Oahu is the most populated of all the Hawaiian Islands, housing about 75% of the state’s population. Home to Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, a unique food scene, and countless incredible hikes; Oahu really does have something for everyone. If you`re like us though, you`re not looking for the “average tourist” Hawaiian holiday. Keep reading for a list of the top adventurous activities in Oahu you do not want to miss!
Take a Hike
First things first… this needs to be number one on your list of unforgettable activities in Oahu! The lush cliffs and ridges in Hawaii are unlike anywhere I have ever hiked before. This place is paradise! Please keep in mind that while the ridge hikes offer incredible views, they can also be very dangerous. Don`t attempt a hike in bad conditions and always stay within your comfort zone. Some of our favorites include Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail, The Pali Notches, and The Stairway to Heaven.
Snorkel With Sharks
This one honestly took a LOT of convincing on my part, but in the end, I am so happy that we had this once in a lifetime experience during our trip to Oahu. David and I have dove with reef sharks in the past, but none this size. One Ocean Diving is a research and conservation-based tour company providing a ton of education and interactions with many types of sharks including the whitetip reef shark, the blacktip reef shark, the sandbar shark, and occasionally hammerhead and tiger sharks. The staff is very knowledgeable and we felt very safe the entire time. Well… as safe as you can possibly feel being a few feet away from a 12-foot shark!?
Catch The Views From Above
A helicopter tour in Hawaii was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had while traveling! I would highly recommend choosing the “doors off” option because you feel completely immersed in the remarkable scenery around you. We could actually feel the mist from the waterfalls. It was surreal. Although this tour is expensive, it is one thousand percent worth the money. Seriously… do it!
Hang Out on The North Shore
The North Shore of Oahu is known for its surfing, snorkeling, and the fifty-one beaches that stretch for over 11 miles along this incredible coastline. You can catch professional surfing contests at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach or snorkel among tropical marine life. Make sure to stop in at as many food trucks, surf shops, and galleries as you can while exploring this laid back slice of paradise.
Eat ALL The Food
Wondering if it`s possible to eat a ton of fantastic food without breaking the bank on your trip to Hawaii? You`re in luck! Oahu has several unbelievable food trucks and great cheap eat restaurants. From acai bowls to steam bun sandwiches; this island really does have something for everyone. The North Shore was home to most of our favorites, but you can find little gems in every town around the island!
Learn to Surf
Hawaii is known for its surfing and Oahu has some excellent spots for beginners! You can easily rent a board or take a lesson on numerous beaches around the island, but some places are much better than others. For more information on which beaches are best for learning, check out this post.
Hang Out With The Sea Creatures
Snorkeling is a great cheap and exciting activity, especially when Hawaii is full of sea life! Rent some gear or bring your own and swim out to one of the many snorkel spots just offshore. Some of our favorites were Kahe Point Beach Park and Sharks Cove, but there are several others to try out around the island. PLUS, you probably have a 50/50 chance of seeing a turtle or two!
Explore The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
In 1982, this garden was actually designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for Kāneʻohe. Today, the grand palm-lined entrance with the Koolau Mountain Range backdrop is gaining a ton of attention on social media and there`s no question why.
Other main attractions include a picturesque lake, numerous walking trails, and a variety of plants from around the globe on this 400-acre plot of land. The gardens are free to visit and, without a doubt, worth stopping by for an afternoon.
Camping is a great way to save a ton of money while experiencing the natural beauty of Oahu. With most campgrounds being right on the ocean and only $3-6 USD per person per night; you really can`t go wrong!
Relax With a Day of Beach Hopping
As much as we loved to hike and surf and try all the activities that Oahu had to offer, it`s also important to give yourself a few rest days during your trip. Oahu is a goldmine for stunning beaches, so why not take advantage of it? Spend the day checking out different beaches and enjoying the sun, sand, and beautiful blue ocean!
Visit The Byodo-In Temple
This one isn`t exactly an adventurous activity, but it`s a peaceful place to stop for some photos and a little walk. This temple is a replica of a historic Japanese Buddhist temple featuring manicured grounds & meditation sites. The road to the temple is absolutely stunning! It costs around $10 USD to enter the grounds but in my opinion its well worth the fee.