Visiting Oahu for the first time: Activities and things to do on Oahu

Visiting Oahu for the first time? There are so many things to do and see here. Here are our recommendations for first-time visitors to the island.

Must-see attractions on Oahu

Pearl HarborPearl Harbor Pearl Harbor is the most popular historical attraction in Hawaii. More than 1.5 million visitors a year from around the world come here to pay their respect to those who perished on December 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The most visited monument here is the USS Arizona Memorial, a resting place of 1,102 soldiers who died aboard the USS Arizona battleship. Other top Pearl Harbor attractions are the USS Missouri battleship, the USS Bowfin submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum. Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial is free, but you will need to wait in line to get tickets. Other attractions at Pearl Harbor have admission fees. Many visitors come to Pearl Harbor with a guided tour group. All tours include roundtrip transportation, a tour guide and narration, admission tickets (so you don’t have to wait in line) and admission to other Pearl Harbor attractions (if included in the tour description). One thing to keep in mind when visiting Pearl Harbor is that visitors are not allowed to carry bags and other personal items inside the park. You can only bring a camera (without bag) with you.

Sunset BeachCircle Island Tour – You can get a good overview of the island in one day. Many local tour companies offer Oahu circle island tours that will take you to island’s best beaches and top island attractions. A tour around the island usually takes 8-10 hours and begins around 7:30 in the morning when a tour bus will come to pick you up from your hotel. Most of the tours include a professional guide that will tell island stories and point out things of interest along the way. A circle island tour usually includes a visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, North Shore Oahu beaches (Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay), the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Makapuu Lookout and more. Many of these tours start with a visit to Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona Memorial.

Hawaii VolcanoesNeighbor Island Tour – You have crossed the Pacific to come all the way to the beautiful island of Oahu. All Hawaiian islands are different and unique so it is nice to visit at least one more Hawaiian island while here. For example, you could visit the Big Island of Hawaii for a day, where you can see one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii’s number one attraction.

Must-do things on Oahu

Diamond HeadHike Diamond HeadDiamond Head is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii. People hike to the top of this extinct volcano to enjoy amazing views of Honolulu, Waikiki and the vast ocean. On a clear day you can even see the neighbor islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui on the horizon. There are a few tours that will take you to Diamond Head. Most of them go there during the day when it is usually busy and hot. There is one unique sunrise tour that goes at 6 in the morning before other tours groups come.

Hawaiian LuauGo to a Hawaiian Luau – Visiting a Hawaiian luau is on the to-do-list of many Hawaii visitors. A few good luaus take place on Oahu; some of them are held on secluded beaches, others directly in Waikiki or at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu’s number one paid attraction. If you want to spend a day learning about Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, their customs and traditions, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a fun place to explore. Tours to the Polynesian Cultural Center usually include roundtrip transportation, the admission fee and luau tickets.

Hanauma BaySwim or Snorkel at Hanauma BayHanauma Bay is the most popular snorkeling destination in Hawaii. Here you can see plenty of colorful fish, a coral reef and unique marine life. Since the bay is very popular the Hanauma Bay parking lot fills up quickly. If you go with a tour group, you won’t need to worry about parking. Tours include roundtrip transportation from Waikiki, as well as snorkel gear – a high-quality silicon dive mask, snorkel and fins.