9 Top Attractions in Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu is the top Hawaiian island for all ages as it is home to the grand city of Honolulu, historic Pearl Harbor, and numerous natural wonders to enjoy. Choose how active you wish to be and head off to recreational activities, historical and cultural sites, viewing wildlife and the island's natural beauty, and so much more on your vacation to Hawaii. Whether you're a student, a teacher, parent, or group guide, Oahu has everything you need to keep your group entertained and having the vacation of their dreams.

1. Pearl Harbor National Park

Pearl Harbor is, of course, the site of one of the most devastating military attacks our country has experienced. Oahu grandly memorializes the fallen through honorable monuments, preservation of the ships, and remembering those who lost their lives in the attack. The centerpiece of the park is the USS Arizona Memorial, a structure built over the sunken remains of the battleship and the final resting place of 1,177 crewmen bombed in December 1941. Other areas of the park include the USS Missouri, the battleship on which the Japanese signed their surrender,  the USS Bowfin, and the Pacific Aviation Museum among others.

2. Hanauma Bay

Certainly one of the most beautiful natural wonders on Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve and a marine life conservation district protecting the creatures that have, in previous years, been harmed by human development. The past has seen the bay deteriorated and used improperly to advance business but now under new conservation procedures, the bay has returned to a pristine condition and is open to the general public. Tour the area, dive beneath the deep blue surface to meet sea turtles, explore the reef, and see the large population of parrotfish, or simply relax on the magnificently white sand shore.

3. 'Iolani Palace

Before the U.S. acquired the Hawaiian islands as the 50th state, the early Polynesian settlers, and later by British influence and occupation, developed a monarchy with its own kings and queens. The 'Iolani Palace was the royal residence of the famed Kamehameha family, the last of which ruled in the mid 19th century. The palace still stands in Honolulu, restored and open to the public for historical and cultural tours to learn more about the Hawaiian monarchy, its proud rulers, and the cultural influence of the surrounding political forces that inevitably ended with the U.S.'s absorption of the islands.

4. Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Otherwise known as the Bishop Museum, this distinctly Hawaiian attraction holds over 24 million natural history specimens, not to mention the world's largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts. Founded in 1889, the museum is located in a stunning Romanesque-style building on the site of an old boy's school campus instituted by Princess Kamehameha. Today you can explore three floors of the Hawaiian Hall examining the religious, cultural, and historical significance of the Hawaiian people, the Pacific Hall focusing on the wider expanse of Oceania, and various exhibits on important Hawaiians, the natural flora and fauna of the islands, and much more.

5. Dole Plantation

You've probably tasted Dole pineapples before and now you get the chance to see where they're grown. Opened in 1989 for the express purpose of giving visitors a look inside their operations, the Dole Plantation has become one of the top destinations for tourists in Oahu. Come see the plantation grounds, tour the facility, see pineapple cutting demonstrations, or even try your hand at the fabulous Pineapple Garden Maze.

6. Le'ahi Diamond Head State Monument

This 300,000-year-old crater spans an impressive 475 acres, standing as the legacy of an ancient explosion. Part of a series of volcanic eruptions that took place a few hundred thousand years ago, this dormant crater is a popular destination for recreation. The relatively short hike, just 0.75 miles, can be fairly demanding although it offers some of the best views and photo opportunities you're likely to find on the island.

7. Waikiki Aquarium

On the shores of beautiful Waikiki Beach, the Waikiki Aquarium is a prominent leader in marine conservation. Focusing on Pacific marine life, the Waikiki Aquarium is home to a population of endangered Hawaiian monk seals, threatened green sea turtles, and a number of other species threatened by human development. The aquarium is also a leader in sustainability and in utilizing the natural environment into exhibit enclosures. It's a real treat to see the Hawaiian monk seals swimming in the open-air enclosures surrounded by natural elements. Also see a fantastic and colorful array of Pacific native fish like the strange looking frogfish, lovely Moorish idol, or the neon parrotfish.

8. Byodo-In Temple

Located in the scenic and peaceful Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, the Byodo-In Temple seems like something out of the Japanese landscape, perhaps resting at the foot of Mount Fuji. Instead, you find the temple at the base of the Ko'olau Mountains, built to honor the first Japanese immigrants to the island on the centennial, styled after the Japanese original. The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple welcoming people of all faiths to worship, meditate, or even simply tour the grounds and appreciate the peaceful, relaxing, cultural surroundings on which the temple was created.

9. Queen Emma's Summer Palace

Serving as a summer retreat for Hawaii's Queen Emma and her family, the palace is now maintained by the Daughters of Hawaii organization as a monument to history and a look into the past of Hawaii's monarchy. Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, the Summer Palace is set in the scenic hills and lush forests of Nuuanu Valley. Come see the queen's personal possessions, delve into the royal life of a 19th-century monarch, and see why the grounds were so special to this royal family.