When I visited Oahu, one of the most memorable experiences was the anticipation I felt from the seat of my plane. As we descended into Oahu, I began to think about all of the exciting things we had planned for our vacation. From snorkeling to hiking, museum tours to historical sites, there were so many things to do in Honolulu. My biggest worry was if we had time to fit it all in!
Spoiler alert: we did and I loved every second of it.
Be sure to check out these 10 exciting things to do in Honolulu during your vacation.
1. Waikiki Beach
During your vacation, make sure you carve out time for one (or two… or three…) trips to the beach. The crystal blue water and beautiful sunny weather will be calling your name from the moment your plane touches down.
However, it should be noted that Waikiki Beach can be extremely crowded. Should you prefer a more secluded beach, you have plenty of other beaches in Oahu to choose from. If you’re up for an excursion, I recommend also visiting the beaches on the North Shore.
No matter which beach you visit, don’t forget the sunscreen. Seriously, a sunburn in Hawaii is not fun.
2. Tour the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor
As most travelers know, December 7, 1941 was a fateful day for the island of Oahu and the United States of America. The USS Arizona Memorial seeks to honor and remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country. As one of the most popular things to do in Honolulu, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial must be part of your itinerary.
While the 75-minute program and visit are free, only 1,300 tickets are distributed for the memorial daily. And these tickets run out, fast. My husband and I showed up at 7:00 AM when the memorial officially opens and the line was already sprawled to the end of the parking lot. Luckily, we were one of the last people to get a ticket for the tour.
Since tickets to the memorial are on a first-come, first-serve basis, the National Parks Service asks that all members of your party be at the ticket booth to receive their tickets.
Depending on how early in the day your USS Arizona Memorial tour is scheduled for, you will have more than enough time to explore Pearl Harbor. While walking around the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free, tours on the other ships are a separate admissions fee. However, these tours are well worth the price. Be sure to tour and visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, Pacific Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri Memorial.
3. Iolani Palace
When strolling through downtown Honolulu, you’ll come across Iolani Palace. As one of the most historic things to do in Honolulu, this site is the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy. The palace was built in 1882 for King Kalakaua and his relatives to reside in. Iolani Palace was restored in 1969, reopened to the public in 1978, and has provided guests with an extraordinary (and affordable) experience ever since.
4. Hike Diamond Head
If you’re the outdoorsy type, hiking Diamond Head should be on your list of things to do in Honolulu. This steep, rocky path leads guests from the center of the iconic crater to the rim of the inactive volcano, where you’ll be met with stunning views of the city, ocean, and mountains.
A few tips before you hike:
Bring a Lot of Water
Trust me on this one. You’ll need it.
Wear Appropriate Attire
If I had a dime for every pair of ballet flats, Sunday best attire, and heels I saw walking on that trail, I could buy you and I a 5-star meal along Waikiki Beach. While it’s not a long hike, it is steep, rugged, and narrow. Your nicest attire is not meant for this Hawaiian hike.
5. Hanauma Bay Preserve
Snorkeling bay at the Hanauma Bay Preserve by far one of my favorite things to do in Honolulu. If you’re an animal lover like me, snorkeling here will top your list as well. Between the beautiful ocean landscape and the tropical fish swimming all around you, I never wanted to leave.
Before snorkeling, guests are required to watch a video detailing how to preserve the bay and safely snorkel. Once down at the bay, you can rent snorkel equipment if necessary. However, if you are visiting the bay as part of a tour, excursion, or group, your snorkel gear is likely provided in your tour cost.
6. Bishop Museum
One of the more educational things to do in Honolulu is Bishop Museum. With exhibits focused on the ancient Hawaiians, the culture of Hawaii, and more, groups of all ages will enjoy touring this legendary museum. Plus, be on the lookout for the different traveling exhibits.
7. Waikiki Aquarium
If snorkeling isn’t up your alley but you still want to discover the aquatic life of Hawaii, visit the Waikiki Aquarium. You’ll be able to see fish from all areas of Hawaii, monk seals, coral, and so much more. Be on the lookout for the angelfish — those are my favorite!
8. Honolulu Zoo
Continuing with the animal theme, one of the top things to do in Honolulu is visit the Honolulu Zoo for a wild time. You’ll encounter a wide range of mammals, reptiles, birds, and so much more. Plus, the zoo goes above and beyond with their conservation efforts, which you can learn about throughout the zoo.
9. Hop in the Water
A trip to Honolulu isn’t complete without experiencing at least one water activity. When figuring out what things to do in Honolulu, why not be adventurous and try one of these water activities:
Plus, did you know that Honolulu offers a wide range of cruises for travelers to enjoy? Whether you want a snorkeling adventure or a classy dinner cruise, hop in the water and experience Oahu!
10. Go on a Tour
There’s no better way to experience Honolulu than on one of the many tours. One of the coolest things to do in Honolulu is a submarine tour and discover what lies below the ocean surface. Or, if you’d rather see Honolulu from high above, embark on one of the many helicopter tours available throughout the island.
Whether by helicopter, by foot, or by submarine, there’s no better way to learn about and see the island than on a tour.
There are So Many Things to Do in Honolulu
As you can see, there’s no shortage of fantastic things to do in Honolulu. Whether you’re vacationing with family, friends, or going solo, you’ll create lifelong vacation memories in Oahu. To make your trip memorable and affordable, rely on Reserve Hawaii for exclusive deals on hotels, attractions, and luaus.