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Hawaii: A List of Oahu’s Main Tourist Spots

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Zeko likes traveling and sharing her travel experiences and photos with other like-minded people.

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Oahu Attractions

If you are planning a first-time visit to Oahu, Hawaii, you want to make the most out of your vacation by hitting all the major tourist spots and attractions. However, many people have busy schedules and finding the time to research a new destination can be a challenge, so I have put together a list of the island’s main tourist spots to help you plan your trip and maximize your experience once you get there.

Places to Visit In and Around Honolulu

Since Honolulu is the place that most people head to first, I will start the list with the main tourist spots in and around the city.

1. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and needs no introduction. It is usually very crowded, but nevertheless a good place for water sports and beach activities if you are a first-time visitor staying in Honolulu. The water is generally calm year-round, making it safe for children.

  • Location: Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, HI
  • Parking: You can park for free at the Waikiki Shell parking lot (2777-2781 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu)
  • Restrooms and showers: Yes

2. Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon

Although people call it “the Hilton lagoon” because of its location in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, it is actually a public beach, which means that anyone can swim there. This saltwater lagoon is perfect for families with little kids because the water is always calm and there is no undercurrent like in the ocean. Families can even rent paddleboards, paddle bikes, and other water toys to play with.

  • Location: 2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI (two blocks from Waikiki Beach)
  • Parking: There is a free parking lot on the ocean-side of the lagoon, but it is usually full and difficult to find a spot there.

3. The Royal Hawaiian

The Royal Hawaiian, often called the “Pink Palace," is one of the oldest hotels in Hawaii and it is hard to miss its flamingo-pink exterior. You can walk around the hotel grounds, hang out in the lobby, have a coffee, and enjoy the beautiful architecture even if you are not staying there as a guest. The hotel also offers free historic tours every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 PM.

  • Location: 2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI

4. Aliʻiōlani Hale and Iolani Palace

Aliʻiōlani Hale is the Hawaii State Supreme Court building. There is a small, free museum about old Hawaiian law inside. Across the street from the Aliʻiōlani Hale is the Iolani Palace – the residence of the last monarchs of Hawaii, and the only royal palace on US soil.

  • Location: Aliʻiōlani Hale, 417 South King Street, Honolulu, HI
  • Opening hours for Iolani Palace: 9 AM to 4 PM.
  • Admission fees for Iolani Palace: Depend on the type of tour you take.
  • Parking: Metered parking is available on the Iolani Palace grounds and the nearby streets. Parking is more difficult during weekday work hours.
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View of Honolulu from Diamond Head volcano.

View of Honolulu from Diamond Head volcano.

5. Diamond Head Crater Hike

The popular hike of the iconic, dormant volcano offers some of the best views of Honolulu. In terms of exertion, the hike is considered easy to moderate and it is a combination of paved paths, packed-earth trails, and steep stairs. If you want to avoid the crowds, you need to get there early.

  • Location: Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI
  • Opening hours: 6 AM – 6 PM.
  • Admission: $1 / person, or $5 / car. Cash Only.
  • Parking: Free
  • Restrooms: Only at the parking lot.

6. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is a Nature Preserve and a very popular and very crowded snorkeling spot on Oahu. The sheltered bay harbors a coral reef that is home to a huge variety of fish, many of which you can see only in Hawaiian waters, including their state fish: the humuhumunukunukuapua'a (try to spell that).

  • Location: 100 Hanauma Bay Road, Honolulu
  • Opening hours: 6 AM – 7 PM. Closed on Tuesdays
  • Admission: $7.50/person. Free for children 0-12 years old.
  • Parking: $1
  • Restrooms: Yes

7. Tantalus Lookout

The Tantalus lookout is another spot from where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Honolulu. From there you can also see the Diamond Head volcano and even Pearl Harbor. Unlike other lookouts on the island, this place is not crowded. It is just a short drive from Honolulu up Mount Tantalus, via Round Top Drive.

  • Location: Puu Ualakaa State Park, Honolulu, HI
  • Opening hours: 7 AM – 7:45 (April 1 to Labor Day); 7:AM – PM 6:45 PM (Labor Day to March 31)
  • Parking: Free
  • Restrooms: Yes, at the picnic area.

8. Lyon Arboretum

The Lyon Arboretum is a 200-acre tropical rainforest managed by the University of Hawaii and used for studying and conserving plants from over the world. Although this rainforest is less than a half hour drive from downtown Honolulu, it is not packed with tourists. Inside there are several walking trails, a number of themed gardens, and a hike to a waterfall. Because the arboretum is located deep in the Manoa Valley where it rains quite often, it is a good idea to bring some rain gear and insect repellant.