Things to Do on Oahu: Attractions, Sights & Landmarks - Midway Vacations

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Things to Do on Oahu

Looking for the best things to do on Oahu? This tropical paradise offers a wide range of attractions, sights, and landmarks for visitors to enjoy! From stunning beaches and lush mountains to historical sites and cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone on this beautiful island.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, romantic getaway, or solo adventure, Oahu has plenty of activities to keep you entertained. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the top things to do on Oahu and provide recommendations for must-see attractions, hidden gems and local favorites.

Diamond Head State Monument

Ready to capture the essence of Oahu’s natural beauty? Then you can’t miss the iconic Diamond Head State Monument, a must-visit landmark for any adventurer! This awe-inspiring volcanic tuff cone is not just a backdrop for many postcard pictures but also a hiker’s heaven, offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu that truly epitomize paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a memorable walk, the 0.8-mile trail to the summit is an adventure not to be missed.

The view from the top is absolutely worth the trek! So, lace up your sneakers, bring along a water bottle, and get ready to be wowed at every turn on your way up to one of the most breathtaking vistas on Oahu.

Diamond Head - Oahu Sights

Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial

No trip to Oahu is complete without a stop at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which serves as a living testament to the events of December 7, 1941. Today, visitors from around the globe come to pay their respects at the visitors center and USS Arizona Memorial, where they can learn about the bravery and sacrifice of those who served.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply seeking a deeper connection with the stories that have shaped our world, Pearl Harbor offers an experience that is both enlightening and profoundly moving. Its serene waters and the solemn beauty of the memorials encourage us to remember the past while looking forward to a future of reconciliation and understanding. 

Pearl Harbor - Oahu Hawaii

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Another site steeped in history and reflection on Oahu is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl Cemetery. Nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, this sacred and beautiful place serves as the final resting place for more than 53,000 veterans and their family members. The meticulously manicured lawns and the grandeur of the surrounding natural amphitheater offer a serene environment for contemplation and gratitude for the ultimate sacrifices made for liberty.

Take a self-guided walk through the cemetery and pause at the iconic Honolulu Memorial, which honors those who lost their lives in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War. The memorial underwent expansions in 1980 to pay tribute to those who disappeared in the Vietnam War, with further enhancements in 2012 through the addition of two new pavilions.

Punchbowl Cemetery - Oahu Landmark

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

The Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, often called Pali Lookout, provides one of the most stunning panoramic views on the island of Oahu! Located only a 5-mile drive from Honolulu, this lookout is a must-visit for history buffs and nature lovers alike. It’s the perfect spot to capture breathtaking photos of Oahu with lush green mountains and sparkling blue ocean in the distance.

This site is also an important reminder of Hawaii’s rich cultural history and the battles that shaped the islands. Back in 1795, it was here that King Kamehameha I won a crucial battle that united Oahu under his rule. This intense conflict resulted in the loss of hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of whom met their fate by being pushed off the cliffs.

Pali Lookout - Breathtaking Oahu Sights

Iolani Palace

Step into a world where history and royalty come alive at Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on U.S. soil. This majestic structure is a proud symbol of Hawaiian culture and history, offering visitors a glimpse into the opulent world of Hawaii’s monarchy. 

Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace was a beacon of innovation and luxury, equipped with marvels such as electric lights and indoor plumbing before they were commonplace. Today, a tour of the palace transports you back in time, allowing you to walk the halls that royals once roamed and to marvel at the beautifully restored rooms, each telling its own story of Hawaiian royalty.

Iolani Palace - Downtown Honolulu - Historical Landmark

Polynesian Cultural Center

If you’re eager to dive deeper into the rich tapestry of Pacific cultures, the Polynesian Cultural Center is another must-visit destination. Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this unique center is a living museum that offers a vibrant and immersive experience. Here, you can explore authentic villages representing six Pacific cultures, including Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti, and Tonga.

Each village offers interactive experiences that allow you to learn through doing — from hula dancing and ukulele lessons to spear-throwing and coconut husking. The center also hosts a spectacular evening show, “Ha: Breath of Life,” which features over 100 performers in a thrilling story of passion, fire, and tradition. 

