Welcome to your Hawaii Travel Guide for 2023. In this guide, we will provide you with 12 awesome travel tips to plan your perfect vacation to Oahu. Sponsored by the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, we will cover topics such as where to stay, things to do, and tours in Oahu. By booking using their links, you can also earn a small commission at no cost to you. We will also give recommendations for shipwreck dives and helicopter tours, and provide resources for Hawaii itineraries and rental cars. The guide emphasizes respectful travel, trying local cuisine, and provides discount codes for popular tours. Don’t miss out on the chance to subscribe to our channel for more Hawaii travel tips and adventures.
Oahu offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors. With stunning beaches, historical sites like the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and diverse food scene, it’s a paradise worth exploring. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities like scuba diving and whale watching or want to learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture through guided tours and museum visits, Oahu has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to make unforgettable memories in 2023.
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Where to Stay
Stay in Waikiki for convenience
When visiting Honolulu, Waikiki is often the first choice for accommodations due to its central location and convenient proximity to many tourist attractions. With its stunning beachfront, multitude of hotels and resorts, and vibrant nightlife, Waikiki offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodations or budget-friendly options, Waikiki has a wide range of choices to suit your needs. Plus, staying in Waikiki means you’ll have easy access to popular attractions such as Diamond Head, Honolulu Zoo, and Waikiki Aquarium.
Consider Ko Olina or North Shore for a different experience
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and experience a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, consider staying in Ko Olina or North Shore. Ko Olina, located on the western coast of Oahu, offers a tranquil resort setting with beautiful lagoons, golf courses, and a marina. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life. On the other hand, the North Shore is famous for its world-class surf breaks and pristine beaches. If you’re a surfing enthusiast or simply want to experience the authentic local vibe, staying in one of the charming beach towns on the North Shore is a fantastic choice.
Stick to rentals near resort areas
When choosing accommodations in Oahu, it’s often recommended to stick to rentals near resort areas. Not only will you have easy access to amenities such as pools, spas, and restaurants, but you’ll also be surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Many of these rental properties offer breathtaking ocean views, private beach access, and an array of recreational activities. By staying in rentals near resort areas, you’ll have the best of both worlds – the comforts of a luxurious vacation rental and the convenience of nearby attractions and amenities.
Attractions Outside of Waikiki
While Waikiki may be the heart of tourism in Honolulu, there is much more to explore beyond its sandy shores. Take some time to venture into the city and immerse yourself in its rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse culinary scene. Visit the stunning Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States, or explore the exhibits at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Don’t forget to stroll along the beautiful waterfront at Ala Moana Beach Park and take in the breathtaking views of Diamond Head.
Visit Ala Moana Beach Park
Located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, Ala Moana Beach Park offers a tranquil retreat from the bustling city. This expansive beach park is perfect for picnicking, sunbathing, and enjoying various water activities. Take a leisurely walk along the sandy shores or have a BBQ with friends and family in one of the picnic areas. The calm waters at Ala Moana Beach Park are also excellent for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding.
Discover downtown Honolulu and Chinatown
Downtown Honolulu is a vibrant and bustling district filled with historic buildings, trendy shops, and lively restaurants. Explore the iconic Aloha Tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Dive into the local culture by visiting the vibrant Chinatown, where you can find a plethora of markets, street art, and traditional Chinese architecture. Don’t miss out on trying some delicious local cuisine, such as poke bowls or plate lunches, at one of the many eateries in the area.
Oahu offers some of the best scuba diving opportunities in the world, with crystal clear waters and a variety of vibrant marine life. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, there are dive sites suitable for every skill level. Explore underwater caves, swim alongside sea turtles, and marvel at the colorful coral reefs. Some popular dive sites include Hanauma Bay, the Corsair plane wreck, and the Mahi shipwreck. Don’t forget to get certified or join a guided dive tour to make the most of your scuba diving adventure.
See the beauty of Oahu from a different perspective by taking a helicopter tour. Fly over the lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and rugged cliffs for a truly awe-inspiring experience. Helicopter tours allow you to access remote areas of the island that are inaccessible by land and provide breathtaking views of iconic landmarks such as Diamond Head and the famous North Shore surf breaks. It’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!
For a unique and immersive experience, consider visiting one of Oahu’s farms. From coffee plantations to pineapple farms, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the island’s agriculture and taste fresh, locally grown produce. Take a tour of a macadamia nut farm, where you can see the harvesting process and sample delicious macadamia nuts. Or visit a tropical fruit farm and indulge in a variety of exotic fruits such as lychee, mango, and papaya. It’s a great way to connect with Oahu’s agricultural heritage and support local farmers.
