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Activities in Oahu

The most populated of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu is home to approximately three-quarters of Hawaii’s million-plus residents. Oahu is the location of the state capital, Honolulu, a beautiful and modern city which is also the business and financial center of the state. Also to be found on Oahu are Waikiki Beach, arguably the world’s most famous beach, and The U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, where one of the most important military battles in world history took place.

Oahu has the ultimate in mega-beaches, Waikiki Beach, but it also has scores of secluded tropical beaches. It has a thriving major city, but many smaller villages and miles of beautiful tropical splendor are just a few minutes away. If nightlife is a top priority, then Oahu should not be missed since Honolulu and Waikiki have more offerings than the other islands combined.

If you are planning a trip to Oahu, these attractions are useful in increasing your knowledge of the Hawaiian culture. Fun sites for children are also included.

Sea Life Park:

dolphin.gif (5360 bytes)On the Windward side of the island, Sea Life Park is home to Hawaii's best entertainers: dolphins, seals, sea lions and penguins. The educational park is located on Makapuu Point (across from the Makapuu Beach) 15 miles outside of Waikiki. An ecological answer to theme parks, Sea Life Park features more than 4,000 creatures in simulated natural habitats. The Touch Pool lets kids (and adults) pick up and touch starfish, shellfish, sea cucumbers and other slippery ocean creatures. You can grab a bite to eat at the Sea Lion Cafe or wander out to the sea lions themselves, purchase fish and actually feed them. An hour's drive up Oahu's east coast from Honolulu, Sea Life Park is a popular attraction for day visitors. The marine theme park has dolphin shows, marine exhibits, and a penguin habitat. The enormous Hawaiian Reef Exhibit is an exact recreation of underwater Oahu.

The Mission House

Mission HouseTour the three remaining original buildings of the Sandwich Islands Mission Headquarters. These buildings are authentically furnished and give you a feeling of just how it was in the early 1800's. The first missionaries arriving from Boston brought everything but the kitchen sink including a prefabricated, 2-story wooden house. It is the oldest wooden building in Hawaii and it was designed to keep out cold Boston weather. Costumed guides offer guided tours every day but holidays. On Saturday you can enjoy a living history performance with costumed players acting out the daily roles of the missionaries and native Hawaiian.

Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: Free Ukulele Lessons, Hula Lessons, Lei Making, Coconut Frond Weaving

Ukulele lessons with Puakeala Mann of Halau Hula O Maiki. Ukuleles are hot in Hawaii! Learn the basics! In Hawaiian, the word "ukulele" means dancing flea. Learn to play this unique musical instrument. Hula lessons with Puakeala Mann of Halau Hula O Maiki. I made a fresh lei in a class of about 5 people and thoroughly enjoyed it. Best of all – all these events are free.


Mini performances from Legends at the Aloha Showroom

"A cosmic curtain call of legends," World News Tonight. "If you never got to see Marilyn's your chance." New York Post. "Like the superstars it re-creates so magnificently, Legends in Concert is sure to become a legend in its own time!" Los Angeles Times.  I’ve never been to this mini-show, but I included it because it was free.


Iolani Palace

Iolani PalaceHawaii's royal history is unique among the 50 states. Once the lifeline of the Hawaiian Islands and people, the Hawaiian monarchy has left its mark on the culture and landscape of this beautiful island paradise. Iolani Palace, located at the corner of King and Richards Street in downtown Honolulu, is one of the most elegant reminders of Hawaii's royal past. The palace is relatively small in size, measuring 140 by 100 feet overall. The magnificent gilded throne room occupies half of the first floor. The reception area and dining room occupy the rest of the first floor. The second floor was used by the royal family as living quarters. The palace has been completely restored, and visitors can enjoy the three-story koa wood stairwell with carved balusters, the beautiful throne room with the original furniture and chandelier, and the private chambers. Only the queen's bedroom, last used by Kalakaua's sister Liliuokalani, during the revolution that led to her downfall, has been left bare, symbolizing her imprisonment in the room.

Tours of the palace are given Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. every 15 minutes. Tour reservations are necessary; phone (808) 522-0832. Ioalni Palace is wheelchair-accessible; please advise reception of any special requirements.

Pearl Harbor

The site of the December 7, 1941 bombing that pushed the U.S. into World War II, Pearl Harbor holds great significance for many Americans. The harbor's Arizona Memorial is a moving tribute to those who died in service during the bombing. Sagging in the middle to symbolize initial defeat and slanting up at the ends to represent the Allied forces' ultimate victory, the memorial is a stark, white 184-foot long bridge built right on top of the sunken hull of the USS Arizona.

A museum inside the memorial relates the story of the bombing and the U.S.'s involvement in the war.  Just adjacent is the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum. Built inside a submarine actually used in the war, the museum offers visitors a perspective on what life must have been like for the service people who spent months undersea. Try to arrive at both sites early to avoid a long wait.


Polynesian Cultural Center

Tculturalcenter.jpg (34368 bytes)his 42-acre center recreates the cultures and settings of seven Polynesian island nations: Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, the Marquesas, and Samoa. Visitors learn about the history of these cultures by hearing stories and songs and watching dances and films in an onsite IMAX theater. Especially popular with youngsters are the hands-on opportunities for discovery, in the form of weaving palm-leaf hats, pounding taro roots for poi, and dancing the hula. A day at the center normally finishes off with a glittering revue and a luau featuring a whole roasted pig. The Polynesian Cultural Center is on Oahu's beaten track, but it's a good deal of fun nonetheless.

