From its gorgeous beaches to its towering volcanoes, Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. With year-round tropical weather and plenty of sunshine, the island chain is a must-visit destination for many travelers.
Oahu, the third-largest Hawai’ian island, is home to Honolulu, the state’s capital, which makes the island a magnet for tourists. Waikiki Beach, one of its most iconic sites, is great for surfers, but it’s also pretty saturated with visitors. So, if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy some of Oahu’s hidden gems, we recommend these seven incredible spots.
Editor’s Note: For information on the latest pandemic-related travel requirements and advisories, be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites, as well as airline and destination requirements regarding mask wearing, quarantine, and COVID-19 testing. Additionally, as an island chain, Hawai’i has faced particular burdens as a result of pandemic tourism; to reduce the strain on Hawai’i’s resources and ensure the safety of its people, do not visit unless local officials deem it safe to do so.
Far away from the usual Oahu tourist attractions, a trip to Mākua Beach requires renting a car. In fact, it’s the second-to-last beach before the end of the road. Since tourist buses don’t trek out that far, Mākua’s gorgeous white-sand beach is never crowded.
The surrounding Waianae Mountain Range keeps the spot secluded, and while many beaches on Oahu are protected by offshore reefs, Mākua is not. That lack of protection means the waves can reach enormous heights. On a calm day, it’s a great place to bodyboard, but, on rougher days, the current can get pretty strong. Still, watching the surf from the sand while enjoying a picnic lunch is a wonderful experience.
Also known as Old Pali Highway Falls, the two-tiered Likeke Falls is fairly easy to access if you have a map. Even so, it remains a hidden gem. If you decide to venture to the falls, you’ll choose between one of two ways to reach them.
The first route involves a slippery but family-friendly hike that takes around 90 minutes to complete. Thankfully, there are some markers on the trees, so you probably won’t lose your way! But it’s also a wet hike, so hiking boots with good treads are a must. The 15-foot waterfall is well worth the effort, though. Not feeling super adventurous? Luckily, you can reach Likeke Falls in just 15 minutes if you start from a trail at the Ko’olau Golf Club.
Located on the island’s North Shore, Haleiwa Town is about one hour from Waikiki by car. It’s a charming, historic surf town that’s about as laid-back as they come. Many of the buildings in the town’s center are from Hawai’i’s plantation era, and they’ve been transformed into art galleries and boutique shops.
In other words, Haleiwa Town is rich in history and boasts an artsy vibe. The town’s beaches — Ehukai, Sunset, and Waimea — are always filled with surfers. Needless to say, it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a relaxing day.
Kahumana Organic Farm
Kahumana Organic Farms is among the largest of its kind on Oahu. Located in the Lualualei Valley on the island’s west side, this farm celebrates the wealth of nature and culture that is Hawai’i.
More than just a farm, the land and the people working on it exist in harmony to create a mindful community spirit. On the tour, you’ll get to taste some fresh exotic fruit; feed the pigs, sheep, and other farm animals; learn about indigenous crops; and enjoy a farm-to-table three-course meal. Plus, some of the fees associated with the tour directly support unhoused families and disabled adults living on the island.
Makapu’u Tide Pools
Located on the east side of Oahu, the Makapu’u Tide Pools formed in the area’s black lava rock. Some people call this spot one of the island’s most beautiful places; it’s certainly worth seeing for yourself. To get there, however, you will have to hike a bit.
The first part of the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is paved, but eventually reach a sign on the trail and you’ll diverge from the main path onto a steep, downhill one that riddled with slippery (often loose) rocks. Regardless, the trek is worth it; you’ll see the beautiful tide pools and, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of some whales, too.
Kaena Point is a bird sanctuary and state park on the very western tip of Oahu. Again, you’ll have to hike, but you’ll have a choice — either the Waianae or Mokuleia trailheads. Of course, an involved hike means less tourists.
The scenic views from Kaena Point are incredible; there’s the striking lava shoreline, the Mokuleia coast to the north, the Waianae coast to the south, and the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean to the west. Since the hike is known for being hot and sunny, bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. According to local stories, the people of Oahu would jump off the vista in ancient times and land in the spirit world in order to meet the souls of those who died. Once you see the view for yourself, this otherworldly connection will make sense.
China Walls boasts some of Oahu’s most incredible sunsets. This stretch of ledges and cliffs made of lava rock hang over the ocean on the southeastern tip of the island — and, since it’s located in the residential neighborhood of Hawai’i Kai, not many people know about the China Walls.
The walls themselves are stunning for several reasons. For one, you can see the layers of lava in the rock and how they built up over time. In addition to the beautiful black lava rock, there’s also a greenish hue to the China Walls, which comes from the semi-precious stone Olivine. From this spot, you’ll also get a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. And, if you do come for the sunset, you might even see a few cliff jumpers on the short hike there.
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