Hawaii Travel U.S.

Oahu: Island Paradise

things to do in Hawaii

There is nothing quite like stepping off a plane and arriving at one of your favorite places in the world. For me, that place is Oahu, Hawaii, an island paradise.

The first time I visited Oahu in 2008, I knew I would eventually move to the island. It took years before I finally relocated, but it was one of the best things I ever did. In 2017, after three years of living in paradise, I decided to take a leap and left my job so I could travel anywhere I could.

After several months of life on the road, I decided to return to the island on my way to Australia.

I used credit card miles and booked a flight for $6 from Los Angeles. With a deal like that, how could I not visit this magical place? As soon as I arrived on Oahu, I couldn’t wait to see all my friends, eat good food, spend time in the ocean and hike to the top of some mountains. It felt good to be home, even if it was only for two and a half weeks.  I celebrated my birthday, went to a Bruno Mars concert, and revisited most of my favorite places.

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Things to do on Oahu
Lanikai photos by Avijah Scarbrough.

Here are some of my favorite things to do Oahu.

Oahu
Lanikai Pillbox

Climb mountains.

With so many great hikes on Oahu, it’s easy to stay active. I’ve written about some of my favorite hikes on Oahu here, but this time I was very excited to go on a few new trails that I had never done, like Puu Pia in Manoa. The short hike was very muddy, but the view of the valley is remarkable. You can also see the city in the distance. I also joined some friends in Lanikai and revisited the Lanikai Pillbox, an easy trail with great views of the ocean and the East side of the island.

Oahu: Island Paradise

Visit the North Shore.

I love spending time on the North Shore of Oahu. I used to live here, and it’s still my favorite place to visit on the island and with so many beautiful beaches to go to, you can’t just pick one. My friends and I ate at Pupukea Grill and spent an afternoon at Sunset Beach. We also stopped by Three Tables, which is an excellent place for snorkeling in the summer. Waimea Bay is one of the best beaches in the world in my opinion, and during the winter watch out for the waves, as they can get pretty big.

Oahu: Island Paradise

Check out the sunflower fields.

Depending on the time of year, Oahu has beautiful sunflower fields that are worth a visit. If you are visiting Oahu in November, stop by Waimanalo Country Farms. The entrance fee is only $3. The fields aren’t very big, but you can pick sunflowers to bring home for only $3 each.

Read: Where to Find Sunflower Fields on Oahu

Oahu
the Modern Honolulu

Hang out at the beach/pool.

The island has some spectacular beaches, and when I’m in town, I like to visit Kaimana Beach Park and Ala Moana Beach Park. Don’t just stay in one place though.  The entire island has something unique to offer. Check out some of my favorite beaches here.

If you are staying in Waikiki, take a dip in your favorite hotel pool after swimming in the ocean. I recently checked out the pool at the newly renovated Queen Kapiolani Hotel, and this place has an incredible view of Diamond Head. I also love spending time at the Sunset Pool at the Modern Honolulu. The drinks are always good, it’s never too crowded, and it’s a great place to watch the sunset or the fireworks on a Friday night.

SUP at Ala Moana.

You can’t come to Oahu and not visit Ala Moana Beach Park. Located in town, I used to standup paddleboard here after work, and it was so lovely to be back and catch up with friends. My friend Allison and I spent an hour on the water and spotted a few turtles during our SUP session.

Learn how you can SUP for free at Ala Moana Beach Park here.

Oahu: Island Paradise

Spend an afternoon on a boat.

One of the best ways to experience Waikiki is on a boat. With iconic views of Diamond Head and the city skyline, spending a few hours on the water is always a good time. We went on a friend of a friend’s boat, but daily catamaran and boat cruises are typically available in the morning and around sunset.

Japanese food in Oahu
Oahu eats

Treat yourself to some good food.

I love catching up with friends over a good meal, and Oahu has plenty of options that won’t break your budget.

Here are some of the places I visited on this recent trip:

Onos – For me, no visit to Oahu is complete without a stop at Onos on Kapahuluu.
Foodland – Grab a poke bowl to go and take it to the beach. Spicy Tuna is my favorite!
Pupukea Grill – A North Shore classic, this blue food truck is always busy, but after one bite of their hummus wrap or spicy tuna bowl, you’ll understand why it’s worth a stop here.
Honolulu Museum of Art Café – This was a first-time visit for me, but the shrimp penne pasta with shiitake mushrooms is worth a second visit.
Moku – Located at SALT in Kakaako, the fish here is brought to the restaurant the day its caught. I liked the fish tacos.
Kaimuki Superette – A Cute coffee shop that serves breakfast and lunch.
Odori-ko Japanese – Basically ordered everything off the menu here, and had a wonderful time catching up with my friend Mona. Need to go back definitely!
StripSteak Hawaii – Located at the International Marketplace, this restaurant has a great happy hour daily from 4 pm – 6 pm.

Whether you are visiting for the first time or coming back to the island, there are so many things you can do on Oahu, that it’s hard to squeeze everything into one trip. I feel so grateful that I had a chance to spend time here again, and I hope to be back very soon.

What to do on Oahu

What’s your favorite thing to do on Oahu?

Read more about traveling in Hawaii:

5 Great Hikes on Oahu

Oahu Travel Guide

Swimming with Sharks in Hawaii

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