Oahu is paradise. The number of beaches to visit, hikes to choose from and adventures to go on are endless. You can be sure that there will be no shortage of things do to on Oahu, the challenge however, will be choosing what to do. This blog lists the Top 10 free things for backpackers to do on Oahu.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail
My favourite place on Oahu. Whenever I get time, I take the Lanikai Pillbox trail, and it never ceases to amaze me. For the last 3 months I have been lucky enough to live within biking distance to the trail head, and have been doing this hike usually two times a week. The view never gets old. I highly highly recommend doing the Lanakai Pillbox trail on your trip to Oahu. The trail follows a ridge up to three pillboxes, I recommend going all the way. It is a short hike, generally taking me 30 minutes to get to the third pillbox, but at a slow pace may take 1 hour. Pack water and some snacks because when you get to the top you wont want to come down. See my Guide to hiking Lanikai Pillboxes.
With white powdery sand, crystal clear blue waters and a stunning view of the twin islands of Na Mokulua off shore, Lanikai Beach is the most picturesque on the island. The only issue is that it can get really crowded, so try go on a weekday. If it is really crowded, the beach next to it, Kailua beach is equally as beautiful. Lanikai Beach is 1 on my list of Oahu’s best beaches.
Kailua Beach Park
Equally as beautiful as Lanikai Beach and in my opinion better because it is generally less crowded. Like Lanikai, Kailua Beach has white powdery sand, perfect waters and an incredible view. If it is a windy day you will see kite surfers cruising around the bay. From Kailua Beach Park you can choose to hire stand up paddle boards and kayaks and paddle out to flat island or the islands of Na Mokulua. You hire these from Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks. If you don’t want to spend money, enjoy a swim, walk on the beach and a picnic. Kailua Beach is 2 on my list of Oahus best beaches.
Anyone that has been to Hanauma Bay will tell you… DO NOT MISS IT! Hanauma bay offers some of the best snorkelling conditions on the island, with a wide variety of marine life, rainbow fish and turtles to swim with. Bring your own snorkel, you can buy a snorkel set for $12 at Walmart or hire a snorkel set for $20. I recommend buying one and taking it with you everywhere you go around the island. Entry into Hanauma Bay is $7-50. Arrive early as it get crowded. As per my usual, I suggest packing a picnic to enjoy in the bay.
Koko Head Crater Trail
A short but extremely steep hike made up of 1042 stairs. The trail follows the old tram line directly up the side of the volcano. The stairs are uneven and should be done slowly and with caution. One section of the trail has caved out underneath so you walk across the old tram line with a 10ft drop underneath. If you are afraid of highs I would give this one a miss, but if you can overcome that fear, you won’t regret it. The view from the top is unreal.
Makapu’u Beach and lighthouse trail
There is something about the south of the island that steals my heart. My favourite drive on the island is from Kailua to Hanauma Bay and my favourite places to be are anywhere in between. Makapu’u Beach and lighthouse are at the southern most point of Oahu. Makapu’u beach is beautiful, and so is the view from the lookout above it. You can choose to stop at the lookout for some photos of Makapu’u and the offshore islands, or can take the lighthouse trail to an even higher lookout. The is an easy, 2 mile paved hike than can be done in an hour, round trip. Makapu’u is also popular for it’s tide pools and blow hole. The entire Makapu’u area is great to explore.
Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline
No trip to Oahu is complete without a trip to Sunset Beach and Banzai pipeline. Famous for it’s massive waves and world renowned surf competitions during the winter, these beaches attract many travellers. I honestly much prefer the Southern and Windward beaches like Lanakai, Kailua and Makapu’u but I still feel a trip to this beach to see the waves is essential for any traveller visiting Oahu.
North Shore Fruit Stand
The North Shore fruit stand is a place I need to stop every time I visit the North Shore. If you don’t like fruit, you can give it a miss, but for those tropical fruit lovers, you will be in heaven.
Diamond Head Trail
By far one of the most popular hiking trails on Oahu, offering panoramic views of Waikiki and the surrounding areas. The hike is around 1.5 miles round trip. It starts easy then gets steep towards the end, finishing with stairs. Overall, the hike is relatively easy and won’t take long so you should try fit int into your itinerary.
The world famous Waikiki Beach has a truly unique atmosphere that you must experience for yourself. No doubt it is already on your itinerary.
I haven’t included any waterfalls into my top 10, so will add Manoa (pictured below) and Maunawilli Falls to the list of top things to do for Backpackers on Oahu. You can’t swim at Monoa falls, you can at Maunawilli falls.
See my guide to hiking Manoa Falls here.
You might also be interested in my post on Must Do On Oahu which included activities that cost money like shark cage diving and Kualoa Ranch.