Best Hikes in Oahu
Hiking The Stairway to Heaven
Although hiking is banned, this is one of Oahu's most well-known viewpoints. The Haiku Stairs (also known as the Stairway to Heaven) are a set of approximately 4,000 steps that climb to the summit of the mountain.
It is regarded as one of the most incredible climbs in the world, with a breathtaking view at the summit. Despite this, the trek is now banned, and guards are stationed along the trail, ready to impose a $1,000 fine on anyone who crosses.
Koko Head Railway Trail
The Koko Crater Trail, often known as "Koko Head Stairs," is your daily StairMaster exercise, with a wonderful panoramic view at the summit. This walk will put your endurance to the test as you march over 1,000 stairs to the summit! Hiking the Koko Head trail is one of the most fascinating and popular hikes in Oahu, despite its difficulty.
During World War II, the military built observation pillbox bunkers. The Koko Crater tramway, named after the extinct volcano, was built to transport freight and supplies to the summit. The abandoned railway is now known as the Koko Crater Steps and is utilized as hiking steps to access the old military bunkers and ridgeline.
This walk in Oahu is simple to locate, park, and navigate, but not so simple to climb!
Walk Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
The Makapuu Lighthouse is situated on Oahu's southern tip, not far from Sandy Beach, where the weather is often drier and warmer.
With magnificent views of Makapuu Beach, Koko Head, The Windward Coast, Molokai and Lanai, this easy to moderate summit route is undoubtedly one of Oahu's most unforgettable. Along the journey, you'll come across Makapuu Point, ancient military pillboxes, huge tide pools, a secret blowhole, and the famous Makapuu lighthouse landmark.
It's best to start this Oahu walk early in the morning since there are no trees for shade or other kinds of shelter along the route, so it heats up fast. You can park your car in the Makapuu Point Lookout parking lot.
From the parking lot to the summit, these Oahu hiking trails are paved. It's a modest hike up to an observation platform that's around 500 feet high.
The climb to the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse will take you approximately 30 minutes.
Hiking Diamond Head Trail
Diamond Head Trail is one of the most rewarding treks in Oahu, with incredible 360-degree views from the summit. Hiking Diamond Head in Oahu may seem to be a strenuous all-day trek, but the 760-foot peak can be reached in as little as 40 to 60 minutes. The hike is 1.5 miles round trip in length.
Diamond Head Crater is a breathtaking volcanic monument that has captivated tourists since the dawn of time.
Because of its strong Ahi-Tuna-fish brow, ancient Hawaiians called the extinct volcano Le'Ahi. British sailors were duped by the dazzling stones embedded at the crater's summit later in the 1800s. Although no diamonds were found, Le'Ahi was renamed "Diamond Head."
The Diamond Head path was constructed by the US Army in 1908 and served as part of the Fort Rugur military station for many decades. The Diamond Head Crater's top was fortified with artillery guns, cement bunkers, and an observation platform.
You'll need to enter Diamond Head Park from the east, via a small tunnel that will take you to the crater's center, where you'll begin your 560-foot climb.
Hiking Diamond Head is appropriate for most people, including children, senior citizens, and the typical individual who does not exercise regularly or engage in numerous recreational treks.
Watch Sunrise at the Lanikai Pillbox
The Lanikai Pillbox hike is one of the finest locations to watch the sunrise.
The main trailhead for Lanikai Pillbox Hike is located in the middle of a neighborhood. Start your walk at least an hour before sunrise if you want to see the sunrise at the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. This will give you plenty of time to reach the summit and get excellent seats.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a simple and easy hike. It's just around 1.35 miles long, including the walk from the parking spot. You will climb nearly 500 feet in elevation in just 0.4 of a mile. It’s definitely one of the most magical things to do in Oahu!
Watch Sunset at Tantalus Point
If you want to see the whole city, Tantalus Lookout is by far the finest place to watch the sunset. Tantalus Lookout, perched on a 1048-foot hill, offers panoramic views of Diamond Head Crater, Waikiki, and the ocean's horizon line.
The road leading to Oahu's Tantalus Lookout peak is a lovely journey that winds through the lush suburb of Manoa. If you keep your eyes open, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Waikiki before reaching the summit.
Waikiki is just 15 minutes away from Tantalus Lookout.
Visit Lulumahu Falls
A relaxing day may be spent watching a flowing waterfall in the midst of the forest. The walk takes approximately 30 minutes and is directly close to the Pali Highway.
