A local’s guide to the best of Oahu: Part 1

Maui may be no ka oi, but Oahu is always a good idea.

Here are some of the top places to go to make the most of your Oahu adventure, starting with Honolulu:


“Town,” as it’s called, is the south side of the island and the most densely populated. Town is home to Downtown Honolulu, Waikiki, Diamond Head (Lēʻahi in Hawaiian) and several neighborhoods such as Makiki, Kaka’ako, and Mānoa.


When most people think about Hawaii, they picture Waikiki and its palm tree-lined beaches, surfers gliding on gentle waves, and the iconic Diamond Head caldera in the background. So if you’re coming to Oahu — you have to go!

Waikiki offers a great balance of modern and traditional. In ancient times, the area of Waikiki (which is Hawaiian for “spouting fresh waters”) was actually a drainage basin for the rainfall from the Ko’olau mountains. In the 1800’s, Hawaiian royalty frequented Waikiki as their place of leisure and relaxation.

Today, the main road of Kalakaua Avenue offers high-end boutiques, luxury resorts, historic landmarks, world-class shopping and dining, street performers, and local artisans. Waikiki is a great place to walk around, people watch or take surf lessons at famous Waikiki beach.

Ala Moana

Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air shopping center in the world. Located technically within walking distance just west of Waikiki, it features over 350 shops and restaurants, ranging from luxury brands to local boutiques.

Ala Moana is not just about shopping — you can also enjoy seasonal events, hula shows, and cultural performances from around the world.

Across the street from the shopping center is Ala Moana Beach Park, a local favorite for picnicking, swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding. The park’s big lawns and shady trees make it a sweet spot for relaxation.

Manoa Falls hike

As seen on the Manoa Falls hike

If you drive straight towards the Ko’olau mountains from Ala Moana, you will get to the lush and peaceful neighborhood of Manoa Valley. At the end of the valley you will find the Manoa Falls hike, a popular 1.6-mile round trip trail that offers a moderate, scenic journey through a tropical rainforest.

The trail features dense and lust tropical landscapes, including bamboo groves, native Hawaiian plants, and plenty of rain showers to keep you cool. The treat at the end of the trail is a stunning 150-foot waterfall.

Bonus: If you’re a fan of “Jurassic Park” and “Lost,” you may recognize some of the scenes that were shot in Manoa!

Diamond Head hike

Directly east of Waikiki is iconic Diamond Head, a 300,000 year-old volcanic crater which you can drive into and embark on one of Oahu’s most rewarding hiking adventures.

The 1.6-mile round trip trail, located within Diamond Head State Monument, takes you through a labyrinth of paved pathways, steep stairs, and a few tunnels. The hike is moderately challenging and suitable for most fitness levels.

The Diamond Head summit is a historically significant former military lookout with World War 2 bunkers and a navigational lighthouse built in 1917. The reward at the very top is a spectacular panoramic view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean — well worth the hike!

Image credits: AussieActive, Benjamin R., Savannah Rohleder, Christian Joudrey, Ala Moana

Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at info@sunnymauivacations.com or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.