Paradise Cove Luau

Genuine Hawaiian luaus on a private beachfront with an authentic Polynesian show and Dance of Fire. Join the fun at a hukilau as you pull fishnets from the sea to the rhythm of a conch shell and island chants. Polynesian games, crafts and a tropical feasting. String a lei, throw a spear & learn to hula.

Each attraction has been awarded the seal of approval by Oahu Attractions Association, a non-profit organization, whose purpose is to ensure a standard of excellence for member attractions throughout the island.

Step onto their beautiful, secluded and private beach -- "35 minutes and 100 years" away from the hurried pace of Waikiki. Experience the "Ohana" (family) feeling of an authentic "backyard-style" Hawaiian luau!

Bishop Museum

Inside the museum’s stone walls is a world center for the study of the Pacific – its people, culture, history, artifacts. Most fascinating for visitors is the Hawaiian Hall, where special exhibits show particular aspects of early Hawaiian culture. A "Please touch" gallery for children in the Hall of Discover ties in with exhibits throughout the museum. There is also a daily music-and-dance presentation at the entrance of the museum and classes about quilting, lei-making, lauhala weaving, and hula-implement making ($5) . The Bishop museum offers so much more than this simple description – a must see!

Aloha Tower

The Tower Marketplace has over 120 unique shops.  The marketplace has stores for everything a visitor might want and more. The Aloha Tower and its adjoining Aloha Tower Marketplace are idea places to visit on an off day or rest day. Relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery is one way to rest. Equally important, please remember to see Honolulu's skyline from the balconies of the Aloha Tower's tenth-floor. The elevator only takes a few minutes to reach the tenth-floor, and once on the balcony, the panoramic view of Honolulu and its waterfront are well worth any slight inconvenience. Free

Damien Museum

In the Diamond Head area, this small museum presents a moving account of the work that Father Damien did with the victims of leprosy on the island of Molokai. A continuously running video recounts Damien’s story


Hula Shows

Ala Moana Centre Keiki Show – free Aloha Tour Hula Show – free; Kuhio Mall Show – free; Reef Hotel Show – free; Hyatt Regency Show – free; Hilton Hawaiian village show – free Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Show – free

I’ve been to several of these shows and enjoyed myself; the type and quality of entertainment often varies depending on the night.

Queen Emma Summer Palace

Emma and her husband, King Kamehameha IV, called their Victoria country retreat Hanaiakamalama, and it is faithfully maintained as a museum. Hawaiiana mingles comfortably with the 10th century European furnishings of which Hawaiian royalty was so fond. Note the superb collection of feather capes and akahi. There are conducted tours through the rooms for all visitors.

Waikiki Aquarium

aquariumThe Waikiki Aquarium completed its most recent renovations in 1994 and opened with much fanfare. The new exhibits include a 40,000 gallon shark tank(!) and a variety of exhibits focusing on local sea life. Tanks display stingrays, octopi, live coral, jellyfish and over 300 species of sea life.

Diamond Head Trail

Hiking to the top of Diamond Head Crater is easier than it sounds. You can drive into the crater and hike the rest of the way to the top (about one mile). There is an effort under way to improve the trail. Recent repairs have improved the condition of much of the non-paved area and work has begun to expand the hiking area to cover more sections of the crater.

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Other Attractions

  • Circle Island Tour – highly enjoyable for the breaks to different locations including Pali lookout; This can also be done on our own w/o a tour guide - $18.95
  • Hilo Hatties Tour – free
  • Dole Pineapple Plantation Tour – this is a good site for keiki – free
  • King’s Village Guard Show - free
  • Haliewa Village – Free
  • Kahala Hilton Hotel Porpoise Feedings – kids enjoy getting close to the porpoises at the daily feedings

Shopping Malls

  • Ala Moana Center. Boasting over 180 shops, jewelry stores, high-fashion boutiques, department stores, restaurants and more, this shopping center is one of the largest open-air malls in the world.
  • Aloha Tower Marketplace. Honolulu's new "festival marketplace" offers a variety of shops, restaurants and a very popular brew pub.
  • Dole Cannery. Formerly known as Dole Cannery Square, this shopping complex has expanded to include outlet shops. If you haven't been here recently, you should stop by on your next visit.
  • International Market Place. Lots of small shops and kiosks. Fun.
  • King's Village. Cobblestone, brick lamps, a clock tower and royal guards set this cozy shopping center apart from the others.
  • Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Spanning over two blocks, this is the largest shopping mall in Waikiki. The center offers free Polynesian shows and craft demonstrations. . It's 4 stories, 150 stores, 3 blocks long and located on some of the most expensive land Hawaii has to offer--Waikiki. Here you will find international designers, authentic Hawaiian crafts , restaurants and entertainment.
  • Waikiki Shopping Plaza. Home to over 75 shops and restaurants on six floors.
  • Waikiki Town Center. This open-air mall, which sits back-to-back with the International Market Place, offers a fascinating variety of shops and numerous restaurants.
  • Waikiki Trade Center. This modern complex offers a fine mix of shopping, dining and dancing.
  • Ward Centre. A variety of boutiques, trendy cafes and restaurants, and gift shops can be found at this shopping mall. A local favorite.
  • Ward Warehouse. Gift shops, classy boutiques, lots of restaurants and even a gourmet coffee shop grace this shopping