If you’re visiting Oahu during the winter months, don’t miss the chance to go whale watching. Every year, humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters to breed and give birth. Take a boat tour and witness these majestic creatures as they breach, slap their tails, and sing their haunting songs. It’s a truly magical experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders. Keep your camera ready to capture unforgettable moments and create lasting memories.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without spending time at Waikiki Beach. With its golden sands, crystal clear waters, and iconic views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach has earned its reputation as a world-famous destination. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, take a surf lesson, or simply soak up the vibrant atmosphere, Waikiki Beach has it all. There are also plenty of beachfront restaurants, bars, and shops to explore, ensuring that you’ll never run out of things to do.
For a more serene and unspoiled beach experience, head to Waimanalo Beach. Located on the eastern coast of Oahu, this stunning stretch of coastline offers miles of soft white sand and turquoise waters. It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and enjoy a peaceful day by the ocean. Waimanalo Beach is also less developed than Waikiki, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the island.
Rated as one of the best beaches in the world, Lanikai Beach is a true hidden gem on Oahu’s windward coast. With its powdery white sand, clear blue waters, and picturesque offshore islands, Lanikai Beach is a paradise for beach lovers and photographers alike. The beach is relatively small and secluded, creating an intimate and tranquil setting. Whether you’re kayaking to the nearby Mokulua Islands or simply strolling along the shoreline, Lanikai Beach is a must-visit destination.
If you’re looking for adventure and adrenaline, head to Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. Known for its massive winter waves, Waimea Bay attracts professional surfers from around the world. During the summer months, the ocean calms down, allowing for swimming and snorkeling in the calm turquoise waters. The stunning backdrop of verdant cliffs and the iconic Waimea Rock make Waimea Bay a picturesque spot for both relaxation and adventure.
Consider alternative modes of transportation
While renting a car is a popular choice for exploring Oahu, there are alternative modes of transportation that can offer unique experiences. Consider renting bicycles and exploring the island at a leisurely pace. Many areas in Oahu have dedicated bike paths, making it safe and convenient to cycle around. You can also take advantage of public transportation, such as buses and trolleys, to navigate through the island. This allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic views without the stress of driving or finding parking.
Parking can be expensive
If you do choose to rent a car, keep in mind that parking in popular tourist areas can be expensive. Many hotels charge a daily parking fee, and street parking can be limited and costly. Plan ahead and factor in parking costs when budgeting for your trip. Additionally, be aware of parking restrictions and regulations to avoid any unnecessary fines or towing incidents. It’s always a good idea to check with your accommodation about parking options and availability.
Growing traffic issues
Oahu, like many popular tourist destinations, faces growing traffic issues, especially during peak travel seasons. Traffic congestion can be particularly challenging in and around Honolulu and during rush hours. Plan your itinerary accordingly, allowing extra time for potential delays. Consider avoiding busy times and exploring attractions outside of peak hours to minimize the impact of traffic. Additionally, keep an eye out for traffic updates and utilize navigation apps to find the best routes.
Weather and Climate
Be prepared for rain
Oahu’s weather is generally pleasant and mild, but it’s important to be prepared for occasional rain showers. The island’s tropical climate can bring sudden rainstorms, especially during the winter months. Pack a lightweight rain jacket or umbrella to stay dry and comfortable during these unexpected downpours. However, don’t let the rain deter you from exploring the island. Oahu’s lush landscapes and waterfalls are even more captivating after a rainfall.
Brief and warm showers
The rain showers in Oahu are typically brief and followed by clear skies. The warm tropical climate means that even if you do experience a rain shower, it won’t be long before the sun comes out again. Embrace the unique beauty of Oahu’s weather patterns, and make the most of the sunny moments. Remember to apply sunscreen and stay hydrated, as the combination of sunshine and humidity can be intense.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
A visit to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the historic events that took place at Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial allows visitors to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor and its profound impact on American history. Explore the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum to gain a deeper understanding of World War II. It’s a moving experience that honors the bravery and sacrifice of those who served.
Diamond Head hike
For outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers, the Diamond Head hike is a must-do activity in Oahu. The iconic volcanic crater offers panoramic views of Honolulu and the island’s coastline. The hike is relatively short, but it does involve some steep sections and stairs, so be prepared with comfortable shoes and plenty of water. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas that make the effort well worth it.
