Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

When you visit Honolulu, one of the must visit sites to start off your vacation to Oahu is going up to Diamond Head crater and check out the amazing views from the top. This iconic cinder cone with a crater on the edge of Waikiki always seems to be on everyone’s photo capture of the Waikiki capture and is a fantastic experience to see Honolulu from a different vantage point. Check out why a Diamond Head hike should be on the top of your list in visiting Honolulu soon.

Back side views from DIamond Head Crater
Back side views from DIamond Head Crater

Visiting Diamond Head State Monument

The state park entrance is open seven days a week and with parking available at $5 per car and entry to hike the trails at $1 per person. You pay at the gate entrance and drive directly to park entrance or park if you are driving. There is a visitor center with souvenir stand, restrooms and even a food truck for cool drinks and fresh pineapples.

How to get to Diamond Head Crater

There are a few key ways to get to Diamond Head and the main entrance area which is on the northeast end of the park entrance. Here’s the main options on easily getting to the park.

  1. Take an Uber – easy access on your phone app to book a trip to Diamond Head, it’s hassle free to book directly with Uber. The difficulty tends to be the return trip and price increases due to less availability when you are waiting for a return trip.

2. Go by bus – taking the bus to and from Diamond Head is definitely the affordable option at $2.75 per direction. You just need to check the schedules on when the bus goes in either direction to the bus stop right at the entrance to the park grounds.

3. Drive yourself – if you have access to a car then driving to the park is fast and easy and parking per car is only $5 for the whole day.

4. Walk to the entrance – A very long walk from Waikiki, it is doable but definitely takes a bit of time and you have a lot of walking to do right from the start of the park entrance

5. Take the cable car buses – these regular trolley buses plying through the Honolulu and Waikiki areas stop directly at the park entrance. You can book a day pass directly with the Waikiki trolley lines for trips to most attractions in the Honolulu area.

Start of hike up Diamond Head Crater

There is a trail head marker past the restrooms that shares the history of Diamond Head and how it was used in the past to present day. The trails are paved and easy from the start and then change into gravel and sand when the trail starts uphill. It gets narrow at this point and traffic does get busy for both uphill and downhill climbers.

Start of trail head in Diamond Head hike
Start of trail head in Diamond Head

The average time to do the hike is about two hours round trip, more if you take more time for pictures and time frame that you are busy. The best time to visit is earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds and excessive heat going to the top.

Trail head gravel path mid section at Diamond Head
Trail head gravel path mid section at Diamond Head

looking down into Diamond Head canyon

Look out points at Diamond Head

Along the way to the top are many lookout points to the crater floor and views to the east side and coastal views. At the the mid point, you’ll hit your first set up stairs which then leads to a long dark tunnel and eventually a circular staircase that is a real work out so take your time. Those that are physically challenged should take plenty of rests with benches located throughout the trail areas.

First set of stairs to top of Diamond Head
First set of stairs to top of Diamond Head

Tip – if you don’t want to enter the tunnel and circular climb, you have an option to do the route from the left side to nice views and a slower climb to the top without doing the circular stair case.

Entering the long dark tunnel at Diamond Head below

Entering the tunnel to top of Diamond Head
Entering the tunnel to top of Diamond Head

After the tunnel area, you enter another climb with a circular stair case to the top. (You can choose to go on the left side option after the first stairs if you choose not to go up the circular stairs). Take your time going up the stairs because it is used for climbing and also descending.

Circular stairs leading to the top of Diamond Head
Circular stairs leading to the top of Diamond Head

Reaching the top of Diamond Head Crater

After you pass through the staircase you finally get to the opening with nice views of the areas below, but there is another short staircase with a viewing platform that is very busy so can your time enjoying the views and doing your selfies of gorgeous Waikiki and Honolulu.

City views on back side of Diamond Head
City views on back side of Diamond Head

Panoramic views from Diamond Head Crater
Panoramic views from Diamond Head Crater

Do not do this, you are not allowed to go off trails
Do not do this, you are not allowed to go off trails

Check out this video of Diamond Head for inspiration to visiting below.

Descending Diamond Head

You have an option of climbing back down the circular staircase but the best route back is to take the slow declining route on the left side with nice views of the east side coatline, beaches and the ritzy areas of Diamond Head, Lanikai, Portlock and Kahala.

Check out this beautiful light house below

Light house below Diamond Head
Light house below Diamond Head

More views on the back side of Diamond Head
More views on the back side of Diamond Head

The trails connects back to the main trail and stairs down to the crater floor and in no time you get back to the restrooms and visitor center.

Tips on visiting Diamond Head Crater

  1. Bring plenty of water or you can purchase at the vending machines when you enter the park.
  2. It is very hot and busy mid day so if you want to avoid both go early or later in the morning
  3. You can take various transportation modes and the cheapest is the bus coming from Waikiki and costs $2.75 one way
  4. Wear good shoes, the climb is over 560 feet over mixed terrain
  5. Bring sunscreen, the sun is harsh mid morning to later afternoon
  6. Diamond Head is not ADA compliant and a challenge for non active visitors
  7. There are no bathrooms at the top of the lookout areas.

Love photography – check out these tours

If you love to capture some of the best photographs of Honolulu and Oahu consider some of these cool tours to take.

The best photography tour of Waikiki and beyond

Waikiki from above with doors off

Sunset photography tour with a guide

Please pin this for later

Pinterest Doing-the-Diamond-Head-hike-in-Honolulu

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on the Diamond Head hike. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
Some links in this article on Diamond Head hike are affiliates which provide a small commission to support this site at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading, and happy travels

Christmas celebrations in Hawaii

Christmas celebrations in Hawaii

Christmas celebrations in Hawaii

Fun in the sun and Christmas to boot is what makes spending the holidays in Hawaii a fun and joyous experience. But what happens around the islands that are worth checking out for bringing in the holiday cheer? Check out how to spend Christmas in Hawaii and start planning a fantastic holiday experience to the New Year’s Celebrations.

Here’s what to do for Christmas fun in Hawaii

Christmas celebrations in Oahu

Christmas holiday in Oahu

A Pinch of Salt – Dec. 7th

Support local businesses and vendors at the Pinch of SALT, the annual upscale holiday shopping experience at SALT at Our Kakaʻako, Dec. 7th.

This alternative holiday shopping venue with local artists, designers and crafts with popups locations throught out Salt in Kaka’ako

Each year, A Pinch of SALT attracts more than a thousand shoppers throughout the day. Designed to be an alternative to larger shopping venues, visitors can find gifts made by local artisans, crafters and designers at dozens of pop up locations throughout SALT at Our Kakaʻako.

Festival of Lights Boat Parade – Hawaii Kai Center Dec. 7th at 3pm

Get into the holiday spirit, at the 23rd annual Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade. Entertainment begins at 3 p.m., at Hawaii Kai Towne Center’s scenic Marina Docks. Going on for over 20 years, the Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade, has delighted countless visitors and is sponsored by the Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association. 

The Pancakes & Booze Art Show – Dec 8th

As the nation’s premier pop-up art show, The Pancakes & Booze Art Show provides art lovers an opportunity to explore more than 200 pieces of artwork created by some 50+ artists local to Honolulu’s unparalleled art scene. Alongside an immensely wide variety of pop art, fine art, and photography; show goers can sip on some of the dankest craft beer or signature cocktails while consuming free pancakes over and over again.

