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You’re going to Oahu! You’re going to have the best vacation ever! But figuring out what to do once you get there can be a little overwhelming (you’ll literally be bombarded with things to do as soon as you get off the plane).
In my opinion, there are a few paid tours/excursions on Oahu that are absolutely worth doing. However, many tours and excursions are actually things you can do yourself or things that maybe aren’t worth doing. I’ll break down the activities on Oahu that I think are worth paying for, the ones you can do yourself, and the ones you should skip.
I think Oahu has more “things to do/tour” than any other Hawaiian Island. And they’re mostly things you can do on your own, not things that require a tour or excursion. But here are a few paid activities worth doing:
Polynesian Cultural Center: If you’re interested in Polynesian culture/history this is one of the best places to go on the island. It opens around noon and you can spend the afternoon touring the villages that represent the different islands where you’ll take part in cultural demonstrations before heading to the luau at night.
Kualoa Ranch: Oahu’s famed Kualoa Ranch has been the backdrop to countless Hollywood films. The ranch offers several different movie tours as well as ATV tours, horseback riding, ziplining, and more. It’s definitely very touristy, but sooooo beautiful. Read more about it here.
Paradise Cove Luau: Paradise Cove is one of the best luaus on the island, however if I wouldn’t do this luau AND the Polynesian Cultural Center. It has so many cultural experiences you can take part in before the luau begins including hula lessons, lei making, and a hukilau ceremony and it’s a pretty good bang for your buck. Plus, it’s right on the beach! Read more about it here.
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.
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Do on Your Own
Pearl Harbor: Definitely don’t miss Pearl Harbor, but I prefer to do it on my own instead of on a bus tour. You have to have a ticket to go out to the USS Arizona Memorial, but they’re free. They only give out so many a day though, so it’s best to reserve in advance or be there early in the morning. There are two museums you can access for free but you’ll have to pay for access to the museum of Naval Aviation in the Pacific. You ‘ll also have to pay to tour the Battleship Missouri and Bowfin Submarine. Don’t miss the USS Arizona Memorial, but plan the rest of your visit according to your level of interest.
Circle Island Tour: I would also skip a circle island tour (on a bus) in favor of doing one yourself. You can easily see all of Oahu’s high points on your own and going at your own pace means plenty of times to stop and snack, which is really all of the fun!
Need a packing list for Oahu? Find my best packing advice here.
I’ve written an entire blog post on things I think you should skip on Oahu, so read up on that, but here I’ll restate that I think you should skip the Dole Plantation, the zoo and aquarium, as well as the Sea Life Park. I would also skip a helicopter tour on Oahu unless you have plenty of money to spend. It’s just not a “must do” for me like it is on Kauai.
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