Hidden Gems in Oahu, Hawaii

If you're tired of tourist traps, then check out some of these local hot spots and attractions off the beaten path in Oahu

Ditch the crowds and explore Oahu like a local

Over five million tourists a year flock to Oahu, Hawaii and with incredible beaches, vibrant cultural experiences, rich historical sites and stunning views, the island is well-travelled for a reason. If you’re hoping to avoid resort-heavy Waikiki and are tired of seeing more sunburned tourists than fish at Hanauma Bay, then consider wandering off the beaten path and exploring some of these hidden gems.

Kayak to the Mokuluas

One of the best ways to escape the crowds is to hit the water. There are lots of boat rental companies on Oahu that cater to tourists, so grab a kayak and do some exploring. From Kailua you can visit Two Good Kayaks or Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks to either rent a kayak or join a guided tour. Kayaking to the Mokulua Islands, located about a mile off Lanikai Beach, makes for a picturesque getaway. Make sure you know where you’re going because one of the two islands is currently off-limits. The larger one (Moko Nui) is open to adventurers and popular with locals, but time it right and you likely won’t run into a crowd. 

Explore the Valley of Temples

If hordes of tourists are giving you headaches, escape to the Byodo-In Temple for a bit of serenity. This Buddhist temple was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. It’s a half-size replica of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan, and can be found nestled in the Valley of Temples Memorial Park. The lush grounds host a meditation pavilion, koi pond and the largest Buddha statue carved outside of Japan. The Valley of Temples is a working cemetery so be aware and respectful when visiting. This hidden gem isn’t staying hidden for long, so plan an early morning visit to avoid the tour buses and ensure optimal tranquility. 

Hike scenic trails

A hike up iconic Diamond Head is standard fare for any Oahu trip, but with hundreds of incredible hikes on the island, there’s no excuse not to branch out. Check out the Lanikai Pillboxes, named for the concrete WW2 bunkers the trail passes, for a relatively easy climb and sweeping views of Kailua. Kuliouou Ridge offers a longer hike, but the views and diverse range of plant life are worth the effort.

Snorkel at Electric Beach

There’s a secret beach and hidden cove around every corner in Oahu, and it’s worth it to do some exploring for your own slice of sand. Those eager to strap on a snorkel, but tired of hitting up Hanauma Bay, should pay a visit to Electric Beach (also known as Kahe Point) on the west coast. Electric Beach is named for the power plant just across the road that outflows warm, clean water through offshore cooling pipes. These pipes are a big hit with the fish and attract all kinds of sea life. It’s also well-known as a place to find Spinner Dolphins, who can regularly be seen playing just offshore.