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Oahu Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated June 2024 ⋅ Written by Vanessa Howard ⋅ Edited by Laura Schulthies

Oahu Visitors Guide
Oahu Visitors Guide

Welcome to Oahu

Oahu has an exhilarating combination of ancient Polynesian and modern Western cultures. As the third largest island in Hawaii, Oahu is often called the ‘gathering place.’ Whether you want to spend time in a vibrant island city such as Honolulu, or relax in a laid back surf town, Oahu has a bit of everything. Find out more about all that this amazing island has to offer with our regularly updated Oahu Visitors Guide.

Oahu has an exhilarating combination of ancient Polynesian and modern Western cultures. As the third largest island in Hawaii, Oahu is often called the ‘gathering place.’ Whether you want to spend time in a vibrant island city such as Honolulu, or relax in a laid back surf town, Oahu has a bit of everything. Find out more about all that this amazing island has to offer with our regularly updated Oahu Visitors Guide.

Oahu Map

Oahu Map

Contents

Oahu Visitors Guide
Oahu Visitors Guide

A Bit Of History

Oahu is the third-largest Hawaiian island and has a rich history dating back to ancient times. The island was first settled by Polynesians around 1,000 years ago. Their descendants, the Native Hawaiians, lived on the island for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century. Oahu became the center of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early 19th century and was visited by famous explorers such as Captain James Cook. In the 20th century, Oahu played a significant role in World War II as the site of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Oahu Today

Today, Oahu is a bustling and diverse island that attracts millions of visitors each year. Its largest city, Honolulu, is the capital of Hawaii and serves as the cultural and economic hub of the state. Oahu is known for its beautiful beaches, world-class surf spots, pineapple production, and stunning natural beauty. The island is also home to numerous historical and cultural sites, including the USS Arizona Memorial and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Oahu is a melting pot of cultures, with a vibrant Honolulu food scene and a thriving arts and entertainment scene

Where is Oahu?

Where is Oahu in the Hawaiian islands

The island of Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is northwest of Molokai and Southeast of Kauai. It is separated from the islands of Kauai and Molokai by the Kauai and Kaiwi channels.

The archipelago of Hawaii is around two thousand miles Southwest of the mainland United States and four thousand miles East of Japan.

Oahu Visitors Guide
Oahu Visitors Guide

The Best Time to Visit Oahu

The best time to visit Oahu depends on your preferences and what you want to do on the island. Generally, the best time to visit Oahu is from mid April to early June or from September to mid December when the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller than during the peak summer and winter seasons. During these times, you can enjoy warm temperatures, fewer tourists, and better deals on accommodations and activities. However, if you are interested in surfing, the best time to visit Oahu is from November to February when the waves are the biggest.

You can see the current Hawaii forecast here.

The best time to visit Oahu depends on your preferences and what you want to do on the island. Generally, the best time to visit Oahu is from mid April to early June or from September to mid December when the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller than during the peak summer and winter seasons. During these times, you can enjoy warm temperatures, fewer tourists, and better deals on accommodations and activities. However, if you are interested in surfing, the best time to visit Oahu is from November to February when the waves are the biggest. You can see the current Hawaii forecast here.

December – April

Visiting Oahu during this time of year means peak season crowds. Oahu hotels and Honolulu resorts are the priciest now and fill up fast, so book ahead. Peak season on Oahu attracts surfers in droves thanks to its righteous swells and highly regarded surfing competitions. December through April is also the best time to spot humpback whales and daytime highs rarely stray from the low 80s.

April – June

Known as a shoulder season marking the end of the surf season and the start of summer, fewer tourists come to the island in the spring. Attractions in and around the major city of Honolulu are less crowded and you can still catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales. Spring temperatures in Oahu hover in the high 60s to high 80s. You’ll rarely encounter rain during this time of year and you’ll be able to enjoy a few festivals too!

June – August

Oahu is an incredibly popular destination during the summer season. You should book Oahu hotels and Honolulu resorts early as they fill up. Warm temperatures paired with gentle waters bring summer crowds to the island. Once mid June rolls around, more and more travelers head to the island to take advantage of its fantastic weather. Temps generally sit in the mid 70s to high 80s, and rain showers aren’t likely.

September – November

As temperatures begin to drop slightly, so do the number of tourists. Culture hounds will especially love Oahu in fall, when the island hosts tons of events including food, fashion, film and Hawaiian heritage. However, the chance of rain increases during the fall. In November and December, the North Shore will swell with surfers competing in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

December – April

Visiting Oahu during this time of year means peak season crowds. Oahu hotels and Honolulu resorts are the priciest now and fill up fast, so book ahead. Peak season on Oahu attracts surfers in droves thanks to its righteous swells and highly regarded surfing competitions. December through April is also the best time to spot humpback whales and daytime highs rarely stray from the low 80s.

