Best Places to Go on Oahu

by

While each of the Hawaiian islands offers something a little different, Oahu is a great place to start any visit to Hawaii. Not only is it the home of Hawaii’s capital city of Honolulu, there’s also a wide variety of things to do on Oahu. Whether you’ve already booked your flight to Honolulu or are trying to figure out if Oahu is the right island for you, I’ve got your roundup of the best places to go on Oahu.

When we first planned our trip to Hawaii, it was going to be a five-week trip to all four of the major islands. In fact, that trip would have taken us to our 50th state for our 10th wedding anniversary. That was in the summer of 2020. Of course, COVID forced us to cancel.

Grant and Bonnie on a beach along the North Shore.
Selfie on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii – our 50th state!

It took more than a year for us to be able to reschedule and, unfortunately, we only had our two-week Christmas break for the trip. We knew that was not enough time to visit all of the islands, so we chose to spend most of our time on Oahu. Why did we choose Oahu? Mostly, for its variety. It’s got history, all the conveniences of the big city in Honolulu and tons of smaller cities that allow you to escape and relax. 

Read on to find out all the places you should not miss on Oahu. 

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

What to Expect on Oahu 

When you first arrive in Honolulu, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in any other large city in America. It’s got skyscrapers, horrible traffic and just feels busy. There are even a couple of “interstates” around Honolulu. Of course, the roads don’t actually connect to other states! 

An early morning rainbow in Honolulu
An early morning rainbow in Honolulu

Honolulu isn’t just like any other American city, though. The culture is decidedly Hawaiian. From the street names to the cuisine to a slightly more laid-back feeling, there’s no forgetting that you’re in Hawaii. 

We liked Oahu because it’s got a nice balance. If you like the big city, you can stay closer to Honolulu and its tourist hub of Waikiki. For those that want to escape the hustle and bustle, the rural areas of Oahu are just a short drive away. 

Getting Around Oahu

If you want to explore the entire island of Oahu, I suggest renting a car. There is a bus, appropriately called The Bus, though, if you don’t have a driver’s license or just prefer public transportation.

For those with a car, you can easily drive around the entire island in about half a day. I suggest giving yourself a full day, though, especially if you want to get out and explore. Honestly, I think we drove some or all of the loop around Oahu at least 5 of our 7 days on the island! We just loved checking out all the different areas of the island and, of course, soaking up the sun!

La'ie Point State Wayside on the Northeast side of Oahu.
You’ll need a car to get to La’ie Point State Wayside on the Northeast side of Oahu.

Driving on Oahu is fairly easy (other than traffic right around Honolulu) and your phone’s GPS system should work fairly well anywhere you go. We did not have any issues at all as we drove around.

For those that prefer to take The Bus, you can get to pretty much all of the major tourist sites but it will, of course, take much longer. Still, it allows you to just sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. 

So, let’s dive in and discuss the best places to go on Oahu.

What to Do in Honolulu

As not only the biggest city on Oahu but also the biggest city in the state, it should be no surprise that many of the best things to do on Oahu are in or near Honolulu. If you like shopping or are looking for fancy restaurants, Honolulu is where you will find the most options. Actually, Honolulu is where you’ll find the most options for just about anything! 

Honolulu at night.
Honolulu at night

Check out our article on planning the perfect Oahu itinerary.

Waikiki

The main tourist area of Honolulu is Waikiki, which is on the south side of the city. Waikiki Beach boasts white, sandy beaches and is the main draw for many visitors to Oahu. The entire neighborhood is extremely walkable and you’ll find a variety of hotels, restaurants and shops within just a few blocks.

Waikiki Beach is one of the best places to go on Oahu.
Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

At the beach, be sure to check out the statue of Duke Kahanamoku. This Olympic gold medalist in swimming helped introduce the rest of the world to surfing. In fact, he is often considered the “Father of Surfing.” Behind his statue, numerous surf shops line the beach for all who want to learn this iconic sport.

Duke Kahanamoku statue at Waikiki.
A statue at Waikiki Beach is dedicated to Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, the Olympic champion and father of international surfing.

Whether you want to walk along the beach, jump in the water or just sit under a shade tree, Waikiki Beach is one place that you definitely do not want to miss on Oahu. In addition to being just about a perfect beach, it’s also got great views of Diamond Head, one of Hawaii’s most recognizable natural landmarks.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial 

I know that every traveler has different preferences but I can’t imagine a trip to Oahu without a visit to Pearl Harbor. The main site is maintained by the National Park Service as Pearl Harbor National Memorial. This includes a large visitor complex with exhibits, films and the USS Arizona Memorial tour. Operated independently are the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. 

