Is your compass is pointing toward the Pacific jewel of Oahu for an upcoming cruise? If so, you’re in for a sun-soaked treat. From the iconic shores of Waikiki to the historic echoes of Pearl Harbor, Oahu offers a treasure trove of experiences. Let’s set sail into this Hawaiian paradise, where the sun, sea, and surf await every cruise-goer with these 10 fun things to o on Oahu.
1. Explore Famous Waikiki
Visiting Waikiki is like stepping into a postcard-perfect Hawaiian dream. This iconic neighborhood on the south shore of Oahu is renowned for its world-class beaches. Here the golden sands meet the gentle lull of the Pacific waves. The vibrant energy of Kalakaua Avenue invites you to explore an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants, and lively entertainment.
Against the backdrop of Diamond Head, the historic volcanic crater, visitors can partake in water activities, from surfing and paddleboarding to leisurely catamaran rides. As the sun sets, the beachfront transforms into a lively scene. Tiki torches cast a warm glow and live music fills the air. Waikiki is not just a destination; it’s a sensory celebration of the quintessential Hawaiian experience, where leisure and adventure harmoniously coexist in a tropical paradise.
2. Hike to the Top of Iconic Diamond Head
Hiking Diamond Head is a breath taking journey into both natural beauty and historical significance on the island of Oahu. Picture this: a sunrise hike to the summit, capturing Insta-worthy moments against the backdrop of the awakening Pacific. The ascent is invigorating, the views are unparalleled – a must for both fitness enthusiasts and avid photographers.
From the trailhead to the summit, you will gain 560 feet and hike .08 miles. Diamond Head is a state monument that encompasses over 475 acres. This iconic volcanic crater, standing sentinel over Waikiki, offers a rewarding trek for adventurers seeking breathtaking panoramic views. The hike leads you through a well-maintained trail, surrounded by native flora and the remnants of military bunkers from World War II. As you ascend, the cool breeze and the scent of tropical vegetation accompany you. This will be a welcome respite from the bustling city below.
Upon reaching the summit, the expansive vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu city are nothing short of awe-inspiring. The views alone make the effort entirely worthwhile. Hiking Diamond Head is not just an outdoor excursion; it’s an opportunity to connect with both nature and history, creating lasting memories of the spectacular landscapes that define Oahu.
3. Dive into History at Pearl Harbor
Visiting Pearl Harbor is a poignant and profound journey into the pages of history. This hallowed site on the island of Oahu holds the memories of the infamous December 7, 1941, attack that propelled the United States into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial stands as a solemn tribute over the sunken battleship. Visitors are invited to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who lost their lives that fateful day.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center provides a comprehensive experience. There are exhibits, artifacts, and first-hand accounts that detail the events leading up to and following the attack. A boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial brings a sense of solemnity, allowing visitors to pay their respects and view the remnants of the ship beneath the tranquil waters. A visit to Pearl Harbor is not merely a tour but a powerful commemoration. It can foster an understanding of the resilience and sacrifice that shaped the course of history.
No visit to Oahu is complete without paying homage to history at Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Get your tickets here.
4. Hanauma Bay Snorkeling
Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay is like entering an underwater paradise. Here the vibrant marine life and crystalline waters create an awe-inspiring spectacle. Nestled within the remains of a volcanic crater on Oahu, Hanauma Bay’s protected reef teems with a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, coral gardens, and graceful sea turtles.
The gently sloping, sandy seafloor makes it an ideal spot for snorkelers of all skill levels. As you glide through the warm Pacific waters, schools of colorful fish surround you. You will get an intimate glimpse into the intricate ecosystem below the surface. The bay’s calm and clear conditions provide optimal visibility, turning each snorkeling venture into a mesmerizing exploration of underwater wonders. Hanauma Bay isn’t just a snorkeling destination; it’s a living testament to the beauty and diversity of Hawaii’s marine world, inviting all who venture beneath the waves into an unforgettable aquatic realm.
Reserve your spot on a tour that takes you from Waikiki over to Hanauma Bay and includes snorkel gear. Click this link for more information on the tour.
5. Indulge in a Traditional Luau
Attending a luau on Oahu is a vibrant immersion into the heart of Hawaiian culture, where the spirit of aloha comes alive through music, dance, and delectable cuisine. As the sun dips below the horizon, the rhythmic beat of traditional drums sets the stage for an evening of celebration. The sound of the ukulele accompanies mesmerizing hula performances, each graceful movement telling a story of the islands. You can even witness firsthand a fire-knife dance. Guests are treated to a feast fit for royalty, featuring a lavish spread of Hawaiian delicacies like kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, and poi.
The scent of tropical flowers and the warmth of the tiki torches create an enchanting atmosphere as the night unfolds. A luau on Oahu is not just a meal; it’s a sensory journey that leaves you with a profound appreciation for the rich traditions and warm hospitality that define the Hawaiian way of life.
Let the aloha spirit wash over you as you savor local delicacies and witness the rhythmic dance of Polynesian traditions. This luau is extra special because you can hike to Waimea Falls and swim in the beautiful water at the bottom of the falls. Or grab tickets to the Polynesian Culture Center where you learn all about Hawaiian culture and get to watch hula and fire knife dances.
6. Visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation
Visiting the Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu is a sensory journey through the sweetest side of Hawaii. Nestled in the heart of Oahu’s vibrant countryside, this iconic plantation offers a delightful escape into the world of pineapples. As you stroll through the meticulously maintained grounds, the air becomes infused with the tropical aroma of ripening pineapples. The highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the Pineapple Garden Maze, recognized as the world’s largest maze of its kind. The maze is an entertaining challenge for all ages.
Don’t miss the Pineapple Express, a charming train ride that takes you on a narrated tour through the plantation’s lush fields, providing insight into the history and cultivation of this juicy fruit. Cap off your visit with a taste of their famous Dole Whip. It’s a refreshing pineapple soft-serve treat that has become synonymous with Hawaiian sweetness. Or try a juicy slice of chocolate covered pineapple. The Dole Pineapple Plantation is more than a farm; it’s a flavorful exploration into the heart of Hawaii’s pineapple heritage.
This full day tour takes you to the Dole Pineapple Plantation along with up to the North Shore (see below) among some other great places!
7. Take a Day Trip Up to the North Shore
A visit to the famous North Shore of Hawaii is an immersion into the heart of the island’s surf culture and natural wonders. Renowned worldwide as a surfing mecca, the North Shore boasts legendary breaks like Pipeline and Sunset Beach, attracting daredevil surfers year-round.
As you stroll through the laid-back beach towns of Haleiwa and Waimea, the rhythmic hum of the Pacific and the scent of saltwater permeate the air. The charming streets are lined with surf shops, local boutiques, and eateries serving up fresh, island-inspired cuisine. Beyond the thrilling surf scene, the North Shore is also a sanctuary for sea turtles. Laze on the golden sands and you might witness these gentle giants basking in the sun, adding a touch of magic to the already enchanting ambiance. A visit to the North Shore is a sensory feast, offering a perfect blend of adrenaline, relaxation, and the awe-inspiring beauty that defines the essence of Hawaii.
8. Retail Therapy in Waikiki
For those with a penchant for retail therapy, Waikiki’s bustling streets are a haven of shops, boutiques, and local markets. Whether you’re seeking souvenirs, unique finds, or the perfect Hawaiian shirt, Waikiki offers an array of shopping delights.
Kalakaua Avenue, the bustling heart of this iconic beachfront neighborhood, boasts an impressive array of high-end retailers, designer boutiques, and flagship stores, making it a haven for fashion enthusiasts. World-renowned brands line the street, offering everything from luxury apparel to cutting-edge technology.
Amidst the chic storefronts, visitors can also explore the International Market Place, a modern shopping complex that seamlessly blends outdoor retail spaces with lush landscaping. Here, you’ll discover a mix of local boutiques, artisanal treasures, and international brands. As you stroll along the vibrant sidewalks, the enticing aroma of Hawaiian cuisine from nearby eateries mingles with the salty breeze, creating a sensory-rich shopping experience that perfectly complements the sun-soaked allure of Waikiki.
9. Kualoa Ranch Adventure
Nestled between the lush greenery of the Koolau Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, Kualoa Ranch, on the island of Oahu, is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Imagine a place where Jurassic Park meets real-life thrill – that’s Kualoa! From thrilling ATV rides that kick the adrenaline into high gear to leisurely horseback excursions that let you soak in the breathtaking landscapes, this ranch is a playground for exploration.
Movie buffs will be delighted to recognize iconic film locations, and everyone can enjoy the panoramic views that make every snapshot postcard-worthy. It’s not just a destination; it’s a cinematic journey through the heart of Hawaii’s beauty, with every moment at Kualoa Ranch promising excitement, laughter, and memories to last a lifetime. So, saddle up, rev those engines, and get ready for an adventure that’s as unforgettable as the stunning backdrop that surrounds you!
10. Play With Dolphins at Sea Life Park
Dive into a world of aquatic wonders at Sea Life Park – the ultimate splash of fun for the whole family! Imagine a day filled with laughter as dolphins dance, sea lions show off their tricks, and colorful fish dart through crystal-clear waters. The park is a watery playground where kids can feed adorable sea turtles and even catch a glimpse of a real-life mermaid (yes, you read that right!). Don’t miss the thrilling sea lion show – it’s like a Broadway performance, but with more splashing.
There are several animal encounters to pick from, including swimming with dolphins. I did that a few years back and it was something I will never forget! With interactive exhibits, hands-on encounters, and a sprinkle of Hawaiian magic, Sea Life Park is not just an aquarium – it’s a fin-tastic adventure that’ll leave you smiling from ear to ear! Be sure to book any animal encounters in advance!
Setting Sail with Oahu Memories
As your cruise ship bids adieu to Oahu’s shores, take with you the echoes of crashing waves, the taste of tropical delights, and the memories of a captivating island that embraces every cruiser. Whether you’re seeking adventure, history, or simply a tranquil beach to unwind, Oahu has it all. So, fellow adventurers, set your course for Oahu, and let the aloha spirit guide you through this Pacific paradise. Click here for a list of fun Oahu activities you can pre-purchase tickets to. Safe travels, and may your sunscreen be forever plentiful. Aloha!
🌺If you are planning a Hawaii cruise, you are likely stopping at The Big Island as well. Read all about things to do on The Big Island right here!