The pool underneath the waterfall is suitable for swimming. On Oahu, seeing a waterfall is a must-do activity, and Lulumahu is one of the most unique experiences outside of Waikiki.
Hiking Manoa Falls
This simple and relaxed hike takes around one hour to finish. A hiking trail, which can be accessed through a parking lot and a gravel walk, is situated on Oahu.
There are few more interesting waterfalls on Oahu to view than Manoa Falls. It will seem like 1000 feet when you stand at the bottom of the mountains and look directly at the continuous flow of water cascading down the rocks.
For waterfall lovers, this is a great activity to do on Oahu.
It is also noteworthy that, when you enter the water, you should not really go in- it has been known to carry harmful bacteria.
You should be able to get to the waterfall in approximately 30 minutes on this walk assuming the trail conditions are acceptable, and the ground isn't too muddy.
Experience Maunawili Falls Trek
Pali Cliffs loom above the Maunawili Valley, yet hidden deep inside it lies the soothing Maunawili Falls. A great hiking trail in Oahu will take you up and back down the slope to a nearby waterfall that's part of a nearby water system.
The trip to the Maunawili Falls is well worth the effort! To reach the waterfall pool area, you'll have to go over a few boulders and the stream one more time.
The waterfall is a 20-foot-long, 90-degree cascade that begins as a stream of water that flows down a slightly inclined rock and then falls into a pool on the mountainside.
Even though you are strongly cautioned about diving or swimming into this pool, you'll discover many people who choose to ignore this advice and dive in.
Visit Waimea Falls Park
Waimea Falls Park is regarded as one of the finest treks on Oahu. It's more like a one-mile walk through beautiful botanical gardens that lead up to the magnificent waterfall. The stewards of Waimea Valley Hi'ipaka currently manage this famous Oahu waterfall and the surrounding tropical gardens, which are still known as Waimea Falls Park.
The Waimea Falls (also known as the Wailele Waterfall) is located at the end of the path and should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to reach. The magnificent presence of a 30-foot waterfall cascading down into a huge pool below will reward you.
Adventure at Olomana Trail Hike
Hiking the Olomana Trail, often known as the Three Peaks, in Oahu requires courage! It's not for the faint of heart, and it's certainly not for first-time hikers.
The hike to the top of the first peak takes approximately an hour and a half, and when compared to the following two peaks, this is the easiest part of the trip.
To get to the summit, you must follow one well-marked trail. However, there are a few places along the route where you'll encounter hanging ropes. They aren't absolutely required, but they may certainly assist hikers in ascending or descending steep rocky parts.
Nonetheless, if you're cautious and sure-footed, this trek will reward you with breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.
Reach the Summit of Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
Wiliwilinui Ridge sits to the left of the popular Koko Crater and is part of three mountain ridges: Kuliouou, Hawaii Loa, and Wiliwilinui.
Wiliwilinui isn't the shortest of the three climbs, but it is the simplest and a wonderful place to start if you're new to Hawaii's ridge hikes.
The well-kept trail was constructed by the US Army in 1941 and served as a service road at the time.
It's a 4.5-mile round-trip hike that's suitable for intermediate hikers. If you're going for the views only, be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand.
Hiking the Crouching Lion Trail
Crouching Lion Hike is a short but steep uphill hike with magnificent views of Kahana Bay, the charming village of Kaaawa, and the threatening Pu'u Manamana cliffs.
This trek may be done in two ways. One option is a short, straightforward climb to the summit, or a more demanding four-hour trek via the Crouching Lion Trail, which is somewhat more difficult.
If possible, go on this hike with a local who has been on the trail previously.
Popular Beach Activities in Oahu
Surfing Waikiki Walls
Watch or jump from the Waikiki Walls, which are located at the beginning of Queens Beach, near Waikiki's south end, approaching Diamond Head.
Waikiki Walls, commonly known as "Walls," is a famous surf location in town that attracts both locals and tourists seeking a good time boogie surfing in the steady, playful waves.
Surfers in this region are very competitive, thus novices have little chance of catching any waves. If you're just getting started and searching for some exciting rides, stay to the left.
The gazebo at the end of the wall is an excellent location for seeing a spectacular Hawaiian sunset.
