1. Spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie for a good smattering of Polynesian life and exciting night entertainment. Get there as soon as they open. Includes 7 Polynesian villages representing different island groups where you can watch and participate in activities, crafts, dances, music, etc. Daytime canoe parade with dancers in the lagoon. The night show is great.
2. The Kualoa Ranch on the east shore has some great horseback riding and other activities. Ride up the valley where some Jurrassic Park scenes were filmed.
3. Visit the Byodo-In Buddhist temple and grounds - a replica of the 900 year old Japanese temple in a beautiful setting and peaceful gardens.
4. Enjoy the beautiful beaches of Kailua and Lanikai on the east shore.
5. Take a short visit to the Nuuanu Pali State Park on the Pali Highway (61) to see great views, and walk down on the old highway a bit. Great stop on the way to Kailua area or Laie / North Shore.
6. Drive to the North Shore beaches, where the world’s best surfing happens. A nice drive along the coast with lots of places to stop, including for shave ice in Hale'iwa. Good sunsets.
7. Short stop at the Macadamia Nut Farm on the way to Laie / North Shore for gifts and free samples of various flavored macadamia nuts.
8. Visit Waimea Falls Park - beautiful nature, waterfall and nice beach.
9. Visit the Dole Pineapple Pavilion.
10. Go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. Best place for easy snorkeling with lots of fish. It’s a small bay with a pretty beach and lots of shallow water coral and plenty of colorful fish. It’s best to go early to beat the crowds, but anytime is still good.
11. Visit Pearl Harbor. Interesting tour with a movie of what happened and a boat ride to the monument over the USS Arizona. Get tickets in advance and go early to beat the crowds.
12. Hike to Mauanawili Falls Trail. A nice, hearty ½ day hike through the jungle with a fun pool and waterfall.
13. Watch the sunset from Yokohama Beach, the northwest shore.
14. Dinner with music on the outside deck at Pizza Bob’s in Hale'iwa, North Shore.
15. Dinner or snacks and drinks with music watching the sunset at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Mai Tai Bar right on Waikiki Beach. (This is my only recommendation for Waikiki. It is really touristy, but if you are there this is a good evening spot.)
16. Great Beaches:
Near Honolulu: Waikiki (for people watching), Ala Moana, Hanauma Bay (snorkel)
Southeast: Waimanalo, Lani Kai, Kailua, Makapu’u (for body surfing)
North: Laie, Sunset, Waimea, Hale’iwa
Northwest: Yokohama Beach
17. Get out of town!!! As fun as Waikiki might be to some, it is a far cry from the real Hawaii, which can be found anywhere outside of the greater Honolulu area on Oahu, or on other islands. There is a plethora of natural beauty and wonders waiting to be explored outside of the cement jungle!
18. The best guidebook for descriptions, pictures and great ideas on what to do and where to stay is the Oahu Revealed blue guidebook – can be found at any bookstores and libraries. Check out their website also at wizardpub.com.