Vacationing on an island means you never have to travel far before you come upon another top spot of interest. On Oahu, where the terrain and sights range from a bustling cosmopolitan city to world class white sand beaches, the variety is even greater. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, water sports, or simply lounging on some of the world’s best beaches, Oahu more than delivers. While you’re sure to discover many hidden gems and personal favorites along the way, be sure to add these top 5 Oahu tourist attractions and hot spots on Oahu to your travel bucket list!
Diamond Head State Monument
A broad crater that sits near the eastern edge of Waikiki’s coastline, it’s hard to miss Diamond Head’s forbidding form as you lounge on the beaches of Waikiki. Best experienced close up, Diamond Head State Monument makes a great destination for a day hike with scenic views. The trail to the summit was originally used as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system, and the Fire Control Station and military bunkers still stand as evidence to this area’s long history. Today, locals and visitors use Diamond Head as a leisurely, albeit challenging, hiking route. While the ascent is just 0.8 miles, you’ll gain 560 feet between the distance of the trailhead and the summit. Some concrete has been added to the trail to prevent erosion. Make your way over switchbacks and up steep staircases before reaching the summit, where you can catch your breath near the navigational lighthouse that dates back to 1917. Then, reap the rewards of stunning views across the ocean and along the shoreline extending from Koko Head to Wai‘anae. During winter months, this is also a great spot to catch sight of whales from a bird’s eye view.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Pearl Harbor is one of the most recognized Oahu tourism sites in Hawaii, especially for Americans. Today a white memorial building with a flag flying high is situated in the middle of the harbor, which was once the site of the bombing that entered the United States into World War II. A free shuttle boat service is offered to visitors to and from the memorial site. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also free, and offers exhibit galleries, outdoor exhibits, and an audio tour that offer visitors a deeper insight into the events of the Pacific War. For history buffs, this is a must-see sight on Oahu!
Polynesian Cultural Center
Embrace the richness of Hawaii’s culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Here, visitors not only get to enjoy hands-on experiences with the arts, crafts, music, and dance of Hawaii, but also of the other areas that make up Polynesia, such as Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Fiji. The whole family will become immersed in hands-on experiences as you travel from village to village, experiencing authentic daily life from long ago. End the visit with a spectacular luau, complete with a feast of traditional Hawaiian food, music, and dancing!
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Carving a notch out of the southeast corner of the island, Hanauma Bay is an Oahu tourism hotspot for viewing the island’s vast marine life. As a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park situated in a natural environment, this is an ideal location for observing the beauty of Oahu’s underwater world. The bay has a vast reef system that makes it the best spot on Oahu for snorkeling. With sandy entrance points as well as reef that is located both near to shore and in deep waters, Hanauma Bay works well for both beginning and advanced snorkelers. Before entering, visitors watch a mandatory 9-minute video to learn about the marine life and preservation of the bay, so that everyone can do their part in keeping this place pristine. Be sure to bring reef-safe sunscreen and make an advance reservation in order to secure your day of underwater fun at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve!
Situated along the island’s east coast, Lanikai Beach has been named not only the most beautiful beach on Oahu, but also one of the best in the world. In Hawaiian, Lanikai is translated to “heavenly ocean”, and it’s easy to see why upon arrival. Unlike many other Hawaii beaches, the waters at Lanikai stay shallow for a good distance before descending into the deeper ocean, giving the water that clear, aqua blue hue that is what beach postcards are made of. Without the presence of reef to attract marine life, it may be best to leave the snorkeling gear at home, but the calm waters here make it a great place for families and for a day of swimming and relaxing along the shoreline. If you’re unable to secure parking at Lanikai, don’t despair. Lanikai neighbors Kailua Beach Park, which offers much of the same beach experience and views!
Check Out These Oahu Tourist Attractions Today!
Experience the rich history, culture, and of course, world class white sand beaches when you visit these top 5 Oahu tourist attractions and hot spots on Oahu! Contact us to learn more and book your next stay today!