Lady snorkeling with fish
October 8, 2020
| by
Jana Free

Oahu Visitor Guide: Top Tips for First-Timer Visitors to Oahu

First-time visitors to Oahu have so many attractions and activities to choose from, but with all the things to do and see, what should a traveler put on a ‘must experience’ list for an initial trip? Read this Oahu Travel blog article for Top Tips for First-Time Visitors to Oahu.

These are unusual times we find ourselves living in, with restrictions being put in place and lifted with little notice, so please be sure to confirm operating hours before visiting any of the attractions or venues mentioned in this article.

Are you visiting Oahu for the first time? There are hundreds of things to do and see, so how do you decide what to experience on an initial trip to the island?

Our latest Oahu Travel Blog article, ‘Oahu Visitor Guide: Top Tips for First-Time Visitors to Oahu,’ to learn what to see and do on a first-time visit to our island. From beaches and trails to restaurants and entertainment, you can’t go wrong if you create your first-time itinerary from this list.

Here are our, Top Tips for First-Timer Visitors to Oahu:

1. Hike Diamond Head Crater
Location: Eastern Edge of Waikiki

Diamond Head Crater is an immediately recognizable landmark situated on the eastern edge of Waikiki’s coastline. This volcanic crater offers one of the most rewarding hikes on Oahu with a trail that ends in an amazing 360-degree view.

2. Sample Eclectic Cuisine
Location: Various

Oahu’s food influences include Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Korean and Thai cultures. You will find amazing cuisine all over our island, so spend some time experiencing the various restaurants offering great local food - and make sure you try the shaved ice!

3. Ride TheBus
Location: Various

Oahu’s public transportation system, TheBus, is a great option for getting around if you don’t have a rental car. You can board TheBus from stops in Honolulu, Mililani, Waipahu, Wahiawa and Haleiwa.

4. Experience the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Location: Honolulu

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial are highlights of many first-time visits to Oahu, in fact, some consider a visit to these landmarks an absolute must. Admission to the USS Arizona is free, but you must make a reservation in advance.

This article is in no way a complete list of 'Things to do for First-Time Visitors' - this short list only scratches the surface of all there is to do, see and experience during your first visit to Oahu.

5. Shop at the ABC Store
Location: All across Oahu

What? How can shopping at a single store be a 'Top Tip?' Well, once you have visited Oahu for a few days, chances are you will have visited or at passed by an 'ABC Store' 10 to 100 times at least. Oahu’s ABC Stores are fun and inexpensive places to pick up, well - everything from beach mats, towels, sunblock, souvenirs and snacks.

6. Rent a Car

While renting a car for your entire vacation may be outside of your budget, it is recommended that you rent a car for at least a day or two so that you can drive around the island of Oahu on your own to discover the beauty of this amazing island paradise. Taking the drive around the island that is often referred to as the ‘around the island tour’ includes a drive from Waikiki to North Shore and back. This is a very long drive to make in one day but it is possible and along the way you can stop and enjoy an amazing beach side breakfast, world class snorkeling, Shark Diving, see Sea Turtles relaxing on the beach, watch giant waves off North Shore, enjoy an unforgettable meal at the Shrimp Trucks along the way, shop at local stores, enjoy fresh fruit from a roadside fruit stand, tour Dole Plantation and so much more.

7. Relax at Kailua Beach Park
Location: 526 Kawailoa Road, Kailua

Oahu has many beautiful beaches, but Kailua Beach Park on the North Shore of our island is one of the most scenic. This picturesque beach is a perfect place for a picnic lunch, so grab a bite from one of the restaurants or cafes nearby. Kailua Beach Park is just one of many easily accessed and beautiful beach parks on Oahu.

8. Enjoy lunch at the Shrimp Trucks
Location: North Shore

O.k., you hear the words, ‘Shrimp Trucks’ and you think, ‘You mean really small trucks, or a truck for the small sea creatures…’. Well, when you say Shrimp Trucks on Oahu and specifically on the North Shore of Oahu, you can only mean one thing…perhaps the tastiest, most popular roadside dish served on a paper plate that you will ever experience. The ‘Shrimp Trucks’ are small restaurants who serve amazing Garlic Shrimp from vehicles that were once delivery trucks. As the popularity of this dish grew, the ‘Shrimp Trucks’ grew in numbers and size. Now, the customers line up for up to 2 hours and longer to enjoy this famous dish. You can now enjoy ‘Garlic Shrimp’ in a number of restaurants in Honolulu and Waikiki, but for us you really must enjoy this Hawaiian treat on Oahu’s North Shore, on a roadside table with an ocean breeze.

9. Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
Location: 55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-see attraction on Oahu. First-time visitors to our island can stroll through different ‘Polynesian lands’ (Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Aotearoa, Marquesas and Hawaii) and experience various activities like singing, dancing and drumming.

10. Tour the Hawaii Plantation Village
Location: 94-695 Waipahu Street, Waipahu

A first-time visit to Oahu should include a tour of Hawaii Plantation Village and its replica homes that show how the various groups of the Islands’ Plantation Era lived. Set in Waipaha, near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Plantation Village features guided and self-guided tours.

11. Explore the Bishop Museum
Location: 1525 Bernice Street, Jabulka Pavilion, Honolulu

The Bishop Museum gives a great overview of the history of Oahu and the Hawaiian Islands. It is a treasured cultural venue that helps visitors appreciate Hawaii and all its inhabitants.

12. Discover Waterfalls
Location: All across Oahu

Oahu is an island with many beautiful waterfalls…many are accessible by a short to long hike ranging from easy to very difficult. Popular Oahu Waterfalls include Manoa Falls, Upside-Down Waterfall, Lulumahu Falls, Likeke Falls, Maunawili Falls, Waimea Falls to name only a few. These waterfalls are most active and free flowing in the rainy months typically November to March.

13. Attend a Luau
Location: Various locations

Attending an authentic Luau is a ‘must do’ for almost every visitor. The music, dancing, entertainment, food, and amazing story telling of the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture is an amazing experience. Here are a few of the most popular Luau’s on Oahu; Paradise Cove Luau, Polynesian Cultural Center, Diamond Head Luau, Germaine’s Luau and Aha Aina Royal Hawaiian Luau to name a few.

14. Spend a Few Hours at Iolani Palace
Location: 364 South King Street, Honolulu

Iolani Palace is a National Historic Landmark and the only official royal residence in the United States. This is a sacred place to the people of Hawaii, so make sure you are dressed appropriately when you visit.

We hope our latest article, ‘Oahu Visitor Guide: Top Tips for First-Time Visitors to Oahu,’ helps you decide which Oahu attractions and activities to put on your ‘must experience’ list. This article is in no way a complete list of 'Things to do for First-Time Visitors' - this short list only scratches the surface of all there is to do, see and experience during your first visit to Oahu.

You may also enjoy our article, 'Oahu's 10 Best Beaches.'

Visit our Oahu Travel Guide for more recommendations for all there is to do, see and experience when visiting Oahu.

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