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When it comes down to planning your day-to-day list of things to do, ShermansTravel experts have you covered. To make sure you get the most out of your vacation, we recommend the can't-miss museums and attractions, as well as the off-the-path activities and unique local experiences that will make your trip truly memorable.

Things to do in Oahu

Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts

No trip to Oahu is complete without shopping for Hawaiian shirts; while some of the better shirts here sell for upwards of $3,000, you can take others home for under $10. Kitschy treasures of vintage Hawaiiana are also on deck.

517 Kapahulu Ave., HI, 808-734-7628, www.alohashirts.com
Tags: family | shopping | things to do | souvenirs | novelty

Bishop Museum

From mythology to monarchy, the Bishop Museum offers an excellent introduction to Hawaii's natural and cultural history. The planetarium points out what you'll see in Hawaii's night sky, while the Hawaiian Hall (reopened in August 2009) presents the world's most comprehensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts.

1525 Bernice St., HI, 808-847-3511, www.bishopmuseum.org
Tags: family | things to do | culture | history | museum

Cindy’s Lei Shoppe

Locals have been coming to this Chinatown landmark for over four decades to shop from wide variety of leis (at low prices) for special occasions. Cindy will even ship her vivid, fragrant arrangements to the mainland U.S.

1034 Maunakea St., HI, 877-536-0007, www.cindysleishoppe.com
Tags: shopping | great value | local favorite | things to do | souvenirs

Dole Plantation

Starting as a fruit stand in 1950, the Dole Plantation is now billed as Hawaii's "Pineapple Experience," with a train tour offering a history of pineapple cultivation and the world's largest maze. Don't leave without tasting the famous Dole Pineapple Whip!

Central Oahu, 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy., HI, 808-621-8408, www.doleplantation.com
Tags: family | editor pick | historic | things to do | tour


Although there are a few courses close to Waikiki and Honolulu, you’ll have more of an exotic golf experience if you head to one of the courses located out of town, like the beautiful, expansive, Turtle Bay Resort.

Windward Coast; Turtle Bay Resort, 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy., HI, 808-293-6000, www.turtlebayresort.com
Tags: golf | editor pick | things to do | sports

Hiking and biking

The network of paths and trails that wind through Oahu’s Ko’Olau mountain range are safe, well maintained, and easily accessible. Try Diamondhead or the Makiki Forest State Recreation Area.

Windward Coast/East Shore, HI, www.hawaiitrails.net
Tags: family | hiking | biking | editor pick | things to do | outdoors

Honolulu Symphony

In existence since 1900, the Honolulu Symphony is the longest-established orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains. Under the direction of the esteemed Andreas Delfs, the symphony collaborates with musicians from the around the world, such as violinist Cho-Liang Lin, to bring music written by the likes of Brahms and Wagner to life.

Neal S. Blaisdell Center Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave., HI, 808-792-2000, www.honolulusymphony.com
Tags: historic | smart splurge | things to do | performing arts

Honolulu Zoo

Twilight tours every Saturday at the Honolulu Zoo illuminate creatures of land and sea in a different light. It’s a great place to bring the kids every other day of the week as well.

151 Kapahulu Ave., HI, 808-926-3191, www.honoluluzoo.org
Tags: family | things to do | wildlife | zoo

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States. It was home to King Kalakaua, who oversaw its construction in 1882, and his successor, Queen Lili‘uokalani, who was imprisoned within the palace walls for nine months following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. Fascinating docent-led tours, offered Tuesday through Saturday, take visitors back in time through the palace corridors and into the state rooms, the private quarters, the galleries and the basement, for a peek at what palace life was like. Reserve at least one day in advance. 

364 South King St. , HI, 808-522-0822, www.iolanipalace.org
Tags: art | things to do | culture | architecture | history | museum

Kayaking at Kailua

Windsurfers and kayakers flock to the beach town of Kailua, where tradewinds create near-perfect conditions for skittering across the water. Kayakers can paddle to one of the tiny crater-filled volcanic cays that stud the ocean on this side of the island or ogle the mansions along Lanikai beach to the south. Lessons and rentals are available at Kailua Sailboard and Kayaks Company.

130 Kailua Rd., HI, 808-262-2555, www.kailuasailboards.com
Tags: kayaking | windsurfing | things to do | adventure

Ko'Olina Resort and Marina

Families flock to this resort on the western coast of Oahu for its string of man-made lagoons that offer the safest of swimming conditions; resort shops, a marina, restaurants, and a golf course are also nearby.

West Shore, 92-1480 Aliinui Dr., HI, 808-679-0079, www.koolina.com
Tags: beach | family | golf | editor pick | things to do | resort


Paddle to one of the tiny volcanic cays that stud the ocean near Lanikai and ogle at the mansions that hug the shoreline. Lessons and rentals are available from Kailua Sailboard.

East Shore; Kailua Sailboard, 130 Kailua Rd., HI, 808-262-2555, www.kailuasailboards.com
Tags: kayaking | surfing | editor pick | things to do | beaches

Pearl Harbor

Some 2,335 military men and women died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and each year more than 1.5 million visit the stark-white marble memorial to the USS Arizona, as well as the USS Missouri, the USS Bowfin, and the Pearl Harbor Museum, where you can listen to survivor interviews.

1 Arizona Memorial Place, HI, 808-422-0561, www.nps.gov/valr
Tags: family | things to do | history | museum | memorial

Pokai Bay Beach Park

Thanks to its calm, shallow waters and protected bay, this sandy off-the-path beach, named after the Hawaiian chief who reportedly brought the first cocoanut palm tree to Hawaii, is perfect for snorkelers and families.