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is one of the best places to go on Oahu.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial grounds

You’ll need advance reservations for the USS Arizona Memorial tour, which typically sell out very quickly upon their release. No ticket is needed for the rest of the NPS site. Tickets for the other attractions can be purchased individually or as a group and are available online or at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

When we visited, we were unable to participate in the tour of the USS Arizona due to structural issues with the boat dock. We still spent nearly eight hours viewing the exhibits and other sites at Pearl Harbor. Yes, we are bummed that we didn’t get to do that particular tour. But, that just goes to show that there is much more to do at Pearl Harbor than just touring the USS Arizona.

Even if military history is not your thing, you should plan to spend up to half a day at the site. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a major world event. Taking the time to learn more about the details of the day will enhance any visit to Hawaii.

Read Grant’s in-depth article on visiting Pearl Harbor here.

Diamond Head State Park

Rising dramatically over Honolulu is one of Oahu’s most prominent features: Diamond Head State Monument. This circular volcanic crater was formed roughly 300,000 years ago and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Hawaii. 

Diamond Head State Monument is one of the best places to go on Oahu.
Looking down on the crater of Diamond Head State Monument.

Visitors enter the crater at the bottom and climb 560 feet to several different lookout points at the top. The trail is partially paved, passes through a lighted tunnel and includes a series of stairs at the end. From the top, you’ll have unobstructed views of the crater and southwestern shoreline. Unfortunately, the hike is not ADA-accessible and is quite steep in places. That said, it’s doable for anyone with average mobility if you take your time. 

And, with the large number of people, you likely won’t be moving too fast. In fact, due to high visitation, the state of Hawaii instituted a reservation system in May 2022 for out-of-state visitors. Check the park’s website for specific details on reservations, as this is a new and evolving process.

Hiking at Diamond Head State Monument.
Hiking up Diamond Head

When we visited the reservation system had not yet been implemented. We had to park off-site, adding at least a mile walk to and from the entrance to the park. Additionally, the line to get entrance tickets was incredibly long and slow. Hopefully, this new reservation system will help relieve some of that congestion and ensure a more pleasant visit.

Finally, there is little to no shade anywhere at Diamond Head. Be sure to wear sunscreen and/or sun-protective clothing and carry plenty of water. After your hike, there are a few stands selling snacks and smoothies if you’re in need of something refreshing to help you cool off.

Pineapple smoothie at Diamond Head.
Pineapple smoothie at Diamond Head

Iolani Palace

Located in downtown Honolulu, about a 15-minute drive from Waikiki, is Iolani Palace. Built in 1882, the palace was the residence of Hawaii’s last monarchs, King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani. It served as the center of political and social life until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown. 

A visit to Iolani Palace provides a great look into the history of Hawaii. Not only is the palace one of the most recognizable buildings in Hawaii, but it is also the only official royal residence in the United States.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu, HI.
The exterior of the Iolani Palace

You can tour the palace on a docent-led tour or a self-led audio tour, with each being offered on various days of the week. We opted for a docent-led tour, which we really enjoyed. It was a good pace and it’s always nice to be able to ask questions during a tour like this.

A couple of notes on visiting Iolani Palace: proper dress is required and you will be given booties to wear over your shoes to protect the floors. Additionally, you should plan to arrive at least an hour early to give yourself time to find parking and walk to the palace. We were actually a few minutes late to our tour because parking ended up being much more difficult than we anticipated. 

ABC Store

When visiting Hawaii, there is just no escaping the ABC Store. What exactly is the ABC Store? Well, it’s a little bit of everything. The easiest way to describe it is a mix of souvenir shop, convenience store and drug store all in one. 

ABC Stores of Hawaii
ABC stores have literally everything you could need.

You’ll find useful and useless souvenirs, toiletries, basic snacks, and much more. If there is anything you need to buy while in Hawaii, head to the closest ABC Store and you’re likely to find it. We picked up juice for breakfast, sunscreen, a t-shirt and even a sandwich and chips during our visit. Some stores are bigger than others, but they all have a pretty good variety of stuff.

If you’re walking around Waikiki, you’re sure to pass one. I don’t think I saw any outside of Honolulu, though. 

Best Places to Go on the North Shore of Oahu

Another general area that you should not miss on Oahu is the North Shore. From small towns to Instagram-worthy beaches, there are plenty of things to see and do on the North Shore of Oahu. Even if all you do is drive by and enjoy the scenery, it would be a great way to spend a couple of hours. 

