The Top 10 Best Places to Visit on Oahu (Besides Waikiki)

by | Dec 20, 2023

When it comes to vacation destinations, Hawaii is at the top of the list for many families. The Aloha State has something for everyone, from stunning beaches to lush jungles and active volcanoes.

But when most people think of Hawaii, they think of Waikiki Beach – and while Waikiki is definitely worth a visit, there are plenty of other amazing places to explore on the island of Oahu.

What are the Best Places to Visit on Oahu Not in Waikiki?

  1. Iolani Palace
  2. North Shore
  3. Ko Olina
  4. Kualoa Ranch
  5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
  6. The Polynesian Cultural Center
  7. Byodo-In Temple
  8. Nuuanu Pali Lookout
  9. Lanikai Beach

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This best places to visit on Oahu post is written by Bryan Murphy, an expert in Hawaii travel and a top-rated podcast host. The post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this site if you use the provided links.

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In this post, we’ll take a look at ten of the best places to visit on Oahu that aren’t in Waikiki Beach. Keep reading for some inspiration for your next trip to paradise!

The Best Places on Oahu Outside of Waikiki

1. Iolani Palace

best places to visit on oahu - Iolani Palace

Situated in the heart of Oahu, Iolani Palace is a Hawaiian landmark like no other. This incredible structure was built for King David Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani in 1882 and served as the royal palace during their reigns.

Over the years, it has become an iconic architectural symbol of Hawaii’s deep cultural heritage and history. Within its walls, visitors can take a tour and learn about the unique culture that made the Hawaiian Kingdom up until its overthrow in 1893.

From ancient artifacts from around the world to visiting dignitaries from all over, Iolani Palace is a living embodiment of the rich past and present that has defined Oahu for centuries.

Learn more about Hawaii’s history

One of the best ways to learn more about Hawaii’s history is to take a guided tour of some historical sites throughout the island.

Many companies offer tours that include trips to places like Iolani Palace and the Kawaiahao Church, both of which provide visitors with an in-depth look at Hawaiian culture and history.

These tours are great for those who want to know more about the islands and their heritage, as they will be able to explore these unique sites with the help of a knowledgeable guide.

For those living on the island and looking for an even deeper learning experience, numerous Oahu universities feature Hawaiian language and culture courses.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa offers one such program that dives into topics including traditional dance, music, art, hula and oli (chant) as well as modern aspects such as popular culture, social justice movements, and political dynamics.

Other educational opportunities available include classes at UH Hilo’s Ka Haka Ula o keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language or online programs offered through Kamehameha Schools’ Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies.

No matter what route you choose to take when learning more about Hawaii’s rich history, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in this incredible destination – all it takes is a bit of research!

2. North Shore

best places to visit on oahu - Hi Honey Farm

Credit: Bryan Murphy from Hawaii’s Best Travel at HiHoney Farms

A trip to Oahu’s North Shore is a must for anyone visiting Hawaii. The shoreline stretches over seven miles of sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, offering an oasis to relax and unwind.

What sets the North Shore apart, however, is the variety of activities it offers – from snorkeling among schools of colorful fish to a leisurely stroll along the beach and everything in between.

From surfing massive waves during winter or exploring lush jungles in inland valleys and mountainsides, visitors will not be disappointed by this unique region’s many offerings!

One of our favorite things to do on the North Shore of Oahu is visiting HiHoney Farms! Such a cool and unique experience.

Whether you’re looking to experience adventure, tranquility, or a combination of both on your getaway, warm welcomes, and unforgettable memories await on Oahu’s North Shore.

Ocean Warning on the North Shore

It’s important to remember that there are also some risks involved when visiting the North Shore.

In particular, the ocean warning on the North Shore should be taken seriously as rough surf and dangerous currents can quickly put even the most experienced swimmers in danger.

A few precautions to take while visiting the North Shore include avoiding swimming during windy or stormy conditions, remaining mindful while in turbulent waters, and not lingering too long in areas with rip currents.

It’s also important to pay attention to any signs posted warning visitors of hazardous conditions.

