Top 10 Oahu Attractions

Back dropped by classic Hawaiian sunsets and the world’s most famous landmark Diamond Head, Waikiki has something for everyone. From music and hula on the beach to surfing, or romantic sunset sails or outrigger canoe rides, Waikiki Beach is one of many Oahu attractions and is a place not to be missed if you vacation in Oahu.

Oahu offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States, including favorites of Dr. Beach, such as peaceful and pristine Lanikai. And let’s not forget about the North Shore of Oahu with its many beaches that draw crowds from around the world during winter for surfing competitions. For a relaxing day at the beach with the family, it is hard to beat Waimea Beach of the North Shore during summer when the surf is much calmer

Besides Waikiki, the best Oahu attractions include Hawaii’s most popular attraction Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri, the Bowfin Submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Other top Oahu attractions include Punchbowl Cemetery of the Pacific, the Bishop Museum and Planetarium with its live Hawaiian exhibits and science center and Iolani Palace.

On the more active side of Oahu attractions we have Sea Life Park and its swim with dolphin programs and Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve, a snorkeling paradise. For fun, family excitement, it is hard to beat the Oahu luaus, including Germaine’s Luau, Paradise Cove Luau and the Ali’i Luau held at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Below is our Top 10 Oahu Attractions.

Oahu Beaches

Some of the best beaches in the United States, maybe even the world, are found on Oahu. Waikiki beaches offer tons of fun in the sun and can entertain you for awhile. But it’s well worth a drive or tour around the island to visit the North Shore beaches and the beaches along the Kailua side, such as Lanikai.


There are several Oahu luaus that you may choose from while on the Island. The more economical luaus in Oahu are Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove Luau. You should allow approximately 40 minutes to drive to these luaus due to traffic. However, transportation is available to these luaus. You will be welcomed with fresh Lei and a Mai Tais. Another luau, located on the North Shore of Oahu, is the Ali’i Luau held at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Polynesian Cultural Center features 42 acres of lush and tropical landscape with seven “mock villages” that represent Pacific cultures. The husking of coconuts, braiding of palm head beads and the great fire will leave you speechless.

Sea Life Park

You can swim with dolphins in Hawaii either in the wild or at a swim with dolphins program in an enclosure. Oahu’s Sea Life Park is a world-class marine attraction. One of their more adventurous dolphin swim activities allows you to catch a ride on a dolphin.

The North Shore

Dolphin Quest provides swim with dolphin programs on the beautiful Kahala Coast. A large variety of tour companies offer swim with dolphins excursions. Some Swim with Dolphins tours venture out on kayaks, others on motorized rafts, or sailboats. The responsible dolphin tours are very careful about not approaching too closely with motorized craft. The North shore of Hawaii has shark encounters. Located in Haleiwa, shark tours allow you to get up-close and personal with these creatures from the confines of an underwater cage.

Diamond Head Crater

Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, with its unique profile, sits prominently near the eastern edge of Waikiki’s coastline. Diamond Head is known for its historic hiking trail, stunning coastal views, and military history. Diamond Head State Monument encompasses over 475 acres, including the interior and outer slopes of the crater.

Diamond Head Crater is a volcanic tuff cone and is known to Hawaiians as Le’ahi, meaning brow of the tuna. However, Diamond Head Crater’s English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds.

Diamond Head Crater has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet across and 762 feet at its summit. This popular Hawaii attraction is a must see if you are up for the hike because the views from the top are absolutely amazing.

Offering a 360-degree perspective, the summit hike is a great orientation for first time visitors as well as those who enjoy viewing natural wonders. It is really an amazing sight back dropped by Waikiki and Honolulu on one side and the Diamond Head Lighthouse and the beautiful waters just below.

The Diamond Head State Monument and Park is a great stop for first time Hawaii tourist. There is a ¾ mile trail that begins at the parking lot and ends at the top. Although there is new lighting inside the summit tunnel and a spiral staircase that eases the way a little bit, it is still a strenuous upward hike.

It must be said that the three-quarter-mile Diamond Head hike is well worth the climb for the breathtaking views of Honolulu and the west side of the island. On a clear day you may be able to see Maui to the east.

If you decide to do the Diamond Head Crater hike, bring some bottled water to stay hydrated. If you want to beat the heat and the crowds, rise early and make the hike before 8am. The Diamond Head Crater is a great hike with amazing views and with its close proximity to Waikiki, it is a good reason we have listed it as one of our top 10 Hawaii attractions.