Nature lovers and snorkeling enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Hanauma Bay. This protected nature reserve is home to a diverse array of marine life and offers excellent snorkeling conditions. Dive into the crystal clear waters and swim alongside tropical fish, colorful coral reefs, and maybe even a sea turtle or two. Hanauma Bay is a popular destination, so arrive early to beat the crowds and secure your spot in paradise.
Polynesian Cultural Center
For a deeper understanding of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is a must. Immerse yourself in the traditions, dances, and music of the Polynesian islands through interactive exhibits and live performances. Explore recreated villages representing different Polynesian cultures, and learn about their unique customs and practices. Don’t miss the evening show, “Ha: Breath of Life,” a spectacular performance showcasing the vibrant cultures of the Pacific.
To truly appreciate and understand the rich cultural heritage of Oahu, consider joining a guided tour. Local guides can provide valuable insights and historical context while taking you to significant cultural sites. Whether it’s a walking tour through the historic district of Honolulu or a visit to sacred Hawaiian sites, guided tours offer a deeper and more meaningful experience. Look for reputable tour companies that prioritize cultural preservation and authenticity.
Oahu is home to a variety of museums and cultural centers that offer a glimpse into the island’s captivating history and multicultural influences. The Bishop Museum is a must-visit, featuring exhibits on Hawaiian natural history, culture, and art. The Queen Emma Summer Palace provides a fascinating look into the life of Hawaiian royalty, and the Hawaii State Art Museum showcases the works of local artists. Take your time to explore these museums and gain a deeper appreciation for Oahu’s cultural tapestry.
No visit to Oahu is complete without attending a traditional Hawaiian luau. Luau is a celebration of Hawaiian culture, featuring music, hula dancing, and a feast of local delicacies. Experience the vibrant energy and warm hospitality as you enjoy a night of entertainment and indulge in a buffet of Hawaiian favorites, such as kalua pig, lomi salmon, and poi. Many resorts and cultural centers offer luaus, so make sure to make a reservation and immerse yourself in this cultural extravaganza.
Explore historical sites
Oahu is dotted with historical sites that showcase the island’s fascinating past. Explore the Kukaniloko Birthstones State Monument, an ancient stone structure associated with Hawaiian royalty. Visit the iconic Iolani Palace, the former residence of the Hawaiian monarchs and the only royal palace in the United States. Don’t forget to also visit the historic Mission Houses, which provide a glimpse into the early missionary era in Hawaii. These historical sites offer a unique perspective on Oahu’s cultural legacy and are worth exploring to gain a deeper understanding of the island’s identity.
Diverse and delicious cuisine
Oahu’s food scene is a vibrant melting pot of flavors and culinary traditions. From traditional Hawaiian dishes to international fusion cuisine, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Indulge in a plate lunch, a local favorite consisting of rice, macaroni salad, and a choice of protein such as kalua pig or teriyaki chicken. Sample fresh poke, a marinated raw fish salad that has become a popular global trend. And don’t forget to try shave ice, a refreshing treat featuring finely shaved ice topped with flavored syrups. With its diverse and delicious culinary offerings, Oahu is a paradise for food lovers.
Wide range of restaurants
Oahu is home to a wide range of restaurants, catering to various tastes and budgets. From upscale seafood establishments to casual beachside cafes, you’ll find an abundance of options to choose from. Seek out local favorites that serve authentic Hawaiian cuisine, such as laulau (steamed pork wrapped in taro leaves) or loco moco (rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy). Don’t be afraid to explore different neighborhoods and try street food vendors for a taste of the local flavors.
Oahu’s cultural diversity is reflected in its fusion cuisine, where different culinary traditions blend seamlessly to create unique and delicious dishes. Take the opportunity to try Hawaiian-Asian fusion cuisine, which combines traditional Hawaiian ingredients with Asian flavors and techniques. From sushi topped with local fish to Korean-style kalbi beef tacos, the fusion of flavors will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more. Be adventurous and embrace the culinary creativity that Oahu has to offer.
Oahu is a captivating destination that offers a wide range of experiences for every traveler. From the stunning beaches of Waikiki to the rugged beauty of the North Shore, there’s no shortage of natural wonders to explore. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, indulge in delicious cuisine, and create lasting memories as you discover the many facets of Oahu. For more information and trip planning, visit the official tourism website of Oahu. Countless positive testimonials from previous visitors attest to the island’s enchanting allure, making it a destination that’s definitely worth visiting in 2023 and beyond. So pack your bags, and get ready to embark on a truly unforgettable journey to the beautiful island of Oahu!