In addition, it’s wise to check with lifeguards before entering certain areas of the ocean as they may have additional insight into the current conditions at any given time.

Though taking part in activities around the ocean can be a fun and rewarding experience, visitors must always remain vigilant as hazards do exist even in paradise.

By taking necessary precautions and staying aware of potential risks, visitors to Oahu’s North Shore can make sure their vacation remains safe and enjoyable!

3. Ko Olina

best places to visit on oahu - ko olina

Credit: Bryan Murphy from Hawaii’s Best Travel at Ko Olina

One of my favorites to escape to is Ko Olina. Ko Olina is an oasis of tropical beauty and luxury located on the stunning southwestern shore of Oahu.

This master-planned resort destination not only offers stunning beachfront resorts, but also several exciting activities for visitors. From golfing on one of their two championship golf courses to soaking up the sun at the lagoon-style pools or on seven idyllic beaches, there’s something for everyone.

Ko Olina also hosts a variety of restaurants and shopping, many with their own unique cultural flavor. Whether it’s a romantic escape or a family vacation, Ko Olina provides an appealing mix of relaxation and adventure that will leave you wanting more!

4. Kualoa Ranch

best places to visit on oahu - Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch, located on Oahu in Hawaii’s stunningly beautiful Kaneohe Valley, is a captivating tourist destination.

From horseback riding in the lush tropical greenery to kayaking along the estate’s private beach, there are plenty of activities for tourists to explore and enjoy.

For those looking for more adventure, privately guided hikes explore the ancient Hawaiian fishing village or witness the magnificent Jurassic Valley where scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed.

Kualoa Ranch also offers guests numerous cultural experiences and educational opportunities; its interactive Heritage Garden tour teaches visitors about Hawaiian flora and fauna while its Hālau o Kualoa session shows how Polynesians used nature to aid in their navigation across the Pacific Ocean centuries ago.

Aside from its thrilling experiences, Kualoa Ranch also provides a place of peace and beauty far away from everyday life and right in the heart of Mother Nature.

5. Diamond Head Crater

best places to visit on oahu - Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater is an iconic landmark located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The magnificent formation can be seen for miles, even from the air!

This volcanic crater grew to its distinctive shape thousands of years ago when olivine was exposed to the intense heat and pressure of volcanic eruptions. Now, it is a popular destination for tourists and adventurers alike, who visit the site to enjoy breathtaking views and explore its interesting topography.

Taking the half-mile hike up along the trail will reward you with panoramic views of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu cityscape, and the Pacific Ocean – all from the highest peak in South Oahu.

Whether you are looking for a little adventure or just a chance to take some amazing photos, Diamond Head Crater should top your list when traveling to Oahu!

6. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

best places to visit on oahu - Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve provides a stunning array of activities for nature lovers.

From snorkeling to swimming, visitors can enjoy being surrounded by marine life while planning the perfect picnic day or relaxing in the sun. The preserve is home to over 400 species of fish that populate its crystal-clear waters and vibrant reefs, making it one of the best places to go for an unforgettable underwater adventure.

It also has a visitor’s center that provides education about how to protect this oasis and its inhabitants. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve offers programs and opportunities year-round, making it a must-visit destination if you want to immerse yourself in natural beauty while conserving its precious resources.

Help Protect Hawaii’s Reefs

Visitors to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve can help protect the reefs by participating in conservation efforts. The visitor’s center offers educational programs on reef protection as well as opportunities to volunteer in various programs such as beach cleanups and coral gardening.

Beach cleanups are a great way to help reduce the amount of human-generated waste that reaches the ocean, while coral gardening is a hands-on method of restoring delicate coral colonies that have been damaged by natural or human activities.

Additionally, visitors should make sure they are familiar with and follow all rules for preserving the area when visiting, such as no fishing or touching marine life.

Other simple ways to protect the reefs include avoiding using sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or parabens, since these chemicals can damage corals.

Visitors should also be mindful not to step on any live corals when snorkeling and practice good buoyancy control above the reef. Finally, it is important for visitors to be aware of their impact and take only pictures and leave only bubbles behind so future generations can enjoy this remarkable oasis.

