Whether you want to take a break from the sun and waves, or have traveled to Hawaii to immerse yourself in the heritage of the islands, there are a plethora of things to do in Oahu for history buffs. Longing to learn more about the island’s Polynesian lineage? Eager to experience the stories of Pearl Harbor? Endless possibilities await. Read on for 5 Oahu adventures, plus tips on local eats to keep you fueled as you explore the island’s past.
For an introduction to the culture and history of Oahu
A sightseeing tour with Robert’s Hawaii provides a taste of Oahu—the isle locals and travelers refer to as The Gathering Place. Circumnavigate the 44-mile (71-km) volcanic oasis, looping past verdant rainforests and motoring through cities that reveal Oahu’s rich and varied lifestyle. Attractions include the sacred site of Paliku, the surfers’ paradise of Waimea Bay, and the Dole Plantation, which dates back to 1950.
Following the tour, refuel with an authentic poke bowl at Fresh Catch, which specializes in island-style seafood, in addition to sushi, sashimi, and seared tuna dishes that can be delivered through a convenient pick-up window, or inside at the hassle-free Waikiki location.
If you want an all-encompassing look at the history of the Hawaiian Islands
Pay a visit to the Bishop Museum in the heart of Honolulu. Inside, discover a meticulously curated collection of Hawaiian artifacts, as well as exhibits that demonstrate the island’s natural history. Notable relics include model canoes, woven mats, and contemporary artwork by Pacific Islanders, as well as portraits of members of the Hawaiian monarchy and Duke Kahanamoku.
After all that sightseeing, your stomach is bound to be rumbling. Luckily, there’s Helena’s Hawaiian Food—a James Beard Award-winning destination located a stone’s throw from the museum. For an authentic Hawaiian meal, try the kalua pig—a dish that figures prominently at luau celebrations.
If you want to pair a romantic evening with a look at Polynesian culture
Consider a festive luau hosted by the Polynesian Cultural Center. This special event is one of the most popular luaus on the entire island, and your ticket grants you access to the center before the show starts. Visit each of the institute’s seven Polynesian villages before joining the luau experience. The capstone of the evening is Ha: Breath of Life, a performance that celebrates the music, dance, and legends of the Hawaiian Islands.
The next morning, relive the magic over brunch at Goofy Cafe & Dine in Waikiki. Locals flock to this light-filled space that serves up acai bowls brimming with fresh fruit and hearty omelets prepared with farm-fresh eggs.
If you want to pay your respects at Pearl Harbor
A passport to Pearl Harbor provides all-inclusive access to the Pacific Historic Parks in Honolulu, a partner of the United States National Parks Service. With so many things to do in Oahu, this educational foray belongs on every history lover’s bucket list. Honor those who lost their lives in World War II during your tour of the museums operated by the USS Missouri Memorial Association, including the site’s historic battleships.
After your tour, take a contemplative drive along the Kamehameha Highway, which hugs Oahu’s east coast. In Kahuku, refuel with garlic and coconut shrimp plates from Fumis Kahuku Shrimp, a beloved food truck on the island’s serene North Shore.
For a look at Oahu’s underwater wonders
Consider plunging beneath the surface of the sea with admission to Atlantis submarine—the submersible that figures prominently in several National Geographic specials. Peer into the turquoise depths, where tropical fish flicker past in an underwater parade. Then, marvel at the ruins of a sunken Navy oil tanker and two Mitsubishi airplanes that have morphed into artificial reefs over time. During the tour, approachable Atlantis Adventures Hawaii hosts are on hand to answer all of your questions.
After emerging into broad daylight, consider treating yourself to an additional Oahu icon—shave ice. At Island Vintage Shave Ice in the Royal Hawaiian Center, sample frozen confections with flavors like lilikoi (passionfruit), coconut, and green tea.
Where would you head to peer into Oahu’s past?