Every day in Oahu can literally be an epic day. Here are fun things to do, where to stay and eat, and a list of all the best places to find shaved ice!
Oahu, Hawaii is quite simply paradise. Every time we visit I think why did we wait so long to come back. Many people will recommend the other islands, but they are all good and Oahu is awesome.
Here’s a packing list just for visiting Hawaii.
Table of Contents
Things to do in Oahu
11 Things to do in Oahu with kids– I previously wrote up a list of things to do with kids in Oahu, so I am not including these here. You can check out the list for more ideas including the zoo, aquarium, and lots more.
Paddle board the Anahula River – Spend one day on North Shore paddle boarding up the Anahula River looking for sea turtles. Eden and I spotted at least 5 sea turtles. (You can rent paddle boards at nearby Surfnsea in Haleiwa for $20 an hour. They offer a military discount.)
Kayak Lanikai Beach – Rent kayaks at Lanikai Beach and paddle out to Mok Nui Island. Once you are on the island you can climb around it and depending on the water condition cliff jump. If it is windy this can quickly become an intense kayak trip out and back.
Fun Fact: Lanikai Beach is the 10th most Instagrammed beach in the world. Even on a cloudy day you can see why, just look at that turquoise water pictured below.
Parasailing – Take your kids parasailing with X-treme sail. I have tried another company, but I liked this one better. My youngest was 10 when we went and he was super scared, but they convinced him to give it a go and then dunked us during it.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay – This is an amazing state park with an underwater park. You can see all kinds of fish here. There are a few extremely shallow sections. They are closed on Tuesdays.
There are so many great hikes you can take on the island. So, if you are into hiking you must do at least one good one.
Diamond Head – Diamond Head is a must during any Oahu vacation! It’s a bit intense going up all the stairs, but there is a different way up with less stairs.
Maunawili Falls – This is a beautiful hike, but be sure to read my post before you go. You do not want to end up lost, like we did.
Pearl Harbor – Visit the site of the attack on Pearl Harbor. You can purchase a ticket at the site or take a tour of Pearl Harbor.
Polynesian Cultural Center – Learn all about the Polynesian people here. They also do a good luau here. Get a FREE DINNER when you purchase the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Admission & a Luau Show package.
Experience a Luau – There are lots of places that offer a luau experience, including the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hale Koa resort, Aulani Disney Resort, Hilton Waikiki, and more. The cheapest one of military personnel is probably the one at the Hale Koa. We’ve only experienced the one at Aulani and it was phenomenal.
Oahu has loads of shopping. You can find almost any store you are looking for somewhere on the island. Instead of mentioning the obvious places I am just going to list some of my favorite ones that are unique to Oahu.
- Hawaii Fire – This is an awesome little shop that teen guys will love. Their logo depicts Fire and Water in a true Hawaiian way – Wave and Flame. Located near Aulani resort: 92-1047 Olani St #1-109, Kapolei, HI 96707
- Honalua Surf Co. – Near the Hawaii Fire shop is a bathing suit shop that has more bathing suits than anyone could ever possibly need. We got Eden the cutest swim suit here.
- Surfnsea – in Haleiwa on North Shore is a little shop jammed packed with Billabong, Roxy, Hurley, O’Neill, and more. I scored some amazing deals on clearance here.
Best Places for Shaved Ice in Oahu
Matsumoto – Up on the North Shore is one of the most popular places to get shaved ice on the island. Expect a line, because it’s really well known.
Located at: 66-111 KAMEHAMEHA HWY SUITE #605, HALEIWA, HI 96712.
Shimazu Shaved Ice – This is the perfect place to grab a shaved ice after hiking Diamond Head. The shaved ice here is gigantic. Eden is holding a small!
Located at: 3111 Castle St, Honolulu, HI 96815.
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha – Located in the Aina Haina Shopping Center, this is the perfect place to pick up a shaved ice in Waikiki. It’s served with fruit and ice cream.
Located at: 820 W Hind Dr #116, Honolulu, HI 96821
Where to Eat in Oahu
There are so many fantastic places to eat in Oahu. Having some Hawaiian food is obviously a must while you are here!
The Food Company – They have amazing Hawaiian food over in Kailua at The Food Company.
AMA Ama – AMA Ama is a restaurant over inside Aulani that is fantastic for lunch. The lobster roll and the steak sandwich were both excellent.
Cheese Burger in Paradise – They have multiple locations around Waikiki.
Cinnamon’s – Hands down the best breakfast on the island. They have two locations, one in Kailua and one in Waikiki.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Their shrimp is worth standing in line for an hour for. Giovanni’s Shrimp truck easily lived up to all the hype. We stood in line forever and it was totally worth it. I had the shrimp scampi covered in lemon butter and garlic. It was so messy and so delicious.
The North Shore location is at 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712.
Greek Marina – This is a fairly cheap place to eat and they have really good gyros. I suggest stopping in and getting some gyros to go and taking them with you to Hanauma Bay.
Kalapawai Cafe & Deli – They have two locations, one in Kailua and one in Kapolei. They use locally sourced and natural ingredients whenever possible.
Family Friendly Hotels in Oahu
This is by far our favorite place to stay, because of all the activities that are included during your stay. If you can afford it definitely spring for a stay here. There are some ways to make staying at Aulani more affordable.
Marriott Waikiki is not cheap, but the rooms are nice and the rooftop pool is fantastic. Try to get a rate that includes breakfast. One of the nights they had live music at the pool bar, which was super enjoyable. This hotel is on the far side of Waikiki, so closer to Diamond Head.
Military Lodging on Oahu
With so many bases in Hawaii there are tons of places for military members, veterans, and their family members to stay at. So far we have stayed at four of them.
Bellows AFB Cabins – These are so nice if you can score one.
Hale Koa – Depending on your rank this might be a little overpriced.
Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam
Hickam TLF – We stayed in one of these before they remodeled the housing, so it’s hard to say exactly what it’s like now, but at the time it was 2 or 3 bedrooms for $55 a night.
How to Save Money in Hawaii
Oahu is not cheap. I know total shocker! But like any destination that are various ways to try and save some money. Here are a few.
Bring Your Own Snorkel
There are a handful of easy ways to save a few bucks in Hawaii and it mostly comes down to packing certain items like snorkel gear. If you have to rent snorkel gear each time you want to snorkel you can quickly end up spending quite a bit of money. Instead of spending $10 or $20 here and there buy yourself a set and take it with you anytime you are headed somewhere you might use it.
Eat a Cheap Breakfast in your Hotel Room
Another quick and easy way to save money is by bringing something to eat for breakfast. Anything you are going to buy in Hawaii is going to cost you double. Throwing in one or two boxes of pop tarts into your suitcase can end up saving you tons of money. Think about it. Every time a family of four needs to have breakfast in Hawaii it’s going to be at least $50. That box of pop tarts only costs $3 bucks! That’s a massive savings.
Watch for Deals
LivingSocial’s Daily Deals are available all around the island. I got a good deal on parasailing and a catamaran cruise through this.
Watch various websites for the best hotel deal. Use which ever site you need to. I use Travelocity and Expedia.com the most.
Have you been to Oahu? What was your favorite thing? I would love to hear any tips or advice you may have to share in the comments below.
Other Hawaiian Islands
Nice post! Thanks for sharing!
Highly recommend the Rainbow Drive-in for a great budget-friendly meal. The first time we visited my sister and I were cruising around with the top down. We smelled the place before we saw it. Got there right before the lunch rush. Slush Float is AMAZING! The place was featured on Diners, Drive-in and Dives. Definitely a Diamond in the rough!