This page contains affiliate links.
Oahu is worthy of anyone’s bucket list. Follow the tips below to make the most of your visit to Oahu.
It is very windy on Oahu. Don’t pack any hats that’ll blow away or any loose clothing (like scarves) that’ll blow around in the wind.
Because of the wind, it can feel chilly on Oahu. Wear laters that you can add or remove as you move in and out of the wind.
The wind can also make it easy to forget how intense the sun’s rays are that close to the Equator. Wear a hat that won’t blow away and regularly apply suntan lotion.
The sun sets between 6 and 7PM year-around. Keep that in mind when planning your schedule of what to do around the island.
You should also check the open and close times of places before planning your visit. You may find that places open later and close earlier than you’d expect on Oahu.
There can be a lot of traffic around the Honolulu area, especially during the standard rush hour times. If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, use Google map’s “Depart at” feature to get estimated travel times.
Cabs, Lyft, and Uber are readily available on Oahu. If you’re staying in the Waikiki area, many places are walkable from your hotel. I recommend taking a road trip around the island (read more about it below!), but you don’t have to get a rental car for your entire trip. There are several rental car agencies in the Waikiki area where you can pick up a car for a day or two.
Oahu can be very expensive. You can cut costs by taking advantage of inexpensive food options around the island. They have a great food truck scene where you can get some amazing food.
You can get discounts to many tours through TripAdvisor, so search for discounts there first before booking any tours.
6. Where to Stay
Oahu is small enough that you can drive around the entire island in a single day, so you’re not particularly limited in where you should stay. Many people stay in Waikiki because there are a lot of hotels and things to do in the area. Waikiki is also very walkable.
When booking your hotel, look out for resort fees that will increase your rate. If you don’t mind staying a couple blocks back from the beach, you can find nice hotels without the resort fee.
7. What to Pack
In addition to your standard toiletries and travel items, here are some items I recommend packing for your trip to Oahu:
- Athleisure clothes: For warm climates like Oahu, I prefer athleisure clothes. I pack light-weight long-sleeved shirts and capri-length pants so that I’m protected from the sun, but don’t get too hot.
- Layers: When you’re in the wind, you may feel a little chilly – but once outside of the wind, the heat takes over. Bring layers to help combat the changes in temperature.
- Rashguards: Rashguards are close-fitting tops that you can wear swimming, snorkeling, or surfing. It’s possible that suntan lotion hurts coral reefs, but you still need to protect yourself from the sun. Wearing a rashguard can give you sun protection while cutting back on sunscreen.
- Hats: Pack several hats – not just for different activities, but because even a close-fitting hat might blow away in the wind! You want to have some back-ups available to you.
- Comfortable shoes: I prefer to wear hiking sandals in warm climates like Oahu. They’re sturdy enough for lots of walking, but also have air circulation for added comfort. Plus, you can just throw them in the washing machine when you get back home to make them good as new.
- Sunscreen: If you have a favorite sunscreen that’s hard to find, bring it along. Otherwise, sunscreen is easy to find in convenience stores around Oahu.
8. What to Do & See
That leads us to the fun part! All the great things to do and see on Oahu:
- Visit Pearl Harbor. This is a must-see for anyone who visits Oahu. You’ll need to reserve advance (free) tickets from Recreation.gov to see the USS Arizona Memorial. The tickets run out, so plan on reserving those tickets as soon as you’ve confirmed your travel plans. Read more about visiting Pearl Harbor at What You Need to Know Before Visiting Pearl Harbor.
- Hike Diamond Head. Diamond Head Crater provides stunning views of Waikiki and the rest of Honolulu. The hike takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The hike can be steep at times, but very doable if you don’t have health problems. Find out more about the hike at Must Read Tips for Hiking Diamond Head.
- Take a day trip around Oahu. Oahu is small enough that you can drive around it in a single day. There are lots of great things to see around the island, so this is a must-do for anyone visiting the island for the first time. Learn more about driving around the island at Ultimate Oahu Road Trip: 7 Must See Spots.
- Take surfing lessons on Waikiki Beach. Look for discounts on TripAdvisor to find reduced rates.
- Take a sunset cruise. Book a cruise that sails past Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.
- Go to a Luau. I didn’t have time to go to a luau on Oahu and really regretted it. I’ve heard great things about the Paradise Cove Luau from friends who have attended.
- Watch fireworks on Waikiki Beach. On Friday nights, the Hilton Hawaiian Village shoots off fireworks. You can see them from Waikiki Beach. The Sheraton may obstruct your view, so make sure you’re north of the Sheraton before the fireworks start. The sun sets between 6 and 7PM on Oahu (depending on the time of year). Plan on the fireworks starting within an hour of sunset. You can ask anyone who works at a restaurant or bar along Waikiki Beach for a more specific time once you arrive.
I hope these tips help you to have an amazing trip. Enjoy your visit to beautiful Oahu!