Polynesian Cultural Center - Oahu Hawaii

Bishop Museum

For those with a keen interest in the natural and cultural history of Hawaii and the Pacific, visiting Bishop Museum should be added to your itinerary. Located in historic Honolulu, this museum is renowned for housing one of the most extensive collections of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.

Imagine stepping into a world where you can marvel at intricate feather capes worn by Hawaiian royalty, gaze upon the stars in the planetarium, and even come face-to-face with a lava pour. The Bishop Museum offers a captivating blend of the past and the present, providing insights into the rich heritage of the islands and the wonders of the natural world.

Honolulu Museum of Art

For art lovers and culture enthusiasts, the Honolulu Museum of Art should be at the top of your Oahu itinerary. Nestled in the heart of downtown Honolulu, this museum is a treasure trove of over 50,000 works, blending international masterpieces with the rich artistic traditions of Hawaii. 

Whether you’re drawn to classical European paintings, traditional Asian art, or contemporary Hawaiian pieces, there’s something to captivate everyone. Beyond the art, the museum is a serene oasis with stunning courtyards and tranquil gardens offering a peaceful respite from the bustling city outside.

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse

Perched on the most southeastern point of Oahu, the Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse stands as a beacon of history and natural beauty. Built-in 1909, this iconic lighthouse is renowned for its stunning red-roofed structure and the powerful Fresnel lens that has guided mariners for over a century. The lighthouse itself is not open to the public, but the surrounding area offers one of the island’s most scenic hikes.

The Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and, on clear days, the neighboring islands of Moloka’i and Lana’i. During the winter months, it is an excellent spot for whale watching. The trail also leads to several observation points and tide pools, making it a favorite for both nature lovers and photographers looking to capture the raw beauty of Hawaii’s rugged coastline.

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse - Oahu Attraction

Byodo-In Temple

Tucked away in the tranquil Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, the Byodo-In Temple is a hidden gem that feels like stepping into a serene piece of Japan right in Hawaii. This non-denominational shrine is a smaller scale replica of a 900-year-old temple in Uji, Japan, and is a testament to the deep cultural connections between Japan and Hawaii.

Surrounded by lush, meticulously maintained gardens, koi ponds that sparkle under the sun, and the majestic Ko’olau Mountains in the background, the temple offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. Whether you’re ringing the sacred bon-sho bell for happiness and longevity, feeding the vibrant koi, or simply sitting in quiet contemplation, the Byodo-In Temple invites you to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature.

Byodo-In Temple - Oahu Hawaii

Kualoa Ranch

Nestled along the windward coast of Oahu, Kualoa Ranch is not just a destination; it’s an adventure of a lifetime waiting to happen! Known for its jaw-dropping scenery that has served as the backdrop for numerous Hollywood movies, this family-owned oasis offers more than just a stunning landscape. From ziplining across lush valleys to exploring ancient Hawaiian fishponds and secret beaches on an ATV, adventures at Kualoa Ranch provide a blend of thrill and culture.

If you have a movie buff in your group that would love to follow in the footsteps of their favorite characters or are looking for your next thrill, Kualoa Ranch promises an unforgettable experience. Join a guided tour or set off on your own to discover why it’s called Hawaii’s Hollywood. Here, every trail tells a story, and every view is a snapshot waiting to be captured.

Things to Do on Oahu - Kualoa Ranch

Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation celebrates Hawaii’s rich heritage, while inviting you to experience the aloha spirit in every juicy bite! Once a simple fruit stand in the 1950s, it has blossomed into one of Oahu’s most visited attractions, offering a delectable taste of Hawaii’s agricultural legacy. From wandering through the world’s largest pineapple maze to riding the Pineapple Express Train Tour, visitors of all ages can enjoy a blend of education and entertainment.

Our insiders tip — don’t forget to savor a refreshing Dole Whip as you stroll around the plantation grounds, exploring the vibrant botanical gardens and learning about the history of pineapple cultivation in Hawaii! 

Dole Plantation - Oahu Attraction

This list is only the beginning! Discover everything you need to know before you visit in our Oahu travel guide or select from one of the categories below:

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