After visiting Oahu in Hawaii on two very different types of trips, I want to share my favorite tips with you for when you visit. Oahu is one of my top 10 places in the world to visit and I genuinely love the culture, the landscapes and the food.
- Currency – Hawaii is 1 of the 50 states of the United States of America and the official currency is the U.S Dollar. Exchanging money in the airport is your best bet when traveling to Hawaii.
- Cash or credit cards? – both! I think the only time I needed cash was for a food truck in the North Shore. Credit cards are widely accepted on the island.
- Make sure and let your bank/credit card company know you will be traveling so they don’t cut off access to your funds.
- If you are looking for free things to do in Oahu, there is plenty! The island is lush with options.
- Best time to visit – I would argue there is no bad time to visit! But the best time to visit is between September-November when getting there is a bit cheaper and the temps aren’t quite as hot. The island isn’t nearly as busy either.
- Getting There – Oahu is widely traveled to despite its location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That being said, because of its location, you aren’t going to find too many rock bottom fares BUT you should be able to find plenty of options as far as carriers go from most places.
- Getting Around – Unless you plan to stay put at your hotel/resort, I highly recommend renting a car. On both of my trips to Oahu I rented a car so that I could explore other regions of the island. Gas was not overpriced in my opinion and about the same as the mainland (currently about $2.50 or less a gallon). I do want to note that I was robbed in Oahu in the North Shore in broad daylight from leaving stuff in the car that was visible. Do not ever bring anything in your car or put stuff in your trunk. I was followed for several miles before the car was broken into when I got out of it. Only bring what you need and keep it on you. This is not an uncommon thing to happen to tourists – and dealing with the car companies and insurance is never easy.
- There is a bus system in Oahu – TheBus – it will not take you everywhere on the island but does go to a good majority of places. For reference, you could take the bus from the Honolulu Airport to Turtle Bay Resort in the North Shore for about $5 and it would take just over 2 hours on 2 buses and about 6 minutes of walking.
- Uber and Lyft are available. If you do not already have the apps downloaded on your phone, you will need them to use them.
- Where to stay – The island has so many magical areas to stay in and I haven’t been everywhere but you have options from Hostels to 5 Star Hotels & resorts to Airbnb. I love the Waikiki Beach area in Honolulu as it is close to plenty of things to do, places to eat, shopping, and attractions. If you want to stay in Honolulu, I recommend The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I stayed in the hotel for a week and it was one of the greatest weeks of my life. I would love to go back to Oahu and stay in other areas of the island that I have not stayed, like the North Shore.
- Cost of Food – I did not find the food to be overpriced and very similar to the mainland. It is easy to find just about anything at any price point. For example: eating a nicer restaurant for 2 people could cost upwards of $40-75 dollars or you could go cheaper and get a plate lunch for about $5-$7 depending on where you are. You can eat even cheaper than that if you want. On average for a standard meal in a fast food location, food truck, non-fancy restaurant, I would say about $10-$15. For foodie spots in Oahu you can checkout my guide here.
- There is a lot of seafood and Asian options.
- Climate – the best part about Hawaii is the weather. I believe on average its about 75-85 year round. Keep in mind it does rain and some seasons have more rain than others but overall it is a great climate for visiting.
- Is the water safe? – Yes and most hotels will leave you 2 bottles a day for drinking and/or taking with you when you leave your room.
- What does Aloha mean? – I have heard it used in a variety of ways but is normally used when greeting or departing
- Drones – yes, you can drone in Oahu, but make sure you have all the right permits if needed and check to make sure you are not in a no fly zone.
- Top Activities on Oahu: surfing, hiking, snorkeling, sailing, swimming, rest & relaxation!
- Best place to catch a sunset? – The North Shore on Sunset Beach is my favorite and Waikiki Beach is my second pick
- Stairway to Heaven – yes, it is illegal and yes people still do it. I have never done it nor do I think I would.
- Phone and WiFi Coverage – being an American with cell service on the mainland, I had no issues with getting Sprint service on the island or using the WiFi on my phone. Lodging typically offers free WiFi either throughout the property or in designated areas. Alternatively, if you are not coming from America, you could get a SIM card or a Skyroam device for portable WiFi.
- Safety – I found Oahu to be safe even though I was robbed. For me that was an isolated incident. I felt safe walking the streets of Honolulu, driving all over the island and exploring other cities throughout the island. I say to take as much precautions as you can no matter where you go – because you can never be too safe.
- Must eat food items when visiting – It would not be a trip to the island of Oahu if you did not try Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Dole Whip, Leonard’s Masaladas, and Shave ice! Read more here –> Foodies Guide To Oahu
- Best things to do in the North Shore – Sunset Beach, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Dole Pineapple Plantation, surfing, sunset sail, swim with sharks, Turtle Beach, helicopter tour
- Best things to do in Honolulu: Waikiki Beach, Luau, surfing, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Shangri La – Doris Duke Museum, Manoa Falls
- Other top attractions around the island: Byodo-In Temple, Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, Hanauma Bay, China Walls, Kualoa Ranch, Banzai Pipeline, Sharks Cove, diving with sharks, Waimea Valley, La’ie Point, Pillbox Hike, and so much more!
I hope you find these tips useful when visiting Oahu.