The North Shore of Oahu
North Shore of Oahu

The beaches along the North Shore are famous for their gigantic waves in the winter. In fact, that’s one reason why I wanted to visit Oahu in December. Sadly, we didn’t see any waves of epic proportions. Still, the waves were a bit bigger than other areas of the island and there were still plenty of surfers out enjoying the water.

Dole Plantation

About 2/3 of the way from Honolulu to the North Shore, the Dole Plantation is a bit touristy but is a good place to learn all about Hawaii’s pineapple industry. There are three different attractions at the Dole Plantation that each require a separate ticket: the Pineapple Express Train Tour, Plantation Garden Tour and Pineapple Garden Maze. All tickets can be purchased when you arrive; tickets are not currently sold in advance. 

Dole Plantation on Oahu
Dole Plantation Train

If you have time, I suggest that you spend time at all three attractions. But, if you only have time for one, I would suggest the train tour. The train takes you on a 20-minute narrated journey around the plantation. Along the way, you’ll learn all about the history of pineapple in Hawaii and the growing process.

After the train tour, take some time to wander through the gardens. Here, you’ll see a variety of native Hawaiian plants. We enjoyed the walk through the gardens but not much was blooming in the winter. Still, it was a relaxing walk and a nicely landscaped area. If visiting Oahu in the spring or summer, I would say definitely purchase a ticket for this. You could probably skip it if you’re visiting in the fall or winter, though. 

Garden at the Dole Plantation.
Bonnie walking through the botanical gardens at the Dole Plantation.

For a little fun, buy a ticket for the pineapple maze. The goal is to make your way through the maze to several different stations. At each station, signs share interesting facts about Hawaii and its flora and fauna. We enjoyed the novelty of the maze but didn’t spend a ton of time in this area. Those will kids will probably have a little more fun with it.

Finally, don’t leave the Dole Plantation without some Dole Whip. While you can get Dole Whip in many different locations these days, there’s just something about having it at the Dole Plantation that makes it better! And, there are tons of options… we enjoyed a large waffle bowl with fresh pineapple pieces!

There’s also a cafe for lunch that serves hamburgers, hot dogs and traditional Hawaiian fare such as kalua pork and loco moco. 

Haleiwa

The main town on the North Shore of Oahu is the small town of Haleiwa, which is on the west end. Here, you’ll find a somewhat typical “beach town” with a wide variety of restaurants, shops and, of course, the beach!

Haleiwa, Oahu
Haleiwa

This is a great place to stop and get lunch, dinner or just a snack. The town is fairly small and you’ll see tons of people walking around as you drive through. 

There’s not much to do here other than eat, shop or hang out on the beach. Still, it’s a nice town and worth at least driving through. 

Waimea Valley

In the heart of the North Shore, you’ll find another of the best places to go on Oahu, Waimea Valley. Operated by a non-profit organization, Waimea Valley preserves a section of land that stretches inland from the coast, housing a variety of plants and other natural and historic features.

Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley

When visiting Waimea Valley, you’ll walk a 3/4-mile (one-way) paved path through botanical gardens to a waterfall. The walk to the waterfall is slightly uphill but is a relatively easy walk. There are a few side paths that you can take to explore more. 

Again, since we visited in December, we did not get to enjoy the full array of blooms that you would see in the spring or summer. Still, it was a nice hike and a great way to spend a couple of hours outside.

Waimea Falls
Selfie at Waimea Falls

You can sometimes swim at the waterfall area, depending on water conditions. All swimmers are required to wear a life vest, which are provided by the park and included with your admission fee. 

Turtle Beach

There are a number of places around Oahu where you might be able to spot sea turtles. One of the most popular is Laniakea Beach, along the North Shore. Due to the high chance of spotting turtles here, it’s more commonly known as Turtle Beach. 

We stopped to look for turtles one day and, sure enough, we found a couple that were out resting on the beach! In fact, this area is so popular for sea turtles, there were a couple of volunteers there helping to make sure that observers didn’t get too close to the turtles.

Turtle Beach on Oahu
Sea turtle on the North Shore

They also had up a sign with some information about one of the turtles. Olivia-Dawn (Hawaiian Name: Ipo) is estimated to be 47 years old and weighs 230 pounds. She spends most of her time in the cove here on Oahu but made a 1,000-mile round trip journey to the French Frigate Shoals to nest in 2004 and again in 2015.  

