Oahu: Your Guide to the Best that the Island Has to Offer

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Advisor - Isabelle Newcomb
Curated By

Isabelle Newcomb

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Honeymoons

  • Active Travel

  • Hawai'i

  • Outdoors

  • Island

  • Local Food

Aerial shot of Oahu, Hawaii.
Curator’s statement

I have been to Oahu three times, and it was love at first sight for me! Some may say that Oahu is too touristy, but I think that Oahu has such a variety and the best that Hawaii has to offer. You have the popular area of Waikiki with tons of shopping, restaurants, nightclubs and of course Waikiki Beach. Only an hour drive away is the North Shore, where you can find quiet beaches, yummy food trucks and snorkel spots. From Waikiki, you are also a short drive to so many gorgeous hiking spots, waterfalls and jungles. Oahu truly has something for everyone!

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Where to stay in Oahu, Hawaii

Things to do in Oahu, Hawaii

People on the beach in Hawaii.

One of the most obvious draws of Oahu, Waikiki! Waikiki Beach is an expansive beach in the heart of downtown Honolulu. It can be a little busy but the water is gorgeous, there are tons of yummy restaurants and umbrellas/chairs to rent. Waikiki also has tons of awesome shopping. From luxury brands, to Honolulu Cookie (the best shortbread cookies ever) to a giant three-story Forever 21, there is something for everyone. Not to mention the awesome night clubs and restaurants, you can find something to do any time of the day!

When in Oahu, you have to do something adventurous! My top suggestion is ziplining at Keana Farms, located on the north side of the island. It has 5 stars on Google, and for good reason, it is totally worth it! Don’t want to zipline? Try ATVing at Kualoa Ranch (where they filmed Jurassic Park) or a helicopter ride around the island.

Visit the adorable north shore town of Haleiwa. It is only about an hour and 15 minute drive from Waikiki and it is a breathe of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. Haleiwa has tons of delicious food trucks serving garlic shrimp, acai bowls, and smoothies, so yummy! You can sometimes even catch a surfing competition on the swells of the North Shore! Not to mention, some great snorkeling spots that aren’t quite as busy as the south side of the island.

Go on a hike! Manoa Falls is an absolutely stunning hike. Although a little touristy and busy, you will feel like you walked onto the set of Jurassic Park. Plus you get rewarded with a waterfall at the end! The Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden is the perfect place for a nice stroll or drive, surrounded by jungle, mountains, and flowers. Feeling up for slightly more difficult hike but with totally rewarding views? The hike to Diamond Head Summit has the best views over the whole island. It is pretty touristy and, as it does not have much shade, can get very hot in the afternoon. Parking can also be scarce so I strongly suggest going early in the morning, right at opening.

Places to eat & drink in Oahu, Hawaii

Beer and pizza in Hawaii.

Rainbow Drive-In: You have to come here for classic Hawaiian food, such as loco moco and spam. There is a reason this is one of the most popular fast food Hawaiian spots!

7-eleven: Ok, hear me out. They have some of the best spam musubi and rolls you can get, and they are so cheap. Pick up a few before heading to the beach!

Foodland Farms: This is more of a grocery store but they have the best poke! So fresh, so many different kinds, and big portions for the price!

Leonard’s Bakery: Come here during breakfast time for the best malasadas (it is like a filled donut.) So many flavors, so fresh and yummy.

Duke’s Waikiki: It is a little touristy, located right on the Waikiki Strip and Beach, but it is so good! They have tons of options, great view of the water, as well as an extensive breakfast buffet!

Haleiwa Joe’s: They have amazing seafood and steaks, as well as amazing service. It can get pretty busy here, so think about arriving early.

Senia: Looking for a more upscale dining experience? Senia is the place for you. Their food is pricey but you can taste the quality and perfection, not to mention the plates are gorgeously presented.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Hawai'i.