Sat Dec 8, 8:00 PM – Sat Dec 8, 11:00 PM

 The ARTS at Marks Garage

1159 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817

Honolulu City Lights Celebration and Parade Dec 7th – 4pm

Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele will be on the move from the Chinatown area to Honolulu Hale . Check out the Christmas wreath displays at the Lane Gallery

Kanikapila-Christmas-parade in Pahoa HI

A Big Island Christmas

Hawaii Nei Art Exhibit at the Wailoa Center for the Arts – Dec 2 to Dec 12th

The popular Hawaii Nei is a juried art exhibition celebrating the native flora and fauna of Hawaii Island hosted by the Three Mountain Alliance, the Hawaii Island Art Alliance, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Natural Area Reserves System and the Wailoa Center.

The show features amateur and professional artists of all ages have been invited to submit works of art highlighting the native plants, animals, and habitats of our beloved island, our Hawaii Nei.

Artwork will be displayed at the Wailoa Center from Nov. 1 through Dec. 12, 2019, Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00am to 2:00 pm (closed on holidays). The Wailoa Center is located at 200 Piopio St, Hilo, HI 96720. For more information about Hawaii Nei, visit www.hawaiineiartcontest.org

Christmas-fairs wih art studio tours

Paradise Studio Weekend (13th Annual) Dec 7th to Dec 8th

The annual Paradise Studio Art Weekend: December 7 & 8 – Hawaii Island Arts and fine crafts are held in Hawaiian Paradise park for the 13th Annual Paradise Studio Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm, December 7 & 8, 2019.

The public is welcomed to visit artists in their home studios in Hawaiian Paradise Park, Keaau. Seven studios with 25 local artists are showing oil painting, watercolors, collage, pastels, acrylic, wood, sculpture, jewelry making, pottery, ceramics, silk painting, fashion art, photography and more. Free featured demos and music. For brochure and map go to: www.paradisestudiotour.com

Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade (59th Annual) Dec 7th 5:30 to 7pm

The 59th annual Twilight parade’s new them is, “Our Community…Our Kuleana At Christmas and Always! With their Grand Marshal: Leningrad Elarionoff

All invited to attend and participate with lighted units! Parade supports The Big Island Giving Tree to ensure no one is left behind during the holiday season. 

Traffic Advisory: The main drive through Waimea town will be closed from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for the parade and only emergency vehicles will be permitted to pass through. The community is encourage to plan ahead to avoid tie-ups.

Church Row Park – Next to W.M. Keck Observatory

65-1120 Mamalahoa Hwy

Waimea, HI 96743


West Hawaii County Band in Concert for the Holidays! Dec 13th – 6:30 to 7pm

The West Hawaii County Band, a unit of the Hawaii County Band, performs throughout the year at monthly concerts. The West Hawaii County Band will present an hour of festive music for the season. Come enjoy standards like Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” “White Christmas,” and “Mele Kalikimaka”

Hale Halawai County Park

75-5760 Ali’i Dr

Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

West Hawaii Dance Theatre Presents The Nutcracker Ballet

Dec 21st – 2 to 4pm

The West Hawaii Dance Theatre presents a delightful holiday classic is performed at Kahilu Theatre on Saturday, December 21, Sunday, December 22, and Monday, December 23, 2019. This production includes more than 70 dancers and Guest Professional dancers. A Full Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Brian Dollinger with musicians of the West Hawaii Dance Theatre Orchestra 

Kahilu Theatre

Phone: 808-329-8876

67-1186 Lindsey Rd

Kamuela, HI 96743

Jingle Bell Beach Run – 5k Run Dec 22 – 7:30 to 9am

The 15th Annual Jingle Bell Beach Run starts sharp at 7:30am for this 5k event encourages participation from all fitness levels and running backgrounds.  Great fun for everyone, family oriented – a perfect addition to your holiday celebrations! And parents…be sure to get your kids ready for ‘SANTA’S KEIKI DASH” – a popular fun Kona running event for children 6 & under! (100-yd & 200-yd events)

Coconut Grove Marketplace

Coconut Grove Marketplace – Alii Drive

Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Wailea Village Mochi Pounding (22nd Annual)

Dec 28th – 8am to 2pm

Join Akiko’s for fun MOCHI POUNDING with neighbors, and community in this fun public event. Come and join the fun on Saturday, Dec. 28th, from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. making traditional rice cakes the “old-fashioned” way. Everyone takes their turn at pounding the delicious sticky rice for good luck.

Fire building starts at 7 a.m. to steam the rice. Hearty local style lunch for $5. New years crafts, food vendors, fortune telling, massage, I Ching readings, floral arrangements, plantation stories, Okinawan taiko drumming, Hawaiian entertainment & more. Great cultural mix of everything that makes Hawaii so special.

Akiko’s Buddhist B&B

29-2091 Old Mamalahoa Hwy

Hakalau, HI 96710

Kauai Christmas Celebrations

Hanapepe Friday Night Festival & Art Walk – Every Friday night

Every Friday evening, Old Town Hanapepe is bustling with fun & activity! With a wide variety of shopping, local crafters, several excellent restaurants, a dozen art galleries, stilt walkers, classics cars, live music and entertainment, there is always something for the whole family to enjoy! Every Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Festival of Lights – Every Friday 6 – 8pm Dec. 6th to 28th

Celebrate the holidays on Kauai at Elizabeth Freeman’s annual holiday extravaganza, the award-winning Festival of Lights! Celebrating its 23rd year, local designer Elizabeth Freeman presents a collection of Kauai-style holiday art inspired by her and created with the assistance of local artisans from recycled and reclaimed materials.

Entirely focused on environmental sustainability, Festival of Lights provides a spirited and fun reminder that the true meaning of the holidays comes from the heart, and not the stores. Every year, thousands of locals and visitors crowd the halls to view a holiday wonderland of trees, wreathes, ornaments and other seasonal decorations made from recycled and reclaimed materials such as plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard and bubble wrap. Several pieces are donated designs from previous visitors inspired from their experience. 

Check out the Festival of Lights website for more details

Holiday craft fairs in Hawaii

Holiday Craft Fair at The National Tropical Botanical Garden South Shore Visitor Center. Dec 7th

Enjoy a day of holiday shopping and entertainment featuring Kauai made in Hawaii products, jewelry, clothing and more! Get gifts for everyone on your list including yourself! The craft fair will be accompanied by a variety of food trucks and live entertainment. Take time to enjoy the gardens with tours happening throughout the day. Admission to craft fair is free. Starting at 9 a.m. 

Joy of Christmas Festival of Lights

Join us for the “Joy of Christmas” festival of lights hosted at St. Raphael Church. FREE ADMISSION.

We have invited the community to create a celebration of the “12 days of Kauai Christmas” for all Kauai residents and visitors. Festivities begin Saturday November 30th and run every Saturday and Sunday after that until December 22nd from 6pm until 8pm. Christmas light display; Food & Drink available for purchase; Activities for the Keiki (Children). Delicious soups, hot plate dinners, hot dogs, popcorn, home-made pastries Hot chocolate, tea, soda, juice, water.

Gift Shop with many Advent and Christmas specialties for sale.