Laniakea Beach is definitely one of the best places to go on Oahu if you want to spot sea turtles. Just remember that they are protected, so you should always keep your distance.

Best Places to Go on the East Side of Oahu

On the east side of Oahu, you’ll find a good mix of cultural sites, beaches and a couple of medium-sized towns. We didn’t spend a ton of time over here but did visit a few notable attractions. 

Polynesian Cultural Center

On the northeast side of the island, you’ll find one of Oahu’s most popular attractions, the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you want to learn about the culture and heritage of all the Polynesian islands, this is the place to do it! 

Polynesian Cultural Center
Artifacts are displayed in a traditional Polynesian building.

The site is sort of like Disney World’s EPCOT, where you can wander through six different villages, each representing a different Polynesian island. At each village, you’ll find cultural demonstrations, native games and shows with singing and dancing. Be sure to check the daily calendar, or download the Polynesian Cultural Center app, for show times.

I’ll be honest, the Polynesian Cultural Center feels a little like a theme park but without roller coasters. But, it’s a great place to learn about the culture. Each village is presented by natives from that particular culture (most are students at the adjacent Brigham Young University – Hawaii) and it really allows you to learn about the similarities and differences between the various Polynesian islands. 

The PCC also offers a luau dinner and show, which are optional add-ons when you purchase your entrance ticket. I’ve heard good things about this luau but we decided to skip it for a variety of reasons. 

Overall, if you want to learn about the Polynesian culture, the Polynesian Cultural Center is definitely one of the best places to go on Oahu.

Read Grant’s in-depth article about the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Byodo-In Temple

Another interesting site on the east side of Oahu is the non-practicing Buddhist Byodo-In Temple. This temple is a smaller-scale replica of the one in Uji, Japan, which is a United Nations World Heritage Site. It was established in 1968 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

No, we are not Buddhist but I really wanted to see the architecture of a Buddhist temple. I have to say, the temple provides a solemn place to connect with any sort of higher power that you believe in. Or, you can simply enjoy the natural beauty of the area. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the wild peacocks that live in the area.

Note: To reach the Byodo-In Temple, you’ll drive through the Valley of the Temples cemetery but there are plenty of signs pointing you to the temple. 

Byodo-In Temple charges a hefty fee for a commercial photography permit, so we cannot share any of the photos that we took.

Best Places to Go on the South Side of Oahu

The southeast side of the island is fairly rugged with few commercial attractions. That said, there are a few public natural landmarks that are worth visiting.

Spitting Cave

Because of Hawaii’s rugged, volcanic landscape, you’ll find a variety of natural features here that you don’t often find in other areas of the United States. One of those is the almost-hidden Spitting Cave.

Spitting Caves on Oahu
Spitting Caves

Here, erratic waves crash into the rocky shoreline, which is dotted with a small cave-like overhang. As the waves roll through the caves, it sometimes creates a spray that looks like the caves are spitting the water out. 

To reach the Spitting Caves, you have to drive to the back of a residential neighborhood. A single sign marks a very small and steep path between houses that takes you to the coast. If you search for “Spitting Caves” on Apple Maps or Google Maps, you will find GPS directions. It is just west of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, in the Portlock area.

Spitting Caves
Spitting Caves

Be patient as the caves don’t “spit” every time a wave rolls in. We almost gave up when we finally spotted the spray. Regardless of what the water is doing, it’s a fantastic view of the coast – and some pretty epic houses, too! 

Roadside Panoramic Views

Continuing east along Highway 72, you’ll arrive at three more overlooks that are much easier to find! The first is the Lanai Lookout. Here, a small paved parking area allows you to enjoy panoramic views of the coastline. The parking area is small, so be careful as you pull off the road. If you’re lucky, you’ll find parking, but it is not guaranteed. 

Halona Blowhole
Halona Blowhole

Just a short way down the road (a mile or two) is the Halona Blowhole. There’s a slightly larger parking lot here. Again, you’ll have fantastic panoramic views of the ocean and a large beach. The main attraction here, though, is the blowhole. This is another feature that is found in a few places around Hawaii and other areas with rocky coastlines. 

A blowhole is basically a sea cave or lava tube along the coast. As water rushes in, pressure forces the water out of the hole at the top. It really is a fun and fascinating natural feature. Just remember, if you get too close, you’ll probably get wet, or even drenched!

