TRAVEL GUIDE TO OAHU, HAWAI’I:
O’ahu was the very first island we explored back in 2011. My mom has lived on three of the major Hawaiian islands over the past 40 years & spent a lot of her time on this beautiful island living on both North Shore & downtown Waikiki. Since that first trip, we have had many opportunities to explore everything this island has to offer & it’s my pleasure to share my recommendations with you! O’ahu offers adventure & relaxation, nature & luxury, mountains & sea. This island is really special & has so much more to offer than the usual ‘tourist trip’ when you step outside the guide book – you just have to know where to find them!
Here is a glimpse into our favorite things to do in O’ahu. . .
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN O’AHU
Looking for a hotel with a nod to midcentury Hawai’i? The Surfjack has a retro vibe, great atmosphere and a beautiful aesthetic. We have loved staying here each time! Don’t forget to grab a coffee & browse through the merch at Olive & Oliver – it’s one of my favorite places!
Swanky little spot in the center of Waikiki, this hotel merges midcentury modern style with present-day Hawaiian charm — and they get along famously. You’ll remember the darling design details (hello custom wallpaper!), lounging in the hanging chairs outside your room, enjoying the beautiful pool & drinks at their cafe or rooftop bar.
No detail was forgotten at this Waikiki Resort + the entire property was pristine. We were greeted with complimentary beverages and taken up to our dreamy, calming room! The rooms + bathrooms are minimal, breezy & delightful. Have dinner at their restaurant, Passageway, and spend the following day lounging in one of their day beds. You must try the Frozen Coconut Mojito – heavenly!
This beauty is named MANGO (as seen on the license plate) because the owner totally redid the interior of the bus in reclaimed wood from an old mango tree! It was such a stellar experience driving this bus around the island together, taking backroads + going the slower route to simply just explore.We chose to camp on the beach of Maelekahana, steps from the waves, thanks to the recommendation of Brett (the owner of Hana Hou Campers) who was more than helpful when it came to finding beaches to camp on, etc.
We have loved staying at the famous Pink Palace of the Pacific! You can get a feel of what to expect on their Instagram @royal_hawaiian, though take my word for it: it’s amazing. With expansive views of Waikiki Beach, direct beach access, old world Hawaiian charm & so much history…this hotel is really special.
BEST SPOTS TO EAT & SIP IN O’AHU
BEST O’AHU BEACHES & STATE PARKS
KE IKI BEACH
These beaches are stunning! Absolutely beautiful white sands, talcum powder soft + clear, sparkling aqua waters. They tend to be tourist hot spots (but locals also love them) so make sure to get there early if you want a bit less busy of a scene.
BEST EXPERIENCES IN O’AHU
This is a deeply sacred & unique hands-on experience where they will take you back in time and teach you the ways of traditional Hawaiian kalo (or taro) farming which was a staple food for Hawaiian ancestors. You’ll get muddy, learn about Hawaiian history and culture and will absolutely leave with a smile on your face!
SAIL OUT OF WAIKIKI AT SUNSET
Sailing off of Waikiki gives you a whole different perspective of the city! We’ve been out with Manakai Catamaran but there are many that depart right off the beach.
BEST HIKES ON O’AHU
CROUCHING LION HIKE
When you google “Crouching Lion Hike” you may see that it’s on the Top 5 Most Dangerous list on Oahu. . . At least, that’s what the locals we ran into told us. BUT don’t let that make you scroll past this! Instead, think about going on the Crouching Lion MINI Hike! This hike is difficult at points but the view from the top are SO WORTH IT!
LANIKAI PILLBOX HIKE
100% worth the beeping alarm clock at 5AM! This gorgeous, scenic hike is ranked intermediate because of the steady steep incline right from the start of the trail head. But c’mon! LOOK AT THAT VIEW!
Throughout the climb, you’ll be rewarded with striking views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach + Lanikai Beach! In the distance, you can also see Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, Waimanalo Bay + the Makapu’u Lighthouse. It’s truly a bird’s eye view!
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a moderate 1 hour (possibly 90 minute, depending how far you decide to go) round trip. You can easily reach the first old military bunker (aka ‘pillbox’) in about 20-30 minutes. From that point, it’s another 10 minute walk along the top ridge to the second pillbox (less crowded, definitely go here!). Most hikers turn around at this point + travel back down the Kaiwa Ridge Trail although there is a third pillbox beyond the first two if you’re feeling adventurous!
For directions + specifics, click here.
With a little research & some local knowledge – you truly do get a better experience when you travel! When are you heading to O’ahu?
Get The Complete O’ahu Island Travel Guide
If you want our full insider’s guide to Oahu for adventurous travelers filled with 90+ personally curated recommendations from our many trips there – grab our O’ahu Guide! You can easily access it from anywhere on your smartphone, computer or iPad.
The guide includes:
+ Over 70 personally curated recommendations for your O’ahu vacation
+ Tips for where to stay on the island, ways to be a mindful traveler & experiences not to miss
+ The cafes, restaurants & bars we love the most from all our times traveling here
+ Our favorite beaches, hikes & ways to spend the day all around O’ahu