Oahu may not be the biggest of the Hawaiian island chain, but it sure makes a big splash for the state’s profile. Not only is it one of the most popular, known for attractions that include Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, the state’s capital of Honolulu, the famed North Shore for surfers, and the only royal palace in the United States … it’s also the most populous. Nearly a million lucky people call this island home, which is two-thirds of the state’s entire population.
Because of its many residents and built up development, Oahu is busy, busy with lots to do. In fact, it’s the only island in Hawaii with highways. From city to surf vibes, historical buildings to quiet beaches, plus world-class dining and music and festivals to match, visiting Oahu means getting a full panoramic experience of what the spirit of aloha is.
… That is, if you Plan with a Pro to craft a custom, authentic itinerary.
ALG Vacations® brands such as Hawaii specialists Blue Sky Tours – one of our six Hawaii-bound labels who sell through travel advisors – work with trusted tour companies like Amstar DMC (formerly known as Worldstar DMC in Hawaii) to package transfers, excursions, and private outings for their customers.
By planning in advance, they won’t have to worry about unexpected costs, unavailable tours, or missing something important, like any of our top five recommended Oahu experiences that’ll have you saying, “You had me at ‘aloha’!”
It’s one thing to come to Hawaii to party, but quite another to come to Oahu to luau. This traditional festival is a fun- and food-filled crash course in the celebratory tradition and spirit of Hawaii, and it’s thrown in grand style in Paradise Cove.
This four-hour experience takes place oceanfront in Ko Olina, outside of Honolulu’s Hotel Zone, and starts with a mai tai cocktail to be sipped to the strains of traditional Hawaiian music as you wander through the Hawaiian Village learning about the island’s culture. Within, there are stations where you’re invited to take part in canoe rides, arts, crafts, and games, or witness traditions such as a Shower of Flowers, Hukilau Ceremony, and Imu Ceremony, and the unveiling of the whole roasted pig that will be the showcase of an outrageous, belly-busting buffet spread of local dishes such as taro rolls, fresh pineapple, Lomi Lomi salmon, beer-battered island fish, island-style baked chicken, and a salad bar.
Sated as the sun sets, song and dance end the night with a cultural show that’ll be emblazoned in your memories.
- All packages include a Cove Card worth $12 for adults and $8 for children, which can be redeemed for drinks at the bar, photographs, or Marketplace merchandise
- Ticket upgrades are available for those who desire preferred seating, table service vs. self-serve buffet, a souvenir arrival photo, and a souvenir gift
- Optional hotel pickup is available for ultimate convenience
- Attendees should be four years of age or older; the luau is otherwise suitable for all ages and mobility levels
We’ve already established that there are a lot of sights to see on this particular Hawaiian island. Our suggestion is to knock out your musts in a comprehensive overview so that you can prioritize which ones to go back to, to explore in greater depth, or simply to check them off your list. This ten-hour, all-day tour is the best orientation to Oahu you can get, and a great value for how much it covers. Plus, it includes hotel pick-up and drop-off so you can hit the ground running in the morning and straight to relaxing as soon as it’s over.
A luxury air-conditioned bus with oversized viewing windows chauffeurs you around in comfort and style in this full island guided tour. The first stop is Diamond Head for its views of East Oahu and its many bays. Next is stunning Hanauma Bay, then Halona Blowhole and Cove – both of which you might recognize from classic and contemporary movies. Next is Pali Lookout for valley views, Byodo-in Temple’s gardens and koi ponds for a look at Japan’s influence on Hawaii, then the famous North Shore, known for its surfing. A short hike to a waterfall, dip in a natural pool, and snack at the Dole Pineapple Plantation closes out this big, beautiful day.
- While there is a break built into the schedule for lunch, the cost of this meal is not included in the tour
- This day typically starts early with your included hotel pickup but will end just before dinnertime, so plan accordingly
- The list of stops, sights, and sites mentioned here is typical, but may change depending on day of the week or local conditions. For example, Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays, and the tour is not available at all on Mondays
Just because you just got to Honolulu doesn’t mean you’re wrong for leaving right away … as long as you’re doing it on a round-trip catamaran ride from the city! This two-hour cruise (not including the possibly scenic road from your hotel to the dock, depending on where you’re staying) with open-air seating is perfect for getting the lay of the land of your new favorite vacation destinations by giving you the view by sea. As it sails around the coast of the capital and Waikiki, usually escorted by jumping dolphins and charming sea turtles, snacks and a complimentary drink are provided, with the option to purchase more. Take your time with those as the music plays on the surround sound system and enjoy a sense of being fully present in this present.
- Roundtrip transportation to and from your hotel makes it incredibly easy to get on “board”
- Suitable for ages two and up in any kind of physical condition
- A cash bar will be available, and drink options include alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
You can pretty much count on seeing sea turtles and dolphins from the deck of any sailing vessel in Oahu, as the previous tour alludes to, but did you know that between December and April, you can add magnificent humpback whales to the water’s (literally!) biggest attractions? These leviathans migrate to Hawaii’s warm coasts every winter, and even more amazing, it’s typically with a new brood of young ones in aquatic tow. In fact, Oahu is such a popular vacation destination for humpbacks that this tour guarantees an encounter – you get a second tour on the house if not. But with a certified naturalist acting as guide, it’s unlikely that you’ll go home without experiencing the might and majesty of these incredible water-dwelling mammals. Whether the sighting surfaces as a powerful spout, a flip of a tail, or – if you’re lucky! – a full breach, we recommend keeping your camera at the ready.
- Roundtrip transportation will be provided from Waikiki to Kewalo Basin Harbor or Ko Olina to Waianae Boat Harbor, so be sure to work with your travel advisor to choose the departure that works best with your hotel’s location. Hotel pickup is possible.
- The cruise itself is two hours long, but getting to the embarkation port will require some time depending on where you’re coming from, so plan accordingly
- This tour is only available during humpback whale migration season, so if it’s high up on your wish list, plan to visit Oahu between December and April
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
This may not be an Amstar tour, but it is an important one with particular poignance for us as Americans. The USS Arizona Memorial is a solemn experience honoring those who perished in the first foreign attack to ever have taken place on American soil – the only one until 9/11. Access is free, but you do have to pay a $1 reservation fee to the U.S. government to order your ticket, which must be booked in advance as free same-day tickets have been discontinued.
This dollar fee also applies to tickets for the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, where an admission fee is also required and varies based on the type of guidance you want as you navigate this experience. A roundtrip boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial and time to reflect there are part of this ticket package for a full experience. To make the most of the ride out there, consider also visiting nearby Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum – just talk to your travel advisor to find out the best, most realistic game plan for that day so you’re not rushed!
- Tickets can be booked eight weeks ahead of your visit; last-minute tickets are available a day in advance on a rolling daily window – details like this is why we advise that you Plan with a (Hawaii) Pro to ensure you don’t miss out!
- If you’re driving to the site, there’s a parking fee of $7 per day for both private and rented vehicles, payable via mobile device virtual pay system, which helps to supports the park’s maintenance and upkeep
- For information on all of this historic site’s attractions and ticketing information, visit the government website
We know all of these options sound nothing short of amazing, and you can’t possibly do it all. (Or can you?) To help you make the most of your time and money, Ask a Travel Advisor which tours are right for you, your budget, your time in destination, and your schedule. They can help you narrow our dream tours to turn these snapshots into reality.
Find the best deals to Oahu starting tomorrow with our You Had Me at Aloha sale, offering great rates and added values for bookings made 7/7/23 to 8/3/23!