Enjoy some of our favorites:
South and East Oʻahu
1. Diamond Head Lookout (5-minute drive from Waikīkī)
From Waikīkī, take Kalākaua Avenue past Kapiʻolani Park, take a right on Diamond Head Road, and follow it uphill around the edge of Diamond Head. You'll see many cars parked along the right side (ocean side) of the road. Look for a spot to park; the easiest spot is generally the semi-circle area where you may see many tour buses. Jump out and take a few pics of the ocean or just stop to enjoy watching the surfers for a few minutes. It can be a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning (you'll have to bring your own) or a plate lunch in the late morning or early afternoon. It is also great for catching sunrises during the winter time (December-March), as the sun rises over the ocean. There is also a paved path down to the beach. Diamond Head Beach is more popular with surfers than beachgoers, but still a great place to enjoy the beach. Diamond Head Beach tends to be more windy and a little rockier than the beaches of Waikīkī.
See more information, pictures, and directions: https://www.yelp.com/biz/diamond-head-beach-park-honolulu
2. Hanauma Bay (25 minutes from Waikīkī - closed on Mondays & Tuesdays)
Hanauma Bay is a great place to snorkel for anyone. We recommend going early to get a parking spot. Cost is currently $25 per person (13+), if walking down to the beach to relax and/or snorkel, and a $3 parking fee per vehicle. Tickets MUST be reserved in advance, and entry is limited to 1,000 guests per day, so be sure to plan ahead! https://hanaumabaystatepark.com/
See more information: https://www.yelp.com/biz/hanauma-bay-honolulu-4
Route 22 by The Bus: http://www.thebus.org/
Note: Snorkel gear rentals are available, but if you want to snorkel at Hanauma Bay or any time while you are on Oʻahu, you can probably save some money by renting from Snorkel Bob's, located just outside Waikīkī on Kapahulu Avenue at Date Street (across from Starbucks and Jack In The Box) https://www.yelp.com/biz/snorkel-bobs-honolulu-honolulu
3. Lānaʻi Lookout (30 minutes from Waikīkī)
Just around the corner from Hanauma Bay as you head east is a scenic pullover nicknamed Lānaʻi Lookout. The parking lot is small, so it may be hard to get a parking spot, but normally most people stop, take a few pictures, and leave, so you can wait for a spot or drive on to another more popular scenic spot just around the corner at Halona Blowhole (see below).
4. Hālona Blowhole & Hālona Beach Cove aka Eternity Beach (35 minutes from Waikīkī)
You will see Hālona Beach Cove then immediately after a parking lot for Hālona Blowhole.
Hālona Blowhole is really active when the waves are big. Also, next to the parking lot is Hālona Beach Cove, also known as Eternity Beach, made famous by the 1950s Hollywood classic "From Here to Eternity". It's a short walk down to the beach and great a little stop as long as the ocean is not too rough.
See more information, pictures, and directions:
Note: There are no lifeguards at this beach. If you are not a strong swimmer, it is not recommended.
5. Makapuʻu Lookout and Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail (40-45 minutes from Waikīkī)
If you are looking for a family-friendly hike then this is one of them. The recently repaved 1-2 hour hike (roundtrip) up the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail will probably get your heart rate up and you'll probably break a sweat, but you will be rewarded with ocean views along the way, climaxing with a wonderful view of East Oʻahu at the top near the lighthouse. Note: There are no bathrooms or facilities and little shade, so plan ahead when coming here.
See more information, pictures, and directions: https://www.yelp.com/biz/makapuu-point-lighthouse-trail-honolulu
Sidenote: If you are in a hurry or just not an avid hiker, there is a great lookout just past the entrance to the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail. Parking at Makapuʻu Lookout is limited, so it may take a few minutes to get a spot during peak hours.
6. Waimānalo Beach (50 minutes from Waikīkī)
Waimānalo Beach and nearby Bellows Beach are both very family-friendly most days. Just be aware there are only lifeguards at a few Waimānalo beaches, so go to any of the public Waimānalo beaches if you are not a strong swimmer.
