Secret things to do in Oahu

Secret things to do in Oahu: Places locals go and hang out (updated 2023)

Secret things to do in Oahu (off the beaten path, local or unusual activities on island)

For such a populated island, it would be hard to think there are only some local or secret places that haven’t been visited by tourists exploring the island.

But there are a few places outside of the tourist map that are fun to explore and mostly visited by locals or insiders in the know on the island. Whether or not they are really secret or just under the radar is up to you to discover if you’ve heard or visited any of these places on Oahu before, they are all worth visiting if you happen to be in the same area.

Weather and best time to visit Oahu

When planning a trip to Oahu, it’s essential to consider the weather and the best time to visit this beautiful Hawaiian island:

Weather Overview: Oahu enjoys a tropical climate with consistent temperatures throughout the year. The island experiences two primary seasons: the dry season and the wet season.

Dry Season (April – October):

  • Best Time to Visit: Oahu’s dry season, particularly from April to October, is considered the best time for a visit. Expect warm and sunny weather, making it ideal for outdoor activities, beach days, and exploring the island.

Wet Season (November – March):

  • Rainfall: Oahu’s wet season, from November to March, can bring occasional rain showers. However, the island remains relatively warm, and the rain typically doesn’t last all day.
  • Considerations: While the wet season sees more rainfall, it’s also less crowded, and you can find great deals on accommodations and activities.

Festivals and Events:

  • Honolulu Festival (March): A celebration of Pacific Rim cultures with parades and performances.
  • Hawaii Food and Wine Festival (October): If you’re a food enthusiast, this culinary event showcases the best of Hawaiian cuisine.

Weather Tips:

  • Sun Protection: Regardless of the season, pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats to protect yourself from the sun’s strong rays.
  • Rain Gear: If visiting during the wet season, it’s a good idea to carry an umbrella or rain jacket for unexpected showers.

Conclusion: The best time to visit Oahu depends on your preferences. The dry season, from April to October, offers the most consistent and pleasant weather for outdoor activities. However, if you don’t mind the occasional rain and prefer fewer crowds, the wet season can be a more budget-friendly option. Regardless of when you visit, Oahu’s stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality await your exploration.

Fun, local and secret things to do in Oahu now

China Walls in East Oahu

China Walls

Located on the east side of the island close to Hanauma bay is an area of rugged and layers of Lava rock that butt up directly into the ocean. Known also as Koko Kai Mini Beach Park, there are no sandy beaches but these rugged cliffs and a popular local spot to jump off the rocks and also go snorkeling. There are different levels or ledges to jump off from and you’ll see all different age groups come and jump into the ocean. China Walls is also a great spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset experience if you’re not into doing any jumping fun along the cliff areas.

Don’t attempt jumping into the water if your not familiar with the ocean or not with a local who can help you.

Instead enjoy the scenes here and even hang out for sunset time frame when it is busy with locals enjoying end of day at China walls.

Tip – only try this at low tide when the water is calm, if the waves are strong, then people can easily get pushed into the rocks and making it very dangerous.

Uncle’s Fish Market

Uncle’s Fish Market

Not so unknown and still popular with locals in the area, Uncle’s Fish Market is a popular local favorite seafood spot to eat in Honolulu. Located in the industrial neighborhood close to the Honolulu Fish Auction, you’ll find the best and fresh local fish of ahi, Mahimahi, Op and other local seafoods served simple and fresh from the boat.

1135 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu;

Lanai lookout in East Hawaii

Lanai lookout

Located on the east side of the island under the shadow of Koko Head, Lanai Lookout is surreal with undulating lava and sand formations in colorful patterns.

You’ll find beautiful landscape filled with swirls, textures and patterns ranging from vibrant orange sandstone, black lava and some white highlights. It is a fascinating place to explore and photograph and even watch some marine life and migrating whales that pass through the area in season.

On a clear day you can see the neighbor islands of Lanai, Molokai and even Maui in the distance with Mt. Haleakala in the background.

 7949-7967 Kalanianaole Hwy. Honolulu, small parking lot area

Maunawili Falls

Maunawili Falls

Located on the east side of the island with a trail leading up to the falls and is about 2.8 miles roundtrip with just a slight incline. The trail is easy to follow and you have to cross the river at different points and can be very muddy and slippery on wet days.

The falls are small but you can swim around the base and some people do jump from the rock cliffs next to the waterfall and into the pond.

Tip – Do not attempt to jump off the rocks especially on rainy days when the currents are strong and dangerous in the water area.

