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  • Writer's pictureAmber Miller

OAHU TRAVEL GUIDE: Hotspots, Hikes, & Must Do's!

Next up, OAHU! On this island, you get a little taste of everything! See the inside scoop at all of our favorite things to do in Oahu.

The most difficult hike I have EVER done -- better known as "Koko Head Stairs" -- is a challenge I encourage everyone to do! Koko Crater is 1.4 miles long, 990ft incline, and 1000 steps to the summit that overlooks Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. There is also a railway bridge halfway up the tracks making a ravine (which can be nerve racking if you have a fear of heights), but you also have the option of taking the "bypass" which is flat ground. However, I highly recommend trying out the ravine! It's a unique hike that comes with lots of reward at the end! This view is breathtaking and you can even see the railway where they transported supplies and soldiers during WWII. I always recommend getting to hikes in the morning for cooler weather and for parking, but this one definitely needs to be your first to do of the day!

The Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail is one for the entire family! It is a paved incline road up the western side of the ridge, and eventually turns to the north side about half way up. This trail is very exposed so be sure to apply lots of sunscreen and pack water! It took us about an hour to finish the hike but allow yourself a bit of extra time if you're with others! At the top you'll find a unique panoramic view of the island and the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse that was built back in 1909 -- the BEST photo opportunity!

Lanikai Beach is hands down the most gorgeous beach I have ever been to. It was even ranked as one of the best beaches in the WORLD... which makes sense when a local told me that "Lanikai" actually means "heavenly ocean." It is located in the town of Kailua and on the windward coast of Oahu! The calm and clear aqua blue water and crystal white beach makes you feel like you are in a tropical oasis. If you look out, you can actually see the stunning offshore islands known as "the Mokes." There are several beautiful beaches in Hawaii, but this one was by far the most memorable. At Lanikai, I was wearing all Cupshe fits! Shop below!

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Nearby Lanikai Beach is the famous Lanikai Pillbox hike! Imagine that beautiful beach but overlooking it on top of the mountain along with a panoramic view of the west side of Oahu. This is a somewhat challenging hike so make sure to bring a friend and dress appropriately. The first part of the trail is very steep, slippery, and can be confusing. Closer to the top, there are some tricky sections that require scrambling, and there are no guardrails along the steep cliff sections, so BE CAREFUL and look out for one another.

Shark Cage Diving

I was finally able to check Shark Cage Diving off of my bucket list!! It was the BEST way to spend my 26th birthday. We dove with Shark Encounters in the North Shore of Oahu. We started off super early in the morning around 6:00am, where we cruised about 3 miles offshore into the open ocean. Within seconds of us getting our place, the sharks were immediately surrounding us. They handed us some snorkel gear about dropped the cage in. We saw Galapagos and sandbar sharks in their natural environment and WOW is all I have to say! It truly was so exhilarating and a time I will never forget. If you've ever had interest in sharks or cage diving, this tour is a MUST. I booked this tour through Tinggly, a unique gift experience company, that has a numerous amount of excursions and activities all around the world. Check out this video I made of our Cage Diving experience!

Haleiwa town is the cutest little town on the North Shore with tons of surf shops, yummy food, and more. Also known as the "Surfing Capital of the World", this community was established back in the 1900's. Take an hour and walk around this town when on the North Shore of Oahu!

Waimea Bay & Banzai Pipeline

Right down the road from Haleiwa Town, you'll see Waimea Bay -- another beautiful beach with crystal clear water and white sand! BUT.... you can't go to Waimea Bay without jumping off the legendary cliff into the ocean! It is off to the left of the beach but you won't be able to miss it.. it is HUGE. Be prepared for a much longer fall than you're anticipating (lol!). Click HERE to watch a video of me jumping off! The Bay is also perfect for other activities such as bodyboarding, surfing, snorkeling, swimming, and even fishing. We also made a stop by the Banzai Pipeline where all of the famous surfers are! Unfortunately it was off season when we went but still so cool to see!

This trail is one of the most famous hikes in Oahu! It is right near Waikiki and a fairly moderate/easy level. Drew and I decided to do the 2 mile run from our hotel, hike up Diamond Head, and run the 2 miles back -- worth it! Most of the trail is a tuff surface that goes up the crater wall, and the ascent has steep stairs that also goes through a lighted tunnel. This volcanic crater (AKA: Diamond Head) has lots of geological and military history behind it which makes the view from the summit even more interesting! Friendly reminder: you do need to reserve tickets in advance if you plan to visit Diamond Head! Check out the video I made of the view from the top here!

Waikiki Beach is one of the more crowded and famous beaches for tourists visiting the island, but still a nice hotspot to do some paddleboarding! We rented some paddleboards from the store next to our hotel and it ended up making some AMAZING photos with the high-rise line of hotels in the background and a phenomenal view of Diamond Head! They have a variety of shops up and down the strip where you can rent chairs, surf boards, canoes, bodyboards, etc. with many food and shopping options right down the strip.

Food stops:

Kalapawai market - yummy cafe style favorites such as sandwiches, burritos, coffee, etc. There are several locations throughout the island of Oahu.

