Top Things to Do on Oahu

Any short list of “must-sees” is highly subjective. Eventually, you’ll make your own, but we’re glad to offer ours: the expanse of Honolulu from Round Top Drive on Tantalus; the North Shore, whether the surf is up or not; the sea cliffs from Hanauma Bay to Sandy Beach; the windward coast as we round Makapuu Point; the Koolau Mountains as seen from anywhere between Waimanalo and Kahaluu; and three truly special attractions: the Honolulu Zoo, Iolani Palace and King Kamehameaha Statue. There are so many opportunities for fun in the sun activities, whether you stop at the Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Gallery Maze, which incidentally holds the record for the largest maze from the Guinness Book of World Records, on your way to cruise the North Shore or perhaps decide to head westward to spend a few hours at Bishop Museum, or learn about marine life at the Waikiki Aquarium.  Fun for the entire family abounds and with so many activities to choose from, the challenge will be figuring out just what to do first!

Bishop Museum

In Honolulu’s Kalihi district, this over 125-year-old museum is the world’s most significant repository of Pacific and Polynesian artifacts - an imposing stone structure with more than twenty-five million artifacts in its collection.

Waikiki Aquarium

The third-oldest aquarium in the country is world-renowned as the first facility in the world to successfully propagate the Chambered Nautilus. With a living reef, monk seals, coral farm and reef exploration programs plus Jun Kaneko ceramic sculptures flanking the entrance, it’s one of Oahu’s jewels. Open daily.

Honolulu Zoo

The largest zoo within a radius of 2,500 miles. Honolulu Zoo is home to 900+ mammals, birds and reptiles, in habitats that include the African savanna, tropical forest, islands of the Pacific and the children’s zoo.

King Kamehameha Statue

This landmark gold-leaf statue (and popular photo opportunity) in the middle of Downtown Honolulu honors King Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Hawaiian Islands and founded the Hawaiian monarchy.

Iolani Palace

The magisterial palace is the former home of the Hawaiian monarchy and the only official royal residence in the United States. Self-guided audio tours: adults - $14.75, youth ages 5-12 - $6. Reservations recommended for docent-led tours: adults - $21.75, youth - $6 Basement gallery exhibits: adults - $5, youth - $3.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is perhaps the world’s most famous strip of sand and was once the playground for Hawaiian royalty. Translated, Waikīkī means “spouting water,” a reference to the rivers and springs that once richly flowed into the area.

Polynesian Cultural Center

With its six native island villages, a Hawaiian lū‘au and “Ha: Breath of Life,” a Polynesian show, the PCC is a living museum and entertainment center. With Polynesian dance, music and fire-knife dancing, the show tells the story of Mana and his beloved Lani. Daily except Sunday.

Dole Plantation

Many Hawaii residents can trace their ancestral roots to the plantation days of Hawaii, when workers from other countries arrived to work in the plantations in the early 1900s. Cultural influences from those days linger, and at Dole Plantation, visitors can learn about them.

Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is an 1,875 acre privately-owned property run by a nonprofit organization. Filled with native flora, the valley is rich in history and a culturally significant wahi pana (storied place).

Shangri La

Doris Duke’s artistic vision is finally available for public viewing. She called her Black Point residence Shangri-La and it lives up to its name in every way. The artwork that is showcased here is categorized as Islamic, and was purchased by Duke during her trips to the Middle East.