Isolated sunset experience on the west side end

Isolated sunset experience on the west side end

Ka’ena Point Natural Area reserve is rugged, wild and lonely, but perfect for those looking for solitude and no crowds. Any time is great to visit but late afternoon into sunset is a great time to enjoy the area, tidepool exploration and watching the sunset from the area.

End of Highway 930, Makua;

A small but not crowded farmers market at Kaka’ako

Located at the parking deck of the Ala Moana mall on Saturday, the vendors work the major markets but also are present here including Ma’o Organic Farms and Naked Cow Dairy along with other local food and freshly grown produce

1050 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu;

Kawela Bay on the North Shore of Oahu

Kawela Bay

Located on the north side of the island on the edge of the Turtle Bay resort, Kawela Bay is a lovely and secluded bay with a reef that prevents any strong waves to hit the sandy shores.

The area is quiet and protected from development with huge forested banyan trees the gives the place a mystical and almost creepy vibe. But the waters are calm and great for swimming, kayak or Sup boarding or just have a nice and easy picnic watching a natural place of beauty without the crowds.

The beach area that lines Kawela is narrow and typically not crowded with coconut and ironwood trees on the mauka side (towards the mountain / land) providing shade and shelter.

This quiet spot has been used in many televised shows of Lost, Pirates of the Caribbean and also Jumanji, Soul Surfer and Catching Fire.

Kahuku Land Farms

Kahuku Land Farms

Located at Kawela Bay area and across the road is the stand where you can get some local fruit grown in the area. Further down is the Kahuku Farm Cafe selling some popular local foods with grown in the area produce used for their dishes and smoothies.

You can have a picnic right on their large lawn area and enjoy a healthy and delicious meal with food grown locally.

You can even sign up for a farm tour if you come early during their business hours.

Moku’auia Island on the North Shore

Moku’auia Island

Moku’auia Island aka Goat Island is a small island located at Malaekahana State Recreation Area in Laie Bay. The small inlet is a bird sanctuary and less than 700 feet from the mainland shore.

You can access it by Sup or Kayak and there are trails around the perimeter of the island that you are allowed to walk around but the interior is mostly habitat for native bird species that are protected and should be left alone.

There are three small beaches that you can reach on the shoreline trails and enjoy some quiet time and nice views of the area.

Harold Lyon Arboretum

Harold Lyon Arboretum

If you love tropical gardens, Oahu has many gems but Lyon Arboretum is really off the beaten path with 12 organized gardens to explore the vast tropical gardens and flora of the area with over 7 miles of garden area and several walking trails. You can also hike to Aihualama Falls which is not as well-known as some of the other iconic waterfalls but just as sweet and without all the crowds finding the best Instagram able spots around the island. You can also visit Manoa Falls nearby and hike the trail to this popular waterfall, a close drive from Honolulu.

3860 Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822

Shangri La in Honolulu area

Shangri La

A true gem, but not so hidden but still special is a visit to Shangri – La the exclusive home of Doris Duke, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist who created this Islamic wonderland on the coastline and collected middle eastern treasures, artwork and architectural details to make this unusual and one-of-a-kind home filled with sculpture, art and collections from Morocco, Iran, and Central Asia.

Named after one of the fabled lost paradise, Shangri La exists on this fabled coastline in East Hawaii and worth a visit.

Check out the details to visiting this magnificent home here.

Shangri La
Sherwood’s beach AKA Waimanalo Bay Park

Sherwood’s beach AKA Waimanalo Bay Park

Mostly just a local beach hang out but you have over 3 mile stretch of white sandy beach to enjoy here. The northern end is taken by the Bellows air field station but the south area is open to the public to enjoy with not as many people enjoying the beach scene here in East Oahu.

There’s a string of ironwood trees to hide under the strong mid-day sun and a perfect spot for a picnic or a nice nap with fantastic beach views.

Amenities – ample parking, restroom and showers, grassy areas and picnic tables and pavilions to hang out in.

Where to go for local foods in Hawaii that only locals know about

Here are some non-touristy places to enjoy local food on Oahu, where you can savor authentic flavors away from the tourist crowds:

Helena’s Hawaiian Food (Honolulu): Helena’s has been serving traditional Hawaiian cuisine for decades. It’s a local favorite for laulau, pipikaula, and poi.

Highway Inn (Waipahu and Kaka’ako): This family-owned restaurant specializes in Hawaiian comfort food like plate lunches, kalua pig, and lomi salmon.

