Things to do in Honolulu

Amazing Oahu Hidden Gems

Step away from the well-traveled road to find Oahu’s hidden gems. These secret spots inspire awe and invite adventure.

While tourist attractions are popular, Oahu's hidden gems offer the perfect starting point to truly experience this idyllic location. Visiting them is one of the best things to do in Honolulu.

From adventures into oceanic caves to climbing atop the island's peaks, excitement awaits at all elevations. These are a few of the island's hidden gems you don't want to miss.

North Shore

Some of the island's dreamiest beaches await in the northern shores of Oahu.

1. Ka'ena Point State Park

Enjoy a day exploring Ka'ena Point State Park. As the Pacific Ocean stretches endlessly across the horizon, dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches create a picturesque environment.

Leave the bustle of urban life behind and bask in the park's natural beauty. In Hawaiian folklore, this location is deeply sacred. It's said to be where souls depart the physical world and enter the afterlife.

You'll find plenty of things to do in this park, from exploring the trails to snorkeling or simply marveling at the wildlife that inhabits this haven.

Photographer: Cole Keister

2. Pūpūkea Tide Pools

Nestled away north of Waimea Bay, Pūpūkea Beach Park is a hidden gem, but it holds an extra secret entirely dependent on the tide. When the tide is low, the tide pools teem with marine life.

With swimming shoes to protect your feet from sharp volcanic rocks, you can wade in and discover some of the most amazing animals as they wait for the sea to sweep them away.

3. Kawela Bay

If you'd rather enjoy your tropical adventure in solitude, head to Kawela Bay, one of the most secluded locations on Oahu. Despite its lack of popularity, the tranquility of the warm sun and soft sands create unforgettable experiences you don't want to miss.

Just keep your wits about you as you walk—coconuts tend to drop unexpectedly. Thanks to the barrier reef surrounding it, swimming is always possible at this beach.

If you venture further, you'll stumble upon a behemoth of a tree with almost otherworldly charm. Although it looks like several trees, a plaque explains it's actually a singular banyan tree. These trees create prop roots that grow into new trunks.

Major motion pictures and television shows were filmed here, such as Lost and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Windward Coast

The splendor of Oahu is best savored slowly. Journeying through the Windward Coast reveals a slower side to the island's adventures with natural wonders worth stopping for.

4. Olomana Three Peaks Trail

The best rewards are the ones you have to work hard to get. Olomana Three Peaks Trail is no exception. This challenging hike takes you up an elevation change of 1,600 ft. across three peaks. Brave all three to be rewarded with stunning island views.

The path to the first peak is relatively steep, and only seasoned hikers and climbers should attempt to reach the second and third peaks.

Photographer: Darren Lawrence

5. Kawainui Marsh

Kawainui Marsh is the state's largest wetland, spanning 830 acres. It's a valuable wildlife reserve, protecting endangered plants, Hawaiian waterbirds, and their habitat. Visitors can enjoy a gentle nature walk through the marsh on the trail starting at Kaha Park.

The trail is fully paved, making it accessible for strollers, bikes, and wheelchairs. However, shade is limited, so bring sunscreen and prepare to discover breathtaking landscapes.

6. Halona Beach Cove

Step off the beaten—and marked—path to discover Halona Beach Cove. This gem is so well-concealed that you can't see it from nearby roads. Locals have nicknamed it “Oahu Secret Beach.” Despite its hidden location, many brave the trek to reach it for awe-inspiring beauty.

To reach the beach, park at Halona Lookout and walk back alongside Kalaniana'ole Highway. Look for the unmarked trail entrance between the rocks and a guardrail and follow the path. It's a bit of a hazard, lacking pavement and some much-needed maintenance, but once you make your way down, the cove comes into view.

Photographer: Marisa Buhr Mizunaka

7. China Walls

Discover proof of Hawaii's volcanic origins at China Walls. This cliffside's staggered appearance comes from the many layers of lava that flowed over its surface. Thanks to the presence of olivine, the cliffs have a strange, greenish tinge.

Daredevils might be tempted to jump from the cliff's face into the sea, but be warned that getting back out can be challenging once you're in. If you aren't paying attention to the cliff's edge, you might get swept away by the currents.

8. Kailua Farmers' Market

The Kailua Town Center transforms into an all-out community affair every Thursday evening. The Kailua Farmers' Market brings some of the best local restaurants, farmers, and crafters together in one place.

You can get a taste of just about anything here. If you're in the mood for fresh Hawaiian cuisine, all sorts of treats await. Food drawing influence from around the world fills the air with tantalizing scents that are hard to ignore.

Between restaurant stands, farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables that were picked within the last few days.

Central Oahu

A fertile valley between the Wai'anae and Ko'olau mountain ranges has created some of the most verdant areas in Oahu.

9. Mānoa Falls Trail

Sometimes, the best secret spots don't require jumping through hoops or climbing heights. At Mānoa Falls Trail, an easy, family-friendly hike greets you with its gentle inclines. It takes you on what feels like a jungle adventure, eventually leading up to the 100-ft. Mānoa Falls.

This waterfall will either gush heavily or narrow to a mere trickle down the rock's face depending on recent rainfall (and it's usually pretty rainy in Mānoa Valley's lush rainforests).

Photographer: CraigJ


Honolulu is a phenomenal introduction to Hawaiian culture. It’s also known for its iconic beaches and thriving nightlife.

10. Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

No visit to Honolulu would be complete without a trip to the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design. In the mid-to-late 1900s, wealthy socialite Doris Duke traveled extensively through the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, collecting more than 4,500 objects.

After falling in love with Hawaii, she built her permanent residence on Oahu's shores. While Duke passed away in 1993, her estate remained on the island, and in 2014, its doors opened to the public.

The building itself is stunning. Itswalls are made of carved marble panels with semiprecious stones embedded within them. Ornate details appear everywhere you look, all influenced by Islamic art, culture, and design.

11. Capitol Modern (Formerly The Hawai'i State Art Museum)

Embrace Hawaii's vibrant art scene at Capitol Modern. The diversity of this state's culture is captured within its walls. With four galleries and exhibitions to visit outdoors, something is always going on. Even better, it's free to visit.

Every artist can find representation here, with exhibits showcasing local student works alongside numerous sculptures and paintings created by seasoned contemporary artists.


Waikiki Beach might be the most popular beach in this neighborhood, but there's a lesser-known gem just waiting to be discovered.

12. Ainahau Triangle

Not far from Fort DeRussy Beach Park, the Ainahau Triangle offers a less sandy but enjoyable outdoor urban adventure. This green space is within walking distance of dining, shopping, and lodging establishments, making it a popular destination for picnics after a day of exploring.

As you walk through the tranquil trails, you'll see plaques dedicated to the soldiers of World War II. They evoke solemn reverence, touching upon Hawaii's involvement with the war.

East Oahu

On Oahu's eastern shores, you'll find a hidden beach gem. Some say it's home to a goddess.

13. Makapu’u Beach Park

Black cliffs embrace Makapu'u Beach Park, creating a cozy cove that feels far from city life. It's just minutes from Sea Life Park, but you wouldn't know it at first glance. This hidden gem tells a cultural story predating the rise of Hawaii's tourist industry.

According to legend, a Tahitian goddess with eight bulging eyes lived in a cave here. Despite her frightening appearance, her benevolence made her a beloved part of the area. It's said that the local people of Waimanalo adored her so much that they named the beach after her.

Although it doesn't have goddesses with eight eyes, it provides abundant opportunities to swim, whale watch, fish, and visit the beach's diverse tide pools, which were created by lava holes.

Photographer: Cyrill

West Oahu

On the western shores of Oahu, a pair of unique beaches delight locals and tourists.

14. Mermaid Caves

An aquatic world beckons just 45 minutes from Waikiki, and visiting it is one of the most unique things to do in Oahu. The allure of Mermaid Caves draws the daring to leap through its holes in the lava rock.

If you're a strong swimmer, you can swim into the caves, where holes in the expansive lava rock let rays of light shine through. The location is aptly named, evoking imagery of ethereal mermaids basking in sunlight.

15. Hawaiian Electric Beach Park

Just minutes from Mermaid Caves, you'll find Hawaiian Electric Beach Park. Named for its proximity to the nearby power plant, it highlights the delicate balance between people and nature.

Its presence raises the sea's temperature along a discharge pipe that runs 200 yd. across the ocean floor.The warmer temperatures are a haven for tropical fish, and sea turtles appreciate the added currents from the pipe.

While people are welcome to swim and snorkel here, the currents can be too rough for beginners. Marine life awaits if you can brave the depths, including brightly colored fish shimmering in the diffused sunlight and the occasional shark.

Visiting Mermaid Caves is one of the best things to do in Oahu for couples. The majestic setting creates a romantic ambiance.


The eclectic neighborhood of Kaimuki is particularly renowned for quirky indie stores and trendy excursions.

16. Mud Hen Water

Tapas might have you thinking of Spain, but at Mud Hen Water, they're distinctly Hawaiian and paired with delectable cocktails. Prepare to go on a culinary journey through Hawaiia's culture.

Entrées, such as the well-received chicken long rice croquettes, embrace the heavy influence of Japanese immigrants. Of course, the menu also features an abundance of fresh seafood dishes. Dishes like the He'e roll made with fresh octopuses garner reviews online.


Nestled on the northern shores of Oahu, the small community of Haleiwa embraces Hawaiian culture and shares it with visitors.

17. Beet Box Cafe

At Beet Box Cafe, everything on the menu is vegetarian. You'll get fresh food with a side of the relaxed vibes. This eatery offers salads, sandwiches, and an all-day breakfast menu.

The surfer ambiance accentuates its location, just minutes from Oahu's most beautiful beaches. You can dine inside or take your meal with you.


Honolulu's historic Chinatown district is always worth exploring. However, within its streets, a hidden gem for nightlife commands attention.

18. Nextdoor Cinema Lounge & Concert Hall

In Honolulu's Chinatown, Nextdoor Cinema Lounge & Concert Hall ushers crowds into an underground haven with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. Music of various genres, from heavy metal to jazz and hip-hop, thrums in the air with beats that can't be ignored.

You'll be moving with the rhythm in no time. DJs, film festivals, and concerts run the party each night while drinks elevate the experience.

Discover the Unseen Beauty of Oahu Beyond the Ordinary Path

Stepping off the beaten path brings you into the unseen beauty of Oahu, where hidden gems glimmer as they vie for your attention. Another gem remains, waiting to be discovered, and you'll find it at the theater. After exploring the island, come to one of our shows in Honolulu and escape into our world for a couple of hours. We'll be waiting.

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