April – June

Known as a shoulder season marking the end of the surf season and the start of summer, fewer tourists come to the island in the spring. Attractions in and around the major city of Honolulu are less crowded and you can still catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales. Spring temperatures in Oahu hover in the high 60s to high 80s. You’ll rarely encounter rain during this time of year and you’ll be able to enjoy a few festivals too!

June – August

Oahu is an incredibly popular destination during the summer season. You should book Oahu hotels and Honolulu resorts early as they fill up. Warm temperatures paired with gentle waters bring summer crowds to the island. Once mid June rolls around, more and more travelers head to the island to take advantage of its fantastic weather. Temps generally sit in the mid 70s to high 80s, and rain showers aren’t likely.

September – November

As temperatures begin to drop slightly, so do the number of tourists. Culture hounds will especially love Oahu in fall, when the island hosts tons of events including food, fashion, film and Hawaiian heritage. However, the chance of rain increases during the fall. In November and December, the North Shore will swell with surfers competing in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

  When Is Oahu Hurricane Season?

The official hurricane season for Hawaii is June through November. Oahu, like all the Hawaiian Islands, is at risk of experiencing tropical storms and hurricanes during this period. However, the chances of a hurricane hitting Oahu directly are relatively low, and most storms either weaken or pass to the north or south of the island. Be sure to check weather reports before your trip, and we always recommend getting travel insurance during these months just in case of inclement weather.

Hurricane Season
Oahu Visitors Guide
Oahu Visitors Guide

How to Get to Oahu & Around

Transportation in Oahu is incredibly easy to access and use. There are several options for travel around the island.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Arrival By Air

Getting to Oahu is easy as Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is Hawaii’s largest airport. Honolulu International serves as the entry point for most visitors to Hawaii. All major domestic airlines and many international carriers serve Oahu, making getting to the island a breeze.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

Oahu Visitors Guide

Taxis in Oahu

You can easily find taxis in Oahu. You’ll find many outside of the airports and popular tourist destinations. Taxis in Oahu provide airport transfers and transportation to all the most popular activities on the island. However, Taxis on Oahu can be quite expensive and rideshare apps are available in larger cities such as Honolulu and Waikiki.

  You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Rental Cars in Oahu

Due to Oahu’s size, it is a good idea to rent a car while visiting the third largest Hawaiian Island. For those wanting to fully immerse themselves and explore the island, a rental car will pay for itself within a few days. The average rental car cost on Oahu is $60 per day. However, during peak times of the year, expect to pay upwards of $185 per day. Most major rental car companies provide cars on the island, including Alamo, Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise. Keep in mind that those staying in larger cities and not venturing out can easily walk instead.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Things to Do in Oahu

Oahu's Top Highlights

Oahu is an ocean lover’s paradise, whether you are looking for nature and outdoor adventure or vibrant cities to explore, you’ll find them on Oahu!

Oahu Visitors Guide
1
Visit Pearl Harbor
Oahu Visitors Guide
1

1. Visit Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor remains an active naval base, but you can visit 5 historical sites to learn more about the tragedy that occurred there. Start at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center before visiting the other historical sites including Battleship Missouri, Memorial Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Many people prefer taking one of several guided tours that include transportation from Honolulu or Waikiki. Located northwest of Honolulu, these sites are worth a visit to pay your respect to the lives lost in Pearl Harbor.

  There are numerous guided tour options to choose from.

  This very popular half day tour of Pearl Harbor includes transportation and a guide.

  This full day small group tour also includes visits to both the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri battleship.

Oahu Visitors Guide
2
Hit The Beach
Oahu Visitors Guide
2

2. Hit The Beach!

Oahu is known for its amazing beaches and coastline. If you are looking for powdery white sands, turquoise waters, and big waves, then you will love the beaches in Oahu. Take advantage of the more than 125 beaches on the island, whether you are looking to sunbathe, play beach games, or catch big waves, Oahu’s beaches have you covered. Oahu’s Windward Coast is known for having the most dazzling blue water in all of Hawaii.

  For more information, be sure to check out our Best Oahu Beaches Guide!