Join us this year to bring the Joy of Christmas to Keiki, Kapuna and all ages in between. Learn more at:


The Kauai Chorale presents: A Great English Christmas Dec 14th

The annual Kauai Chorale concert is one of Kauai’s favorite holiday traditions and this season promises a wassailing good time for all ages! The thoroughly entertaining performance of choral Christmas music from across the pond will feature works ranging from simple and engaging a cappella carols to audacious knock-your-socks-off favorites, all written by British composers from the 16th to the 21st centuries and by one beloved honorary British subject, George F. Handel. Don’t miss A Great English Christmas performed by The Kauai Chorale! Tickets are $15 in advance for adults and $18 at the door. Student tickets are $6. https://kauaichorale.brownpapertickets.com

Santa in da House ~ Princeville – Dec 14

Santa is in da House at the Princeville Community Center Saturday, December 14th 10.00-11.00am

Bring the family and your keiki to meet Santa and Light Refreshments will be served

Princeville Community Center 4334 Emmalani Drive, Princeville (across from the Library) BRING YOUR CAMERA for Photos with Santa. website~

Princeville Community com

New Year’s Eve Celebration @ Poipu Beach Park – Dec 31

Poipu style celebrations bring your picnic and blankets to celebrate the New Years! Enjoy a family-themed movie at sunset on the large outdoor screen with a fantastic aerial fireworks display starting at approximately 8:15pm, all in the gorgeous, ocean-side setting that Poipu Beach Park provides.

Check out the best food trucks will be on hand to keep bellies happy by 5:00pm.

The Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration is FREE of charge and open to the public. Festivities will take place Tuesday, December 31st from 5:00-8:30pm on the grounds of Poipu Beach Park. The New Year’s Eve Celebration is a long-standing tradition in Poipu, hosted by the Poipu Beach Foundation in partnership with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and County of Kauai and made possible through the support and generosity of Kauai’s South Shore community.

For more information, visit www.poipubeach.org, www.kauaifestivals.com

Lahaina-Christmas in Maui

Christmas celebrations in Maui Island

Hui Holidays Dec 2 – 24th 9am – 6pm

Hui Holidays showcases Made on Maui artwork by local artists in a festive historical setting at Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center. By shopping local, you’ll be making a creative investment in our community, in your neighbors, and in yourselves! Hui Holidays is made possible with support from the County of Maui Office of Economic Development.

Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center https://www.huinoeau.com/

2841 Baldwin Ave

Makawao, HI 96768

Santa Photos and Entertainment at Maui Mall – Dec 6th to 21st

Santa’s Elves can hardly wait! Christmas is near, so let’s celebrate! Enjoy FREE Photos with Santa when you make a canned good donation for the Maui Food Bank. Located near Center Court at Maui Mall in unit A-6 next to YNVU Clothing and Regal Cinemas.

Free photos with Santa and live local performances on Fridays and Saturdays


Living Wreath Making with Native Hawaiian Plants at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

Dec 7th 9am to 12pm

Native plants provide more than just food and habitat for wildlife: they also provide great beauty all year long!  Learn to make a living wreath from Native Hawaiian Plants in time for the Holidays with MNBG Executive Director, Tamara Sherrill and ohana.  Cost: $50, or $25 for current garden members. Call 249-2798 or email info@mnbg.org for reservations.

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

150 Kanaloa Avenue

Kahului, HI 96732

Festival of Harps Maui

Festival of Harps at The Shops at Wailea Dec 8th – 14th – 5:30-7pm

Special Holiday events for a night of music with the Festival of Harps. The Shops at Wailea is Maui’s premier shopping and dining destination with more than 70 distinct boutiques, shops, restaurants and galleries.

Visit their website at


A Very Merry Holiday Pops Dec 10th – 7:30 to 9:30pm

Celebrate the music of the holiday season as Maestro Ann Krinitsky leads the HSO and the Sounds of Aloha Chorus. This festive concert will warm your heart, make spirits bright and put you in a Very Merry Holiday mood! Click below to purchase tickets directly from Hawaii Theatre.

Santa will be available for photos.

Hawaii Theatre

1130 Bethel Street

Honolulu, HI 96713

Maui Pops Orchestra’s Holiday Pops Concert Dec 15th – 3 to 5pm

The Maui Pops Orchestra invites you to celebrate the holiday season in style. Half of the concert will be purely orchestral renderings of familiar holiday music, while the other will feature three-time Grammy Award nominated pianist David Benoit, who we are delighted to bring back to the Castle Theater stage. For over three decades, Benoit has reigned supreme as one the founding fathers of contemporary jazz. Music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be a delightful part of this program, which will also feature vocalist Sara Gazarek – hailed as an artist that “may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” by the LA Times. Allow the joy of it all to draw you into the spirit of the season!

To purchaseTickets visit www.mauiarts.org

MAPA’s The Nutcracker Dec 20 to 21st – 7:30 to 10pm

MAPA’s The Nutcracker Friday, December 20, 2019; 7:30 pm & Saturday, December 21, 2019, 3:00 pm Castle Theater Right before Christmas and all thru the isle, MAPA presents The Nutcracker in holiday style. With sets & costumes, some new & some old, it’s the classical story in ballet that’s retold. You may have seen it before in Chicago, New York, or L.A. but it’s now reimagined in a fresh and exciting new way. The Sugar Plum Fairy will dance on her toes. Don’t wait to get tickets, there are only two shows. In the blink of an eye the show will be done, so make sure you come and be part of the fun. You’ll be amazed by this company’s feat at bringing to Maui this holiday treat!

Purchase Tickets at:

Maui Arts & Cultural Center – 808-242-7469

.Happy Holidays with Henry Dec 21st – 7:30 to 10pm

Celebrate the Holidays with Henry Saturday, December 21, 2019; McCoy Studio Theater; 7:30 pm Henry Kapono invites you to celebrate the holidays with an evening full of Henry’s classic music! From Henry’s timeless Merry Christmas to You album to your favorite C&K classics like “Sailin’,” “Friends,” “Highway in the Sun,” and so many more. 

Maui Arts & Cultural Center

Phone: 808-242-7469

One Cameron Way

Kahului, HI 96732

Bill Maher’s 9th Annual New Year’s Comedy Extravaganza Dec 3o – 8 to 10pm

Castle Theater The tradition continues with Bill Maher’s 9th Annual New Year’s Comedy Extravaganza Monday, December 30, 2019; 8:00 pm. Bringing in the New Year for the ninth year in a row Bill will be joined by special guest comedians, Sarah Silverman and Larry Miller. Adding to this New Year’s extravaganza are Sarah Silverman and Larry Miller.

Maui Arts & Cultural Center Castle Theater

Phone: 808-242-7469

One Cameron Way

Kahului, HI 96732

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Christmas celebrations in Hawaii. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
Some links in this article on best places to spend Christmas in the USA are affiliates which provide a small commission to support this site at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading, and happy travels

Top things to do in Honolulu

Top things to do in Honolulu

Top things to do in Honolulu

Honolulu is the main tourist hub in Oahu and a fun place to explore the many attractions on the island. With outdoor activities and adventure experiences available almost year round, there is something for everyone to enjoy in around Honolulu area. If you are visiting Oahu, check out all the top things to do in Honolulu for planning your visit. Hopefully, these fantastic suggestions and tips will fill up your must do list when you are visiting Hawaii.

