Can you imagine a journey where you and your significant other travel to a tropical island to escape the daily grind? There you find lush green landscapes with mountains in the distance, more than 100 breathtaking beaches in just 597 square miles (even a secret beach), and vast cultures living together in the spirit of “Aloha.” If that is not enough to make you book your flight already, the food is over-the-moon crave worthy! You will just have to see what I mean below as I explain the best things to do in Oahu for couples. There is no wonder so many people move to Hawaii from the mainland. We would love to retire here one day!
1. Visit some of Oahu’s over 100 beaches. Beware, there is a nude beach in Oahu that is easy to accidentally stumble upon. If you are into baring some or baring it all, the nude beach is called Polo Beach. Do not mistake it for Mokuleia Beach Park where you may be able to find some sea turtles lounging on the beach. That is NOT what you will find at Polo Beach. There is a Mokuleia sign close to the Polo Beach entrance, so the mistake is easy to make for tourists.
For female travelers, I would advise you to avoid Polo Beach. I was propositioned there while my husband doubled back to get something from the car on the long dirt trail to the beach. Then, we observed the same man approaching multiple other women on the beach.
2. Take a walk around Waikiki Beach to check out the shops, restaurants, and statues. There are multiple shopping centers you can visit like the Royal Hawaiian Center that posts a sign with classes for Ukulele lessons, Hula lessons, Lei Making lessons, and more. The classes do fill up fast so be early if you want to join one. They are open to anyone- you do not have to stay at the Royal Hawaiian. There is so much to explore and see in Waikiki. By strolling around Waikiki, you can get an idea of places you may want to stop during your time together in Oahu.
3. Explore the island via the public bus system. The public bus will take you all over the island. You can purchase an unlimited ride “Adult Day Pass Holo card” at any ABC Store for $9.50. Google maps gives you live, up to date, timing for when the bus will arrive at your stop. Google maps was helpful because it tracks each stop as you pass it in case you have any difficulty with the pronunciation of the stops or have a long ride. While riding the public bus, each bus stop also announces points of interest and large resorts/hotels located there.
4. If riding the bus is not your thing, rent a car. You can rent a convertible from almost any car rental agency. There is an Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. If you are looking for a short rental and you are staying in Waikiki Beach, this is very convenient. We did a one day rental and took the convertible all over Oahu exploring as much of the island as we could.
5. Snorkel with sea turtles. Just do it. If you have never done this before, try to fit this into your schedule while in Oahu. This is such an amazing experience. There are different options when it comes to snorkeling with sea turtles in Oahu. Snorkeling at Turtle Canyon almost guarantees you will see at least one sea turtle. At Turtle Canyon, you will observe the sea turtles at a “sea turtle cleaning station.” This is where the sea turtles typically go to the same area in the ocean because there are fish there that clean the algae off of their shells. We saw several sea turtles. This is an experience you will never forget!
6. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which is a marine life conservation area with colorful fish, coral reef, and sea turtles! This is such a popular and beautiful destination to snorkel. Therefore, you must make a reservation and the reservations open up 2 days ahead of time at 7:00am HST. They can sell out in as quick as 5 minutes and I’ve seen as long as 37 minutes recently (only 30-35 tickets are sold for each timeslot). Tickets are purchased through the Honolulu Parks & Recreation Department. Good luck if that is on your bucket list!!
7. Explore Oahu’s awe-inspiring North Shore. There is so much to love about the North Shore. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice for starters. Once you’ve had the best shave ice with ice cream, check out the breathtaking beaches and see if you can spot a sea turtle on the beach. The North Shore is also a great spot to watch surfers (who know what they are doing on some serious waves) in the winter at the Bonzai Pipeline.
8. Visit the Dole Plantation to see the cutest little pineapples growing in a garden. This can be a free place to visit or you can pay for different tours like the train ride, garden tour, or maze. The Dole Whip is so delish to try right from the source! It is so light and definitely will not fill you up if you plan to visit some other amazing foodie finds on the North Shore.
9. Visit the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout in the Ko’olau Mountain Range. This is the historic site where the battle for uniting the Hawaiian Islands under one rule took place in 1795. Maui Chief Kalanikupule’s warriors were forced off the pali (cliff). This claimed Kamehameha’s victory to be the first king of all the Hawaiian Islands. There is a sign about the battle at the lookout point.
All from one vantage point, you have a vast view of the lush green windward side of Oahu, mountains, and the ocean! You can definitely feel the wind while standing at the lookout. The view is worth the chill and messed up hair. You may want to bring a jacket if you plan to spend some time taking photos and exploring!
