Your first trip to Hawaii can be overwhelming. There is just so much to do and see here! There are mountains to climb, waterfalls to discover, and historical sights to check off of your bucket list. But you also want to relax, have a few cocktails, and eat some good food. How do you find the balance, and how do you decide what your Oahu must-dos are?
Luckily, here at Hawaii Aloha Travel, we have the answers to the tough questions. After thinking long and hard, and going to each of these places more times than I can count, I’ve come up with my own list of 10 must-dos for your first time to Oahu.
You might not be interested in doing everything on this list. Some people don’t like coffee, and hiking and snorkeling are just not for everyone. So, I’m giving you a long list that you can pick and choose from during your stay here. My advice is that you pick a few of these that are most appealing to you. Don’t try to cram too much into each day, because part of the fun of being on vacation is relaxing and going with the flow!
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is the most famous historical site on Oahu. It’s an incredibly moving experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. When you visit the USS Arizona Memorial, you first watch a video that explains how and why Pearl Harbor was attacked. I believe the park does an excellent job of carrying out its mission to teach visitors to remember, honor, and understand the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Pro tip: Go early in the morning – as soon as they open – to get free same-day tickets if you weren’t able to get them in advance.
I think that the best way to really get a feel for Hawaii is a hike. Luckily in Hawaii, there are a variety of different hikes for you to go on, no matter your age or skill level. Many visitors choose to tackle Diamond Head. The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is another good one because it’s paved and has incredible beautiful views throughout the entire hike. And if you’re feeling adventurous, I recommend The Pillbox Trail for beautiful views and a challenge.
There are so many accessible waterfalls in Hawaii, and the views that you get are unlike any other. My go-to recommendation is Waimea Falls because it’s great for all ages. Manoa Falls is a bit more of a challenge. The 1.6-mile trail leads to a gorgeous, 150-foot waterfall.
I had never seen such brightly colored fish as I do here in Hawaii. Check out our list of fish to look for in Hanauma Bay, one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu. I love Hanauma Bay because it’s so beautiful and because there are so many fish swimming everywhere you look. They show you a safety video before you enter the water. The video helps you learn safety tips for snorkeling and it teaches you about Hawaii’s marine life. And, there is always a lifeguard on duty.
I know, I know, a luau seems totally touristy, but hear me out. At a luau, you will get to watch cultural performances. You will get to eat local food. And, you will learn about Hawaiian culture. Many offer buffets, so you can try a little of everything to determine which Hawaiian foods you like the best.
Try something new! Hawaii Look for food trucks, shave ice, Hawaiian BBQ, fresh fish, and poke at restaurants. If you do go to a luau, you will have the opportunity to try a variety of Hawaiian food all at once.
Kona coffee is the coffee that is grown in Kona, Hawaii. The history of Kona coffee is quite interesting, and we wrote about it in this blog post. The volcanic lava slopes and unique weather in this small region combine to make some of the best coffee. If you see it on a menu, try it!
Are you a sunrise or a sunset person? I love both. There’s nothing quite like watching the sunrise or the sunset over the ocean. Check out our lists of the best places to watch the sunrise and the best places to watch the sunsets.
I think that these attractions are a bit underrated, but you can learn so much about Hawaiian culture by visiting the Bishop Museum or Iolani Palace. Both The Hawaii State Art Museum and The Honolulu Museum of Art have collections of art from Hawaii and all over the world.
The Waikiki Aquarium boasts exhibits, education programs, and research that focus on the unique aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. The Honolulu Zoo has organized its exhibits into three tropical ecological zones: the African Savanna, Asian and American Tropical Forests, and Pacific Islands. Both of these attractions offer unique exhibits unique to tropical climates.
If you’re interested in learning about farming, you can also visit the Dole Plantation or take a tour of the Macadamia Nut Farm on the north shore.
Take advantages of these attractions to see things that you won’t see back home and to learn more about Hawaiian culture.
The beaches in Hawaii are so pristine and the water is so warm that you just have to spend an entire day – or at least a few hours, at the beach. Bring a picnic lunch, read a book, go for a swim. Pro tip: Every beach in Hawaii is public, except for those on military bases. Head up to the north shore to find secluded beaches that you might just have all to yourself.
Still not sure where to go and what to do? Don’t worry, our travel agents can help you design a trip that’s perfect for you.
Maybe you will choose to book an Oahu Super Saver All Inclusive vacation. Our tour guides have fine-tuned this package to combine the best of everything Oahu has to offer. During this vacation, you will get a tour of Pearl Harbor, a luau, and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and more. You will also spend a day with a personal local guide, who will take you around the entire island so that you can enjoy everything from the beautiful coastlines to our amazing rain forests.
Or maybe you want to book a one-day Jeep Tour. On Oahu, offerings include Circle Island Tour, Half Circle Island Tour, Pearl Harbor Experience, Hawaii Five-O Tour, Aloha Place Hawaii Food Tour, Oahu for Lovers Tour, and Hawaii Culture Tour. Call our travel agents today to decide which tour is best for you. Click here for more information about Jeep Tours.