• Monica, Your Travel Gal

Top Oahu Romantic/Outdoor/Family Activities

Are you looking for ideas to celebrate a romance, get out into the great outdoors or keep the whole family happy on Oahu Island? Check out my top suggestions for great activities, categorized by Romance, Outdoors and Family Travel listed below. First up, check out my Top Romantic Activities on Oahu.

Fireworks light up the sky over Waikiki - Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

1) Fireworks

Every Friday night, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a spectacular, free fireworks show that lights up the skies over Waikiki. It’s sure to set the mood for romance. You can even book a catamaran fireworks cruise to really enjoy the display!


2) Sunset Dinner Cruise

A number of companies offer sunset dinner cruises on sleek, handsome vessels where you can dine, dance and sip champagne or tropical cocktails while enjoying live music under golden skies.


3) Windward Coast Drive

A leisurely drive up the Windward Coast is filled with tranquil spots that will bring couples closer together. Along the way, you can stop for a picnic at a beach park or wander through the serene grounds of Byodo-In-Temple.


4) City Lights

For magical sunset or evening views of Honolulu and Waikiki, we suggest that you take the drive up Puu Ohia (Mt. Tantalus) to see the lights twinkling below.


5) Farmers Markets

Oahu’s agricultural bounty as well as engaging local experiences await those who venture beyond the usual tourist sites to a farmer’s market. Here you can purchase or sample local treats like Manoa honey or Waialua chocolate. One of the most convenient to Waikiki is the Saturday morning market at Kapiolani Community College.


6) Honolulu Museum of Art

This museum offers changing and permanent exhibits of Western and Asian art in a gracious setting. Available through the museum is a guided tour of Shangri-La, the fabulous 1930s waterfront home and gardens that belonged to tobacco heiress Doris Duke. Art lovers will also enjoy the Hawaii State Art Museum, which emphasizes artworks created in Hawaii.


7) Royal Palaces

Honolulu also has two of the only three royal palaces in the U.S. (the third is Hulihee Palace on Hawaii Island): Iolani Palace, filled with splendid architectural detail and priceless artifacts that tell the story of the last days of the Hawaiian monarchy; and Queen Emma Summer Palace, a peaceful country retreat shaded by kukui trees and filled with intimate memorabilia from the royal family. Guided tours of these places will give you a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at a vanished era.


8) Lyon Arboretum

Another prime attraction in the area is Lyon Arboretum, a 124-acre botanical garden where visitors can enjoy self-guided or guided walks to see a vast array of native plants as well as a vast collection of taro varieties and fragrant herbs. The garden is an important research arm of the University of Hawaii.

 

Maybe romance isn't your gig but exploring the outdoors is? Check out my Top Outdoor Activities on Oahu.

Outrigger canoe riding a wave into shore - Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

1) Outrigger Canoe Rides

Oahu is a hub for almost any kind of water activity you could desire. Among the many options you can find are outrigger canoe rides, ocean kayak and boogie board rentals, catamaran sails, snorkel and diving excursions, whale watching and submarine trips deep under the ocean.


2) Surfing Lessons

As the birthplace of surfing and the undisputed surf capital of the world, what better place than Oahu for people to learn to engage in this exciting sport? The gentle waters of Waikiki and elsewhere on the south shore are ideal for novice surfers to take a lesson or two.


3) Hiking

Trails on Oahu range from easy to challenging and from rainforest to mountain range to coastal hikes, offering clients the chance to discover hidden waterfalls, archaeological sites and beautiful native flora. Popular hikes like Diamond Head Trail and Makapuu Lighthouse Trail are relatively short, mostly paved, and accessible yet reward hikers with gorgeous ocean views. Permits are required for some trails. Guided hikes led by cultural experts in such places as Waimea Valley are a great option for those who want to learn how the landscape intertwines with island heritage. Hikes on Oahu are generally day hikes and with many hiking companies and nature conservation organizations on island, an organized hike is an excellent option for you.


4) Kualoa Ranch

This working cattle ranch on the windward coast is also a center for an array of adventures, including horseback rides, ATV touring, nature walks, catamaran excursions, tours of the many film sites on the property, and their newly added zipline excursions.