10. Take a drive through Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden and journey on foot along the pathway from the visitor’s center to the tranquil lake. The lake is a must see! There are plenty of koi fish. You can see them from the shore and the mountains are visible behind the lake. It is a great place for photo ops!
The visitor’s center has some educational information on plants including the lei. You can continue on to a building that has different exhibits periodically. There was an art exhibit including beautiful paintings from local artists when we visited. The paintings were so unique with many picturesque landscapes from Oahu. Admission is free to the botanical gardens and fishing is still not allowed at this time.
11. Try out some of the budget friendly Oahu Foodie Finds (post coming soon). There are so many “must try” foods while you are in Hawaii! Try the shave ice on the first day of your trip so you can have it multiple times if you love it!
12. Watch the warm golden sunset from the beach or the sunrise if you are an early bird. The sunset is said to be best seen from Sunset Beach. About 2 miles from Sunset Beach is Pupukea Beach Park- Shark’s Cove. The sunset is just as golden, orange at Shark’s Cove. Here you can relax together snuggled up or hand in hand watching the sun melt into the ocean with less crowds around in the evening than Sunset Beach. The sun setting down on the ocean with the large rocks on the shore was such a phenomenal site.
13. Visit the Polynesian Culture Center. This is such a fun location to visit. They have 6 separate “islands” set up to show the different Polynesian cultures of Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Fiji, Tahiti, and Tonga. The islands have different experiences to learn about the culture like games, demonstrations, a craft, food, and a canoe ride. Every island had something different to see. Each island had a show to watch demonstrating a dance, ceremony, climbing to the top of a tree, etc.
The Hawaiian island had hula dancing lessons and the cultural center also had ukulele lessons, which are some Hawaii MUSTS. The show in the Hawaii island was also learning more about hula and everyone participates so it is less intimidating to try the hula dance moves! Learn how to do the Tahitian dance as well because it is a fast hip shaking dance! Your significant other will thank me! There is a dance for women and men to learn.
14. Experience a luau in Hawaii. Where else can you find an authentic luau on Oahu? The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is said to have the most authentic luau. The luau was an amazing experience. The best parts of the experience were the students participating in the luau, the dancers, and the hostess who engaged the entire audience. The hostess made sure we celebrated everyone’s special occasions like one big ohana. We received a lei upon entering the luau and had a photo taken with some of the students dressed for the luau. What a fun memory to have!!
The PCC luau provided unlimited mocktail pina coladas and the first was served in a pineapple! This is a dry luau so there is no alcohol and no Mai Tais served at PCC. The Breath of Life show after the luau was one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. You’d have to see it to believe it. It goes through the progression of an individual’s life through the 6 Polynesian islands from baby to marriage/aging. No photos or videos are allows at the show, but it was worth it to watch the fire dancing and other spectacular singing/dancing that took place through the story. You will not be disappointed!
15. Book an adventure tour at Kualoa Ranch. There are so many options at Kualoa Ranch. If you are a thrill seeker, they have UTV tours, a zipline, and ebike tours. The ranch has a horseback riding tour for adventure. For fun, they have a Hollywood movie site tour and a Secret Island tour. For education and culture, they have an experience in the Hawaiian taro fields and a Kualoa Farm tour to learn about the farming operations on the ranch. The ranch has half day tours and combination packages to choose more of your favorite tours on the same visit.
16. Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Please do not book a trip here through Viator. You can advance purchase a ticket to visit the USS Arizona Memorial for a $1 per person convenience charge through the National Parks Service site. Begin watching the NPS website as early as possible to see when your dates become available. You can arrive the day you wish to visit the USS Arizona and get on a standby list. The earlier you arrive, the quicker you can get in. If you arrive late in the day you likely will not make it in.
You can visit the main visitor’s center without a paid ticket to the memorial and can purchase general admission tickets at Pearl Harbor for the Battleship Missouri, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. If you have any bags, you will have to pay to check them in prior to entering the visitor’s center. The price is $6 per bag for purses/personal bags and $7 for oversized bags so be aware of this if you are taking the bus to Pearl Harbor.
17. Fireworks on Friday nights from Hilton Hawaiian Village. You can view the fireworks from Waikiki Beach. The show starts around 7:45pm and lasts about 5-10 minutes. I would not go to Waikiki Beach just for the show due to the short duration. If you are staying close or can make some dinner plans that night in Waikiki, then this would be that something extra to add a spark to your night!