“Paradise” it’s likely the first thing that comes to a person’s mind will be the Hawaiian Islands. And on those islands, perhaps the most popular place for a vacationer to go is Oahu. Oahu houses many of the state’s most iconic landmarks, top tourist destinations, and most sought-after vacation activities.
Sometimes called “The Gathering Place”, Oahu certainly lives up to its name. The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of east and west cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu so enjoyable.
The clear blue waters of Kailua Beach meet the metropolitan cityscapes of Honolulu. The historic architecture of Iolani Palace meets the timeless memorials of Pearl Harbor. The big city of Waikiki meets the small town of Haleiwa on the North Shore. Whether you’re hiking atop iconic Leahi (Diamond Head), enjoying some of Hawaii’s best shopping, or simply unwinding on the sands of the island’s beautiful beaches, you’ll find variety at every turn on Oahu.
So regardless of whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler here are 7 Must-See Oahu Hawaii Tourist Attractions to get you started on the journey.
7 Must-See Oahu Hawaii Tourist Attractions
1. Iolani Palace
A national historic landmark and the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, Downtown Honolulu’s Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs from 1882 to 1893: King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani.
The building has survived 130 years and counting in downtown Honolulu, and is on the National Register of Historic Places as the former home of the Polynesian monarchy, prior to the Hawaiian Islands annexation into the United States.
2. Hawaii Theatre Center
The Hawaii Theatre Center is another Honolulu-based Oahu tourist attraction that you won’t want to miss. In business for more than 90 years, the HTC was a launch pad for silent films, plays, vaudeville acts and local entertainment, and remains a great location for concerts and other forms of group entertainment.
Winner 2006 “Honor Award” from National Trust for Historic Preservation. Winner 2005 “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America” from the League of Historic American Theatres. Built in 1922 as a showplace for vaudeville, plays, musicals and silent films; the Hawaii.
3. Aloha Tower
Aloha Tower is an iconic symbol of Hawaii. Built in September of 1926, this was the tallest building in the islands for four decades and its clock was one of the largest in the United States. The tower stood as a welcoming beacon for visitors since travel to Oahu was done entirely by sea. With dozens of shops and restaurants, from Hooters to a specialty magnet store, as well as a full ongoing calendar of events, you could literally spend your entire vacation inside its walls and be just fine. Of particular interest to those wanting to experience the beauty of Oahu, the tenth-floor observation deck is a must-visit, a perfect spot for beautiful views of the harbor on one side and the cityscape of Honolulu on the other.
Today, Aloha Tower is still a docking port for Oahu’s cruise ships, but this historic place has also transformed itself into the 170,000- square foot Aloha Tower Marketplace, featuring a variety of stores and fine restaurants. Enjoy an ocean-view lunch, listen to live music at night, explore its unique shops or walk just a couple of blocks to Chinatown’s art district.
4. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Staring out at the circular-shaped shore of Hanauma Bay on the southeast tip of East Honolulu, you can imagine how this beautiful cove was once a volcanic crater. Today, this crater, likely flooded by wave erosion, is home to an important nature preserve and the island’s most popular snorkeling destination.
If you came to Hawaii for snorkeling, then it’s likely you’ll stumble across the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, because the location has a sterling reputation for it. Situated in the flooded-out remnants of a volcanic crater, the preserve is just a 30-minute drive from Waikiki and home to deep blue waters and a kaleidoscope of undersea life. Swim out into Hanauma Bay’s clear blue waters and explore the lively reefs full of colorful fish. Rent or bring your own masks, snorkels and fins. And be sure to pack a lunch or stop by the snack bar after a morning of exploration
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