15 Things to Know Before Traveling to Oahu

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Oahu is one of the best travel destinations for families. There are picturesque views, amazing food, great people, and beautiful beaches. Oahu can be budget-friendly with proper planning. If you are traveling to Oahu and do not know what to expect, here are 15 things you should know before traveling to Oahu.

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Hālona Blowhole in Oahu


Kahi Hali'a Memorial Aloha Memorial in Waikiki

If you truly want to experience Hawaii you do not want to start in Waikiki. I am sure you have come across a lot of blogs saying Waikiki is the place to be. Before traveling to Oahu I am sure you have the impression that Waikiki will give you an authentic Hawaiian experience. For an authentic look at the island, you want to head to the North Shore. Although still full of tourists, the North Shore offers the true Hawaiian experience with locals and food.


Waikiki is the main tourist spot, as the strip in Las Vegas.. Expect to pay a lot more money for everything you purchase while in Waikiki. If you want to avoid tourist traps and what seems like endless traffic avoid staying in Waikiki. Oahu has so much to offer and the best way to experience it is like a local. If you stay outside of the main tourist area you can interact with more locals and find some “hidden gems”.


Many vacationers are being caught off-guard with the cancellation of their vacation accommodations. There is a new law for short term rentals that are impacting travelers. Be advised that many of the rental properties on Airbnb and VRBO are considered “illegal” and are not in the designated tourist zones. The new laws do not allow for property owners to rent short term (less than 30 days), to reduce the number of compliments from residents about the influx of tourists into residential neighborhoods. Renters will not be penalized for staying in illegal rentals but owners’ risk being fined $5,000 per day. This is not welcomed news for vacationers or owners, but it is great for hotels who no longer must compete with cheaper alternatives. Remember to plan accordingly when looking for accommodation.


The canal along Ala Wai Blvd where free parking is located.

If you plan on staying in Waikiki with a car be advised of the cost of parking. The cheapest option is to try to get free parking in certain areas of the city. The main free parking is along Ala Wai Blvd and the side streets of Waikiki. If you are lucky enough to get a spot here to be advised there is street cleaning so be sure to check the signs to avoid being towed. I drove in a circle for almost an hour to get a free parking spot and was able to stay parked for 2 days. Although it was nerve-wracking, I saved $40.

The cheapest option for parking ($20 per 24 hours) is at Waikiki Banyan on Oahu Avenue. The alternatives cost an average of $25 per 24 hours.


Having fun at Lanikai Beach

Hawaii is one of the most family-friendly places to visit. You can find plenty of activities for kids of every age. There is nothing more important than Ohana in Hawaii.


Exploring east side of Oahu

If you want to truly enjoy your time in Oahu, you will need a rental car. The island is best explored on your terms. You can visit North Shore, take in the sights at Makapu’u Lighthouse, explore the many beautiful beaches, and get amazing food.

Tip: The best place to get gas is at Costco, it is over 60 cents cheaper than other gas stations on the island.


We stumbled on locals that allowed us to take pictures while they sang to us.

The Aloha spirit in Hawaii is contagious. Aloha is simply treating others the way you would like to be treated. You are kind to everyone and show respect. You cannot go anywhere without being greeted with a smile and feel welcomed.


Oahu is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. It is possible to enjoy Oahu on a budget. There are so many free activities, you can enjoy your time there without spending any money.

How to visit Pearl Harbor without a tour.


When driving on the highway in most states the speed limit is usually at least 55 mph. You will be surprised when you get to Oahu because the speed limit on the highway is 45 mph. You must drive the speed limit and do so with Aloha. Allow people to get over or to pass you if necessary. Remember, you are on an island everyone is just driving in a circle anyway.


The best way to save money on food is to get groceries when you arrive. Foodland is the main grocery store on the island. The Foodland closest to Waikiki is the most expensive so use the one-off of Dillingham.


A lot of locals in Hawaii depend on the tourism industry to make a living. Remember, when you are tipping that the cost of living in Oahu is high. It is important to tip for the service that you receive.


To save time for the more touristy attractions consider taking a tour. You can hit all the major attractions in one day with transportation and lunch included. There are tours available on Groupon, but we recommend Aloha Circle Island Adventures. We had an amazing time on our tour and our guide “Uncle Tony” was the best. He told us personal stories, made a few extra stops, and even held our son while we ate. If you are looking to learn more about the island, laugh, and have fun this is the tour for you. You will not be disappointed. We do not receive a commission for recommending them, we just enjoyed ourselves that much.


Do not forget to pack the essential items for fun in the sun. You will need sunscreen, bug spray, and aloe vera gel. If you plan to purchase them in Oahu be prepared to pay more than twice the cost, especially if you purchase near Waikiki. It is best to go to a local store or Walmart.


It is no secret that we (humans) have wreaked havoc on life under the sea. We must clean up after ourselves when on the beach. The trash that is left behind makes its way into the ocean and impacts the ecosystem and animals that call these beautiful waters home.

When snorkeling or scuba diving it is important that we do not touch the fish, turtles, or coral. These animals are so sensitive that the oils from our skin and can make them sick or even kill them. Remember, keep your distance when interacting with animals in their natural habitat.

Tip: To help protect undersea life use reef-friendly sunscreen.



This is a tip for when you are departing Oahu. Be sure to arrive at the airport early. The security lines to get through TSA can be very long so give yourself extra time and arrive at the airport early. The line to get through security often stretches so long it is wrapped around to the curb at the departure drop-off point. We arrived 3 hours before our departure and stood in line for over 1 hour. When we made it to the front of the line there were only 2 conveyor belts for luggage checks and scanners as opposed to 4 at other airports.


Camping on the beach in Oahu is illegal. You are not allowed to stay overnight at most beaches on the island. There is a way to get around this because you can fish in any of the public beaches on the island. If you plan on camping remember to take a fishing pole. If you are fishing, you can remain on the beach.

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6 thoughts on “15 Things to Know Before Traveling to Oahu”

  1. Really helpful guide to Oahu! I went to Hawaii a few years ago but never made it to this Island. I want to go back though and check out Makapu’u Lighthouse like you suggest. Thanks for recommending the tour with Uncle Tony too, I love getting personalized tours that don’t feel touristy.

  2. Wow! This was really informative. Oahu seems like such an amazing place to visit, I will definitely be adding the destination to my bucket list after reading this post!

  3. Loved this! I was excited to come across your post- I just got home from Oahu and am already wishing I were back there! So true about staying outside of Waikiki. It’s a fun city, but there is so much more to see and do. We stayed in Kailua and LOVED it. The beaches were beautiful and the sand was so soft!

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