Kapahulu Avenue Eateries (Honolulu): Explore the eateries along Kapahulu Avenue, like Rainbow Drive-In, Kapahulu Groin Hi-Gal Sushi, and more, for local comfort food.

Liliha Bakery (Honolulu): Known for its coco puffs and loco moco, Liliha Bakery is a beloved local bakery and diner.

Yama’s Fish Market (Honolulu): Try Hawaiian poke in a local market setting. Yama’s offers a variety of fresh poke options and Hawaiian-style plate lunches.

Alicia’s Market (Honolulu): A hidden gem for local-style Hawaiian food, Alicia’s Market is known for its poke, Hawaiian plate lunches, and tasty musubi.

Da Spot (Honolulu): This casual eatery offers a diverse menu of global and local dishes, including Hawaiian plate lunches and unique fusion creations.

Kaimuki Chop Suey (Honolulu): A classic local spot for delicious Chinese-style dishes like sweet and sour spare ribs and chow mein.

Mike’s Huli Chicken (Kaneohe): For mouthwatering huli huli chicken, head to Mike’s, a hidden gem on the Windward side of Oahu.

Tamashiro Market (Honolulu): If you’re a seafood enthusiast, Tamashiro Market offers fresh seafood and poke that locals love.

Sugo’s Spaghetteria (Kaimuki): For a unique fusion of Italian and local flavors, try Sugo’s, known for its garlic furikake chicken.

These local eateries provide a genuine taste of Hawaii’s culinary culture and are cherished by the island’s residents. Enjoy your culinary journey through Oahu!

How to get around Oahu Island

Navigating Oahu Island is relatively straightforward, with several transportation options to explore the island’s diverse attractions:

Car Rental:

  • Pros: Renting a car provides maximum flexibility to explore Oahu at your pace. You can reach hidden gems and less-visited areas.
  • Cons: Traffic congestion, limited parking in popular areas, and rental costs can be high, especially during peak seasons.

TheBus (Public Transportation):

  • Pros: Oahu’s public bus system, known as “TheBus,” is an affordable and convenient way to get around the island. It serves many tourist areas.
  • Cons: Bus schedules may not align with your desired itinerary, and travel times can be longer compared to driving.

Taxis and Rideshares:

  • Pros: Taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are readily available, providing convenient point-to-point transportation.
  • Cons: Costs can add up, especially for longer trips. Traffic in urban areas can lead to higher fares.


  • Pros: Oahu has bike lanes and rental options for cyclists. Biking is an eco-friendly way to explore beachside areas and towns. In town you can opt for the Biki bikes that you can rent by hour or per day
  • Cons: Limited to shorter distances, and hilly terrain may be challenging for some riders.

The Waikiki Trolley:

  • Pros: The Waikiki Trolley offers various routes around Oahu, with stops at popular attractions. It’s a convenient option for tourists.
  • Cons: Limited coverage beyond specific tourist areas.

Tour Shuttles and Guided Tours:

  • Pros: Joining a guided tour or shuttle service can be an efficient way to visit multiple attractions in one day, especially if you want to explore specific regions.
  • Cons: Tours may have fixed itineraries and limited time at each stop.


  • Pros: In urban areas like Waikiki, walking is a pleasant way to explore shops, restaurants, and attractions.
  • Cons: Walking is limited to specific neighborhoods and may not be suitable for exploring the entire island.

Rental Scooters:

  • Pros: Electric scooters are available for rent in some areas, offering a convenient and fun way to explore.

Water Transportation:

  • Pros: Oahu’s coastlines offer opportunities for water travel, including ferries and boat tours between islands or along the coastline.
  • Cons: Limited to specific routes and destinations.

Select the transportation option that aligns with your preferences, itinerary, and budget to make the most of your visit to Oahu Island. Each mode of transportation offers a unique way to experience the island’s beauty and culture.

Check out these other posts and tips to visiting Oahu

Insider tips to visiting Oahu

Best Sunsets in Oahu

How to eat cheap in Oahu

Oahu water adventures

Oahu Helicopter tours

Final Thoughts

Althought most of these places are typically local hangouts and places that is off the tourist list, you’ll find that they are fantastic places to seek out and get a genuine taste of the island and lifestyle. I hope that you can find time to visit them when you are in the area and bookmark this post for future reference.

Conclusion on Secret things to do in Oahu

Enjoyed your visit here or any other tips to share? Please share on the comments below.

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.