Best Sightseeing in Honolulu

Oahu's broad range of terrains, landscapes and historical landmarks offer truly unique sights to see

Sightseeing is perhaps the most classic vacation activity. But with so many sights to see, how do you know which ones are best with limited time in a locale? Look to 10 Best of course and here we are to guide you to the top ten sights on the island of Oahu. We're here to let you know which ones are totally worth your time and camera storage. For history buffs, nature lovers and amateur photographers, we've got it all lines up right here guiding you to the best Oahu sites to visit.

Out list here at 10 Best will help you put together the best sightseeing itinerary, ever. Nature lovers will have a blast exploring the jungle and waterfall and natural swimming pool while hiking lush Waimea Valley. This was a sacred place for Hawaiians traditionally and today offers a green fertile haven from the bustling North Shore. For a real grasp on the past of the Hawaiian Islands and how it shaped the state today, a visit to historic Iolani Palace is a must. This represents a real turning point in Hawaiian history, an offers insight into why things are how they are today.

For those who love sand between their toes, a day spent at Waimea Bay Beach Park is an absolute must. This beautiful beach is nestled at the start of Waimea Valley at the mouth of the river, drastically protecting it from wind. The find white sand is exquisite and during the summer months the bay is calm. During the winter you'll always want to stay out of the water here but watching the huge surf is amazing.

So enjoy your time at the 10 best sights around Oahu!


Diamond Head State Monument
Photo courtesy of IslandLeigh/iStock

Widely recognized as the symbol of Hawaii, this extinct volcano crater was known to ancients as Leahi, which means "brow of the tuna" and referred to its appearance from the west. Its more familiar name came from 19th-century British sailors, who mistook crystals in the soil for diamonds. Through the years, its crest was the site of altars and military installations, and today, folks often hike up the crater for awe-inspiring views of Oahu. The hike is manageable for most, although you might want to bring along a flashlight since some portions of the journey run through darkened passages. A landmark.

Jade's expert tip: Take photos of the crater at sunset.

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Commemorating one of Waikiki's most famous native sons, this bronze statue provides the four-time Olympic athlete an eternal presence on his beloved beach. A champion swimmer, Duke also helped spread the popularity of surfing in America and was both a sheriff of Honolulu and a film actor. In fact, his fame accounted for his being named the "Hawaiian Ambassador of Aloha." Although the statue faces inland rather than out to sea, it's often adorned with flower leis by those who remember and appreciate Duke's magnanimous character.

Jade's expert tip: In honor of Duke, take a surf lesson right here at Waikiki Beach.

Read more about Duke Kahanamoku Statue →

King Kamehameha I Statue

Honoring the king who first united the Hawaiian islands in the early 19th century, this statue stands proudly in front of Ali'iolani Hale. Modeled after the Roman "Augustus Prima Porta" statue, it indicates both strength and openness. One of four castings of the statue (two on the Big Island and one in Washington, DC), this Oahu example is the most famous and is the one richly adorned with extravagant leis on King Kamehameha Day (each June 11). Designed by Thomas R. Gould and cast in Italy.

Jade's expert tip: Bring the camera!

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Nuuanu Pali
Photo courtesy of ChanStudio/iStock

At a lofty point in the Koolau Range (the mountains that divide windward Oahu from the rest of the island) is a lookout that offers outstanding views of the eastern landscape. Legend has it that, in 1795, King Kamehameha I and his men drove opposition warriors over the cliffs in the fight for Hawaiian unification. True or not, just imagining such an event at these dizzying heights is enough to give you pause. The locale, accessible via a hike up the mountains, has a tendency to be chilly, and winds whip up as well, so dress accordingly.

Jade's expert tip: Look for Herb Kane art depicting the battles up here.

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Commemorating the service men who laid down their lives during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this memorial is a sobering experience for visitors. Prefaced by onshore exhibits and a video remembrance of the attack, tours also include a ride to the sunken battleship in the harbor, where 1177 men still lie entombed in the ship's remains. In the visitors' center, a gift shop and food services are available. Visitors are advised to arrive early in order to be assured of tickets.

Jade's expert tip: Get there early because lines get long.

Read more about World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument →

Queen Emma's Summer Palace
Photo courtesy of daughters of hawaii

Set in the Nuuanu Valley, this simple frame house, distinguished by a colonnade, was inherited by Queen Emma (wife of Kamehameha IV) from her uncle, John Young II. A respite from the city to the south, the home was a Victorian showplace that has since been restored to its 19th-century beauty. Surrounded by lovely gardens, the palace now boasts many of its original furnishings and accessories, including a collection of royal artifacts. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Offering a window into the past, the palace provides history, culture and entertainment.

