Oahu is the most popular tourist destination in the Hawaiian Islands and with good reason. Its diverse locales offer something for everyone, from the historic and cultural attractions of the big city of Honolulu to the gorgeous beach at Waikiki, spectacular snorkeling near Hawaii Kai, and the pounding surf at Waimea Bay. You can hike through emerald rainforests and along volcanic slopes, swim and sunbathe on white sand beaches, and satisfy your taste for adventure with exciting water sports. Here are some of the top locations for vacation rentals on the island of Oahu.
1. Downtown Honolulu
Vacation rentals in downtown Honolulu put you at the hub of the island, with easy access to historic sightseeing locations such as the Kawaiahao Church, the Aloha Building, and Lolani Palace, the official residence of the last monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Museums include the Mission Houses Museum and the Hawaii State Art Museum. In nearby Chinatown, you can shop for exotic antiques and herbs and enjoy a delicious East Asian meal. Honolulu night market is a shopping and entertainment center offering periodic fashion shows and other events.
2. West Honolulu
West Honolulu hosts the Bishop Museum, a complex of buildings that comprises the largest museum in Hawaii. Its Hawaiian Hall has multiple floors with exhibits on the history of Hawaii, and its Science Adventure Center focuses on Hawaii’s environment and natural history. Pearl Harbor has a number of memorials commemorating the World War II surprise attack on the island. The most famous is the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built out in the harbor over the hull of the sunken battleship. Other museums at Pearl Harbor include the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Waikiki in South Honolulu is renowned as one of the best series of white sand beaches in the world. It’s a great place for the whole family to try surfing, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. The children will love area attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium. For a spectacular view of the south coast of Oahu, you can hike to the top of famous Diamond Head Crater.
4. Hawaii Kai
Vacation rentals in the neighborhood of Hawaii Kai in eastern Honolulu offer convenient access to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Formed in an extinct volcano’s crater, this spectacular haven of coral reefs and marine life makes an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Nearby Halona Beach Cove offers an intimate swimming experience at a secluded sandy beach, and the famous Halona Blowhole is a scenic wonder.
5. Waimanalo Beach
The town of Waimanalo Beach lies along the longest stretch of white sand beach on Oahu. Waimanalo Beach Park offers convenient amenities, such as a pavilion, picnic tables, and showers. The wide, flat beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, or strolling. The moderate waves that break along the beach are ideal for bodysurfing and body boarding. The kids will enjoy Sea Life Park, where they can observe marine animals, watch the animals perform, or go swimming with dolphins and sea lions.
Kailua has a lovely crescent-shaped beach that is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, paddle boarding, and surfing. Other activities include windsurfing, kitesurfing, and kayaking. Na Mokulua, also known as The Mokes, are two picturesque offshore islands popular for snorkeling and spear fishing. A hike through a nearby tropical forest takes you to Maunawili Falls, where you can enjoy the cool waters of the swimming hole at the base of the waterfall.
The town of Laie on the northeast coast hosts the famous Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu’s most popular attraction. The enormous complex has simulated tropical villages from all the major Polynesian cultures, local arts and crafts, canoe rides and other activities, daily Hawaiian feasts, and traditional songs and dances. Laie Point State Wayside Park is a scenic peninsula with a fantastic view of the ocean and picturesque offshore islets. It’s also a good spot for anyone who enjoys fishing.
8. Waimea Bay
Vacation rentals at Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu overlook one of the most famous surfing spots in the world. In the winter season, surfers ride the towering waves in big-wave competitions. In the summer, the ocean is calmer, making the beach a perfect location for swimming and sunbathing. Inland from the beach, gorgeous Waimea Valley has archeological sites and a botanical garden full of rare plant species and endangered animals. At the end of the valley is Waihi Waterfall, where you can watch professional cliff divers and swim at the base of the falls.
Haleiwa is a beautiful laid-back town on the north shore full of surf shops, art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Local activities include hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and golfing. At the famous Dole Plantation, you can take a ride on the Pineapple Express Train to learn about local history and try to find your way out of one of the world’s largest mazes. Seaside activities include jet skiing, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, and entering an iron cage for a thrilling shark tour.
The town of Nanakuli lies on the leeward side of Oahu, where the weather is drier. Nanakuli Beach Park, also known as Kalanianaole Beach Park, has a wide beach of golden sand. It’s a great spot for swimming, canoeing, scuba diving, and observing offshore whales and dolphins. During certain seasons, you can descend into the Mermaid Caves and swim in tunnels beneath the rocks.