First-Timer's Guide to Oahu
Though it isn’t the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, tropical Oahu is the most populated and receives the most visitors. Navigating its urban culture, waterfall-backed valleys, and long stretches of white sand takes some planning—here are some tips for your first Oahu visit.
Check out Waikiki—then go beyond.
Most visitors’ introduction to Oahu is through the famed, hotel-lined stretch of Waikiki Beach. The beach is a must-see starting point with plenty to do—shopping, dining, surfing, swimming, and more. Once you’ve gotten your fill, take in the rest of Oahu by venturing to points further afield. Full-daycircle island tourscircumnavigate the island and are an excellent way to take in highlights such as Honolulu’sChinatown,Kaneohe Bay, the surfing mecca ofthe North Shore, theHanauma Baysnorkeling hot spot, the Dole Plantation, hidden waterfalls, and scenic overlooks along theKoolau Mountain Range.
See cultural sites, museums, monuments, and more.
Head out on a guidedPearl Harbor tourto learn about Hawaii’s World War II involvement, and check out sites like the authoritativeBishop Museumand theme park-esquePolynesian Cultural Centerwith its authentic North Shore luau. In Honolulu proper, landmarks likeIolani Palaceand theMission House Museumdelve into Oahu-centric history and Hawaiian culture. Once you’ve hit the top spots, follow your interests—you can hike, bike, Segway, and fly around some of the island’s most notable sites during fun food tours, art tours, and photography tours.
Get outside and into the water.
Oahu is ultimately known as a beach destination. Sun-worshippers will be thrilled to note that the island has enough white sandy stretches to spend each day of a 2-week vacation in a different place. To explore new spots and find your favorite, take a dedicatedbeach tour. And to get out on the water, choose fromsnorkeling,fishing,whale-watching, andsailingtours, or try your hand atsurfing,kayaking, orstand-up paddleboardingwith a lesson on the beach.