Oahu is the third-largest of the islands that make up the stunning and exotic Hawaii. With its diversity and vibrant nightlife, the popular beach town of Kailua, and the incredible Oahu hiking trails, there’s so much to see and do in Oahu. In my case, I took the opportunity to finally learn a little about surfing. We even swam with sharks! If you are planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands, you will soon find that there are so many things to do in Oahu. Hikes in Oahu are plentiful and the Oahu hiking trails are suitable for a range of experience. If you travel to Oahu, don’t forget to leave time for the beach! Keep reading to find out about the best things to do in Oahu!
An Amazing Trip to Oahu
My trip to Oahu was one that I was really looking forward to. I had never been to Hawaii before, so we planned our trip to spend a few days in Oahu first, and then fly to Kauai for the rest of the trip. We saw breath-taking views, enjoyed the perfect white sand beaches, and climbed some of the island’s mountain trails—with a little swimming with sharks in-between! In a matter of days were able to fall in love with Oahu and all its beauty.
Planning your Trip to Oahu
Planning a trip to Hawaii can be overwhelming, as there are so many options for virtually everything. That includes prices, activities, and travel methods. I suggest looking for resources such as tips for Hawaii on a budget, so that you can plan the trip of your dreams without breaking the bank. One of the options I came across that I’d love to do one to one day is plan a trip to Hawaii via a Hawaiian island hopping cruise to see all the islands in one trip!
Best Things to do in Oahu
If you want to get the very most out of your trip to Hawaii, pay attention to this list when planning your travel to Oahu. Above all, be ready to adventurous! Here are the best things to do in Oahu, listed below. I hope this helps to plan your travel to Oahu.
Hikes in Oahu – A Must Do Trip to Oahu Activity
Now, let’s talk about taking a hike! There are lots of hiking trails to choose from on the island of Oahu. We did two hikes while we were on this island, one easy and one more challenging. Hiking trails in Oahu vary in difficulty, meaning there are lots you can pick from to match your hiking experience. We’ll cover the easy ones first.
Crouching Lion Hike
For example, the first hiking trail in Oahu we did was the Crouching Lion. It takes about twenty minutes to get to the top of this trail, and it was super easy.
When we were there the ground was slippery in some places, so be careful! This hike had such an amazing view at the top, though. It turned out to be a really great spot for sunset, and there are a bunch of other cliffs and lookouts you can walk to from there. Besides that one, there are a few other Oahu hiking trails that are beginner-friendly. See my list of easy hikes in Oahu below.
Other Easy Hiking Trails in Oahu
- The Waimea Valley Trail is great option, which according to Hawaii Travel With Kids, is the easiest hike on the island. It also happens to be one of those lovely waterfall hikes Oahu has to offer.
- The Diamond Head Trail is a popular one because of its panoramic views of Oahu. From the top, you can see a huge crater that resulted from a volcanic eruption long ago.
- Manoa Falls Trail is a super easy, 1.6-mile hike. It’s more like a walk though, really! This is a great one if you’re travelling with a family or just not up for a steep climb.
- Hauula Loop Trail is located within the quaint Hauula village. According to this article, Easy Hikes on Oahu, it’s a hidden gem, but one that’s well-preserved. The hike is a total of 2.5 miles through thick vegetation that surrounds you and gives you sweet shade from the sun.
- Makapu’u Lighthouse is another quite popular trail on Oahu and is also known as Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline. From the top, you can see gorgeous views of the water and nearby islands.
As you can see, if you’re looking for easy hikes Oahu would be a good place to find them! There are plenty of hiking trails in Oahu to choose from when you want to take it easy.
Olomana Three Peaks Hike
The other hike we did in Oahu was called Olomana Three Peaks. We started this hike in the darkness so that we could be at the top by sunrise. It was a little scary but it was worth the amazing view at the top! Since we were walking in the dark (with headlamps) it took us longer getting up there than it probably would have in the daylight.
We had Mike as a guide to the top. He is an amazing guide and an awesome person. It was so nice meeting him and getting to know him. If you are ever in Oahu and need a guide to get you to some of the trickier trails, I suggest hiring him! The hike round trip is a little over three hours. We started at 5am and got back down around 9am. That included some time enjoying the view at the top, of course.
Some other Oahu hiking trails that would be perfect for dare-devils, adventurers, and fitness addicts are listed below.
More Challenging Hikes in Oahu
- Hawai‘iloa Ridge Trail is steep at times and is 3-4 hours with a seven-hour round trip hiking time. It’s well worth all that, apparently, because it features plenty of native flora and fauna along the way. Eventually, the trail ascends to an open ridge where the view is supposedly lovely.
- Wiliwilinui Access Road and Ridge Trail is almost as difficult to climb as it is to pronounce! Just kidding, but the trail is 3-4 hours and 6 miles round trip. You’ll climb the trail through a guava forest before eventually reaching the summit of the Ko‘olau Range.