Hanauma Bay

Be sure to not miss the opportunity to see the famous Hanauma Bay, its clear waters, and the brilliantly colored tropical marine life. Located about 10 miles east of Waikiki just off the main coastal road (Kalaniana’ole Highway, Route 72), Hanauma Bay is a curved, sandy beach that is perfect for sunbathing, relaxing and picnicing; great for the entire family.

The floor of Hanauma Bay is actually the crater of an ancient volcano that flooded when the exterior wall collapsed. The curvature of Hanauma Bay usually provides protection from large ocean waves and allows snorkelers a terrific opportunity to view the marine life in a safer, protected environment. However, when currents are rough exercise greater caution and obey all lifeguard warnings.

Hanauma Bay Snorkeling

The summer months are usually the best time to visit Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, but year round you will be able to find excellent snorkeling. The marine life is abundant and the turtles of Hanauma Bay are usually plentiful. The sea turtles of Hanauma Bay remain in the shallow water near the reefs and are very comfortable around people and will swim alongside snorkelers.
When swimming with and observing the green sea turtle, it is important that you do not disturb or annoy them. State law makes it illegal to touch the turtles so under no circumstances should you touch, chase or scare them.

Hanauma Bay Hiking

Several hiking trails extend along coastline and along the ridge overlooking the bay providing breathtaking lookouts.

Important Hanauma Bay Tip: Well, the main thing to know about Hanauma Bay is it gets crowded early, so plan on getting there early! The parking lot fills early and cars are turned away if it is full. So get to Hanauma Bay early to avoid long lines at the ticket booth and snorkel concession.

Dole Plantation

One of Hawaii’s favorite visitor attractions in Oahu is the Dole Plantation’s “Pineapple Experience” Dole Pineapple Plantation offers a fun and educational experience for the entire family. Ride the Pineapple Express train offering a two-mile, 20-minute fully narrated tour. Take a walk through the beautiful Plantation Garden and learn of Hawaiian traditions and crafts or explore the Pineapple maze, with nearly 2 miles of paths.

Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch lets you choose from a variety of fun and exciting activities. Check out the movie sites such as Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, George of the Jungle, and the television show Lost. Take an Ocean Voyage on a catamaran or if you are looking for something more adventurous, you can board a 6-wheel drive Swiss Pinzgauer for a back-country Jungle Expedition.

Your guide will maneuver through isolated stream beds and navigate through rough terrain taking you to some of the most dramatic views you will ever see. If you prefer you can take the ATV tour and be guided deep into some of the most remote places on the island. Or you can enjoy a Horseback Tour across Kualoa’s 4000 acre cattle ranch.

Foster Botanical Garden

The Foster Botanical Garden is home to a variety of rare and beautiful plants collected from throughout the world’s tropics over a period of 150 years, some of which are rare or endangered in their native habitat. It is known as the “living museum of tropical plants”. Be sure not to miss such areas as; the Lyon Orchid Garden (a collection of Old and New World orchid species), the Prehistoric Glen (primitive plants from around the world), the Middle Terraces (palms, aroids, heliconia and ginger plants), and much, much more.

Society of Seven

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to catch this show when they’re not performing in Vegas. This talented and hilarious group will make for an unforgettable dinner. Comedy combined with impersonations, singing and dancing, it’s guaranteed to leave you in stitches. If for some crazy reason you don’t enjoy the show, you will certainly enjoy the food.

The Don Ho Show

Experience for yourself, Don Ho’s legacy. Don Ho performed for over 40 years and was known as the “King of Hawaiian Entertainment”. It was his heart’s desire that his showroom in Waikiki would continue to be a gathering place for visitors and island people to discover and share the spirit of aloha. If you’re looking for the spirit of aloha, look no further than a fun and relaxing show performed by Don Ho’s family of island entertainers who know best how to celebrate his laid back island lifestyle through the sharing of cherished memories, song and dance. Be prepared with your dancing shoes as it’s not uncommon for audience members to be part of the show.

Oahu Travel Info

Oahu travel is made easy by its public transportation system, one of the best in the nation.
Daytime temperature at sea level stays around 75 to 85 F° year-round. Oahu’s leeward and south sides (including Honolulu) are mostly sunny and dry. The verdant windward side gets more rain, which mostly falls at night or just long enough during the day to give you a rainbow.

Remember to book those “must do” Oahu activities and tours well in advance. Those planning an Oahu vacation for summer, spring break or over a major holiday often book months in advance. This doesn’t apply to airfare where you can often find the best vacation deals closer to your travel dates, but tours and activities can sell out fast.

Share on: