Thousands and thousands of tourists come to the Hawaiian island of Oahu each year. However, most of the time, they end up spending most (if not all) of their time at tourist traps. Here are five tourist traps on Oahu, and some alternatives, so you can actually experience some local favorites.
Straight off the bat, I have to call out Waikiki Beach. It is probably my least favorite beach on the entire island, because there is nothing special about it, besides the hordes of tourists that are always there. There are so many options that are so much better, no matter what you would like to do.
For just relaxing, check out beaches on the East and West shores of the island. The waters there are calm and clear, perfect for a peaceful vacation. For snorkeling, Hanauma Bay is actually a pretty good option, but I prefer some of the beaches on the West side. For surfing, there are beaches on the North Shore for the pros, and, for the beginners, there are some options on the South shore.
Be sure that if you choose to explore new beaches around the island, you keep your safety in mind. Tourists in Hawaii actually drown at nine times the rate of locals, so PLEASE pay attention to your surroundings. If possible, bring a local with you! If not, don’t be overconfident, pay attention to how far you are from shore, and watch out for rip currents and sharp coral. That being said, please don’t only visit Waikiki beach.
Waikiki Shopping District
I’m not a huge fan of the Waikiki area in general, including the shopping district. The stores in that area mark up their prices significantly, because they know tourists will pay! Plus, many of the shops in Waikiki can be found all over the world! There is nothing “Hawaiian” about them.
Instead, if you are looking for some local goodies that aren’t outrageously expensive, head over to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. There, you can buy anything from a new pair of sunglasses to some arare (Japanese rice crackers) to tikis, all at a reasonable price.
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice
I’m just going to say it. The famed Matsumoto’s Shave Ice isn’t all that special. Even though I have a serious sweet tooth, their shave ice was WAY too sweet for me, and it was simply not worth the wait.
My favorite shave ice place on the island is actually relatively new. Island Shave Ice and Creamery is located in Kapolei, and I think their shave ice is so much better. While the wait is still kind of long, the flavors are amazing. Rather than just a hit of sugary syrup, the fruity flavors of lilikoi (passion fruit), lychee, and li hing mui (kind of like a sweet, spicy, sour plum – you have to try it to understand) all come through.
Also, just a tip, never go to a place that says “shaved ice” instead of “shave ice”. That’s how you know it won’t be any good.
Compared to the other tourist traps on this list, Waimea Falls isn’t too bad. You actually get to see a little waterfall here! The reason it’s on this list though, is because there is so much better on Oahu!
Manoa Falls is a pretty popular hike with tourists and locals alike. However, if you are looking for one that’s a little more hidden, do a quick Google search and see what comes up.
Diamond Head Hike
Once again, this hike isn’t too much of a tourist trap. Yes, there are TONS of tourists here, but the views from the top are pretty bomb. But if views are what you are going for, head to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, at sunrise if possible, for some spectacular views.
I hope these suggestions make your visit to Hawaii a little less touristy and a little more local!
Looking for more suggestions from a Hawaii local? Check out this blog post on the top five (not cliché) souvenirs to buy in Hawaii. Or you if you’re getting really excited, you can check out all of the posts in my “Hawaii” section.