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's no secret: Oahu is home to some of the world's best surfing spots. Every winter (when surfing conditions are at their best), professional surfers from across the globe flock to Oahu's North Shore to shred some gnarly waves in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Basically the Super Bowl

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Diving & Snorkeling
    View all Photos
    #5 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Hawaiian Islands boast 1,200 miles of coral reef, so it's hardly surprising that two of Oahu's most popular activities are snorkeling and scuba diving. Dive into the island's surrounding turquoise water and you'll likely find an array of colorful fish (think: bright yellow tang, rainbow runners and reef triggerfish),

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Kailua Beach Park
    View all Photos
    #6 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you like to kite surf or windsurf (or watch others participate in the sports), head to Kailua on the Windward Coast and find a perch at Kailua Beach Park. This 3-mile stretch of white, shaded sand and warm, turquoise-hued water appeals to both families and adrenaline junkies thanks to

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Diamond Head State Monument
    View all Photos
    #7 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Hawaiians call it Le'ahi, geologists call it a tuff cone (consolidated volcanic ash), 19th-century British sailors called it Diamond Head. Whatever you call it, this unique crater was created 300,000 years ago during a single volcanic eruption that spewed ash into the air. That ash settled over thousands of years,

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Koko Crater Trail
    View all Photos
    #8 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stretched across nearly 2 miles of Koko Crater in the Windward Coast region of Oahu, this hiking trail features more than 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad ties. At the trail's summit, visitors will find panoramic vistas of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve andDiamond Head State Monument.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    Battleship Missouri Memorial
    View all Photos
    #9 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Launched in 1944, the USS Missouri (or "Mighty Mo") is best known for hosting a meeting between Allied and Axis representatives that led to Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. After the war, the ship served in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm before docking in Pearl Harbor

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
    View all Photos
    #10 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In ancient Hawaiian times, the Punchbowl Crater was used for human sacrifices. Now, it's the final resting place for men and women who served in the U.S. military. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific stretches across much of the crater and contains several moving tributes, including the Honolulu Memorial,

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
    View all Photos
    #11 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Less than 6 miles northeast of theKoko Crater Trail lies the 2-mile-long Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail. Easier to trek than the one at Koko Crater, this free trail overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for spotting seabirds and whale watching between November and May. The path also leads

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    Honolulu Museum of Art
    View all Photos
    #12 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Arts joined forces with the Contemporary Museum to create the Honolulu Museum of Art. Together, this museum and its sister property, Spalding House, feature an art collection that spans across seas, styles and centuries. For the price of entry at one museum, you can

    ...Read More »
  • #13
    USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park
    View all Photos
    #13 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Like theBattleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park sits in Pearl Harbor within view of theWorld War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This historic vessel, which went on nine patrols during World War II, is one of only 15 U.S. World War II-era submarines that still

    ...Read More »
  • #14
    Manoa Falls
    View all Photos
    #14 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This approximately 100-foot-tall waterfall, which sits 5 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, is easily accessible. All you need is proper footwear, insect repellant, drinking water and the stamina to hike about 1½ miles on a well-worn path. The rainforest scenery is otherworldly, with enormous prehistoric ferns and the snaking roots

    ...Read More »
  • #15
    Iolani Palace
    View all Photos
    #15 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built in 1882, this 10-room historic house and museum details the reigns of King Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's final monarchs. It is the only official state royal residence found in the U.S.

    ...Read More »
  • #16
    Ala Moana Center
    View all Photos
    #16 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    There are many places in Honolulu to put down some cash and pick up some souvenirs, but none are as extensive as Ala Moana Center. Located northwest ofWaikiki Beach and roughly 2 miles southeast of the city center, this behemoth open-air shopping center boasts a collection of high-end stores like Chanel and

    ...Read More »
  • #17
    Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
    View all Photos
    #17 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you want to find out more about Hawaiian history and culture, then head to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Named after the last descendant of the Kamehameha royal family and wife of museum founder Charles Reed Bishop, this property houses more than 24 million historical, cultural and natural artifacts

    ...Read More »
  • #18
    Shangri La
    View all Photos
    #18 in Honolulu - Oahu
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The American tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent her winters living in this opulent oceanfront home near Diamond Head State Monument. She began building it in 1937 and then spent nearly 60 years filling its walls and rooms with art and furniture from Egypt, India, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey. By the

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Honolulu - Oahu

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019