Top Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii

Further Reading

Hotels in Hawaii | 4 Great Hotels 4 Beautiful Islands

Diamond Head Summit Trail

No one visits the island of Oahu without hiking the Diamond Head Summit Trail. Situated on the eastern edge of Waikiki’s coastline, the Leahi crater was formed around 300,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption. As the exploding ash and fine particles settled down, they cemented together to form the crater.

In the 1800s, British sailors were fooled by the glittering stones embedded at the top of the crater and thought there were diamonds in Oahu. No diamonds were found, but Leahi is still called Diamond Head to this date.

In 1908, as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system, the US Army built the 0.8 mile trail to the summit of Leahi. Today,  visitors can hike up to the summit to absorb 360 degree panoramic views of the island and the sea. 

The hike is strenuous with steep switchbacks, goes through tunnels and two flights of stairs. It took me an hour to complete the hike, but allow yourself between 1.5- 2 hours to accommodate rest and people traffic. Diamond Head is after all Oahu’s most popular hike.

Wear good shoes and take water as you will be hiking in the sun, with only the breeze to give you some respite. However once you reach the top, there is a strong wind and all your sweat stained clothes will be bone dry in no time!

— Open daily from 6am to 6pm. Last entrance is at 4:30pm.

— Entrance fee is $5 per car; $1 for pedestrians.

— There are bathrooms and a snack cart available near the visitor center.

Waikiki Historic Trail

The Waikiki Historic Trail in Oahu is an excellent way for visitors to recapture the essence of old Hawaii. The two mile trail begins at Kuhio Beach and ends at the King Kalakaua statue, at the intersection of Kuhio and Kalakaua Avenues. You will walk past 20 bronse surfboard markers, each providing in-depth descriptions and photographs of the sites.

Don’t forget to try out some wave surfing at Waikiki Beach! It may not be particularly “historic”, but it’s a must do if you are in Oahu. 🙂

Further Reading

Noi Thai Cuisine | Honolulu, Hawaii

Guide to the Waikiki Historic Trail

Shaved Ice at Matsumoto

Shave ice is a local specialty found on all the islands of Hawaii. In the 1950s, Mamoru Matsumoto opened a grocery store in Haleiwa, a quiet coastal town surrounded by sugar and banana plantations. This family run business soon expanded to include the Japanese frozen treat known as kakigori.

Today, Matsumoto Shaved Ice has been operating for over a century and is Oahu’s oldest operating shaved ice business. The creations are one of the best in Hawaii and expect long lines on any day and at any time. There is no other option than to wait it out in order to get your hands on this bowl of goodness.

Selecting your Options
1. Choose your bowl size: Small or Big
2. Choose three flavors from an extensive list that includes guava, green tea, white cake and sour apple.
3. Choose Ice Cream or Adzuki Beans or Both
4. Choose whether you want Condensed Milk or not

My Selection:
A small bowl that included the three flavors Mango, Pineapple and Coconut, along with ice cream and condensed milk. 

Pearl Harbor Museum

Pearl Harbor Museum is one of Oahu’s biggest attractions. The museum is living testament to the surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This attack led to the entry of the US into World War II. The museum goes back in history with documentaries, guided tours to restricted sites, artifacts and military equipment.

P.S. Only cellphones and wallets are allowed. Bags are not permitted on the premises. There are storage lockers available for $3. 

USS Arizona Memorial
Over 1,300 free tickets are available daily on a first- come- first- served basis. The memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 sailors and Marines who were killed on USS Arizona by the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Battleship Missouri Memorial
The third ship of the US Navy to be named in honor of the US state of Missouri, it was the last battleship to be commissioned by the US. It is best remembered for being the site of the Empire of Japan’s surrender which marked the end of World War II.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park 
Launched after the events of December 7, 1941, the USS Bowfin was called the “Pear Harbor Avenger” and completed nine successful patrols. 

Waterfront Memorial
A tribute to the 52 US submarines and more than 3,500 submariners who died during World War II.

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

Over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline, the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout offers panoramic views of the Koolau cliffs shrouded in clouds and Oahu’s windward coast. Pali means “cliff” in Hawaiian. The lookout is the site of the Battle of Nu’uanu in 1795, where King Kamehameha I finally unified Oahu. As punishment, enemy soldiers were thrown off these cliffs.

P.S. The winds are strong and howl fiercely. A jacket is a must!

Waimea Bay

Meaning “Red Water”, this North Shore beach is famed for its powerful 30 foot high waves. It is Oahu’s best pick to observe some of the planet’s most adventurous surfers. When the water is calm, Waimea Bay is also great for snorkelling and deep sea diving.

Waimea Valley: The Valley of the Priests

Also known as the Waimea Valley Audubon Center and the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden, this historical nature park is located in Haleiwa. One of the last intact ahupuaa (Hawaiian term for land subdivisions) on the island of Oahu, Waimea Valley is still sacred for Native Hawaiians. More than 78 sites have been identified including religious sites, house terraces and fish ponds.

In 1090, “The Valley of the Priests” was gifted by the ruler of Oahu to the high priests known as kahuna nui. Descendents of these priests cared for this land till 1886. The below picture is that of a Hale O Lono Heiau, a Hawaiian temple constructed between 1470 AD and 1700AD. It was dedicated to one of the four principal gods  of ancient Hawaii, Lono. He ruled over agriculture and harvests, weather, sports, and medicine.

Most of the 150 acres of garden space were once used for the cultivation of taro, sweet potatoes and bananas. Today it has around 5,000 plant species from around the world and boasts one of the finest and rarest collections of Polynesian plants. The garden valley is 0.75 miles long with 45 feet high Waihi Falls at the end.

Many endangered birds such as the Alae Ula are found here. All five species of Te o’opu, a native freshwater fish can be found in the Kamananui Stream. As a result, with the exception of service animals, no domestic animals are allowed entry.

Polynesian Cultural Center

And last but definitely not the least, is the Polynesian Cultural Center. Voted as Oahu’s No. 1 attraction, wander through 42 acres of this tropical paradise experiencing the cultures of the Polynesian islands including canoe tours, fire making, Tahitian spear throw, and island themed goods at the Hukilau Marketplace.

Further Reading

Polynesian Cultural Center of Oahu