This post may contain some affiliate links, which means I’ll make a little money on anything you choose to purchase. But of course, I only recommend my absolute favorites to you. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Hulaland possible.
Let’s face it, not everything in Hawaii is super dreamy and fabulous. Some experiences and things to do get over-hyped or played up in guidebooks and tourism brochures. And there’s just not time to do everything, so how are you supposed to know what’s worth doing and what you should skip? Here are 5 things to do on Oahu that I think you can skip (and what you should do instead):
1.Dole Plantation. I’m going to start this list off with a bang, because the Dole Plantation is sooo popular with tourists. But I’m calling it like I see it. The Dole Plantation is a cheesy tourist trap with almost no cultural value. Sorry. If you loved it, I’m so glad, but it’s just not something I recommend. Yes, pineapple has been a huge part of Hawaii’s history (the history of its overthrow by America, really), but the modern day Dole Plantation is really nothing but a gift shop. There’s a train tour through a pineapple field, but it all feels very staged. In the past, I would’ve recommended just stopping in for a Dole Whip (that famous pineapple ice cream) and photo in the giant pineapple (hey, that’s what I did!), but I recently noticed Dole Whips available at a couple of ABC Stores on the island, so you don’t even need to do that. This may not be a popular opinion, but I say skip the “amusement park” vibe of the Dole Plantation and instead visit the Bishop Museum or Polynesian Cultural Center if you want to experience some authentic Hawaiian culture.
2.Sea Life Park. Basically Hawaii’s version of Sea World, this small aquatic park on the east side of Oahu just seems a little sad to me. It features almost no species native to Hawaii. Skip swimming with the captive dolphins here and swim with wild dolphins instead. Book an excursion with Wild Side Hawaii.
RELATED: Not very familiar with Oahu? Read up on the lay of the (is)land and where to stay plus my favorite beach resorts, budget hotels, Airbnbs, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, luxury resorts, and boutique hotels.
3.A Resort Luau. As a general rule of thumb, I always think that independent luaus are much better than resort luaus. I mean, think about it. Resort luaus have a captive audience and a big pool of people to funnel to their luau so they don’t have to be as good as other luaus. Skip the luaus on Waikiki and go to the Paradise Cove Luau or the one at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
4.Aloha Swap Meet. This may be another unpopular one, because a lot of people go here, but I’ve gotta tell it like it is! The Aloha Swap Meet (held on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) isn’t really a swap meet (flea market), but rather a place for tourists to do cheap souvenir shopping. What you will find: 1) a lot of plastic, made in China souvenirs, 2) 7 for $35 tee shirts, 3) the exact same thing at every booth. What you won’t find: anything unique or handcrafted. If you’re looking for super cheap souvenirs to take back to your list of 40 friends and family members on the mainland, you’ll find it here. If you’re looking for a more unique and local experience, check out a farmer’s market. The Honolulu Farmers Market and KCC Farmers Market are both good.
RELATED: Need a packing list for Oahu? Find my best packing advice here.
Wish you had a go to resource for the best spots in Hawaii? I’m talking snorkeling spots, trailheads, hidden beaches, local restaurants, and more! Sign up for my newsletter to access to my library of Hawaii Google Maps. I’ll also send you the latest and greatest Hawaii news, brand new things to do, special weekly deals and more. You don’t want to miss out on this! So sign up below!
5.Never Leaving Waikiki. So many people go to Waikiki, stay for a week, and never leave. Don’t do that! At the very least, rent a car for the day and explore the rest of the island. While most people spend a week in Waikiki and explore the rest of the island for the day, I say flip that. Do the rest of Oahu for a week and only explore Waikiki for the day. Extreme I know. But you get the picture. Get out of Waikiki and see the rest of the island.
Feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to plan the perfect Oahu itinerary? I’ve got just the thing for you!
Oahu Bound! I’ve put together the BEST Oahu itineraries you’ll find anywhere! These are the itineraries I use on my trips to Oahu (plus a few tweaks because hindsight is 20/20 right?) and they’re perfect for first time and repeat visitors who want to see the very best of Oahu.
Check it out here.
I’ve included everything from the best snorkeling spots, beaches, and excursions and it’s all broken down by each part of the island so you won’t waste any time backtracking.
So what exactly do you get? With Oahu Bound, you’ll get FOUR six day itineraries: 1) classic Oahu itinerary, 2) Oahu honeymoon itinerary, 3) Oahu for adventure seekers itinerary, and 4) Oahu foodie itinerary. I’m not just talking about a bullet point list of to dos. Each itinerary comes with 10-15 pages of commentary explaining why I recommend doing certain things (plus various options to suit your interests). Each itinerary also comes with its own Google Map (broken down by day). You’ll also get an itinerary template that you can use to make your own, along with extensive tips on creating your own itinerary, a huge list of things to do on Oahu, and directions for making your own Google Maps.
This is basically vacation in a box, friend! Just add a bit of salt water and you’re in for the trip of a lifetime!
Click here to grab the Oahu Bound itinerary bundle.
Love this post? Pin it for later!