Snorkeling at Laniakea Beach
Laniakea Beach, often known as Turtle Beach because of its beachside inhabitants, is part of the 7-Mile Miracle, which is a section of the North Shore that is renowned for huge winter surfing waves. What this Oahu beach is less well-known for is its beauty.
It's difficult not to be captivated as soon as you step onto this North Shore beach by the enormous green sea turtles that bask in the sun and call this area home.
You can swim in the winter since the water is typically clear.
Turtle Cove offers a 90-minute guided snorkeling trip to explore the open ocean in search of green sea turtles and other marine creatures.
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Outside of Waikiki and the North Shore beaches, Hanauma Bay is one of Hawaii's most popular and traveled beaches.
Hanauma Bay lies at the bottom of a volcanic crater. Over a thousand years ago, a violent eruption blew out one side of the crater, creating the crescent moon-shaped beach that exists today. The lava rock tubes created a perfectly protected home for hundreds of tropical fish and the beautiful marine life that live there today.
It's simple to understand why this Oahu Beach is famous, with over 300 distinct Hawaiian fish species hiding in the shallow coral reefs.
Stunning snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, as well as learning about the marine species that call the bay home, makes this one of the most memorable experiences on Oahu.
Non-resident visitors will be charged $12 per person, while residents 13 and over will be charged $7.50. Children under the age of 12, current military personnel, and Hawaiian residents with valid identification are all admitted free. If you're driving to this Oahu beach, there's also a $3.00 parking charge.
Kayaking to the Mokulua Islands
The Mokulua Islands are two tiny islands off the windward coast of Oahu, near the lovely tropical beaches of Kailua and Lanikai. Both are seabird sanctuaries, with Mokulua Iki on the right being restricted to the public. Mokulua Nui, on the left, is accessible to the public during daylight hours and is a favorite kayaking and paddleboarding destination.
Kayaks or paddleboards may be hired at Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks, which is directly across the street from the beach, and then walked down on a cart (provided by the business), or at one of the other stores in Kailua if you have a car to bring them to the beach.
The canal off of Kailua Beach Park, where the bridge is located, is the launch point. The paddle to the island is 2.5 miles long and takes 45 minutes to 2 hours once started.
Although there are lifeguards at Kailua Beach, there are none on the island, so use your best judgment and go with a friend before heading out.
The beaches of Kailua and Lanikai are two of the most gorgeous on the island, and seeing them from the ocean is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A beautiful tropical paradise is created by powder-fine white sand, crystal clear water, and towering palm trees.
Keep an eye out for marine turtles and crabs as you approach the island. Whales may sometimes be seen during the winter months. This is a fantastic snorkeling location because of the lava and coral structures that surround the island. Snorkeling, hiking the trail on the right side of the island, jumping from the cliffs, and relaxing on the sandy beach on the west side are all options for visitors.
Snorkeling at Kaneohe Sandbar
A real piece of paradise emerges only 15 minutes from the beaches of Kaneohe Bay, surrounded by the Koolau Mountains and its reef-protected waters: The world's biggest saltwater sandbar.
With a length of around 6 miles and a depth of half a mile, there's plenty of space for everyone.
This sandbar and its coral reefs are ideal for snorkeling, beach volleyball, a lunch picnic, and taking in panoramic views of the Koolau Mountains and neighboring islands. This natural formation may be seen in the middle of reef-protected Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of Oahu. It may be covered with waist-high water or fully exposed, creating a tiny beach, depending on the tide.
The sandbar is almost a mile away from shore, so you'll need a boat or kayak to get there.
Snorkeling at Sharks Cove
Don't let the name mislead you: this is arguably one of the safest snorkeling spots on the island!
Sharks Cove is a famous North Shore Oahu destination known for its excellent snorkeling. This unusual, reef-protected Oahu beach cove is located in Haleiwa Town and around the corner from Waimea Bay. It was named for its shape, which closely resembles that of a shark.
Sharks Cove is divided into two parts. The east side has more tidal pools, while the west side has more depth and is excellent for snorkeling.
Sharks Cove is home to a diverse collection of fish. The 80-acre marine life conservation area is mostly made up of reef and volcanic rock, and it covers approximately a football field in length, providing plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to discover.
Sharks Cove is a fantastic option since it has fewer people, clear waters, and a variety of fish to see. It's also a free Oahu attraction.