See more information, pictures, and get directions to the beaches of Waimānalo:
7. Kailua Beach, Kailua Town, Lanikai, and Lanikai Pillbox Hike (35-55 minutes from Waikīkī, depending on route)
The view above is from the popular and relatively family-friendly Lanikai Pillbox Hike overlooking world-famous Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands a.k.a "The Mokes". Lanikai Beach, once a semi-secret beach, now no longer. It's a beautiful beach, however parking is very limited (no parking on 3-day weekends, and intermittent complete bans on weekday street parking) and there are no nearby bathrooms or showers. https://www.yelp.com/biz/lanikai-beach-kailua
Just around the corner from Lanikai Beach is Kailua Beach Park. This is a great beach for the whole family. Busy on the weekends, but you should be able to find parking during the week: https://www.yelp.com/biz/kailua-beach-park-kailua
8. Pali Lookout a.k.a Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside Park (15 minutes from Waikīkī)
The Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout is an easy stop, being only 5-10 minutes up Pali Highway from downtown Honolulu. The view is spectacular overlooking the Windward (east) side of Oʻahu. It may be windy and/or cold at times, so you may want to bring a jacket or sweater just in case.
See more information, pictures, and get directions to Pali Lookout: https://www.yelp.com/biz/nuuanu-pali-state-wayside-honolulu
9. Byodo-In Temple (45 minutes from Waikīkī)
10. Tropical Farm (Macadamia Nut Farm)
Great place to stop to sample a variety of coffee and macadamia nuts, as well as much more. You will see a sign for the macadamia nut farm just before you reach Kualoa Regional Park and Chinaman's Hat (below).
11. Chinaman's Hat and Kualoa Regional Park (1-1.5 hours from Waikīkī, depending on route)
See more information, pictures, and directions to Chinaman's Hat and Kualoa Regional Park: https://www.yelp.com/biz/kualoa-regional-park-kaneohe
12. Shrimp Trucks (1-1.5 hours from Waikīkī)
There are many shrimp trucks on Oʻahu and the majority are located in the Northeast Oʻahu area called Kahuku. The 3 most popular are Giovanni's, Fumis, and Romy's, but there are several other options.
North Shore of Oʻahu
(Times will vary depending on if you take the shorter route of H-2 up the middle of Oʻahu or the longer scenic route along the Windward (east) side of Oʻahu)
13. Sunset Beach (1.5-2 hours)
Sunset Beach is a nice wide beach, usually with plenty of parking. It's great for swimming during late Spring through early September. And, it is a great place to watch a sunset during the Summer, hence the name. Not recommended for swimming during the winter months when the surf is large, but it's a great place to watch surfers during that time.
12. ʻEhukai Beach a.k.a. Pipeline (1-2.5 hours)
Probably the most famous surfing beach in the world, and for good reason. The waves are large and break in a near perfect cylinder or pipe shape very close to the beach, which makes it a great place to get up and close to watch the surfers tackle some very large waves. The last professional surf contest of the year is held here every December.
13. Shark's Cove (1-2.5 hours)
Shark's Cove — don't let the name scare you — is a great place to swim and snorkel from late Spring to early Fall. There is a protected area that is great for kids and those that are not strong swimmers. Shark's Cove can be very dangerous during the winter months; do not attempt to swim if they have closed the park. You should be able to find snorkel rentals across the street, if you do not bring your own. There is a supermarket, food trucks, and bathrooms nearby.
14. Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley (1-3 hours from Waikīkī)
Waimea Bay is probably the most famous big wave surf spots in the world and a great place to watch surfers try their luck at some of the biggest waves on Earth. Bring binoculars for a better view, as the waves break very far from the beach. If you see how calm and welcoming Waimea Bay is during the summer months, it's hard to believe that it's the same beach during the Winter.
Waimea Valley directly behind Waimea Bay is a very easy, family-friendly nature walk to Waimea Falls at the back of the valley.
15. Haleʻiwa Town (1-3.5 hours Waikīkī)
Haleʻiwa is a small rustic town on the North Shore of Oʻahu. It is a great little town to park and walk to enjoy all the little shops, as well as grab a bite to eat. There is also an area on the edge of town across from the McDonald's with an assortment of delicious food trucks to choose from.