Makapu'u Point on Oahu
Makapu’u Selfie

Finally, as the road begins to curve northward, on the southeast sip of the island, you’ll find the Makapu’u Lookout and the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. When we were there (on Christmas Day), this was, by far, the busiest of all the stops in this area. It was quite difficult to find parking and there were cars just about everywhere. 

Initially, we thought we might hike up to the lighthouse, but we decided to just walk to the overlook. If you’re looking for a hike, I’ve heard this is a great one with fantastic views. You’ll also get amazing views from the overlook with a tiny fraction of the work!

Other Things to Do on Oahu

While we spent about a week on Oahu, and stayed fairly busy, we did not do everything there is to do, by any means. Other popular attractions that we skipped are the Honolulu Zoo, a tour at Kualoa Ranch, numerous boat and snorkel tours and many more great hikes to waterfalls and epic views. And if you want to shop, there is a wide variety of stores, especially around Waikiki.

Waikiki
The strip in Waikiki early in the morning.

Of course, there are many different beaches all over the island. If you want to soak up some sun or splash in the water, there are endless opportunities that are not difficult to find. We are not “sit on the beach” people, so we won’t recommend any specific beaches. But, if that’s your thing you will find plenty of great options just about anywhere you go!

Here are a few other things to do on Oahu that can be done in many different places.

Snorkeling

Grant absolutely loves snorkeling and diving. I, however, am not a huge fan of being in open water. I am a fairly strong swimmer and boats don’t bother me one bit but there is just something about being in deep open water that produces a mild panic attack in me. Still, I’ve been determined to start snorkeling and had success just a month before this Hawaii trip, when we were in Cozumel, Mexico.

Read more about our snorkeling experience in Cozumel.

Snorkeling in Oahu
Snorkeling selfie

So, we did some research on the best places to snorkel in Oahu and I gave it another try! First, we rented our gear from Snorkel Bob’s. There are several different locations, including one near Waikiki that was just a mile or two from our hotel. You can rent a snorkel and fins by the day or by the week and it is super easy and affordable. They’ll also give you an identification guide to help you note which fish you spot.

We picked up our gear one morning and headed over to Sans Souci Beach, which is just east of Waikiki. Since this area is part of the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District, fishing is not allowed. Thus, you’re more likely to spot fish and other marine animals!

Snorkeling in Oahu at Sans Souci Beach
We saw this Moorish idol while snorkeling at Sans Souci Beach.

It took a little patience from Grant to help me get acclimated to the water but, before long, we were off exploring. I’ll be honest, the snorkeling here wasn’t quite as good as in Cozumel, but it was still fun. We saw a good variety of fish but nothing too “scary” for me!

There are tons of good places to snorkel on Oahu. In the winter, though, the waves are a lot rougher in many areas. Sans Souci Beach ended up being perfect for us. We also liked that it was free (other than the gear rental)!

Luau

One thing that you absolutely cannot miss while in Hawaii is a luau. There are many different options and choosing the right luau can be dizzying! We opted for the Experience Nutridge Luau, which is small and cozy and conveniently located just a short drive from Waikiki.

Nutridge Luau dancing.
A traditional dance demonstration at the Nutridge Estate luau

What we loved most about this luau was the small, family-style celebration. It didn’t feel like we were at a production. We truly felt like we were at someone’s backyard family luau. The hosts were personable, the program was entertaining and informative, the dancing and games were culturally relevant, the drinks were tasty and the food was delicious.

Sunset at Nutridge Luau on Oahu
Sunset at Nutridge Estate

And the view looking over Honolulu, out to the Pacific Ocean was outstanding! Watching a sunset here is the perfect way to end a day. The Nutridge Estate and the Experience Nutridge Luau is definitely one of the best places to go on Oahu. 

Read my full review of the Nutridge Luau.

Where to Eat on Oahu

There are a ton of great places to eat on Oahu. The options in Honolulu alone are immense! Seriously, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it here. We ate at many different places while in town and tried to find some great, local specialties. Some of our favorites are listed below.

Please note that this list is in no way exhaustive of all the great places to eat around Oahu. They are just a few that we tried and enjoyed. 

Duke's Waikiki
Live music at Duke’s Waikiki

Duke’s Waikiki – One of the best-known restaurants in Waikiki, with indoor-outdoor seating and a fantastic menu. We enjoyed the crab wontons, their signature Mac Nut & Herb Crusted Fresh Fish and, of course, a mai tai. Duke’s is incredibly popular, so we recommend making reservations well before you arrive in Honolulu. 