Here’s 34 fantastic things to do in Honolulu

Visiting Pearl Harbor in Honolulu

Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona

The most popular attraction to visit in the area, a visit to Pearl Harbor is a must to really absorb and experience the infamous Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The park is a national park monument that is filled with interesting artifacts, historic film background, museums and a water tour to the monument and the USS Arizona which is all fascinating to witness. You can also visit the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin submarine park for a nominal fee. Entrance to the park is free but there is a small fee to book a reservation which is advised.

You can also book a nice tour of the Pearl Harbor and visit here for a guided tour of the park and visit to other attractions along the North Shore area.

Exploring Kakaako in Honolulu

Explore cool and hip Kakaako, Honolulu

The hip and fun district of Kakaako in Honolulu is where to hang out for all the fun bars, galleries, cool new restaurants and colorful street art. The once run-down warehouses in the neighborhood is now filled with vivid graffiti and street art and the area is a hot new entertainment zone filled with cutting edge art, shopping, dining and entertainment.

HIking up Diamond Head in Honolulu

Hike up to Diamond Head

One of the fun things to do is to hike up Diamond Head and experience the expansive panorama of Waikiki and Honolulu below. Popular time frames would be early in the morning for cooler temperatures or later in the afternoon for that golden light and sunset views (park closes at 6pm). Park is open from 6am to 6pm with the trail head closed off at 4:30 pm and parking fee is $5 per car. Check out the visitor information site here for more details.

For a guided tour of Diamond head, transfers and visit, check out this affordable tour here for more details.

Exploring Kalakaua Blvd at night time

Stroll down Kalakaua Boulevard

The main thoroughfare In Waikiki is Kalakaua Boulevard which contains all the popular tourist attractions filled with shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment venues on the street. It’s fun to check out all the chic shops and galleries during the day time but Kalakaua Boulevard really comes alive at night when everyone seems to be out and enjoying the lively night scenes, people watching and dining al fresco in all the outdoor bars and restaurants around the street and beach areas at Waikiki.

Exploring Kapiolani park in Honolulu

Enjoy Kapiolani park in Waikiki

The large green park area on the edge of Waikiki is a nice and quiet respite to enjoy in busy Honolulu. But you can also check out the main attractions in Kapiolani park including the Honolulu Zoo, Diamond Head Crater, Queens beach, Waikiki Aquarium and also the bandstand at Waikiki Shell that has weekly free or paid events and concerts for visitors and locals.

Kuhio beach hula show

Free Hula show at Kuhio Beach

Regular hula shows are offered at Kuhio and visit Waikiki hosts a free hula show at Kuhio Beach which Is a fantastic way to enjoy a hula experience for free at the beach. You’ll enjoy different types of hula styles being performed along with live music accompaniment and the visitors are allowed to hang out on the grass or beach area around the stage. Check the calendar here for any updates on the regular show schedule at Kuhio.

Hilton Hawaiian firework show

Enjoy free fireworks at night

Every Friday night between 7:45 to 8pm on the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a free firework display is staged for all to enjoy right on Waikiki beach. Make sure that you get there early since the prime spots fill up quickly closer to the stage and the beach area for the best picture taking spots. For easier and good views of the fireworks at the distance, check out Ala Moana park with nice views to the fireworks display at Waikiki.

Honolulu photo tour and attractions

Photo tour of Honolulu and region

A guided tour showing you the best spots around town and in the area with a guide and without the headache of driving, parking is a great way to spend the day and capture some of the best images and scenes around Oahu.  I would recommend doing this with someone who knows the best locations and times to be at certain spots around the main attractions of Honolulu without all the hassles.

If your visit is limited or planning is a pain, check out this local tour photography experience that you can do without all the hassles and time to enjoy the photo process and focus your energies to creating beautiful impressions of your visit. Or you can enjoy a full day tour covering Waikiki, East Hawaii and also the North Shore in a full day photo tour experience.

Leonards-bakery in Honolulu

Enjoy amazing malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery

For a delicious foodie experience, go to Leonard’s and try some of the famous malasadas (Portuguese inspired doughnuts and now a local favorite dessert). These fried goodies are best hot and just served fresh and you can have them filled with different custards or tropical inspired flavors.

surfing lesson in Waikiki

Learn to surf on Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is the perfect surfing beach in Oahu with shallow water that expands far out at a distance from the beach area and with a sandy soil bottom to land on when you fall. Learning to surf on Waikiki is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a new adventure experience or even brush up on some of your surfing background.

Check out this fantastic surfing lesson experience on Waikiki Beach here for more information and planning for your surfing fun on the beach.


Honolulu Museum of Art

If you’re into visiting museums, this museum is definitely worth visiting containing an eclectic mix of Polynesian inspired artifacts, artwork, sculpture and spanning from ancient tribal to contemporary styles of art and expression. The Honolulu Museum of Art hosts and impressive collection along with some fascinating rotating shows highlighting the unique history and culture of Pacific Island lifestyle and interests. Check out their website here for more information and details to the current shows on their calendar.

Visit to Shangri La in Honolulu

Tour Shangri la

The famous American heiress Doris Duke created her own Shangri La Mansion that shines like a Persian jewel box in the middle of the Pacific coastline in Honolulu. Created entirely to look and feel like a Muslim palace, the home has been customized with spectacular marbles, hand-maid inlay tiles and intricate Islamic artwork showcasing the best art she purchased from various sources. This amazing Shangri La fronting the Pacific Ocean is truly one of a kind filled with art, sculpture, artifacts and other treasures. Tours to this special place have to be arranged in advanced but you can easily book a reservation on their website here for visiting this amazing and historic home.

Atlantic submarine tours in Honolulu

Atlantis Submarine Tours

If you are looking to see the bottom ocean floor in Hawaii without getting your feet wet, then sign up for this Atlantic Submarine Tour which will take you under 100 feet of Oahu’s coastline. You can experience the real marine life, tropical fish and corals that exists around the coastlines of Oahu especially the hidden marine areas around Diamond Head’s coast which is not easily accessible on your own.

Check out the Atlantic submarine experience here for more details to enjoying a different tour of the area.

hiking Manoa Falls in Honolulu

Visit Manoa Falls in Honolulu

Located in Honolulu area towards the university, Manoa falls is an easy hike through a lush jungle area called Rainbow valley with all the rain and rainbows occurring daily in the area. You’ll know when your close when you reach the rock cliff areas where Manoa falls cascades about 150 feet from the top to the basin area to a shallow lagoon. When you are in the area already, check out the Lyon Arboretum which is close by. You can check more details about visiting Manoa Falls here for planning a hike to the falls and surrounding area.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Snorkel/Dive experience

What’s not to like with a snorkel or dive experience to round out the Waikiki fun. This snorkel tour here will take you on a sailing experience to some fun spots around Oahu to check out all the cool sea life, tropical fish, green sea turtles and coral reef to explore and snorkel through. Providing, transportation services, equipment and a nice meal you’ll enjoy this guided tour and not have to deal with driving and parking issues around the island. For a more extensive diving experience around Waikiki including two diving wrecks, this tour is unique and fun to do in Oahu.

Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu

Explore a mature and lush Lyon arboretum in Honolulu

If you love natural gardens then visit the Lyon Arboretum very close to Manoa Falls. Entrance is free but a requested donation of $5 helps to maintain the expansive gardens in the park.  Large with lush garden areas and an inspiration point that really inspires, it is hard to believe that this is just in the city limits with all this tropical splendor and beautiful landscape to enjoy. Check out visiting the Lyon Arboretum here for more details and inspiration to seeing this lush and mature garden in Oahu.

Shave ice experience in honolul

Waiola Shaved Ice

If you are looking for a really good shaved Ice experience in Honolulu then check out the different locations that you can find Waiola Shaved Ice. The longest running shave ice store on all the island, the Moilili location is the original location to go for that authentic experience. Check out the Waiola Shaved Ice website to find the closest location and hours.

Honolulu Zoo experience

Visit the Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo located at Kapiolani park is the perfect family friendly attraction that is colorful and filled with a fantastic assortment of animals regionally and from around the world. The gorgeous tropical settings and environments make this zoo fun to explore specially to capture in photographs with friends and family. Check out the Honolulu Zoo’s website here for more details and information to what’s currently happening or any other special events currently going on.

Duke surfer statue in Waikiki

Duke Statue at Waikiki

The world-famous Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku has a bronze statue located on Waikiki beach right at the end of hotels. A well-loved water sports leader and spirit of Aloha, you will always find fresh leis adorning this sculpture with outstretched hands.  It’s a perfect spot to take pictures of the surfer typically adorned with fresh and old leis. With fantastic views of Waikiki beach and ocean in the background, this is the perfect moment to capture with your friends and family along with the Duke of Waikiki.

Ala Moana Shopping center

Dining and shopping at Ala Moana Center

This is the largest open-air shopping mall in the Pacific and filled with high end designer shops, local galleries and art, souvenir and gift specialty vendors and the biggest food court you’ll find around Oahu along with a cool Japanese food walking court.  There’s plenty of things to see and do at Ala Moana Center and the outdoor venues and even outdoor food venues really complement the Hawaii lifestyle and shopping at its best.

snorkeling Hanauma bay in Honolulu

Hanauma Bay

One of the best snorkeling areas on Oahu and a marine preserve sanctuary, Hanauma Bay is quite spectacular and well maintained. You have to go through a video entry to the park first and then have access to the park and beach areas. What you’ll find at Hanauma Bay is a magnificent crescent shaped beach protected by small cliffs with beautiful coral beds, colorful tropical fish and some cool marine life that may unexpectedly show up. Definitely worth visiting and enjoying the beach and snorkel experience, check out the Haunama Bay website here for more details on entrance, conservation and other updated news to your snorkel experience in Waikiki area.

Honolulu hula show

A delicious Luau show and buffet

A fantastic one of a kind luau experience with a large buffet spread in Waikiki, this luau show and dinner here also includes entrance to the Waikiki Aquarium.  Dinner includes a different farm to table experience with locally sourced local foods and other specialties.

KCC Farmers market in Honolulu

Visit a local Farmers market in Honolulu

Check out local life, snacks and goodies, and fresh local produce at these local farmers markets. Held every Wednesday on the Lawn at the Blaisdell Center, the farmers market is held from 4 to 7pm. At the KCC farmers market facing the Diamond Head entrance, the market is on Saturday from 7:30- 11am and on Tuesdays evenings from 4 to 7pm. For a comprehensive list of farmers market here in Honolulu and the entire Oahu island.

Shirokiya Japan walk village

Japanese food experience at Shirokiya’s Japan Village Walk

For a unique food experience check out the Shirokiya’s Japan Village Walk at the Ala Moana Center. Modeled after a Japanese village, this walk has over 30 kiosks serving typical and favorite Japanese foods and local beers. There is a cool set up buddhas in the back that serve as guardian spirit for the area. A cool and unique Japanese foodie experience in Honolulu, check out their official website here for details and other new updates on the Village Walk.

Sunset cruise in Waikiki and Honolulu

Sunset cruise on Waikiki at night

A sunset cruise is a great time to experience to enjoy sunset on the water and fantastic views of Waikiki and the golden hour. Many cruises do offer cruises with dining or drinking options to compliment the cruising experience.  Most of the experiences launch right on Waikiki beach with catamarans that offer a typical 1 ½ to 2-hour tour cruising the coastline and passing through popular attractions in the area.

Check out this sunset sailing cruise tour with appetizers, drinks and a two hour cruise and launching right on Waikiki beach.  Or check out this elaborate dinner buffet cruise with fireworks experience is a really way to do it up for the once in a lifetime experience cruising Waikiki.

Visiting Iolani palace in Honolulu

Tour Honolulu’s Iolani Palace

The royal Iolani palace built in 1882 by King Kalakaua is where the last queen, Liliuokalani was living prior to the US coup that overthrew her government and installed an interim colonial government. This once royal palace was at its time, the most innovative and outstanding royal palace and the only one in the USA in its time frame. Filled with magnificent furniture, artifacts, memorabilia and even fashion of the royals during that time frame, you’ll get to see all of these wonderful collection within the palace rooms. You can visit the palace with a docent tour by registering for a set tour on the Iolani Palace website here for more details and instructions to the tour.

exploring the Bishop museum in Honolulu

Experience Hawaiian history at the Bishop Museum

The rich and cultural heritage and tradition of the ancient Hawaiians are well presented at the renovated Bishop Museum in Kahili. This expansive museum houses Polynesian artifacts, historical treasures even royal adornments and fascinating exhibits to explore. The museum shares the history of the early voyagers and Polynesian settlers, Hawaiian and cultural beliefs or exhibits and folklore along with features on Volcanoes, different cultures, even early sporting events on the Hawaiian Islands. Check out the calendar and new shows at the Bishop Museum here for updated information, entry and other events.

Helicopter rider over Diamond Head in Honolulu

Helicopter tour over Honolulu

A night tour above Waikiki and Honolulu along with an amazing firework display is one of the most spectacular helicopter experiences you can have in Hawaii. This helicopter tour offers a real one of kind experience cruising the south shore, Pearl Harbor and all over Waikiki.

A day helicopter tour over the Pali mountains, east side of Oahu and Waikiki is another fun option to see the spectacular attractions from above.

Walking through Honolulu's Chinatown

Visit Honolulu’s Chinatown district

On the outskirts of Honolulu and Waikiki is the large Chinatown district which has gone through a big change and now is a popular and hip area for cool art galleries, cafes and a monthly First Friday series event. You can also opt for the more traditional Chinese restaurants or dim sum scene, checking out the lei stands, traditional shops and produce markets that locals visit for cheap and fresh produce. Check out the Chinatown First Friday website here for updated information, pictures and calendar of fun things happening in this district.

Aloha swap meet in Honolulu

Check out the Honolulu Aloha Swap meet

Just outside Honolulu at the Aloha Stadium is the popular swap meet that happens every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. You’ll find lots of thrift and antiques, collectibles and even lots of cheap Hawaiian souvenirs to take home as gifts. Entry to the swap meet is only $1 per person. Check out the swap meet website here for more details, hours and updates.

Exploring the Waikiki aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium

Located in Waikiki off Kapiolani park, this family friendly venue has a lot of fantastic local animals and typical animals from around the world in tropical inspired environments. Admission for the aquarium is $12 per adult and $5 per child. Visit the museum’s website here for more details, admission and current shows.

