Whether you’re snagging views atop the crater at Diamond Head or biting into juicy hunks of pineapple beside the groves of the Dole Plantation, there are certain things you don’t want to miss if it’s your first time on Oahu. Mesmerizing fire dancers beckon luau goers to pull up a chair in the vivid light of a golden sunset, outdoor adventure awaits in the rugged volcanic landscapes of the island’s interior, and historic sites offer timeless opportunities to explore the past in this Hawaiian paradise. Make your own bucket list and crosscheck it with our favorite go-to activities that are quintessentially Oahu.
Grand Circle Island Tour
From pineapples to dinosaurs, knock out a handful of Oahu’s can’t-miss sights on a convenient day trip that circles around the island’s majestic sites and historic landmarks. Take in sweeping views from Diamond Head’s crater rim, snap postcard-worthy photos of waves blasting through the Halona Blowhole, and explore the rugged valleys of Kualoa Ranch, where scenes from iconic movies like Jurassic Park were filmed. Soak up the serenity at the Buddhist temple of Byodo-In, look for daring surfers tackling massive waves in Waimea Bay on the North Shore, and bite into fresh-picked fruit at the Dole Plantation to wrap up your day on a sweet note.
Nothing says Hawaiian vacation like settling down to an outdoor feast at a traditional luau, and Oahu doesn’t disappoint. At Germaine’s luau, you can get up close to underground imu ovens to watch seasoned chefs pull out succulent kalua pork, sip on mai tais while Samoan fire dancers pound the stage with mesmerizing choreography, and then watch the sunset shift the sky’s hues from gold to pink as you wrap up your meal with a sweet serving of coconut pudding.
December 7th, 1941 brought tragedy to the island of Oahu and beyond as Japanese forces surprised the American naval base at Pearl Harbor with devastating attacks that helped propel the US into World War II. Pay tribute to the lives lost on a half-day excursion with experienced guides from Robert’s Hawaii, who fill you in on the details of that fateful day as you visit the Punchbowl National Cemetery and explore the memorial built over the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona. Extend your time in Pearl Harbor to board the USS Missouri. Also known as “Mighty Mo”, this massive battleship served in three wars and offers captive visitors and inside look at crew quarters, battle stations, and the massive deck guns that gave the ship her catchy nickname.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Take a cultural crash course at the Polynesia Cultural Center, where the traditions of Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa, and Samoa combine to create a dazzling look at South Pacific heritage. Test your skills in an outdoor kitchen with Samoan cooking classes, hop in a canoe for a paddle down the Center’s canals, and learn how to toss a spear in true Tahitian style before you settle down for a spectacular feast accompanied by entertaining performances.
Go Oahu Card
For those who want access to a host of attractions, museums, and activities, the Go Oahu Card is a one-stop shop for the best that the island has to offer. Enjoy deep discounts on admission to over 35 attractions, which you can visit at your leisure with single or multi-day passes. History buffs can dive into Oahu’s heritage with a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center, explore thousands of artifacts and check out exhibits at the Bishop Museum, or visit the memorials around Pearl Harbor at your own pace. Active adventurers have plenty of options too, with kayak, snorkel, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, shuttles to the trailhead at Diamond Head, and guided hikes that lead to movie filming locations, misty waterfalls, and lush jungle landscapes.