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.
Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount Hawaii Car Rentals. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.
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, condos, 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.
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.
Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! It’s always my goal to provide a TON of value to YOU. To that end, lately I’ve been packing my Instagram (@hula.land) FULL of content and adventures that you might want to check out. A lot of my post captions are like mini blog posts with travel info, I’ve got IGTV review videos for luaus and excursions, and helpful story highlights like grocery store prices and hotel reviews. Not to mention that my feed is pretty much the ultimate tropical eye candy! You can follow me here and share my account with your friends! Your support really helps me to keep this blog running!
Also, if you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m in there answering questions every day and there are 5000+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!