things to do on Oahu

My daughter recently graduated from college in Massachusetts and her and her boyfriend flew to Oahu to spend a couple of weeks with the family as a vacation/graduation present.  Hey, not every kid gets to go to Hawaii and chill for a couple of weeks after graduation, right? #spoiledkids

While she is here for about 3 weeks, her boyfriend is only here for 6 days plus a day of travel.  I felt that it was important to get them into as many things as possible in those 6 days so that they could enjoy it together.

I like to plan my outings for the days that we do attractions on Oahu in nearby areas.  In other words, if I feel that visiting the Dole Plantation is a great thing to do, then I’ll plan something else towards the North Shore of Oahu.  As you can see in my itinerary below, you’ll do most of your traveling getting to an area and then it will be minimal from there. (Except for day 4 but I thought it was worth the travel time.)  That way if you wanted to rent a moped or bicycle the area, I think that I’ve provided that opportunity.  I also think that I’ve provided some cool activities below for a nominal price.

Also, don’t forget to take pictures and check into locations on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (@movehawaii) and Foursquare.  Your friends who are not on a paradise vacation In Hawaii will love you for it.

Diamond Head and Waikiki

The family and I on top of Diamond Head.

You can start at Waikiki and stroll to the Diamond Head Crater from there, but I recommend doing it the other way around.  Arrive at the Diamond Head State Monument Park as early as you can (around 7 am is a great time) because it gets crowded soon after.  Then hike to the top of the crater, take pictures of the awesome scenery and look down on Waikiki.  To the water and beaches will beckon to you.

There is a bus stop outside the state park entrance to Diamond Head and there are plenty of taxis if you want to go that route.  If you rented a vehicle then you can just drive down to Waikiki and Honolulu’s tourism center is yours for the taking.  Hit the beach.  Have lunch.  Walk the shops or hit a bar.  Whatever you want to do.

Entrance to Diamond Head Crater is $5 for a car or $1 per person to walk through.

Koko Head and Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Snorkelong

These two go together much in the same way that Diamond Head and Waikiki do.  Hike up the stairs of Koko Head and work that body.  Get sweaty.  Enjoy it.  Take pictures and feel awesome.  Koko Head is no joke and it’s an accomplishment.

Don’t get too tired, though!  You’ll basically cross the street and go snorkeling in Hanauma Bay right after you’re done.  Hanauma Bay is the most popular snorkeling spot on Oahu and the fish abound.  It’s hard not to see awesome marine life, including sea turtles and moray eels.

Prices for entry to Hanauma Bay are $7.50 per person and kids under 12 years old are free.  Renting a full set of snorkel gear is $12 for the day.  It’s worth $19.50 per person, though.  Awesome beach.  Awesome snorkeling. Serene and exciting.

Waimea Falls and Shark’s Cove


Waimea Falls is about a ¾ of  a mile walk through botanical gardens with a waterfall at the end of the trail.  It’s easy and it’s rewarding.  Along the wave you’ll see ancient Hawaiian structures that have been preserved.  Waimea Falls is where parts of Hunger Games: Catching Fire was shot.

Shark’s Cove is maybe the second best snorkeling location on Oahu (behind Hanauma Bay) and is definitely the best snorkeling on the North Shore.  Just be sure to check the surf report before hitting Shark’s Cove because if the swell is up then the cove is not the safest of snorkel spots.

Pearl Harbor, Scenic Drive and Polynesian Cultural Center


Okay, this is the only time that I’m going to send you far away from the first destination to the next.  However, this is also a “relaxed” day so that you can rest up for next day’s activities. It’s about an hour drive between Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, but I’m going to call this a scenic drive.  The price for Pearl Harbor is nominal, even if you go all out and get all the of video and audio tours that go along with visiting the Arizona Memorial.

The Polynesian Cultural Center can be pricey, especially if you opt for something like the Super Ambassador Package.  Even the general admission tickets are $40 for adults and $24 for kids 5 to 11 years old.  There isn’t a better ticket and show in all of Oahu, and perhaps Hawaii, though.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is open from noon to 6pm daily.  Visit Pearl Harbor in the morning and then drive out to Laie for a day of Polynesian fun and education.

Lanikai Pillbox Trail and Mokalua Island Kayak

Atop one of the Pillboxes looking down on Lanikai Beach and the Mokolua Islands.

The Lanikai Pillbox Trail, or Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, is an awesome but short hike up a steep ridge to World War II pillboxes.  The views are awesome all around, especially of Lanikai Beach and especially of the Mokolua Islands.

That’s where you’re going next.  Rent some kayaks (online or after you come down of the ridge) and kayak out to the Mokes.  There you can spend the day by snorkeling, eating on the landing beach and traversing around the big island (the small island is limits).  Kayak rentals aren’t that bad and the hike is free but with views that will last a lifetime.

Dole Plantation and Historic Haleiwa

Dole Plantation

On the last day we’ll be going back to the North Shore for some last sight-seeing and souvenir shopping.

The Dole Plantation is a nice family event but even adults will appreciate the beauty of the pineapple plantation and the history of how James Dole started his pineapple empire on Hawaii.

Historic Haleiwa is a great place to walk around and shop in.  The shrimp trucks are famous for awesome food so don’t ignore them while you’re in town.  Buy all of the souvenirs you’ll need for friends and family back home as well as keepsakes at the Dole Plantation and Haleiwa to end out your week.


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