Jade's expert tip: Call in advance to book a guided tour.

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Washington Place

This gracious home, an elegant white structure beneath shady, mature trees, was built in 1846 by John Dominis, who died before he took up residence. Queen Lili`uokalani, Dominis's daughter-in-law and Hawaii's last monarch, was the house's most famous occupant. Today, the home is the realm of Hawaii's governors. Distinguished by its lanais, the house also boasts the queen's koa-wood piano and a collection of Victorian furnishings. Its name honors the country's founding father. Visitors must make reservations for tours at least 48 hours in advance.

Jade's expert tip: An ideal visit for history buffs.

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The North Shore's Waimea Valley is one of the last partially intact ahupuaa (land division) on Oahu and consists of 1,875 acres that are home to 78 archaeological sites, a 150 acre botanical garden, a waterfall, and several native and endangered birds. The valley has been a sacred place for more than 700 years of Native Hawaiian history. They've recently begun offering guided hikes, that offer some of the best hiking experiences on the island. Head out to the North Shore for guided hikes in the valley. Reservations must be made 10 days in advance and a minimum of six people is required. Hikers must have closed toed shoes and those under 18 must be with an adult. Lucky for avid hikers, shorter hikes are only $10 while the longer ones are $15. Below is a listing of the hike options. Ala Ki- 9:00 am - 12:00 pm Climb to the top of Kalahe'e Ridge, following our new marked Ala Ki trai;. After reaching the top of Kalahe'e Ridge and taking a short break we shall descend on a switchback trail through a mixed forest of exotic and native plants. Approximately 2 miles, moderate to easy hike, for ages 7 and above (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $10. Kalahe`e - 9:00 am - 12:00 pm Climb to the top of Kalahe'e Ridge, following a switchback trail through a mixed forest of exotic and native plants. Approximately 2 miles, moderate to easy hike, for ages 7 and above (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $10. South Ridge Lookout- 9:00 am - 12:00 pm Climb to the top of the South Ridge located behind the famous Waihi (waterfall). This short, yet moderately difficult and steep hike takes you about the waihi for some spectacular views looking down into Waimea Valley. Approximately 2 miles, moderate hike, for ages 7 and above (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $10. North Valley Hike - 9:00 am - 1:00 pm Explore Waimea's North Valley from the ridgeline to the valley floor, traversing native plant pockets and discovering the Valley's birds along the way. Approxiamtely 6 miles, moderate to strenuous hike, for ages 7 and above (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $10. South Ridge Loop Trail - 9:00 am - 2:00 pm This strenuous hike connects the South Valley to the North Valley of Waimea. Enjoy stunning views of Ka'ena Point, Kaiwiko'ele Stream and Waimea Falls. 6+ miles, this hike may involve several slippery stream crossings and steep uphill climbs, for ages 12 and up (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $15. Kamananui Stream Trail - 9:00 am - 2:00 pm The most challenging trail at Waimea. Explore Kamananui Stream above Waimea's waterfall. Numerous stream crossings; prepare to get your feet wet! 6+ miles, steep ascents, for ages 12 and up (must be accompanied by an adult). Cost to participate is $15.

Jade's expert tip: No hiking sandals allowed, only closed toed shoes.

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Built in the early 1880s, this graceful Italian Renaissance structure is America's only royal palace and was home to Hawaii's last two rulers. When American businessmen overthrew the monarchy, they used the palace as the capitol until 1969; after it was vacated by the state government, restoration was begun. These days, three of the building's four floors are open to tours, and visitors can glimpse the ornate throne room, koa-wood staircase, and a wealth of plasterwork and elaborate furnishings. Amazing jewels and artifacts are available for viewing in the Galleries. Guided tours are not open to children under 5 (they are allowed in the Gallery tour).

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Iolani Palace is a splendid place to learn about Hawaiian history and culture.

Jade's expert tip: Visit at the start of your trip, it can enhance the remainder with the cultural background you'll gain.

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Board a former championship record breaking catamaran with the Welakahao Catamaran in Waikiki. You'll explore the blue Hawaiian waters and reefs of the Turtle Canyons on the 2 ½ hour snorkeling adventure. They'll take you to the waters off of diamond head in search of sea turtles, dolphins and lots of exotic fish. They also offer private charters for wedding receptions and other functions. The cat is 45-feet long and during the sailing and snorkeling and sunset tour there's an open bar. Prices range from $40 to $50.

Jade's expert tip: Ride on the net while headed out into the ocean.

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Meet Jade Eckardt

Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and...  More About Jade