A trip to Oahu isn’t complete without a visit to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument to explore the history of Pearl Harbor. The devastating surprise attack of December 7, 1941 was a defining moment for the United States, ushering in changes that can still be seen and felt today.
Exploring all of the sites at Pearl Harbor can easily fill an entire day of your vacation, but that likely still leaves a few more days to see some of the other awe-inspiring sights of Oahu.
Here are just a few of the unique places beyond Pearl Harbor that you’ll want to explore during your time in paradise.
Not all of the natural awe and wonder that Oahu has to offer is off in the wilds of the island. In fact, it’s not necessarily even a long trek from your hotel. Just a pleasant stroll from the main tourist area, you’ll find the Waikiki Aquarium. Contained within is a collection of the Pacific’s most fascinating marine life. Visit the depths of the Pacific without donning a wetsuit in this expansive aquatic experience.
Here, you’ll see the Pacific come to life in a host of different exhibits that feature amazing wildlife like the weedy seadragons, Hawaiian day octopus, lagoon jellies, giant clams, and the much-loved Hawaiian monk seals, as well as some of the greatest hunters off Oahu’s shores, zebra sharks and giant groupers.
Diamond Head State Monument
Predating all of Oahu’s man-made experiences and adventures is an iconic formation clearly visible from most of the southern part of the island. Formed during the Honolulu Volcanic Series more than 100,000 years ago, Diamond Head Crater, known to locals as Leahi, stands 762’ above sea level, overlooking the vast Pacific to the south and east, and Waikiki and the tall buildings of Honolulu to the west.
Though the crater may seem forbiddingly high, a manageable hike takes you to the peak for unrivaled views of Oahu and the beautiful blue ocean beyond.
The hike up Diamond Head is its own visual wonder as you pass a wide variety of different flora, sometimes even coming across some of the local wildlife.
The longer you stay on Oahu, the further afield you’ll have time to explore. Take, for instance, the beautiful nature park of Waimea Valley. This stretch of rolling green and vibrant tree canopies is located on Oahu’s North Shore, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki. The scenic drive is a treat of its own, but the real payoff is when you arrive and immerse yourself in not just the historical importance of the valley but also the visual pleasure it provides.
Waimea is exactly the kind of place you want to go in order to get lost in the island’s beauty. A garden of 35 individual collections showcases flora from all around the world, including plants cultivated from Polynesia and rare specimens from right here in the Hawaiian Islands. If you do a little hiking, you’ll arrive at the hidden prize of Waimea, a gorgeous waterfall that empties into an inviting pool.
Located on the windward coast of Oahu is a 4,000-acre expanse of wide open fields, lush forest, and sheer cliffs overlooking it all. This impressive place is Kualoa Ranch, an Oahu staple that’s been a part of the island’s landscape since the days of the Hawaiian Monarchy.
Today, Kualoa is easily recognizable from its appearances in Hollywood blockbusters including the Jurassic Park movies, Godzilla, Jumanji, and the TV series Lost. Exploring the ranch on horseback, ATV, or zipline provides a glimpse of Oahu at its most ruggedly beautiful. Whether you’re looking out over the stretch of grassland and jungle, or watching the sun sparkle on Kaneohe Bay and gazing at Mokolii, otherwise known as Chinaman’s Hat, you’re in for some of the best vistas Oahu has to offer.