The Ultimate Oahu Bucket List

My husband and I spent five years stationed at Pearl Harbor. I had never been to Hawaii when we moved here, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I fell in love with everything about the island and I loved every minute of living there.

While I was there, I worked as a travel blogger and my husband was out to sea a lot. So, I made it my mission to experience single thing about Oahu that I could – with or without him. And I think I succeeded. I’m so excited to share all of my favorite things to do on Oahu with you today.

Print this out and stick it on your fridge. Whenever you need something to do, consult this list and get out!

Outdoor Activities

  • Snorkel at Hanauma Bay, a nature preserve formed inside a volcanic cone. The bay is very calm to swim in, and it is home to a lot of coral that attract tons of tropical fish. The beach is gorgeous to just lay out on when you’re done swimming. You can rent snorkel equipment there, too.
  • Visit Shark’s Cove. It’s another great snorkel spot, and there are usually lots of  equipment rentals and food trucks around, too.
  • Drive up the entire north shore. Stop at farm stands, whatever small beaches catch your eye, and maybe even a food truck. You may even find some sea glass.
  • Spot whales during the winter months. You can sometimes spot them on the north shore or from the Makapuu lookout, or you can take a whale watching cruise.
  • Rent a Pontoon Boat on Kaneohe Bay
  • Visit Laie Point.
  • Check out one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens. There are five in all.
  • Rent a kayak. Check out some of our favorite places to Kayak here.
  • Take a sunset catamaran out of the North Shore or Waikiki.
  • Visit the Honolulu Zoo to see a Galapagos Tortoise
  • Stop at Halona Blowhole on the east side
  • Watch the sunrise at Kailua beach or from the top of the Pillbox Hike
  • Watch the sunset in Waikiki

Hikes

These are some of the most popular/must do hikes:

  • Makapuu Lighthhouse Trail. This paved trail has sweeping views the entire way up. It is also an excellent place to spot whales in the winter months.
  • Diamond Head is one of Oahu’s most popular hikes – for good reason. The views are absolutely breathtaking.
  • Waimea Valley is a short, paved trail that leads you to a waterfall you can can swim in after. There is also a lot of great cultural information about Hawaii, too.
  • The Pink Pillbox Hike on the west side, has some beautiful views, and ends at a bright pink pillbox. Treat yourself to lunch at Monkeypod after.
  • For family friendly hikes, click here. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, check out these hikes.

Culture

  • The Bishop Museum is a great place to learn about Hawaiian culture and history.
  • The Honolulu Museum of Art is one of my favorite places to go on Oahu. The collection is beautiful.
  • Visit Shangri La
  • Spend a day (or two) at Pearl Harbor, visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
  • Pay your respects at The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (also knowns as The Punchbowl). It is is a very moving experience.
  • Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the US. You can take a tour and learn a lot about Hawaiian history.
  • Spend a day at the The Polynesian Cultural Center.  Make sure you get to attend a luau at the end of the day – its the best one I went to.
  • Visit the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of the Byodo-in Temple in Japan that is over 950 years old.
  • Attend Lantern Floating Hawaii. During the Obon season in Japan, people place lanterns outside their homes to help guide their families’ spirits back to them. At the end of the season, they place the lanterns into the water to help usher the souls of their family to the other world. In Hawaii, having this ceremony on Memorial Day enables people to remember veterans and all of their loved ones. It’s an incredibly moving, once in a lifetime experience. This year’s event will be virtual due to covid, but it may be back on next year.
  • Take a movie set tour of Kualoa Ranch, where a lot of movies like Jurassic Park were filmed. Kualoa Ranch also offers horseback riding.

Food

There are so many incredible food experiences to have on Oahu! Here are just a few of my absolute musts.

Of course, some of these places may have restrictions, modifications, or closures due to covid. Check their website or give them a call for the most up to date information.

Writing this post has me wanting to go back to Hawaii! If you’re stationed there, what’s been your favorite thing to do so far?

One thought on “The Ultimate Oahu Bucket List

  1. Thank you! We were stationed there many years ago, and your list brought back many lovely memories!
    I believe I have been to pretty much everything you mentioned, except for the newer establishments.
    I am so ready to go again! ALOHA!

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