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – You’ll find this traditional shrimp truck in two different locations along the North Shore – in Haleiwa, on the west end, and Kahuku on the east end. There is even now a new location in Honolulu. This shrimp truck is famous for its shrimp scampi and hot and spicy shrimp. Whichever location you visit, expect a long line that is well-earned. 

Kalua pork plate from Keneke's
The massive plate lunch of amazing food at Keneke’s on the north side of Oahu.

Keneke’s Grill – There are two locations of Keneke’s, both on the east side of Oahu. We ate at the Punaluu location, which doesn’t look like much on the outside. And, honestly, even the inside isn’t all that impressive. The food, though, was some of the best we had on Oahu. Our biggest regret is that we weren’t going straight back to our condo and, thus, couldn’t take our leftovers with us.

Duke’s Lane Market & Eatery – Located in Waikiki, just a few blocks inland from the beach, was a great little food court and market. We stopped here several times for breakfast and dinner to get a quick meal to take back to our condo. The Spitfire Grill served a great Loco Moco, a traditional Hawaiian meal, along with many other fantastic options. There was also a coffee shop that served pastries and gelato, along with a sit-down restaurant and a small market. 

Eggs ‘n Things – If you’re looking for a good breakfast spot, we highly recommend Eggs ‘n Things, which has a location right at Waikiki Beach. I opted for the Fresh Fruit Rainbow Pancakes, which were light and fluffy and topped with a rainbow of fruit. With all the fruit, I did not even need syrup! Grant enjoyed an omelet with Portuguese sausage, a Hawaiian specialty.

Holey Grail Donuts – If you’ve got a sweet tooth when it comes to breakfast, look no further than Holey Grail Donuts. The donuts are made with taro and fried in coconut oil, then topped with a wide range of interesting icings and other toppings. We opted for the tasting box, which includes one each of four different donuts. The menu changes frequently, so you never know what will be offered. Based on our experience, it’s sure to be tasty, though!

Shave ice on the North Shore of Oahu.
Stopping in for the classic shave ice in Haleiwa.

Aoki’s Shave Ice – One of the most iconic treats in Hawaii is shave ice. This snow cone-like treat is made with finely shaved ice, not crushed ice, which gives it a powdery consistency. It’s then topped with a myriad of flavored syrups. We went to Aoki’s in Halawei on the North Shore. In addition to having a great flavor and consistency, we loved that the “catcher cup” was made from recycled corn and paper products! There are tons of great places to get shave ice, though!

Where to Stay on Oahu

You will find a wide variety of hotels, resorts, AirBnBs and other rental options in and around the Waikiki area. Yes, there are hotels on other parts of the island but the vast majority of them are located quite close to Honolulu.

Aqua Skyline at Island Colony in Waikiki
The living room in the condo.

We decided to redeem some of our Chase Ultimate Rewards points and stayed at the Aqua Skyline at Island Colony in Waikiki. Our unit was a one-bedroom condo with a kitchenette and a large living room. The condo isn’t beachfront, but it was just about a 10-minute walk to Waikiki Beach. From our balcony, we could see all the way to the coast and from the living room windows, we have unobstructed views of the inland mountains of Oahu.

While there wasn’t anything super special about our condo, it was comfortable and convenient. And, we loved that we were able to redeem points to enjoy it!

Honolulu
View from the balcony at the condo.

One note of caution when looking for a place to stay on Oahu, be sure to look at parking costs. Initially, we were trying to find a place that didn’t charge a ridiculous fee for parking. Ultimately, we realized that adding on a $25/day parking fee was worth it (point-wise) compared to many of the other options we were finding. 

Check out our article on choosing the right rewards credit card so you too can enjoy free stays in Hawaii and other great locations!

Final Thoughts on Visiting Oahu

Oahu really is a great island, especially for your first visit to Hawaii. While we didn’t love the traffic in Honolulu, it doesn’t take long to escape the city. 

With iconic attractions like Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Diamond Head State Monument and Waimea Valley, there are plenty of things to do on Oahu for everyone. And, if you want world-class shopping and dining, you’ll find that around Waikiki. 

Waikiki Beach
Sunset on Christmas Day on Waikiki

Whether you have a couple of days or a couple of weeks, you are sure to find plenty of things to keep you busy on Oahu. And, if you just want to relax on the beach, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for that also.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the great places to go on Oahu, check out my article on planning the perfect Oahu itinerary, which will help you plan your visit, regardless of how much time you have.

Headed to Maui also? Check out our article on driving the road to Hana.

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
Click here to get a AAA membership.

Leave a Comment

I accept the Privacy Policy