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 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 trailhead, and have been doing this hike around two times a week. The view never gets old. I highly recommend doing the Lanikai 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 won’t 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 offshore, Lanikai Beach is the most picturesque on the island. The only issue is that it can get really crowded, so try to go on a weekday. If it is really crowded, the beach next to it, Kailua beach is equally as beautiful.
Lanikai Beach is number 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 a stand-up paddleboard or kayak to paddle out to Flat Island or the islands of Na Mokulua. You hire these from Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks.
Kailua Beach is 2 on my list of Oahu’s 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 an abundance of rainbow fish and turtles to swim with. Entry into Hanauma Bay is $7-50 and you can hire a snorkel for $20.
I recommend buying a snorkel at Walmart and taking it everywhere you go on the island.
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 southernmost 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 that can be done in an hour, round trip. Makapu’u is also popular for its tide pools and blowhole. 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 its 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. 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 it 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 Falls (pictured below) and Maunawilli Falls to the list of top things to do for Backpackers on Oahu.
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.
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*This post on free things to do on Oahu contains affiliate links, which means if you buy something I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.