5 Oahu Tourist Spots that are Worth a Visit
Living in Hawaii has its ups and downs, just like any other area. One major con? The tourists. They crowd beaches, cause traffic, and definitely overdo the floral print. Honeymooners are easy to spot and hard to avoid during peak season. These bright-eyed people snapping photos of every plant and sign flock to a few standard “tourist spots” on Oahu and I have to admit, I completely understand why. These are the spots that locals would love to stay away from, but most can’t—they’re just too beautiful or amazing or fun or all of the above.
When friends or family or strangers on the plane visit Hawaii, I always recommend hitting up the lesser-known locations on the island. The beaches are less crowded and more beautiful, the restaurants are less expensive and more authentic, and the bars are filled with great people and great drinks instead of coconut bras and grass skirts. However, these five major tourist spots are irresistible—for anyone! My friends and I, and other locals as well, gladly surf through waves of sunburnt travelers for another experience at one of these attractions.
Turtle Beach: One of the first stops along North Shore, Laniakea Beach is extremely unique because multiple Hawaiian green turtles can usually be seen casually basking on the shore or swimming in the calm waves. The huge turtles, or honu, aren’t shy at all here. However, this became a problem when some people didn’t treat the creatures with respect, causing a group to band together to protect the turtles all day, every day. The Honu Guardians place red rope around the turtles so that people won’t disturb them. They also know everything about the honu, and happily dole out interesting facts and pamphlets to visitors. I was blown away to learn that the green turtles swim 500 miles to lay their eggs on another island—and then the newborns find their way to Laniakea Beach and the process starts all over. It’s an amazing spot on Oahu that offers an incredible up-close interaction with an animal that is absolutely fascinating.
Diamond Head: To call Diamond Head a hike is a bit of a stretch. There are plenty of real hikes on the island, and this one is more of a “trail” in comparison. But that’s one reason why so many people love it—it’s easy and the view is an exceptional pay-off for the little amount of physical exertion applied. The entire path is paved, some of which consists of actual staircases. You’ll definitely break a sweat, but more so because of the sun beating down upon you. The breathtaking view is hidden until you reach the very top (which only takes about 45 minutes at a normal pace). It’s been bustling with all kinds of people every time I’ve been, but it’s worth it—nice work out, fantastic weather, and a gorgeous view of downtown Honolulu wrapping around the ocean.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: You haven’t had shrimp until you’ve had this $13 plate of pure heaven. And yes, it’s out of a truck. Tucked in Haleiwa, a small town in North Shore, this truck attracts an eclectic mix of people every day. I’ve never been and not had to stand in a line. But the buttery, garlic-filled platter of a dozen shrimp and two scoops of rice is well, well worth the wait.
Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice: Open since 1951, Matsumoto’s sells one hell of a shaved ice. You can opt for something common, like coconut or strawberry, or you can explore some local flavors like lilikoi or li hing mui. Even the small size is huge, but you won’t have a problem finishing your frozen treat. Like everything on this list, be prepared to wait in a crazy line. But again—worth it. Make sure to pay an extra 25 cents for a plastic holder, which catches any drips or spills—you won’t want to waste one drop!
Hanauma Bay: The best snorkeling that I’ve found on the island yet. Unfortunately, you do have to pay to get in to this nature reserve area, and again with the lines and crowds, but the wildlife in the bay is a sight you can’t miss. The reef offers some of the most beautiful fish species, turtles, and coral on the island. Plus, the bay is calm and safe, and a great beach area to just relax on after you snorkel.
So there you go—five spots on Oahu that are super touristy, but also can’t help but attract locals like myself as well. It’s hard to avoid any parts of the island, honestly, because it is just as beautiful as the postcards. I still say that you’ll have a much better trip if you experience the lesser-known spots, like Stairway to Heaven, but these five sites have to be crossed off of your list as well.