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Nature, Culture and Adventure on Oahu


Nature, culture and adventure abound on the island of Oahu with an array of sea, land, and air activities, as well as art and cultural museums and attractions. Oahu offers beauty and excitement that is easily accessible and suits all levels, ages, interests and budgets.

Following are some of the highlights to give a glimpse of the treasures to be discovered on the island of Oahu:

Exploring the Natural Beauty

Whether hiking through rainforests, biking along mountain ranges and horseback riding in lush valleys; parasailing, parachuting, gliding over the dramatic and diverse landscape of Oahu; swimming, diving, kayaking, snorkeling and surfing in the azure blue waters of the Pacific - natural beauty is found in the ocean and on the land.

Mauka Makai Excursions offers scenic archeological and hiking eco-tours of Oahu’s windward side and explores sacred sites while teaching Hawaiian myths and legends of each location.
Phone: (808) 593-3525

Backyard Oahu Dedicated to Oahu's hiking trails since 1998, this free website offers descriptions, details, trailhead directions, news, and access status on over 80 trails. Participate in the discussion forums, view extensive hike photography of Honolulu, Waianae and Koolau Mountains, or read about the island's geography, weather, important warnings and safety tips.
Web: http://www.backyardoahu.com

Oahu Nature Tours provides informative guided excursions to see Oahu’s unique native bird and plant species with spectacular views, excellent photo opportunities and information about Oahu’s geology, archeology, mythology and history.
Phone: (808) 924-2473
Web: www.oahunaturetours.com

Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours also offers a variety of eco-tours led by expert tour guides who teach local legends, geology, history, flora and archeology. For the more independent hiker, Oahu has many well-marked trails for all levels. Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable features with a trail that climbs to a 763-foot summit with unparalleled views of the Honolulu area. Other popular hikes include Makapuu, Old Pali Highway, and Manoa Falls. On Sundays, the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club meets at Iolani Palace at 8 a.m. and offers guided hikes to various trails on Oahu.
Phone: (800) 946-4432
Web: www.discoverhawaiitours.com

After a hike, nothing refreshes like the cool waters of the Pacific. With more than 125 miles of shoreline, Oahu has a beach for every interest from shell collecting, surfing, snorkeling, romantic walks, seclusion and people watching. The windward side of Oahu boasts beaches that regularly rank in America’s top 10 beaches including Kailua and Lanikai beaches.

Located on Oahu's scenic North Shore, the 1,800 Waimea Valley Audubon Center features botanical gardens, wandering peafowl and a 60-foot waterfall, giving visitors direct interaction with the natural environment.
Address: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy.
Phone: (808) 638-9199

On the North Shore, winter brings the famous waves known worldwide for surfing contests at Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset. In the other months, the ocean calms make perfect conditions for snorkeling and swimming. The Leeward coast of Oahu offers miles of uninhabited beaches, the most extensive coral systems in the state and pristine areas far off the beaten path. On the South Shore, Waikiki beaches thrive with high-energy people from all over the world sun bathing, surfing and swimming in the gentle turquoise waters.

Outrigger canoe rides and catamaran cruises are steps away with dramatic views awaiting those who venture out on the water. Outrigger Hotels & Resorts’ Outrigger Catamaran rides go out four times daily. The well-known beach boys of Waikiki take visitors out throughout the day to catch waves on the traditional
outrigger canoes.
Phone: (808) 923-0711

On the west side, Wild Side Specialty Tours takes researchers, students, naturalists, families, photographers, and small intimate groups of travelers to encounter the coastal marine life. This unique experience includes one of a few known areas in the world that free-roaming dolphins interact with humans in the water.
Address: Waianae Boat Harbor, Slip A-11
Phone: (808) 306-7273

The Star of Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest sightseeing and dinner cruise vessel, sails daily and offers whale-watching, entertainment and sunset dinner cruises. Whether aboard the Navatek I, "Hawaii’s smoothest cruise," a catamaran off Waikiki beach or even on an outrigger canoe enjoy the breathtaking views of Oahu’s coastlines and mountains. Star of Honolulu
Phone: (808) 983-7827
Web: www.paradisecruises.com

Navatek Cruises
Phone: (808) 973-1311

Discovering the Diversity of Culture Art, history and lifestyle, shine through in Oahu’s attractions, reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the island.

The Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) is known to the locals as the people's museum and features works that portray the diversity of Hawaii’s culture and people, created by local artists and those inspired while in Hawaii.
Address: 250 S. Hotel Street, 2nd Floor
Phone: (808) 586-0900

Shangri La, Doris Duke's Oahu home, opened for public tours in November 2002, showcasing her extensive collection of Islamic art, a result of her 60 years of travel throughout the world. This was made possible due to a partnership with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Phone: (808) 734-1941

Fast-forward to modern, innovative times at The Contemporary Museum, the former Alice Cooke Spalding residence, in the midst of the beautiful residential community of Makiki Heights. The museum has seven galleries with rotating works of art by celebrated international and local contemporary artists. Address: 2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Phone: (808) 526-1322
Web: www.tcmhi.org

The Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii’s oldest and largest art museum, was founded in 1927 and is recognized for its outstanding collections of Asian, European, Pacific, American and African art showcased in some 30 galleries surrounding six garden courts.
Address: 900 South Beretania Street
Phone: (808) 532-8700

Visitors will find an endless number of roads leading back through Hawaiian history at the Bishop Museum. Established in 1889, Bishop Museum is recognized today as the principal museum of the Pacific and one of the world's leading scientific institutions. The museum features a permanent Hawaiiana exhibit, rotating exhibits in the new Castle Hall and planetarium shows. Address: 1525 Bernice Street
Phone: (808) 847-3511
Web: www.bishopmuseum.org

Hawaii’s seafaring heritage comes alive with exhibits depicting the Pacific’s rich maritime history at the Hawaii Maritime Center. Guests board the only fully rigged four-masted sailing ship left in the world, The Falls of Clyde. The Center is also home of the world famous voyaging canoe, Hokulea.
Address: Aloha Tower, Pier 7
Phone: (808) 535-373

Built in 1849 and nestled in the cool Nuuanu Valley, Queen Emma Summer Palace was once the country home of King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma, and today houses their personal artifacts.
Address: 2913 Pali Highway
Phone: (808) 595-3167
Web: www.daughtersofhawaii.org

This complex of New England-style salt box homes at the Mission Houses Museum includes the Frame House, the oldest existing house in Hawaii built in 1821. Today, the Frame House is a museum of missionary history with an annex that houses a replica of the Ramage hand press used to print the first Hawaiian laws, newspapers, bibles, school books and other material. Visitors will enjoy the Living History Program where guides dressed in period costumes lead the tours.
Address: 553 South King Street
Phone: (808) 531-0481

Built in 1879, Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States and was the official residence of Hawaii’s last monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Painstakingly restored, the Palace is reminiscent of the grandeur of Hawaii’s monarch period.
Address: 364 South King Street
Phone: (808) 522-0822
Web: www.iolanipalace.org

This collection of 30 original and replica plantation homes and buildings at Hawaii’s Plantation Village offers a glimpse of the time when sugar cane transformed the land, economy and culture of Hawaii. The living museum of a plantation village recreates the lifestyles of the different ethnic groups that helped to shape Hawaii.
Address: 94-695 Waipahu Street
Phone: (808) 677-0110

Pearl Harbor serves as a national landmark and is also home base for three historic attractions. The USS Arizona Memorial was constructed above the sunken ship, the USS Arizona, as a memorial to honor those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 in a Japanese sneak attack on the United States naval fleet. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is a living museum that offers guests a glimpse into life on the historic USS Missouri or "Mighty Mo." Climb aboard the last and most celebrated battleship ever built. It was aboard the battleship’s decks that the documents ending World War II were signed. Located near the world famous USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum features a renovated World War II submarine and museum that introduces visitors to some of the sailors during the war.

U.S.S Arizona Memorial
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Place
Phone: (808) 422-0561
Web: www.nps.gov/usar

The Battleship Missouri Memorial
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Drive
Phone: (808) 973-2494

U.S.S Bowfin Submarine and Museum
Address: 11 Arizona Memorial Drive
Phone: (808) 423-1341

The Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii’s number one paid visitor attraction. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, the center features seven Pacific Island villages on 42 acres with hands-on cultural experiences and interaction. Visitors can also enjoy a canoe pageant, hula show, luau and the spectacular evening show, "Horizons!"
Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy.
Phone: (877) 722-1411
Web: www.polynesia.com

Another way to soak in and enjoy the culture of Hawaii is through specialized spa treatments that incorporate ancient techniques of massage and healing. Local ingredients such as kukui nuts, sea salt, seaweed, noni, ti leafs and coconuts are also used in their treatments. Whether it’s through a lomi lomi massage, seaweed body mask or ti leaf wrap, the spiritual and healing aspect of the islands come to life. Oahu offers the spectrum of spas with most resorts featuring their signature treatments including the Na Hoola Spa, Ihilani Spa, Serenity Spa Hawaii, Mandara Spa, SpaHalekulani and abhasa Spa to name a few.

Satisfying an Appetite for Adventure

For those who want to enjoy the natural beauty of Oahu with activity and excitement thrown in, adventure abounds.

Surfing was once exclusive to the kings of Hawaii, where the sport originated. Today, surfing is enjoyed by many and Oahu offers superb surfing conditions for every level. Hans Hedemann Surf School teaches the art of surfing at six locations around the island. Hawaiian Fire Surf School, based on the dream of three firefighters, gives surfing lessons on a secluded sandy beach with padded surfboards with rubber fins reflecting their work as safety professionals.

