Step out of your front door and hike the Stairway to Heaven to watch the sun rise over the ocean. Getting the most from your Hawaii vacation rentals means celebrating what makes Oahu special, so check out these tips to visit Oahu and enjoy a spectacular family vacation.
Pick a Spot That Suits Your Style
From mountain vistas to ocean views, Oahu offers a huge variety of locations for your incredible vacation rental. Picking a spot that suits your style means getting to know this Hawaiian island and checking out which areas make you happy. Take a look at areas like Waikiki, which has spectacular seafood restaurants, the Honolulu Zoo and historic resorts, to determine if this busy tourist town offers all of the excitement that you’re looking for on Oahu. Browse the shops on the leeward side and take a gander at historic Pearl Harbor, or explore the beautiful and quiet coasts in Waianae.
Choose mountain views or beaches, or even a combination of the two when you select a vacation rental. Oahu offers views of the untouched Hawaiian jungles, towering volcanoes and glittering white sand beaches. Check out vacation rental homes along the coast to step off of your porch and walk a few steps into the warm Pacific. Select mountain-view vacation rental homes with two, three or even five bedrooms to accommodate your entire family, or to make a great location for a family reunion or wedding.
Celebrate Each Season
Beachfront vacation homes are a favorite for travelers heading to Oahu, so remember to book early, or skip the busy summer season and enjoy late spring or early fall days on the water. Keep tabs on local events like the Hawaii International Film Festival to ensure that you’re not trying to grab a great vacation rental during a busy festival season. Look for off-season vacation rental bargains by booking with flexibility to catch those Oahu condos or vacation home rentals that have last-minute openings.
Things To Do
From beaches and luaus to historic monuments and thrilling adventures, the Hawaiian island of Oahu has a host of attractions and activities to offer. With so many things to choose from, here are the best places to visit in Oahu for an exciting and memorable trip.
- Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial
One of the most memorable places to visit is Pearl Harbor. Tour the USS Bowfin, a submarine from WWII, and see artifacts from it in the museum. At Ford Island, tour the impressive anchored USS Missouri battleship, which is known as Mighty Mo.
Feel somber at the touching USS Arizona Memorial where 1,177 people tragically died. Stand on the viewing platform above the sunken ship as you pay your respects to their memories.
- Polynesian Cultural Center
Understand the Polynesian culture at this premier Hawaii attraction. At North Shore’s gateway, explore seven featured islands set among 42 acres of landscaping. Meet Polynesians as they show you their arts and crafts.
Watch a show at the only IMAX Theater in Hawaii. Be mesmerized by the Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant, which is performed on the lagoon. Stick around in the evening for their incredible Ali’i Luau and another show afterward.
- North Shore
For thrills during your vacation, you can’t beat North Shore. Renowned for the legendary big waves that hit the beaches there, it’s a must for surfers and surfing fans. Head for Sunset Beach or Waimea to watch exciting surf contests.
If surfing’s not for you, other fabulous places to visit in North Shore, Oahu, are its waterfalls found along pretty trails. Enjoy a pleasurable hike through Waimea Falls Park, passing through tropical gardens while watching demonstrations and Hawaiian performances along the botanical garden walk. After weaving through the tropical jungle, be in awe of the cascading Waimea Falls and take a dip in the cool water.
- Kualoa Ranch
Exciting things to do in Oahu await you at Kualoa Ranch. Set between two valleys and covering 4,000 acres, you won’t be short of activities to choose from. Go horseback riding along the trails, take a bike tour, go zip lining or enjoy an ATV adventure. Take a kayak out onto the waters and discover the Secret Island Beach.
As the filming location for over 80 movies, take a seat on the open-air trolley to tour the ranch grounds. Recognize iconic locations and see props from your favorite movies, such as dinosaur bones and gigantic footprints.
- Oahu Submarine Ride
You can’t visit anywhere more unusual than the bottom of the ocean. The Atlantis Submarine Ride takes you 100 meters down, past the outer reefs of Waikiki, to see the incredible underwater seascape. Marvel at the crashed planes and sunken boats around you. Encounter marine life ranging from green sea turtles to reef sharks and dolphins to colorful fish.
- Learn How to Surf at White Plains Beach
Because surfing and Hawaii go hand in hand, it may be the first activity you want to try. For beginning surfers, Oahu’s White Plains Beach makes an ideal spot to hit the waves. The surf break here is slow and gentle, and the vibe is fun and friendly. Amenities include picnic tables, grills and outdoor showers, and visitors can rent surfboards and take surfing lessons if desired. The beach is located on the southwest coast of Oahu.
- Snorkel in Hanauma Bay
Just 10 miles east of Waikiki on Oahu’s southeast coast, Hanauma Bay is a popular place for snorkeling. Once a volcanic crater, the bay is now a protected nature preserve that plays home to more than 400 species of fish, including the reef triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuapua‘a), the state fish of Hawaii. On your visit to Hanauma Bay, enjoy amenities like equipment rentals, lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, restrooms and concessions.
- Hike to Manoa Falls
If you’re hoping to see one of Hawaii’s beautiful waterfalls, make the easy trek to Manoa Falls. After driving just six miles from Honolulu to the northeast, a hike of only 1.6 miles round-trip offers lush vegetation, beautiful views of the Manoa Valley and a waterfall that flows straight down a 100-foot rock face. If the surroundings look familiar, you may have seen some of the actual terrain in the TV series “Lost” or the “Jurassic Park” movie series.
- Visit Historic Iolani Palace
For lovers of history, Iolani Palace makes an exciting stop. Located in downtown Honolulu, the palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua and features elegant architectural details, plush furnishings and ultramodern luxuries of the day like flushing toilets, hot running water and in-house telephones. Because the king was a world traveler, you’ll see the memorabilia he collected along the way. The only official royal residence in the country and a National Historic Landmark, Iolani Palace is a favorite attraction for many travelers to Oahu.
- Experience the Polynesian Cultural Center
To learn more about Polynesian peoples, travel slightly more than 30 miles north of Honolulu to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Find eight themed “villages” that offer a glimpse into the cultures of the Hawaiian, Rapa Nui, Samoan, Aotearoan, Fijian, Tahitian and Tongan peoples. Fun activities include traditional dancing and games, spear throwing and fire making. You can also enjoy the lush, tropical landscape, a boat parade, theater shows and an evening luau.
- Tour the Dole Plantation
Families visiting Oahu always enjoy a trip to the Dole Plantation located 25 miles northwest of Waikiki. This popular site offers a variety of enjoyable activities, including the Plantation Garden Tour that lets you get a hands-on look at the diverse crops growing in eight miniature gardens.
For even more fun, take a 20-minute train ride throughout the property and have a go at the Pineapple Garden Maze, a large and challenging outdoor labyrinth. Don’t forget to stop by the country store for mementos, gifts, food and refreshments.
- Laniakea Beach
There is no shortage of free beaches to visit in Hawaii. However, one of the top free things to do in Oahu is to visit Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach. This beach on the North Shore is one of the best places to see sea turtles in their natural habitat. You can snap photos and marvel at these beautiful creatures. Just remember that they are protected creatures and you shouldn’t touch them or interfere with their routines.
- Punchbowl National Cemetery
The Punchbowl National Cemetery is at the heart of a volcano named Puowaina, which translates to “hill of sacrifice.” The volcano is extinct, and the crater was created between 75,000 and 100,000 years ago. What’s left is a beautiful hill with green grass, flowers and trees. Take in amazing views of Honolulu and the ocean. It’s the final resting place for many members of the armed forces and a one-of-a-kind place to visit for free in Oahu.