If you are visiting Hawaii on a cruise, we highly recommend that you spend a few days pre-cruise on the island of Oahu. This will give you the chance to adjust to the time difference (6 hours for us!) as well as explore all the beautiful island has to offer prior to departing on your cruise. If you are wondering how to make the most of your trip to Hawaii, we have put together this list of all the Top Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii on a Cruise.
Top Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii on a Cruise
Pearl Harbor & USS Missouri
If you are visiting Hawaii for the first time, you must step back in history for a humbling tour of Pearl Harbor. You can take a guided tour or wander the grounds on your own to experience all the property has to offer including museum exhibits, videos of firsthand accounts, and memorials. The main attractions are the Battleship Missouri Memorial (located on Ford Island), the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. The USS Arizona Memorial is currently closed for structural repairs; however, tours will still provide a boat ride through Battleship Row.
Polynesian Cultural Center
For a day full of Hawaiian history and culture, head to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Located about an hour away from Honolulu, this interactive experience allows you to explore 6 different island nations through cultural presentations and exhibits. There is also Polynesian food, an authentic luau, the one of kind Ha Breath of Life show, canoe rides, and so much more. The center offers various ticket packages depending on what you want to accomplish during your visit.
Attend a Luau
If you’d prefer to get straight to the hula dancing, you can attend one of the many luaus on the island of Oahu. One of the more popular options is the Paradise Cove Luau. Here, you can enjoy some pre-dinner Hawaiian activities like lei-making and spear throwing, followed by an island buffet, and the Hawaiian revue show. Other luau options include the Royal Luau at The Royal Hawaiian hotel and Germaine’s Luau which offer similar dinner and a show experiences.
Diamond Head Hike
If you are looking for a bit of a workout and some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, take a hike up the extinct Diamond Head crater. This approximately 1 mile hike rises 560 feet over uneven and hilly terrain and includes 2 sections of steps as well as a 225 foot dimly lit tunnel. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with stunning 360 degree vistas. You can choose to take this hike on your own for a small entrance fee or book a guided tour.
You’ve probably heard the song and are eager to walk “in the sands of the Waikiki” yourself. This popular Hawaiian beach is a lively, and busy, tourist hotspot with soft sand, waves, and beautiful views of the nearby Diamond Head. Here, you can relax on the beach (chair and umbrella rentals available), stroll the beachfront promenade, partake in some watersports, catch a sunset, or enjoy some food and drinks at one of the hotels that line this strip. A popular choice is Duke’s Waikiki and its famous hula pie.
Visit the North Shore
During your visit to Oahu, be sure to get beyond the busy Waikiki area to explore the North Shore of the island. You can explore the old surf town of Haleiwa, enjoy local cuisine from one of the many food trucks, stop at the popular Matsumoto’s Hawaiian Shave Ice store, or explore the beaches. Some popular North Shore beaches are Turtle Beach (Laniakea Beach), Banzai Pipeline to watch the surfers, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach.
While it might be a bit touristy, a visit to the Dole Plantation is a great day trip for families. While you can access the grounds for free, the three main attractions will cost you a fee. You can take a plantation garden tour to view the 8 mini-gardens and local varietals. You could also hop aboard the Pineapple Express for a 2 mile, 20-minute narrated tour for some sightseeing and a bit of history on the Dole empire. If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, you can try to find your way out of the nearly two and a half miles of paths crafted into a giant garden maze. Don’t forget to grab a Dole Whip while there.
This 4,000 acre nature reserve and working cattle ranch offers various tours for you to explore the unspoiled beauty of the area. The ranch’s northern half is a popular filming location for sets of Jurassic Park, Lost, and Hawaii Five-0 to name a few. The movie tour is a popular choice at the ranch, where you can see Jurassic Park’s fallen tree, Godzilla’s footprints, and more. The southern half of the ranch is known for its ATV, horseback, and zipline tours. Combo tickets for several of the attractions are also available.
Admire Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and served as the official royal residence. It has since been registered as a National Historic Landmark and is the only official royal residence in the United States. Today, visitors can tour the palace and the grounds to admire the grandeur of its furnishings. Guided tours and self-led audio tours are available. While in the area, be sure to grab a photo of the King Kamehameha statue across from Iolani Palace.
Grand Circle Island Tour
If you have limited time on Oahu and want to make the most of your visit, we suggest a Grand Circle Island Tour. With this tour, you will get to see and/or briefly visit some of the attractions listed above and more. We found this tour that we took with Roberts Hawaii to be a great introduction to the island and a great photo-taking opportunity. Additional stops included Hanauma Bay, the Blow Hole, and Byodo-In Temple.
Have you visited Hawaii? What are some of your Top Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii on a cruise? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences visiting the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.