Visit Yokohama Bay
When you go all the way to the most western point of Oahu, called Ka'ena Point, you'll find gorgeous Yokohama Bay. also known as Keawaula Beach, which is found in one of the most isolated places on the island, it is located in a cove in the southern section of the island
The vast majority of visitors miss out on this part of Oahu. It is pristine, gorgeous, and unspoiled for kilometers surrounding the harbor of Yokohama. It is set against the background of the Waianae Mountain Range.
It’s a long drive to get to Yokohama Bay, which could take up to an hour and a half from Waikiki.
Other Popular Tours & Activities in Oahu
Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Pay your respects to the soldiers who were put to rest at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which serves as a sad reminder of the 1940s' wartimes. The building also has various exhibitions, a theater, and a bookshop where tourists may learn more about the events leading up to and after the Oahu assault. This is one of the finest things to do in Oahu if you're a history lover.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center offers free parking and entry.
The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites ticketing counters, situated in the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center courtyard, sell tickets for all four attractions. From 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., every day.
Learn Hawaii's History at Polynesian Cultural Center
At the Polynesian Cultural Center, you may learn about Hawaii's history and culture. You may visit reconstructions of genuine villages and interact with locals from various Pacific cultures as they share their culture and customs via song and dance.
You may take a self-guided tour of the island's six villages and explore it at your own pace and in your own way.
Adult tickets (ages 12 and up) cost $76, children's tickets (ages 4-11) cost $61, and infant tickets are free.
Drive on Farrington Highway
Renting a car is one of the finest ways to go and see Oahu. You'll have complete freedom to drive about and take in all of Oahu's natural beauty! The Farrington Highway is one of the coolest places to drive. You'll travel along a beautiful shoreline and see some of Oahu's earliest lava flows.
The Farrington Highway is perplexing since it runs across two distinct sections of the island. The northern Farrington Highway and the western Farrington Highway are separated by Kaena Point.
After a short drive along the west coast, you will come upon Makua Valley. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Makua Valley was home to a Hawaiian population. The valley is a holy location for Hawaiians and home to a variety of endangered flora and animals.
Skydive on the North Shore
The North Shore of Oahu is one of the most beautiful locations on the planet to skydive, offering a panoramic view of the island throughout your 15- to 60-second freefall.
All dives are done in tandem with a certified expert who will guide you through the dive and guarantee your safety. Whether you choose for a regular dive or a full freefall, this will undoubtedly be an adrenaline-pumping experience that you will remember as the highlight of your vacation!
Do a Tour at Kualoa Ranch
Are you a Jurassic Park fan? Kualoa Regional Park has jaw-dropping views of where some parts of the popular series were filmed. It is a serene and beautiful place at the northern end of Kaneohe Bay.
At Kualoa Ranch, you may participate in a variety of activities. You could easily spend a whole day here, doing anything from ATV driving to zip-lining to visiting Hollywood movie sites.
This location is seldom crowded, making it ideal for a day of quiet and relaxation. The water is quiet and pleasant to swim in. The Ko'olau Mountains create a lovely crescent in the backdrop, nestling Kualoa Regional Park's beach between the mountains and the ocean. Kaneohe, Kailua, and the shoreline extending out to Waimanalo can all be seen in the distance.
Relax at Makapuu Tide Pools
You'll need to walk a little over a mile to get to these tidal pools. However, this will make your trip to the tide pools much more enjoyable! For fewer winds and a better view during your trip to the pools, travel on a clear day. If you don't want to hike, several tidal pools are just near the rocky parking lot pull-off!
Visit Byodo-in Temple
Byodo-in Temple, a scaled recreation of a Japanese temple, is located inside the Valley of the Temples. The Byodo-In Temple is a Buddhist temple that invites visitors of all religions to worship, meditate, or just admire its beauty. Byodo-in literally translates to "Temple of Equality."
It was founded on June 7, 1968, to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple on Oahu is a smaller-scale copy of the Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan, which is a United Nations World Heritage Site.
The $5 admission price is well worth it! It's one of Oahu's most beautiful spots.
Visiting Dole Plantation
Dole Plantation on Oahu is one of Hawaii's most famous tourist destinations, with over one million tourists each year. The plantation attracts tourists and locals alike because of its historical significance, educational tours, activities, and pineapple delights.
The strolling Garden Tour, the Train Tour, and the Pineapple Maze are the three major offerings of the plantation. For about $25 per person, you can get admission to all three. Each takes between 20 minutes and an hour to complete.