The Punchbowl memorial at Honolulu

Honolulu’s Punchbowl cemetery

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific locally known as the punchbowl was built in 1948 as a cemetery for the US armed forces that died during World War II. The Punchbowl is in a dormant volcano called Pouwaina and means the hill of Sacrifice. A beautiful area with gorgeous views, cemetery and monuments, it is very peaceful and a quiet respite from busy Honolulu. Check out more details to visiting the Punchbowl here for information and directions.

Sunset on the beach in Honolulu

Enjoy sunset on the beach

A simple but inspiring way to end the day in Waikiki is a walk on the beach or just relax and watch the sunset come down with all the brilliant colors on the bay and beach area. Afterwards the twinkling lights of Waikiki’s shopping streets and restaurants beckon you to stop by and check out all the fun and delicious food venues waiting for hungry appetites.

Hiking Koko Head in Oahu

Hike Koko Head Stairs

This is a fantastic workout climbing an ancient tuff cone with an old abandoned railway that serviced bunkers that were built on top of the cone. You climb over these railroad ties (that’s over 1000 steps ) all the way to the ridgeline and the trail truly a cardio workout if you don’t take any breaks on the way to the top. Once there, will be rewarded with fantastic views of the east side of the island and the Hawaii Kai area of Portlock.

Check out these amazing views from the top of Koko crater trail.

Views above Koko Head stairs

Looking to save more money while on vacation

Check out the Go Oahu Card which will save you with admission to the most popular attractions on the island with a 1, 2, 3, 5 to 7-day pass. This includes entrance to many must visit places like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, Dole plantation and a variety of snorkeling excursions and more. With a few of these bigger experiences you can easily save some money on this vacation. You can purchase the Go Card here.

where to stay in Honolulu

Where to stay in Honolulu

With most of the hotels located in Waikiki, you can find the full gamut of hotel accommodations that can fit your needs and budget. Check out these highly rated Trip Advisor reviews of the best hotels in Waikiki below.

The Outrigger Beach Resort in Waikiki – is right on the beach and in a great location with excellent service, many rooms with ocean views/city views and excellent value for the money. Check the TA site here for the reviews and images of this highly rated hotel.

Prince Waikiki – on the edge of Waikiki and a close walk to the Ala Moana Center. This quiet hotel is away from all the bustle of Waikiki, excellent ratings, service and comfortable rooms. Check the TA site here for the reviews and images of this highly rated hotel.

Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach – features 1 to 2 bedroom suites and kitchenette. Also free breakfast, poolside reception and just steps to famous Waikiki Beach and shops. Check the TA site here for the reviews and images of this highly rated hotel.

Ilikai Lite – 5 star ratings to this quality 3 star hotel with excellent service, free wiki, good walking distance to beach and shopping, and really good value for Waikiki. Check the TA site here for the reviews and images of this highly rated hotel.

Check out more of the best rated hotels with Trip Advisor here for images, details and un biased reviews from visitors.

Check out these additional Oahu posts

Exploring the North Shore of Oahu

Horseback riding in Hawaii

Free of Cheap things to do on Oahu

Best kid friendly beaches in Oahu

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Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Top things to do in Honolulu. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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North Shore Oahu

North Shore Oahu

North Shore Oahu

The north shore of Oahu is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists that want to get away from busy Honolulu to check out the local spots and fun attractions in the area.  There’s a full gamut of cool little towns, amazing snorkeling spots, surfing beaches and lush tropical forests and waterfalls to explore in the North Shore of Oahu. If you’re looking for what to do, check out these top things to do on Oahu’s north shore area below for more inspiration and planning your visit to the area.

Top things to do on Oahu’s north shore area

Gorgeous north shore beaches in Oahu

Explore the old town of Haleiwa

Haleiwa town in the north shore beaches in Oahu

The old cowboy town of Haleiwa has become more popular and upscale with indie shops, shopping centers and fun bar/restaurants to hang out in including all those surf/beach shops that cater to the surfing crowd here. Favorite places to hang out in include the local surf shops, Matsumoto shave ice, The Red Dirt store and other cool art galleries on the main road.

Waimea valley and falls in Oahu

Hike through lush forests & waterfall at Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is a lush and tropical oasis in the North Shore filled with lush tropical forests, beautiful gardens, various reconstructed temples and villages and at the end, gorgeous Waimea waterfalls that you can swim up to. It is a spectacular visit and hike through different parts of the valley and up to the main waterfalls. If you have more than a few hours to enjoy nature, this is the place to go visit just across from Waimea Beach park.

Address – 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712-8411

Dole plantation in Oahu

Dole plantation gardens and tours

The Dole plantation is a fun tourist destination to visit and learn about the pineapple industry on Oahu and tour the gardens and smaller pineapple fields on the plantation.  There is a fun maze and tropical gardens to explore along with large visitor center and souvenir shop on site.

Check out this tour of the Dole Plantation and a North Shore island tour here for more details and prices.

Address of the Dole plantation – 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786

La'ie Hawaii Temple

La’ie Hawaiian Temple

Located on the northeastern section of oahu is a beautiful Mormon temple and grounds open for the public to explore. You can visit the the La’ie Temple tourist center and ask for some guides to show you around the grounds and other areas of interest in these beautiful grounds and sharing the history of the local Laie community close by.

Address of the temple 55-600 Naniloa Loop, Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2202

Bonzai Pipeline in the North Shore

Check out Big surf at Banzai Pipeline

The famous Banzai Pipeline is active and a fun place to be in winter time. When the surf is up the surfing competition is at its peak, it’s time to head out to Pupuke’a and Sunset Beach park to see the big wave action. Even during the non-peak time frame, it is fun to just go out and see the locals enjoying the ocean surf at this well-known attraction in the North Shore area.

 Location – Sunset Beach Park, Pupuke a, Oahu, HI

Sharks cove in Oahu

Enjoy some family friendly snorkeling at Sharks Cove

A popular and kid friendly snorkeling spot located right next to the Pupuke a beach park. With diverse sea life, corals and tropical fish, it is a perfect place for beginners or younger children to wade, swim or snorkel in a protected cove area of the North Shore

Located at 59-711 Kamehameha Hwy, between Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, Pupuke a, Oahu, HI 96712-9404

Pupuke'a beach park

Pupuke a Beach Park

The main beach park that has Sharks Cove on the far side of the beach, Pupuke’a has a sandy golden beach is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, tide pool exploring and sunsets. There’s even food trucks and super market across the street so you have easy take out food to bring with you to the beach.

Located at 59-727 Kamehameha Highway, North Shore, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712

The rocks at Waimea beach park

Jump off the big rocks at Waimea beach park

One of the most popular and beautiful beaches on the North Shore, Waimea bay has one huge rock outcrop on the far side of the beach that local kids love to climb and jump off and do some crazy dives. It’s relatively safe if you start lower and do just simple jumps if you are looking for a fun and free adventure experience at Waimea Bay

Address – Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712-1304

Mukuleia Beach Park in the north shore

 Exploring Mukuleia Beach Park

The popular series lost was filmed here and during the week, you’ll have the beach area mostly to yourself along with a slew of Honu (green sea turtles) to share the beach area with. On a windy day, you’ll spot quite a few wind surfers or sky divers doing some initial training close by.  There are picnic tables but no lifeguards or public facilities at the beach park area.