Oahu Visitors Guide
3
Take A Hike
Oahu Visitors Guide
3

3. Take A Hike

Oahu is 2.7 million years old, and the millions of years of erosion have created dramatic peaks and ridges perfect for hiking. Whether you are looking for a difficult challenge or a family-friendly hike, Oahu has a trail for every hiker. Check out Diamond Head (Le’ahi) Summit Trail, it is an easy 1.8 miles and provides amazing views of Honolulu. One of Oahu’s most popular sites and hikes means that Diamond Head has nearly 3,000 visitors a year. This dormant volcano is a favorite of families. Or head to Moana Falls, a beautiful 150 ft waterfall!

  For the best hikes in Ohau, be sure to check out our Oahu Hiking Guide.

  There are numerous Diamond Head hiking tours to choose from including this self-guided Diamond Head Crater Tour.

  This very popular Diamond Head Hiking and Oahy Island Experience tour provides a taste of Hawaii all in one day!

  This private hiking tour is a custom tour to show you the best of the island. Explore lush jungles, raging waterfalls, and of course, Diamond Head.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Oahu Visitors Guide
4
Take A Surfing Lesson
Oahu Visitors Guide
4

4. Learn to Surf

Hawaii is hugely famous for its importance in the world of surfing. It only makes sense to learn how to surf while visiting Oahu. There are plenty of places to rent a board on the island, and Waikiki has some of the best beginner waves. Some of the best places to rent boards are Surfboard Rental LLCMoku Hawaii, and Quality Surfboard Hawaii.

  There are a variety of options when it comes to learning to surf on Oahu.

  This very popular 2-hour surf lesson on the North Shore includes lessons in learning how to read the water and practice on the beach before hitting the waves.

  This group surf lesson in Waikiki is perfect for those looking to learn in a group of 4 or fewer.

Oahu Visitors Guide
5
Experience A Luau
Oahu Visitors Guide
5

5. Experience A Luau

Modern luaus started happening as early as 1819 and are incredibly important to Hawaiian culture. They are also so much fun! Each luau is different and varies on how directly they follow Hawaiian traditions. The word “Luau” actually means feast, so prepare yourself for delicious poi and Kahlua pork. Many of the island’s resorts offer their own luaus so make sure to check with your resort or hotel.

  For a list of our favorite Oahu Luaus, take a look at our Oahu Luau Guide!

Oahu Visitors Guide
6
Check Out Waimea Valley
Oahu Visitors Guide
6

6. Check Out Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is a gorgeous attraction that features botanical gardens and hiking trails. Hike the Waimea Valley Trail for a great family-friendly day out. This easy 1.9 mile hike features a beautiful waterfall and is perfect for all skill levels. Hike through the botanical gardens before reaching the 45 ft waterfall with a pool at the bottom that was made for swimming! It costs $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids (ages 4-12).

  For more information about the hike and the waterfall, be sure to take a look at our Oahu Hiking Guide and our Oahu Waterfalls Guide.

  There are numerous tours to explore Waimea Valley to choose from on Oahu.

  This highly recommended full-day Oahu Grand Circle tour offers a hike to Waimea Falls, and lunch.

Oahu Visitors Guide
7
Be Adventurous!
Oahu Visitors Guide
7

7. Be Adventurous!

Oahu has impressive activities for those with adventurous spirits! Try your hand at surfing, zip lining, or skydiving for the ultimate adrenaline rush. If you’re incredibly brave, you can even try cage diving with sharks! For those looking for a little less adventure, try snorkeling, scuba diving, or a whale watching tour.

  There are a variety of options when it comes to cage diving with sharks. On this highly recommended Oahu Shark Dive you can spot turtles, dolphins, and humpback whales on the way to your shark-viewing spot.

  There are a variety of options when it comes to snorkeling excursions on the island.  This highly recommended Turtle Canyons snorkeling tour is in one of Waikiki’s top spots!

  Go dolphin and whale spotting with hotel transport included on this Waikiki water tour.

Oahu Visitors Guide
8
Visit The Byodo-In Temple
Oahu Visitors Guide
8

8. See the Byodo-In Temple

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, this temple is a detailed replica of the 1,000 year old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan. The site itself is a peaceful place to explore and boasts ornate gardens which are worth taking a walk through.

  There are several tours that include the Byodo-In Temple. The highly recommended Byodo-In Temple and Waimea Falls tour is all inclusive and includes admission costs for both.

  Another great choice is the Oahu Circle Tour which includes admission and a visit to the beautiful Byodin-In Temple.

Where to Stay in Oahu

There are all types of accommodations in Oahu. From boutique hotels to luxury resorts and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Oahu Hotel Guide.

Oahu Hotels Guide: The Best Hotels In Oahu Hawaii

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Oahu Hotel Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

Hawaii is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure. One can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Hawaii Vacation Guide.

Maui Travel Guide: Things to do in Maui Hawaii

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

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