Except on Christmas Day, the Dole Plantation is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens
The Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden has grown in popularity over the years because of its picturesque entrance, which has a lush palm tree-lined road and a breathtaking mountain range in the background!
On the 400-acre piece of land, the park's main features include a beautiful lake and walking trails, and as a botanical garden, the park is also home to many spectacular trees from across the world, all of which are identified with descriptive plaques. With its distinctive beveled grooves, the magnificent Koolau Mountain Range towers above the garden like a gigantic accordion.
North Shore Shark Cage Diving & Swim
Take a shark cage diving trip on Oahu's North Shore. Let yourself sink below the beautiful blue seas of the Hawaiian Islands as these breathtaking aquatic animals elegantly swim around you.
To ensure the safety of the encounter, a certified guide will accompany you. You may have one of the most exciting activities in Oahu by signing up for a shark diving trip.
Manoa Chocolate Factory Tour
During this 60-90 minutes bean-to-bar chocolate tour, you will learn how chocolate is produced and you will be able to taste freshly-made chocolate. Hawaii is the only state in the US that can grow cacao commercially.
During your chocolate-making adventure, you'll learn about every step in the process, from sourcing the cocoa beans to witnessing how they are combined and made into a bar of chocolate.
Visit the chocolate factory, get a bite of fresh cacao fruit and then taste a bar that has been completed. This service offers a sampling of Mānoa Chocolate and cocoa tea together sweetened with chocolate.
Visit the Albatross Sanctuary at Kaena Point
The Kaena Point Albatross Sanctuary houses approximately 400 birds.
Depending on the weather, you may be able to find a nearby bird nest if you're fortunate. Please bear in mind that this is a difficult destination to visit. To view this location, hikers must go on a five-and-a-half-mile round-trip trek from the North Shore parking lot.
This palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua and served as the residence of Hawaii's final ruling kings. Take a guided tour to go back in time and experience a part of Hawaii that isn't usually seen by tourists.
Visit Haleiwa Joe’s and the Haiku Garden
You don't have to be getting married to explore this hidden treasure, which is popular for weddings. Take a stroll around the botanic garden and pond before dining at Haleiwa Joes.
See a Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is Hawaii's unique native seal, and one of the islands' only two mammals.
Monk seals spend most of their time at sea, although they do come ashore to rest on beaches and have even been seen sheltering from storms in the coastal vegetation. Monk seals may be spotted in tiny caves on Oahu's southeast beaches, commonly known as Portlock Wall.
Look for dolphins and whales in Waianae Region
The Waianae Coast of Oahu, which is home to rural villages and one luxury resort area (Ko'olina), is virtually unknown by the bulk of tourists to the island. The region north of Ko'olina is very unknown, and some sections are extremely isolated.
The Waianae region is raw and undiscovered. Many beautiful white sand beaches provide excellent fishing, snorkeling, and swimming opportunities, as well as excellent views of the sunset over the ocean. Waianae is renowned for having the highest concentration of dolphins and whales on the island of Oahu.
Attending a Luau
It's almost mandatory to attend a luau if you're visiting Hawaii. Celebrating significant events with family and friends at a luau - a big celebration of food, music, and culture – is an essential aspect of life in Hawaii. Luaus are often held to commemorate family events such as a baby's first birthday, high school graduation, or a wedding.
Another purpose to host a luau is to welcome honored guests, and tourists are invited to luaus all across Oahu every week. It is one of the best things to do in Oahu.
Lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is legendary and probably the main food stop for most people doing the road trip to the north shore of Oahu.
The most popular dish here is shrimp scampi. They also offer garlic hot dogs and hot & spicy shrimps! This is a cash-only truck, so bring some cash with you!
Breakfast at Leonard's Bakery
If Giovanni’s is your lunch spot on the road trip around Oahu, then the obvious breakfast stop on this trip should be Leonard's Bakery for their famous Malasadas.
As they're so close to Waikiki, you can always go there and have them hot and fresh.
Taste Waiola Shave Ice
Waiola Shave Ice is delicious, and people travel from all over the world to taste it. Waiola began as a small grocery store, like many other mom and pop shops in Hawaii.
Take a look at how they're cutting the ice and how the snowflakes are falling off. There are two of them. The original, located at 2135 Waiola Street, is the one you should go to.