Address – Farrington Highway, Waialua, Oahu, HI 96791

Have your pick of the food trucks & shopping at Hukilau Marketplace

Located next to the Polynesian Cultural Center with lots of great food trucks, eating venues and shopping/galleries to explore and find some cool souvenirs. if you’re in the area or exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center. Or just passing through and hungry, this is a perfect place to take a break and find some good grindz (food)

Address – 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2113

Kahuku-Farms in Oahu

Check out Kahuku organic farms

A great place to visit for those interested in local farming and crops grown in the area, there is also tour that you can sign up for their grand tour by wagon on their farm to learn about the history of the farm and local community and serving the various markets around. There is also a nice café where you can order some wonderful smoothies or take out food or other farm goodies.

Located at 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, Oahu, HI 96731-2302

Waialua Estate Coffee and Chocolate at Haleiwa

Experience Waialua Estate Coffee and Chocolate

There’s a cool old factory vibe at the Waialua estate and you can also sign up for a free tour that shares the coffee making and production process. They sell some delicious types of coffees and also try some local produced chocolate and other goodies that they sell on site.

Located at 67 Kupahu St, Waialua, Oahu, HI 96791

Matsumoto shave ice

Have a shave ice at famous Matsumoto Shave Ice

Located in Haleiwa town, the shave ice here is famous and really good! There’s always a line out the door so allocate some time to wait and then explore some of the cool galleries and main road shops at Haleiwa

Address – 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Polynesian-Cultural-center in Oahu

Enjoy the Polynesian Cultural Center

One of the most popular attractions in the North Shore of Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is 42 acres of 6 authentic Polynesian villages of Tahitian, Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan, Fiji and New Zealand, cultural programs, an expansive luau and a dynamic evening show. A great experience for families or first-time visitors to the island and enjoy a totally Polynesian experience.

Check out the admission to the Polynesian Cultural Center and luau here for more details and current prices.

Address – 55-370 Kamehameah Hwy., Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2113

Giovanni's food truck in Haleiwa

Eat at any of the delicious shrimp trucks

The North Shore is famous for the shrimp trucks that feature the local shrimp farmed in the area and create a delicious garlicky shrimp and rice plate lunch dish. The most famous called Giovanni’s is the signature truck to visit, even though there are a lot of cookie cutter versions located all around the North Shore area. Stop here for some yummy grindz (food) and you’re looking for something delicious to eat that is local. There are quite a few other food trucks congregated around a food truck zone in Haleiwa where Giovanni’s is also located.

Address for Giovanni’s truck – 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

exploring the north shore of Oahu

Other fun North Shore Tour Experiences

If you are looking for more thrills and adventure experiences to the North Shore, check out all these fantastic group tours below.

North Shore tour with a snorkel swim in Hanauma Bay

North Shore Zip Line adventure and farm tour

A two hour shark dive in the North Shore

Where to stay in the North Shore area

There are nice hotels, Bnb’s and air BnB’s, hostels and camping available to cover different needs to stay in the area. Here are some of the recommended hotels and boutiques in the area with great ratings and reviews.

Courtyard Marriott Northshore – located adjacent to the Polynesian Cultural Center – check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.

Turtle Bay Resort – 4 star accommodations on the North Shore. Check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.

Kalani Private Lodging – boutique lodging located in the Haleiwa area. Check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.

Check out these other Oahu experiences

Fun or cheap things to do in Oahu

Best family friendly beaches in Oahu

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Horseback riding in Hawaii

Horseback riding in Hawaii

If you’re like me you grew up reading the Black Stallion series. If you’re like me you simply drooled over the film when it premiered. As an adult I now realize that this Francis Ford Coppola classic was a stunning work of filmmaking and was even nominated for an Oscar in film editing and won a special achievement award for sound editing. 

And of course, the great Mickey Rooney was nominated for his role as well. 

While my Black Stallion was a chestnut Appaloosa, and my deserted island was a ranch in Oklahoma, I always dreamed of galloping a horse down a wide stretch of open beach, bareback with my arms thrown wide, just as Kelly Reno did in the film. 

Horseback riding in Hawaii

History of Horseback riding in Hawaii

While the US state of Hawaii is a top tourist destination for many obvious reasons, it’s also a fantastic place to experience the thrill of riding. Hawaiian cowboys called paniolos have been riding the ranges of the islands for over 150 years, and Parker Ranch on the Big Island is the oldest working cattle ranch in the United States, and one of the largest. Parker Ranch no longer offers horseback riding in Hawaii but they celebrate many equestrian events throughout the year.

If a visit to Hawaii is on your travel list, and you’d like to include horseback riding in Hawaii on that trip, these are a few of the places to make your dreams a reality, set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Horseback riding on the Big Island

Horseback riding in the Big Island 

I live in Hilo and I think it’s one of the most special places on earth. Volcanos, rainforests, vast lava fields, and more combine to make this youngest member of the island chain a traveler’s dream. While it’s not quite as well known for its beaches as the neighbor islands, there are still plenty of places to go horseback riding on the Big Island. 

Ponoholo Ranch located in the highlands of Kohala is a rider’s dream. This working cattle ranch offers several rides designed to cater to various ability levels and desired experiences. Experienced riders will have the chance to canter through Kohala’s green valleys, and those who have never ridden can choose a ride on calm and gentle horses. All riders will have the ability to view the sweeping coastline of the Pacific Ocean, see both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, and catch a glimpse of the island of Maui on a clear day. This is horseback riding in Hawaii at its finest.

Horseback riding on the  Kohala region of the Big Island

One of the most stunning areas of the Big Island is Waipio Valley. Located at the northern tip of the island, this area is famous for its black sand beach and towering waterfalls. It’s also home to a small herd of feral horses. While you can’t ride any of those horses, you can take a tour with Na’alapa Stables on one of their trusty steeds. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the feral herd frolicking on the beach.

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The authentic cowboy experience👌

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Horse back riding in Maui 

As one of the most visited islands in the state, Maui is home to a wealth of things to do, both in and out of the water. Horseback riding in Maui is an incredible way to catch sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, some of the neighbor islands, and ride through misty forests and vast pineapple fields. 

Mendes Ranch, owned and operated by the Mendes family, has been a working ranch since the 1940’s. They offer morning and afternoon rides along the coastline and finish with a stop on the beach. Experienced riders who are eager for something other than the nose to tail experience can book private rides and those who feel confident are able to gallop at a few points along the ride. They also offer a combination horseback and helicopter tour, which sounds like an adventurer’s dream come true. 

Makena Stables on the island’s southern shore has been in operation since 1983, and the owners are active in Maui’s rodeo community. The horses they use for their rides are fit and healthy, and the trails offer some of the best views of the southern coast of Maui. Take their sunset ride in the winter months where you’ll not only see one of Hawaii’s dazzling sunsets but you may see humpback whales breaching offshore. 

Horseback riding in Oahu 

The island of Oahu is much more than Waikiki Beach and the high rises of Honolulu. Its lush and varied terrain is dreamy and exquisite, and if I weren’t already so attached to the Big Island I might call it my favorite. Let’s just say it’s close. 

