Hawaii’s third-largest island – Oahu – is also its most populated island. And, we can see why. This island has so much to offer in terms of activities, so whether you’re a local or a tourist, there’s always something to do. A trip to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without plenty of opportunities to take in the island’s natural landscape. Luckily, these eight activities allow you to do just that.
1. Scenic Helicopter Tour
This is a bit of a cliche activity for a trip to Hawaii, but there’s a reason everyone does it. Oahu is so beautiful from above and booking a scenic helicopter tour is one activity you won’t regret. There’s a lot of options when it comes to helicopter tours. The flights usually last between 30-60 minutes, can be with the doors on or off, and can even happen at sunset.
You can even go all out and book a full-day tour to another island. For example, book a helicopter tour from Oahu to the Big Island and fly over Volcano National Park!
2. Hike the Stairway to Heaven (Legally)
The Stairway to Heaven hike, also known as the Haiku Stairs, is easily one of Oahu’s most popular attractions. This hike is definitely a workout; it totals 3,922 steps and takes the average person between two to five hours to complete, as a lot of it is a steep incline. We should also note that the Stairway to Heaven is on private property and is illegal to access. The city of Honolulu planned to reopen it to the public after some renovations. But, the liability of this attraction has made it unlikely that it will ever be open to the public legally. Many people who want to enjoy the beautiful views still trespass and do this hike, risking the $1,000 fine.
So, why are we recommending an illegal hike? Let us be clear: we’re not. There is a legal way to access the Haiku Stairs by taking a 15-kilometer round detour on the Moanalua Valley Trail. Not only does this trail add to the length of the hike, but it’s also challenging itself. Only do this hike if you’re experienced, prepared, and in good shape.
Don’t worry – if you want to see all of Oahu and enjoy a more manageable hike – you can conquer Diamond Head instead.
3. Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head is an excellent hike in Oahu, where you climb a dormant volcano to get to stunning views at the top. This hike is relatively easy, taking most people under two hours to complete. Note that the last entrance for the hike is at 4:00 pm every day, after which the gates close for the evening. Walk to the top, take in the views, and when you’re done you can enjoy a meal or treat at one of the nearby restaurants.
4. Go to the Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation started as a fruit stand in 1950 and eventually turned into “Hawaii’s Pineapple Experience” in the 1980s. The Dole Plantation gets over one million visitors per year and is primarily a big hit with children and families. You can hop on the Pineapple Train, take a garden tour, and grab a bite at the Plantation Grille.
5. Snorkel with Turtles
No trip to Oahu is complete without seeing a turtle. And while you’re not supposed to touch the turtles, you can swim around them without disturbing them. This turtle excursion takes you out on a catamaran and drops you off for snorkeling in an area known to be popular with turtles. If you don’t see a turtle, you’re offered an opportunity to come back and try again for free! This adventure is one you’ll remember forever!
6. Go Surfing
Hawaii, and Oahu especially, is a surfer’s paradise. If you’re an experienced surfer, you’ll love the waves that often start first thing in the morning. Even if you’re not a surfer, Hawaii is the perfect place to book some lessons and try to learn.
7. Hike to Manoa Falls
Moana Falls is a 150-waterfall in Honolulu, Oahu. It takes roughly 1.7-miles roundtrip to reach the waterfalls following a well-marked and easy trail. Unfortunately, visitors are discouraged from swimming in the water around the falls due to the risk of contracting Leptospirosis. This trail is absolutely worth it when you get to take in the powerful, stunning waterfalls. However, you can expect the path to be packed so consider going early to avoid crowds.
8. Zipline in “Jurassic Park”
When people think of Oahu, they typically think about the oceans, but Oahu has some amazing jungles too! Get the best jungle experience of all by ziplining through the trees. Visit Kualoa Ranch, which makes you feel like you’re ziplining through Jurassic Park. The ranch has a wide variety of packages including zip lines that range from 200 feet up to a quarter of a mile in length! Just make sure to book in advance as this is a popular attraction with tourists, and spots fill up quickly.
We challenge you to fit all eight of these activities into your next Oahu trip! Need more recommendations for your trip? Read about the best restaurants in Oahu next!