- Ma‘akua Ridge (or Papali Trail) goes on a circle through a wonderfully shady and diverse forest. The Aston Waikiki Beach site describes the forest as having “a complex structure, from Formosa koa trees to strawberry guava, kukui, mango, Christmas berry and native papala kepau trees.” The trail is 1-3 hours and five miles long.
- Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge Trail apparently has some incredible views. Taking 2-3 hours and stretching five miles long, this hike features songbirds and lush, exotic vegetation. Although it gets quite steep toward the top, there is respite in an area a little before the last final climb, where picnic tables and shelter are set up. You can find that spot about two-thirds of the way to the top.
The Oahu North Shore
Now, let’s take a visit to the North Shore, which is one of the best things to do in Oahu! Firstly, this area is known as legendary in the surfing world. It attracts the best surfers from all over! In fact, the North Shore beaches, including the Banzai Pipeline, host the most premiere international surfing competitions. Wintertime is when the pros come in to find those perfect, gigantic waves. In the summertime, beginners can safely learn to surf as the waves are much calmer and smaller then.
There are so many amazing beaches along this shore. They’re all perfect, and complete with that pristine white sand that I love so much. Overall, this area is great for sunbathing, shopping and eating local delicacies.
These next few photos are from the beach right after the pipeline and across the street from the Sunrise Shack fruit stand. I was actually happy that it started to rain a little bit because we got a rainbow out of it—and not just one, but two! Joel is a huge fan of rainbows so it was a win for us. After the rain stopped, we headed to a calm cove nearby and got some drone shots!
Places to go in the North Shore in Oahu
Sunrise Shack for Papaya Bowls
While you are in the North Shore, you’ll definitely want to hit up the Sunrise Shack. They have the most amazing bullet proof coffee and papaya bowls. If you don’t go here, you’ll truly be missing out.
You can watch my trip to Oahu vlog below or on YouTube for better quality.
Does this area look familiar to you!? If you’ve seen the TV show Lost, then you may recognize it. This is the exact area that they filmed the show! Mokulē’ia Beach was so much fun to visit when you travel to Oahu. It first starts off as a jungle and then leads to a really calm nice clear blue beach. All in all, perfection!
Other Spots to Check Out in Oahu
There are so many things to do in Oahu, that you will never run out of options. Planning another trip to Oahu will be on your mind as soon as you return home from the Hawaiian Islands.
I have always wanted to go surfing, so I was very fortunate that Ben took me to Cromwell’s Beach to try to start learning how to stand on a surf board. It was a perfectly calm cove and beach with waters ideal for the basics of surfing. I will have to try to learn more the next time I travel to Oahu—I’m definitely not ready to jump into that pipeline in the wintertime waves!
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
You have probably seen this road a million times all over Instagram. The reason? It is just so very picturesque. I decided to be basic and get a picture there, too, because WHY NOT?! This road is located at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, and the picture was taken right when you enter the gates—there is a parking lot right outside where you can leave your car. The gardens feature some of the most beautiful vegetation native to Oahu. It was certainly a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon when you travel to Oahu.
Diving with Sharks in Oahu
Lastly, we got to experience diving with sharks with One Ocean Diving and it was one for the books! If you travel to Oahu, you’ve got to experience this. I really enjoyed swimming, but I hadn’t had much experience snorkelling before this. I tried to remain calm…as calm as you can be with sharks swimming around you. I kid, they’re actually not a scary as everyone thinks. We’ve got to stop relying on the Jaws movies for our shark information, lol. Here are a few things you can realistically expect from a dive with the sharks (no cage):
- You don’t actually need to worry if you have a cut or worried about slight bleeding.
- Expert marine researchers and safety divers will be with you the whole time.
- You don’t need previous dive experience—it’s basically a snorkel, with the choice to free-dive if you’d like.
- If you’re lucky you might see some dolphins or whales as well!
- The experience will be educational, and also one unforgettable adventure.
If you want to experience sharks in their natural environment without cages, I highly recommend One Ocean Diving. They were amazing and we had a fabulous morning.
Will you Plan a Trip to Oahu Soon?
Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Oahu. It was such a great introduction to the beautiful Hawaii. Although I’d love to go back and explore even more of the island, we were lucky enough to have had time for some of the best things to do in Oahu. We got to check out the North Shore, do two mesmerizing hikes, and go swimming with sharks in the wild!
As a bonus, I got to learn a little beginner’s surfing, plus I got that well-known Insta photo from the entrance of the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. If you’re looking for things to do in Oahu, those are definitely some of the best highlights.
Let me know if this was helpful for you when planning a trip to Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. There are so many things to do in Oahu. Hikes in Oahu are plentiful and the Oahu hiking trails are suitable for a range of experience. If you travel to Oahu, don’t forget to leave time for the beach!
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for food, dogs, fitness, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.