West Shore, near Waianae, HI,
Tags: beach | family | snorkeling | editor pick | things to do

Polynesian Cultural Center

This 42-acre, lush living museum presents recreations of villages representing eight distinct Pacific island cultures. Get in touch with your native side with the “go native” activities including outrigger canoe racing, spear throwing, and coconut tree climbing. Then relax at an authentic luau, lavish night shows, and hands-on craft demonstrations.

55-370 Kamehameha Highway, HI, 800-367-7060, www.polynesia.com
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | culture | history

Ride the Waves (or Watch)

Along the North Shore, about 40 miles from Waikiki, the world's top surfers battle 30-foot waves at famed spots like the Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Amateurs can watch the pros from the beach, or if it's summer (when the waves are docile), give surfing a go themselves.

North Shore, HI,
Tags: surfing | things to do | beaches


Of the dozens of shrimp shacks on the North Shore, this is the only one that raises its own shrimp. Place your order and enjoy them like the locals do – drenched in garlic butter.

North Shore, 56-781 Kamehameha Hwy., HI, 808-232-2202
Tags: family | seafood | editor pick | things to do

Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry

In 1887, Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani (the last Hawaiian monarch) attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in England, where the two were presented with gold bracelets upon which their names were cut out and enameled in black. They were so taken with the gifts that upon returning to Hawaii they reproduced such bracelets for the rest of the court. This forged a tradition of commemorating anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays with these handmade keepsakes. For 35 years, engravers of Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry have incorporated symbols of Hawaiian culture, such as the plumeria and hibiscus, into these bracelets.

1130 Bishop St., HI, 808-524-4313, www.rhhj.com
Tags: shopping | smart splurge | things to do | jewelry | crafts

Sacred sites

Visit some of the lesser-known wahi la’a (sacred sites) scattered around the island, including the 19th-century ruins of King Kamehameha’s summer palace.

Mauka Makai Excursions, HI, 866-896-0596, www.hawaiianecotours.net
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | culture | history

Saturday Farmers’ Market

This weekly market hosted by Kapiolani Community College is a must for locals and visitors alike: Gape at the otherworldly fruits and vegetables on display; pick up local jams and Hawaiian volcanic sea salt; and wash down a lunch of organic cheeseburger and pineapple bread pudding with a homemade ginger ale.

4303 Diamond Head Rd., HI, 808-947-3804, www.kcc.hawaii.edu
Tags: family | shopping | things to do | culture | culinary


Tobacco heiress Doris Duke’s 15,000-square-foot home is an Arabian Nights’ fantasy, complete with around 3,500 pieces of art from Iran, Egypt, India, Morocco, Syria, and Iraq; reservations recommended.

4055 Papu Circle, HI, 808-734-1941, www.shangrilahawaii.org
Tags: family | editor pick | art | things to do | culture | architecture | history

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Calm water, a massive reef, and more than 400 species of fish make snorkeling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve a Technicolor flurry of reds, blues, and yellows. Rent equipment or bring your own. Note that the preserve is closed on Tuesdays and that it’s quite a long trek from the parking lot to the bay. Also, get there early as the park suspends entry when the parking lot is filled.

7455 Kalaniana'ole Hwy. (10 miles east of Waikiki), HI, 808-396-4229, www.honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay
Tags: snorkeling | things to do | wildlife | adventure

Swim with Dolphins

Over on the noncommercial west (Leeward) side of the island, Wild Side Specialty Tours leads intimate expeditions out of Waianae Harbor to swim with wild dolphins.

HI, www.wildsidehawaii.com
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | wildlife

Take Surf Lessons

For the best surfing lessons on Oahu, we recommend Surf Hawaii Surf School on the North Shore - home to the epic waves of Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline. Seasoned instructor, Edison, promises to take students to the best beach each day (as determined by student's experience level and the wave forecast), so they'll be sure to catch a break (or at least some rays).

HI, 808-295-1241, www.surfhawaii4u.com
Tags: surfing | things to do | outdoors | active

Waikiki Aquarium

Take the whole family along to gaze at the incredibly diverse wildlife the Pacific Ocean has to offer. With unique species of fish, the aquarium is a great place to spend an afternoon.

2777 Kalakaua Ave., HI, 808-923-9741, www.waquarium.org
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | wildlife | aquarium

Waikiki Beach

If you desire mai tais and an oceanfront terrace from which to drink them, Waikiki Beach is the place for you. Honolulu’s long stretch of sand is lined with hotels, in front of which sunbathers lay their towels, taking an occasional dip in the dazzling turquoise water. You'll find bronzed beachboys following in the footsteps of their famous predecessors—offering surf lessons, canoe rides, and their own playful brand of an aloha welcome. With the island's biggest concentration of accommodations, shopping venues, nightlife, and restaurants, visitors who want to be part of the scene often arrive in Waikiki and never leave.

HI, www.hawaiiweb.com/oahu/beaches/waikiki_beach.htm
Tags: beach | family | sailing | surfing | editor pick | water sports | things to do | swimming

Waikiki Starlight Luau

Besides the standard mai tai and shell lei greeting, Oahu's newest luau on the rooftop garden at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort offers some appealing twists. Upon arrival guests can engage in hula lessons, get temporary Polynesian tattoos, or simply kick back with a mai tai. The huge buffet includes traditional Hawaiian luau offerings (like kalua pig and poi), as well as local favorites like huli huli chicken, Portuguese sausage, rice noodles, ahi poke, and Molokai sweet potatoes. After dinner, the Polynesian performers put on a mesmerizing show with a four-man Samoan fire-knife dance finale. The cost is $95 per adult, $47.50  per child ages 4-11. Luaus are held Sunday through Thursday, weather permitting.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, 2005 Kalia Rd., HI, 808-941-5828, www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com/luau
Tags: family | smart splurge | things to do | culture

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