Hans Hedemann Surf School
Phone: (808) 924-7778
Web: www.hhsurf.com

Hawaiian Fire Surf School
Phone: (888) 955-7873
Web: www.hawaiianfire.com

Adventures Extreme Hawaii activities include everything from windsurfing to sky diving. Perfect for novice beginners or advanced students.
Phone: (888) 573-5100
Web: www.adventuresextremehawaii.com

Aloha Beach Services offers outrigger canoe rides, surfboard/bodyboard and raft rentals at Waikiki Beach. Experience Waikiki’s waters through the eyes of an original beach boy.
Address: 2365 Kalakaua Avenue
Phone: (808) 922-3111

Dangle from a parachute as you float through the air, above the ocean and over the Waikiki coastline with Aloha Parasail.
Phone: (808) 521-2446

With Atlantis Submarine Adventures, ride aboard the world’s largest submarine fleet on an unforgettable 45-minute journey to sunken ships, airliners and reef structures.
Phone: (800) 548-6262
Web: www.atlantisadventures.net

Charter boats are popular with both locals and visitors who want to try their hand at fishing the tropical waters. Hawaii Charter Skippers Association works only with U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels that are skippered by U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains. The association takes reservations for half-, three quarter- and full-day excursions.
Phone: (808) 594-9100

Take a scenic drive out to Oahu’s famous North Shore and hop aboard a glider plane at Dillingham Airfield. With Glider Rides, you’ll soar above the island on a three-seater sailplane with a friendly, knowledgeable and professional pilot, and see stunning views of the northern coastline. After the ride, visit with Glider Rides’ owner, Mr. Bill, and hear his personal experiences.
Address: Dillingham Air Field
Phone: (808) 677-3404

Sailing offers a great way to enjoy the ocean and to get a different view of Oahu. Honolulu Sailing Company provides brief cruises off Honolulu to full-day charters along the North Shore.
Phone: (800) 829-0114
Web: www.honsail.com

Take a flight on Hawaii’s only seaplane with Island Seaplane Service. This one-hour adventure begins with a departure off the water to offshore Waikiki, Diamond Head, Koko Head, the famous Blow Hole and on to beautiful Kaneohe Bay. The flight continues along the famous North Shore surfing areas, Haleiwa Town and through the same valley Japanese Zeros flew for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, ending with a water landing.
Phone: (808) 836-6273
Web: www.islandseaplane.com

Oahu is home to the best windsurfing conditions in Hawaii. At Kailua Beach, explore the island’s waters by kayaking and windsurfing with instructors at Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, Inc. Learn how to kayak, windsurf, and kite surf, or brush up on techniques under the guidance of expert guides. Paddle from Kailua Beach to the Mokulua Islands surrounded by breathtaking views.
Address: 130 Kailua Road
Phone: (808) 262-2555
Web: www.kailuasailboards.com

Located in lush Kaaawa Valley with sweeping views of Kaneohe Bay, Kualoa Ranch & Activity Club offers horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and trolley rides to Oahu’s adventure-seeking visitors. A boat takes visitors across an 800-year-old ancient Hawaiian fishpond to Secret Island, to enjoy snorkeling or windsurfing. In ancient times, Kualoa was considered one of the most sacred places on Oahu. In 1850, Dr. Gerrit Judd purchased the land from King Kamehameha III. His son started an early Oahu sugar plantation in 1863 and began a cattle ranch at the turn of the century.
Address: 49-560 Kamehameha Highway
Phone: (808) 237-8515
Web: www.kualoa.com

Power a high-performance glass bottom boat and dart about Hawaiian reefs on the "Wild Thing Reef Explorer." Snorkel at Hawaii Kai’s Maunalua Bay, populated with green sea turtles, tropical fish and live coral (equipment will be provided). Hawaii Ocean Tours and Adventures offers jet skiing, power boat rides, parasailing, and banana boat/bumper tube rides.
Address: 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy.
Phone: (808) 395-6133

To discover the world under water, scuba diving on Oahu offers the spectrum. Shore dives and boat dives, night or day, the pristine waters of Hawaii come to life with colorful reef fish, coral beds, star fish, turtles, octopus, lobster, intricately designed shells and lots of other marine life. Oahu is also the only place in Hawaii for wreck diving. Breeze Hawaii and Aloha Dive are just two of the dive shops that provide instruction, rental diving equipment and transportation to some of the major dive spots around the island.
Breeze Hawaii
Phone: (808) 735-1857
Web: www.breezehawaii.com

Aloha Dive Shop
Address: 377 Keahole Street
Phone: (808) 395-5922

See Oahu’s largest waterfall cascading over 1,000 feet into a steep gorge located at a 2,000-foot elevation up in the lush Koolau Mountains, which is inaccessible except by helicopter. During Makani Kai Helicoptor’s popular tour, passengers will fly past famous filming locations, Koko Crater, Hanauma Bay, Kahana Rain Forest Reserve and big surf beaches including Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline. The tour concludes with a flight over Pearl Harbor’s submarines and historic World War II battle sites.
Phone: (808) 593-3525

Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau

See also:
- Other Oahu Activities
- Attractions on Oahu
- Events on Oahu

Related Links
Oahu Island - Main Menu
Islands of Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors

A NOTE FROM KATHIE: If you have any corrections or updates to the information on this page or if you would like us to add any information or links, please send a message to the email address on our contacts page.

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