Here is a list of some of my favorite things I have done while living on Oahu. If you ever get the chance to visit Hawaii, these things provide the ultimate tourist experience, ranging from hiking, to relaxing on the beach, to immersing yourself in the rich culture Oahu has to offer.
Hike at the Diamond Head State Monument
Diamondhead is probably first in every travel guide on Oahu, and for a good reason.The trail takes you to the edge of the 3,000 volcanic crater, where you can see and take pictures of the breathtaking views as well as the watch post the US military used during World War II. The hike is relatively easy compared to other hikes on Oahu, and it one of the most popular for tourists. It is best to do early in the morning before it gets too busy.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hands down, my favorite place to snorkel in Hawaii. Located within a volcanic crater, Hanauma Bay is home to many species of marine life, including fish, coral, and even sea turtles. Because it is a nature preserve, there are strict rules on what can be brought on to the beach to limit the ecological footprint or damage tourists leave.
Experience a luau
There are countless luaus every night on Oahu. During a luau, there are a series of activities to participate in, including flower crowns and henna tattoos. There's also a lot of shows to watch, like hula or fire dancing, and demonstrations, like how to crack open a coconut. You also get the opportunity to try authentic Hawaiian cuisine like Kalua pork, poi, and lomi-lomi salmon. My favorite luau is the Paradise Cove Luau at the Ko Olina Resort.
Visit 'Iolani Palace
'Iolani Palace, located in the center of Honolulu, was the official royal residence of the Hawaiian monarchy and served as the Capitol building until it was named a National Landmark. 'Iolani Palace has been restored to look like it did during the 1800s, when it was occupied. There are daily tours offered and it is a great way to learn about the Hawaiian culture.
Eat at Duke's Waikiki
Duke's Waikiki is a fantastic restaurant right on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Duke's is named after legendary surfer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, who was an Olympic gold medalist and grew up surfing in Honolulu. Duke's Waikiki is also home to the famous Hula Pie, which is macadamia nut ice cream on a cookie crust, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and macadamia nuts. You can also visit the gift shop, and get a Duke's t-shirt!
Head up to the North Shore and visit Mastumoto Shave Ice
The North Shore is known for its amazing surfing. The Banzai Pipeline is a reef break located on the North Shore that hosts a lot of surfing competitions. The largest town on the North Shore is Hale'iwa, where there are a lot of tourist attraction including Matsumoto Shave Ice. Matsumoto Shave Ice is known for its extraordinary flavors, like lychee or lilikoi, as well as it toppings like ice cream, mochi, or azuki beans. It's an incredibly fun place to visit, and there's always a line out the door!
ATV tours at Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre cattle ranch, home to three different valleys and varied terrain that makes it ideal for filming. Kualoa Ranch has been the site of many blockbuster movies, including "Jurassic Park," "Kong: Skull Island", "50 First Dates," "Godzilla," "Jumanji" (the original and the new one) and "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates." There's also been a lot of TV shows filmed there as well including "Lost," and "Hawaii Five-0." The ranch offers many tours of the land, where you can see the bones from "Kong: Skull Island," or the T-Rex footprint from "Jurassic Park." There are bus tours as well as horseback riding, but I highly recommend the ATV tour if you are over 16.
Hang out at Lanikai Beach
Lanikai, which means "Heavenly Ocean" in Hawaiian, has been voted the most beautiful beach on Oahu. Lanikai Beach located in Kailua, on the windward side of the island, near the Mokulua Islands, which are small twin islands located off the coast. Lanikai is a gorgeous and relaxing place to visit, and you can also rent kayaks or paddleboards to use. Nearby the beach is the Lanikai Pillbox hike. Although more difficult than Diamondhead, the view is breathtaking.
Hike up to Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls trail is a relatively easy hike that leads to a magnificent 150 foot waterfall. The hike only takes about 30 minutes each way, but it also can be really muddy, so don't wear shoes that you like too much!
Visit the Dole Plantation
The Dole plantation has the largest pineapple maze in the world, and they offer prizes to people that finish in record time. It is a great tourist destination, and you can go on the Pineapple Express Train Tour to tour the expansive pineapple fields. Also, in addition to a great gift shop, Dole Plantation is home to the world famous Dole Whip!