Oahu may be home to the sizeable city of Honolulu, but it offers much more than a cityscape when it comes to views. Though the juxtaposition of skyscrapers and white sand beaches certainly does have its own appeal, you’ll also find rugged coastlines, offshore islands, and lush plant life that make Oahu a true paradise. Whether you’re searching for a romantic spot for a picnic or you simply want to capture the vast beauty of the island, be sure to check out these top 5 Oahu sightseeing spots for a gorgeous view!
Diamond Head National Monument
Contemplate the island’s city life from a bird’s eye view at the peak of Diamond Head. Diamond Head National Monument stands at the east end of Waikiki as a backdrop to the Waikiki and Honolulu skyline. While you can certainly admire it from afar, the real views are from the crater’s summit, which is a 0.8-mile journey from the trailhead. Though short in distance, the challenge comes with 560 feet of elevation gain. A variety of pavement and natural surfaces lead to the top, where you can take in historic aspects of the area such as the military bunkers and Fire Control Station that served the original purpose of the trail. Today, however, people make the trek to soak in panoramic views from the top, where views extend down the shoreline from Koko Head to Wai‘anae. During winter months, keep your eyes trained on the water to catch a bird’s eye view of the whales that migrate to Hawaii’s warm waters!
Hanauma Bay Lookout
Hanauma Bay is mostly known for its title as the top snorkeling spot on Oahu. And while there are amazing views to be had from the beachfront, the views from above are even more spectacular. Especially if you already plan to snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, be sure to include the short hike to Hanauma Bay Lookout at the top of this popular place to see in Oahu! This lookout provides an excellent bird’s eye view of the bay, where crystal clear waters allow viewers to get a great look at the vast reef that makes this such an excellent snorkeling destination.
Located off the eastern side of the island, the Kaneohe Sandbar is a great place to take in scenic views from offshore. The sandbar is located in the middle of the large Kaneohe Bay and is best accessed at low tide when the sand is completely exposed. Surrounded by crystal clear aqua waters and with views of the Ko’olau Mountains in the background, the Kaneohe Sandbar offers both gorgeous views and a fun water adventure. The sandbar is located a few hundred yards offshore and requires a boat or kayak to reach. Bring along food, drinks, and plenty of sunscreen, and plan to spend a few hours floating, playing volleyball, or soaking up the sun at the Kaneohe Sandbar! Captain Bob’s offers a boat tour that includes the sandbar or rent kayaks for a DIY excursion.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
The often-photographed road into Ho’omaluahia Botanical Garden is just a glimpse of what is to come. With thick palms lining the roadside, sheer mist-covered mountain spires in the distance, and a road that seems to disappear into the landscape, the entrance of this place to see in Oahu itself is breathtaking. The Hawaiian name Ho’omaluhia means peaceful refuge, and that’s exactly what you’ll find on these 400 acres. The gardens themselves are organized around geographical regions, such as plantings from Melanesia, Hawaii, and Polynesia, among others from around the world. Admission is free, and while you’ll have to do some exploring on foot to truly appreciate the beauty of each garden, it is also possible to complete a driving tour through part of the grounds.
Oahu’s east coast is home to what has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water that kisses the shoreline at Lanikai Beach is impossibly turquoise blue and crystal clear, and with offshore islands dotting the horizon, the views here are stunning. Not only great for enjoying the views, Lanikai Beach is a good place to spend the day swimming and soaking up the sun. The water here is usually calm, making it a good beach destination for families. The small Mokulua Islands sit just offshore, both of which are uninhabited seabird sanctuaries. If you want to do more than simply admire the island’s from afar, they can also be reached by kayak. Neighboring Kailua Beach offers many of the same views and is an easier starting point for kayaking. North Mokulua Island has several white sandy beaches that are accessible to the public. If that seems like too much of an effort, lazing along the shores of Lanikai Beach and soaking in the views is still a great way to spend the day!