5) Dillingham Airfield

This public and military use airport on the North Shore offers a host of exciting aerial adventures, including glider rides and skydiving.


6) Snorkeling Adventures

Oahu offers superb snorkeling opportunities, especially at Hanauma Bay just east of Honolulu and Pupukea Beach Park on the North Shore.


7) Kayaking

Anyone with an avid interest in ocean kayaking or windsurfing should head for Kailua on the windward coast, which is world-renowned for both sports and has places to rent equipment and receive instruction. Oahu’s premier snorkel and dive spot is Hanuama Bay east of Waikiki.


8) Standup Paddleboarding

Standup paddleboarding is a fun water activity, with lessons and rentals available at many resorts and beach parks around Oahu, including Waikiki, North Shore, Windward Coast and the west side of the island.


9) Sunset Catamaran Ride

A number of companies offer sunset dinner cruises on sleek catamarans where you can keep watch for green sea turtles and dolphins while enjoying tropical drinks under golden skies.


10) Waimea Valley

Occupying a significant place in Hawaiian history for over 700 years, this verdant valley, which translates to “Valley of the Priests,” on the North Shore offers an array of cultural activities. Among them are guided hikes that interpret the rare plants and archaeological sites along the way, as well as demonstrations in hula, traditional games and storytelling.

 

Finally, maybe you are traveling with your kids and want some family friendly things to do? Check out my Top Family Activities on Oahu.

Family surf lesson - Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ben Ono

1) Surfing Lessons


As the birthplace of surfing and the undisputed surf capital of the world, what better place than Oahu for clients to learn to engage in this exciting sport? The gentle waters of Waikiki and elsewhere on the south shore are ideal for novice surfers to take a lesson or two. Instruction is often geared for both children as well as adults, making it a great family activity.


2) World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor is an important part of this national monument devoted to sites pertaining to World War II history in three states. Guided and audio tours are available to such memorable sites as the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Battleship Missouri, Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin.


3) Polynesian Cultural Center

The music, song, dance, costumes, architecture and crafts of seven Polynesian cultures, including Hawaiian, are the focus of this attraction on the North Shore. Along with replicated “villages” pertaining to these cultures, there are nightly shows. Kids will especially enjoy the many activities available in the villages, including learning ancient forms of bowling and checkers, coconut cracking and getting a Maori tattoo (washable).


4) Waikiki Aquarium/Honolulu Zoo

These two attractions just at the eastern end of Waikiki can easily be visited in the same day. The Waikiki Aquarium, across from Kapiolani Park and bordering a living coral reef, is filled with marine life exhibits, including green sea turtles and the rare Peppermint Angel fish. Located in Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Zoo is home to over 900 tropical animals, including Komodo dragons and orangutans.


5) Sea Life Park Hawaii

Visitors can interact with the denizens of this marine mammal park located north of Hanauma Bay, including chances to swim with dolphins, sea lions and rays and feed sea turtles. There’s also an aquarium, show venue, bird sanctuary and habitats for penguins and the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.


6) Kuhio Beach Hula Performance

These free, early evening performances are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound in central Waikiki. Opening with torch lighting and a traditional blowing of the conch shell, they feature performances by some of the finest hula troupes in Hawaii.


7) Dole Pineapple Maze

The history of pineapple farming in Hawaii is presented in various exhibits at the Dole Pineapple. Visitors can also walk through the giant Pineapple Maze, planted with over 12,000 exotic plants and trees.


8) The Bishop Museum and Planetarium

The Bishop Museum is renowned for its massive collection of artifacts and natural specimens pertaining to Hawaii and the Pacific. Another highlight of the museum is the J. Watumull Planetarium's The Sky Tonight, an engaging show about constellations in the Hawaii night sky.


9) Waimea Valley

Once the domain of kahuna nui (high priests), this is a lush tropical environment with vast botanical collections and archaeological sites that is most fully appreciated on guided hikes led by cultural experts.


10) First Friday in Chinatown

Among Honolulu's intriguing neighborhoods is one of the oldest Chinatown in the U.S., a bustling 14-block enclave near the central business district. Chinatown and the surrounding area is even more fun to explore during First Friday, an evening festival held on the first Friday of every month with live music, street entertainment and open art studios.

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