With a larger population than any of the other islands there are more opportunities for horseback riding on Oahu than on the other islands, and there is even a thriving polo club and competition scene that includes dressage, jumping, and western riding

However, the best stable with the best trails, in my opinion, is Kualoa Ranch. They offer a variety of rides to choose from but what makes them stand out from the rest is the fact that the trails you’ll be riding on take you through portions of the filming location for Lost. You’ll also see some old bunkers from World War II and the sheer beauty that is the Ka’a’awa Valley. Book early as their rides often sell

Hawaii is a beautiful and unique part of the world, and there is little question as to why it’s one of the most visited places in the United States, or the world. If you find yourself in the Aloha State and horseback riding in Hawaii is on your bucket list, consider one of these outfitters. 

You’ll be saying mahalo nui loa to your horses and your guides before you know it. 

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Guest writer bio

Cate Brubaker is a writer who has traveled to more than 40 countries, many of those in a camper when she and her husband drove from the United States to Argentina over a three year period. She loves horseback riding, SCUBA diving, and eating all the food. She and her husband currently live in Hilo, Hawaii.

Check out her blog at The Life Nomadic

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

For such an expensive place to visit, you can actually do a lot of things for free or on the cheap in Oahu. From seeing attractions, doing an adventure experience, or just enjoying the beach in Oahu, there’s quite a lot you can do for free or cheap if you plan ahead and take advantage of all the free things you can do below. Check out the best free or cheap adventure experience in Oahu below to inspire to discover what you can do here on a dime.

Top 15 fun or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free HIkiing trails in Oahu trails

1.Go on a hike

There are so many amazing hikes that you can do around the island and most of them are free and a great way to see the fascinating and beautiful landscape of the area. Check out these fabulous hikes here for more details and inspiration.

2. Go snorkeling for free in Oahu

Snorkeling fun in Sharks Cove Oahu
Snorkeling fun in Sharks Cove Oahu

Snorkeling can be done around the island at various places where the tropical fish and coral still thrive and you have some snorkel equipment available to use. Among the most popular places include the protected snorkeling beach at Haunama Bay, Sharks Cove and Kahe Point Beach park. To find out the best spots for snorkeling check out all these fantastic snorkel sites here for you to visit for more information and additional web sites.

3. Rent a bike

You can do a cheap bike rental in Oahu at Waikiki through Biki which has over 130 Biki stops around Honolulu and rates as cheap as $4.00 in a one way route to longer use passes. Check out the Biki system and fares here for more details on these cheap rent a bikes here in Honolulu area.

4. Climb Diamond Head

Climbing up Diamond Head in Oahu
Climbing up Diamond Head in Oahu

One of the most popular attractions to do in Waikiki is to climb Diamond Head and enjoy the spectacular views of the city and coastline below. The visit and hike up through Diamond Head is only $1 for admission or $5 per car to the park and the hike up is about 1.4 mile roundtrip walk or about a 45 – 60 minute round trip walk depending on how many stops you make along the way. You can do this easily and better in the early morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat but also get spectacular light for views and photography. Check out the parks website here for more details and hours.

5. Ride The Bus around the island

A different take on riding around the island on the cheap instead of renting a car or doing a tour, you can go on The Bus on a one way trip around the island for only $2.50 and this includes one free transfer/stop you want to do along the way. Check out more details on the circle island bus tour cheap or multi day passes on The Bus here for more information.

6. Visit a botanical garden

Visit a Botanical Garden in Oahu Hawaii
Exploring a Botanical Garden in Oahu

You can go to a many of Oahu’s botanical garden for free and explore the many tropical plants and lush landscapes on your own instead of booking a tour. Check out the Parks and Rec botanical garden site here of all these spectacular gardens for doing your own DIY tour or follow along with a docent on a guided tour.

7. Explore Pearl Harbor for free

Free visit to Pearl Harbor national monument

If you catch da bus to Pearl Harbor or an inexpensive Uber ride, the rest of the visit and boat trip to the monument to the USS Arizona is all free. You can visit the grounds, video show and docent tour all for free as part of the national monument at Pearl Harbor. and the Arizona Memorial You do have to book reservations in advanced at this site to secure a timed entry admission, so book early. Although there are cancellations and availability different times during the day.

8. DIY historic walking tour of Honolulu

Visit historic Honolulu in Oahu
Visit historic Honolulu and the Iolani Palace in Oahu

You can actually join a free walking tour of Honolulu’s historic attractions here and enjoy the highlight attractions and key monuments in the area. This walking tour will give you a peek to the history, settlement and architecture of this historic district in Honolulu. The DIY tour is free and just follow the direction on the web site.

9. Go body surfing

Body surfing adventure in Oahu Hawaii
Body surfing at Lanikai in Oahu

There are so many wonderful body surfing beaches on Oahu and Waikiki beach being the most popular beach to do that in with a fantastic sandy bottom to enjoy this sport. Check out these other fun body surfing spots around the island you can go and have a real water adventure

10. Go surfing for cheap

Learn how to surf in Oahu Hawaii

If you know how to surf, all you need is to rent a board for a few hours and there are many beach areas that have hourly renting of surf boards available for you to enjoy. Check out this site for more information on rentals available in the area. If your new to surfing, you can go on the cheap by watching some free You Tube tutorials to get the basics and then rent a board and hang out with the newbies on the beach.

11. Kayaking on the cheap in Oahu

Kayaking in Oahu Hawaii
Kayaking in Lanikai, Oahu Hawaii

Same as surfing above you can rent a kayak for a nominal amount by the hour or half day to save on some costs of the equipment versus doing a kayak tour which is pretty pricey with the various operators. Check out this site for places you can actually rent kayaks by the hour.

12. SUP boarding on Oahu

Learning how to SUP board in Oahu

Want to do some SUP or try a SUP (Stand up Paddle) experience? You can do like the other water sports above by renting a SUP board by the hour from various locations. If your new to SUP, check out some easy beginning You Tube videos for basic instructions on how to get started on this easy sport.

13. Challenge yourself to climb up Koko Head

Excercise climb up Koko Head, Oahu
Molokini climb up Koko Head, Oahu

Climbing the steep Koko crater trail is a big challenge but you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Eastern side of Oahu on your 1050 steps up to the top of the crater. Parking is free and easy and the trail head is easy to spot and before you know, you’ll be doing a major stair master challenge. Check out more details of the Koko Crater trail here for more information and images.

14. Go running at these iconic Oahu routes

Running along Waikiki beach
Running along Waikiki beach

Picture a perfect beach and jogging through the soft sands back and forth a few times to get a workout in and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Or you can run through various historic districts or fantastic landscapes that are beautiful to pass through and enjoy these popular local running routes. Check out these top runs in Honolulu here for more inspiration and images.

15. Enjoy a waterfall at Manoa Falls

hike for free at  Manua, Oahu

A relatively easy hike to get to at Manoa falls, this short .8 mile roundtrip hike is easy and passes through green and scenic landscapes meandering through bamboo forests, rainforest and the base of the Exercise mountains. You’ll walk parallel to the Manoa stream until you hit the base of the waterfall which is 150 feet in height. Check out the details of visiting the Manoa falls and surrounding areas here for more details.

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There you have it, What to do in Oahu for free or cheap with 15 tips that won’t break the bank. Bookmark this post for future reference when you are looking for some F ree or cheap things to do in Oahu from the typical sightseeing experience.

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