With everyone’s help, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve can be preserved for years to come!

7. The Polynesian Cultural Center

best places to visit on oahu - The Polynesian Cultural Center

Located on the beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-see for those looking for a truly unique experience.

Founded in 1963, it serves as a window into the authentic way of life from different parts of the Polynesian triangle, featuring activities such as canoe rides and traditional dances and crafts.

Here, you can also sample delicious luau-style food from all of the major islands in Oceanic cultures.

With over 35 acres of land rich with beautiful vegetation and more than 60 individual exhibits and attractions to explore, there is something for everyone at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Whether you are looking to learn about ancient traditions or just spend an unforgettable day at an oasis of natural beauty, this spot is definitely worth a visit.

8. Byodo-In Temple

best places to visit on oahu - Byodo-In Temple

Located in Oahu, the Byodo-In Temple provides an oasis of tranquility in the midst of Hawaii’s bustling tourist hubs.

Although the actual temple dates from only 1968, it stands as a representation of a 900 year old Buddhist grand temple located in Uji, Japan.

The temple includes numerous statues representing peace and prosperity, including two beautiful golden phoenixes at either side of the main hall entrance and two 11 foot high wooden statues on either side of the main altar.

Even just walking through the grounds can be a calming experience for many people — Japanese koi ponds line both sides of a large central path that feels almost a part of nature itself.

The unique architecture and peaceful atmosphere make Byodo-In Temple one perfect place to spend your vacation relaxing and appreciating art and culture.

9. Nuuanu Pali Lookout

best places to visit on oahu - Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Nuuanu Pali Lookout situated on the windward side of Oahu offers one of Hawaii’s most dramatic views. Standing 1,186 feet above sea level at the top of a steep cliffside, visitors are welcomed to stunning panoramic scenes overlooking the lush Koolau Mountains and rugged Nuuanu Valley.

On clear days, the lookout can be seen up until the distant horizon where they meet with the blue sky. Open 24/7, there is never a shortage of visitors eager to ogle at this majestic oasis. Whether one is looking for serenity or an adrenaline rush in nature, Nuuanu Pali Lookout will not fail to create lasting memories and impressions.

10. Lanikai Beach

best places to visit on oahu - Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach, located on the eastern shore of Oahu, is considered one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Hawaii.

Its white sandy shores arched by tall coconut palms create a stunning oasis for sunbathers and beachcombers alike. The bright blue waters of the Pacific complement the powdery sand, creating a peaceful yet visually stunning backdrop.

With gentle waves and mild temperatures all year long, Lanikai Beach is an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Visiting this beach oasis is sure to be an unforgettable experience—one that you’ll never forget!

Best Places Outside of Waikiki Wrap-Up

With so many incredible oases of beauty, tranquility, and culture on the island of Oahu, it’s no wonder that it has become such a popular vacation destination.

From lush nature preserves to stunning lookouts and from traditional temples to idyllic beaches, there is something for everyone on this beautiful Hawaiian island.

Whether you want to take in views of stunning Pacific waters or immerse yourself in local culture, these are just a few of the best places to visit on Oahu (besides Waikiki). By visiting these oases of beauty and peace, you can be sure that your experience will be one that you’ll never forget!

Hawaii’s Best Podcast

As the best oasis destination in Hawaii, Oahu is bursting with beauty, tranquility, and culture. If you’re looking to get the most out of your trip to this stunning island, be sure to check out Hawaii’s Best Podcast for all the insider tips you need.

The podcast is full of fun facts and stories about all the best places to visit on Oahu (besides Waikiki). From exploring iconic destinations like Nuuanu Pali Lookout and Byodo-In Temple to uncovering hidden gems like Lanikai Beach and Polynesian Cultural Center, this podcast offers a wealth of knowledge about oases that will make your experience even more memorable.

So don’t hesitate to give it a listen; share it with your friends if you find something that makes you smile or sparks your curiosity! With expert advice, Hawaii’s Best Podcast can help make sure you get the most out of your oasis vacation in Oahu.

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.