8 Fun Things To Do On Oahu (That Aren’t Waikiki)
Tour Doris Duke’s Shangri La
Tucked behind Diamond Head Crater and accessible only by shuttle bus, Doris Duke's palatial palace of the Pacific, Shangri La, sits oceanside and serves as a part of the Honolulu Museum of Art. (Book tickets for the palace through the museum.) Built in 1937 as the American heiress's Honolulu home and respite, Shangri La is presently a center for Islamic arts and culture and houses Duke’s private collection of art curated from her global travels to Africa and the Middle East. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday and must be booked in advance.
Hike Lanikai Pillboxes For Sunrise
Located 15 miles outside Honolulu toward the east side of Oahu, Lanikai Pillboxes is a short hike that offers screensaver-worthy views of turquoise water and white sandy beaches. Hikers start with a short vertical incline, followed by relatively flat terrain and one final hilly peak before reaching the summit marked by two former military bunkers.
Views at the top extend over Kailua and Lanikai Beaches, with the Mokulua Islands dotting the backdrop. In other words, this is the perfect spot to watch the sun peek out over the horizon, giving the island’s windward side the glow-up it deserves.
Hike the Pink Pillbox For Sunset
Travelers seeking watercolor skies without the pre-dawn wake-up call should head west toward Waianae on Farrington Highway. A neon pink former military bunker that's sometimes referred to as Pu'u O Hulu sits perched on a hill. The view from the bunker offers unobstructed views of the Nanakuli suburbs and ocean. There is no shade on this trail, which is marked by switchbacks and some steep climbing, so hikers should pack plenty of water and a camera to get that ‘gram-worthy shot of the pink pillbox against the sunset on Oahu’s leeward side.
Swim With Sharks
Thrill-seekers and ocean enthusiasts looking to get facetime with the ocean's most misunderstood creatures can book open-water freediving and snorkeling sessions with a company that is working tirelessly to change the public's perception of sharks. Boats leave 12 times per day, seven days per week, from Haleiwa Boat Harbor and can be booked online in advance. Don’t worry—all tours are led by certified divers with a background in marine biology and shark conservation. You won't be shark bait here!
Visit Waimea Falls and Botanical Gardens
Located across from famed Waimea Bay, Waimea Falls and Botanical Gardens (open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) is a two-mile out-and-back walking trail that's marked by lush flora and fauna and placards telling Waimea Valley's unique history. The trail, which is good for all ages, leads to Waimea Falls, a 30-foot waterfall with a run-off pool that offers visitors the chance to jump in and cool off under the supervision of a lifeguard and with a required safety vest. When finished, visitors can grab food and a refreshing cocktail from the Proud Peacock. But heads up—peacocks are known to swoop in and sit beside guests as they dine.
Enjoy Green World Coffee Farm
A stop at this working coffee farm grants guests an opportunity to tour, sample, and kick back in the sun. Green World Coffee Farms in Wahiawa is a smart stopover en route to Dole Plantation or the North Shore. The owner, frequently seen handing out shave ice to keiki (Hawaiian for child or children), tells every guest to sample the chocolate-covered coffee beans and coffee prior to making a selection from the robust menu of coffee, tea, specialty blended coffee drinks, and smoothies. On a hot day, opt for the shaded lanai seating. But on a breezy winter morning, grab a picnic table by the coffee plants, and enjoy the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans coming from the kitchen.
Relax At Kaneohe Sandbar
Kaneohe Sandbar, which is situated about 15 miles outside of Honolulu and adjacent to the Marine Corps base, is only accessible by boat—but it's worth the effort it takes to get to this oasis on Oahu's east side. Here, you'll find a wide-open shoal, surrounded by cerulean knee-deep water. Views of the Pacific Ocean in the front and towering Ko'olau Mountains in the back makes it the perfect spot for packing a cooler and spending an entire afternoon relaxing. Book a boat online in advance, and make sure to stop for Island Snow (President Obama's favorite shave ice spot in Kailua) on the way out.
Eat At Shark’s Cove Food Trucks
A day on the North Shore is not complete without swinging into a food truck for sustenance. After snorkeling at Shark’s Cove or enjoying the winter waves at famed Sunset Beach, saddle up to a picnic table at the Shark's Cove Food Trucks, and enjoy fresh garlic shrimp served over rice from the North Shore Shrimp Truck or poké from Aji Limo's truck. Lighter options include a selection of açai bowls, salads, and smoothies that dot the perimeter of this roadside stop.