Sunrise Shack - this was hands down the best Acai bowl I have ever had! They have a shack style brick and mortar in the North Shore. Be careful of the chickens, they will literally steal the food right out of your hands lol!

Farm to Barn Cafe - Drew is a burrito connoisseur, and he actually said this qualified as one of the best breakfast burritos he's ever had! They have an amazing open location on the North Shore of Oahu.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck - we had about 35 people tell us to visit the Giovanni's Shrimp truck and it did not disappoint! It's even ranked in the top 10 throughout the United States. Make a pit stop when in the North Shore and grab a plate of their famous shrimp!

Matsumoto Shaved Ice - also on the north shore, Matsumoto shaved ice was recommended by every single person that heard we were going to Oahu (no lie). This storefront has been serving their famous shaved ice since 1951! I made the BEST concoction of ice cream, shaved ice, condensed milk, vanilla flavoring, and wedding cake flavoring-- YUM!!! (tip: the line was super long but moved quick so just hang tight!)

Onoya Ramen - Both of our first times trying ramen and this laid-back noodle joint with traditional Japanese noodle soups was so yummy!

The Deck - Located right next to Park Shore, and has the best ambiance! A beautiful rooftop view of diamond head and yummy margaritas!

Leonards Bakery - Home of "Malasadas" and "Pao Doce" (which are similar to donuts!). I highly recommend making a pit stop here and getting one of each flavor to try!

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I didn't even know that Botanical Gardens could be this gorgeous... WOW. This is a legendary hotspot on the island of Oahu where you often see the iconic influencer pictures lol. The gardens are 400 acres of pure lush and peaceful refuge. It features plantings from major tropical regions around the world such as Phillipinnes, Malaysia, Tropical America, India & Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa! My dress in the photo below is from Cupshe!

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Manoa Falls

If you are a waterfall lover like myself, Manoa Falls is a MUST. It's a fairly easy and level grounded hike with a slight incline to the destination. At the end, you'll see the beautiful 150-foot waterfall along the trail. You may be tempted to go swimming in the pool below the waterfall, but definitely don't because there is a threat of becoming infected with Leptospirosis. Make sure to walk out on the rocks and take advantage of the pretty photo opp!

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On the first night in Oahu, we stayed at the Hale Koa Hotel! It is an oceanfront retreat for military members and families located directly on the shore of Waikiki Beach! If you are military, highly recommend picking the Hale Koa for hospitality.

Park Shore, also located right in the heart of Waikiki, is where we stayed for the remainder of our time in Oahu! They had a variety of dining options, perfect location to shops and hikes, beautiful views in the room, and the most friendly staff you could imagine!

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For our first morning in Oahu, we had a photoshoot with @taylormichellephotography at Pounders Beach! I am just simply IN LOVE with all of our photos from her and I am so happy we had the chance to document our time in Oahu with Taylor. Traveling to Hawaii is such a unique and once in a lifetime experience, be sure to capture your special time with a photoshoot. She is an absolute doll and we loved shooting with her! She even does underwater sessions... WHAT!!!! Yes, I know, check out her work on her instagram here!

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Carve out some time one afternoon in Oahu and head down to the Pearl Harbor National Museum to learn about one of the most pivotal moments in US history: the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of WWII for the United States. There is so much to see, experience, and learn about at this memorial -- highly recommend! Before going, read up on the bag policy!

In the heart of Waikiki on Kalākaua Avenue, you'll see the iconic Royal Hawaiian Center. Here you'll find an elevated shopping experience, fine dining, entertainment, events, and more! Drew and I took a stroll down here one night and it was a blast!

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You can't visit Oahu without going to a legendary Luau! It was so cool to dive into the Polynesian culture and see how they host a party. They fed us the famous Koloa Pig and many delicious side items, sipped on yummy Mai Tai's, and we even learned how to Hoola dance! After the dinner, you venture over to watch their Iconic dance show. If you have a free night, I highly recommend checking out a Luau!


Throughout our time in Oahu, having our rental car from Hertz was a LIFESAVER. It's a necessity in order to maximize your time on this beautiful island. There is so much to see and do between hikes, beaches, tours, excursions, shopping, dining, and more -- having a vehicle made our experience so much more convenient. We absolutely loved our brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee from Hertz because it was spacious inside, had all the new features for music and relaxing, and nothing beats the experience that this amazing rental car company gives you! Check out Hertz for all of your rental car needs no matter where your destination may be!


  • Be courteous and respect the privacy of the locals when visiting sites/hikes

  • Nature is considered sacred in Hawaii: Do not move or take anything like lava rocks, flowers, etc

  • Drive slow when in neighborhoods - kids often play outside

  • Respect the Hawaiian Culture

  • If you're ever unsure, ASK A LOCAL

  • Say Mahalo and be friendly!

I hope my Oahu travel guide was helpful to you in planning your adventure to the most spectacular place on Earth! Stay tuned for more posts on my instagram (@ambermiller9) and check out my Kauai Travel Guide here. Mahalo!

XOXO - Amber

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