Waikiki waikiki beach Oahu

By far the number one draw to the island of Oahu is the famous Waikiki Beach.   Once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, this vibrant south shore area is full of high rise resorts, name brand shopping, and a whole host of restaurants straight from the mainland.  If you want to experience Oahu like every other tourist, this location is perfect for you, and you never have to leave.  But, you would be doing yourself a huge disservice if you didn’t.  Oahu has so much more to offer than the crowded stretch of beach in the middle of the busy city.  Venture outside the city limits, and you will realize that adventure awaits, and your excitement can know no bounds when it comes to the intrigue of the islands. So, Hele Hawaii, and check out these top 5 off the beaten track activities for Oahu.

  1. World Class Waterfalls: There are hundreds of waterfalls scattered across the island, but many will be crowded with day trippers who are bused in from Waikiki. Take the trail less traveled and choose one that does not encourage a lot of commercial activity.  Just as beautiful, and a lot less busy, these hikes can range in time, distance, and activity level, but all will treat you to a bit more privacy, and the same famous views of the stunning natural beauty that Hawaii is known for.
  • La’ie Falls- Not for the faint of heart, this 7 mile round trip gains 1200 feet of elevation along the way to its 15 ft waterfall and freshwater pool. This boost of cardio is worth it though as your stops along the trail offer panoramic views all the way to the ocean.

La’ie falls

  • Maunawili Falls- This 3 mile out and back trail will wind you through the dense jungle above Kailua (an awesome spot to hit the beach). Follow the river nearly 1500 feet up to see this beautiful waterfall cascading into a great swimming hole.

Maunawili Falls


  • Likeke Falls- Located near the Pali Lookout, this waterfall trail is often overlooked by tourists. With a variety of terrain, including a highway underpass, this 4 mile roundtrip leads you to a hidden gem. For the particularly observant, you may even catch a glimpse of the upside down waterfall along the way.

Likeke Falls

  1. Sample Local Eats: Forego the national chains in the Waikiki center, opting instead for something a little more authentic. Don’t be afraid to sample the local flavors of the neighborhood bars, and don’t be alarmed at sushi samplings inside of a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Hawaiians know how to do fresh, and the catch of the day is always the star option on the menus.  Check out the famous shrimp trucks at Haleiwa near the North Shore, but branch out just a bit, and your taste buds will be screaming Mahalo.

Haleiwa food truck

  1. Hidden Hikes: Get outdoors, and breathe the sweet smelling fresh air, as hiking is a huge part of the lifestyle here. The island has many famous trails that are becoming more and more crowded each year. Venture a little farther, and time it just right, and your sunrise or sunset views cannot be beat.
  • Koko Head Crater- 1100 steps (read, railway ties) of straight up, vertical incline. Start in the dark, and watch the sun rise over the horizon.  On a clear day, you can see all the way to Maui.

Koko Head Crater


  • Kaena Point- The only way to get here is by hiking, which means you will have the place virtually to yourself. This western most tip of the island is an easy, flat hike along the rocky coastline.

Kaena point

  • Kuliouou Ridge-This 4.4 mile out and back hike faces a challenging 1800 ft elevation gain before it peaks at the spine of the Ko’olau ridge. There are plenty of places to stop for a photo along the way, but be sure to bring lots of water.

Kuliouou ridge

  1. Swim with the Sharks: While this is admittedly more touristy than the rest of our choices, the thrill level is top notch. Take an unforgettable adventure as you learn all about the natural habitat of sharks. As a bonus, many of these tours will implement a lesson on conservation as well. This is by far the safest way to get up close and personal.

Swim with the sharks

  1. Take a Forbidden Tour: If you don’t have a rental car, or you are just not comfortable heading into parts unknown on your own, consider the only guided tour to the Leeward side of the island. The Forbidden Tour, offered by Oahu Circle tours is geared toward the active crowd, who are willing to embrace the wild, west side of the island. Experience thrilling caves, endangered wildlife, and stunning blowholes underneath the Hawaiian sun.

The forbidden tour

No one likes a crowded paradise. To truly experience the island of Oahu, it’s time to fall in love with the great outdoors, and capture the essence of island magic.  You can be one of the millions that flock to its Waikiki shores, or you can venture a little farther, and essentially find a private stretch of sand to soak in the sun. Your Oahu visit can be as unique as you’re willing to make it, and doesn’t have to be just like everyone else’s.

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Abbie P.

Abbie is a PR executive and freelance writer whose real passion is travel. She has a penchant for strategic wordsmithing and creative storytelling. Inspired by her desire to see the world, she is always planning her next adventure. Not a tourist, but a traveler, Abbie firmly believes that some of life’s greatest lessons are learned by stepping outside of our comfort zones.


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