The Best Oahu Bucket List (Including Inside Secrets & Hidden Gems From A Local)

The Best Oahu Bucket List (Including Inside Secrets & Hidden Gems From A Local)

oahu bucket list

So you’re going to Hawaii? Visiting Oahu? Well if you’re looking to have a great time eating and experiencing all there is to eat and do, I’ve got you! Growing up on the island, I learned a thing or two about the best places to eat and the best things to do when visiting Oahu. And trust me, none of these options are overly touristy, but they do have a fair amount of fan base support. So you know you won’t be insanely overwhelmed with crowds for no reason, but you’re also sure to have a great time!

Food

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Zippy’s

This is a Hawaii classic! I crave this food all the time. There is so much at Zippy’s for the tasting so honestly, if you can make it a few times on your trip then go as much as you can. Some must try options include the chili and rice (of course), the zip pack, spaghetti (yep), and some options from Napoleon’s Bakery, the delicious bakery branch of Zippy’s. Something pretty unique about this restaurant is that you can choose what kind of dining option works best for you, Zippy’s typically has a dual side restaurant. One is a more casual, takeout-leaning half and the other side is more of a formal restaurant dining experience with servers, etc. If you eat anywhere in Hawaii, eat here!

Rainbow Drive In

This Oahu favorite is a great pick for some awesome Hawaii-style barbecue. Any of the menu options at Rainbow is delicious, but make sure whatever you order comes with a side of mac salad. It’s great from Rainbow, and if you’re new to trying Hawaiian mac salad, this is a great place to start. Not to mention, the downtown Honolulu ambiance of the place is really there.

Waiahole Poi Factory


Speaking of ambiance though, the Waiahole Poi Factory takes the cake. Outdoor dining paired with greenery and food as fresh as it gets? Yeah, that sounds like a pretty great time to me. If you’re looking for more traditional Hawaiian dining options, this stop is a great one to make! Watch (and maybe even help) your poi being made. This spot is literally the farm meeting the table and that kind of freshness can only be described as ‘Ono.

Leonard’s Bakery


Alright, but now we’re in the mood for something sweet? Alright. Leonard’s bakery is the obvious choice. Choose the actual bakery, or one of its many food trucks, this fact remains the same: you need to order some Malasadas. These Portuguese doughnuts are insanely popular in Hawaii, and for good reason. They’re like doughnuts but lighter, airier, fluffier, and with more of a crunchy crust than a typical doughnut. These fried delights are the best way to start or end your day. A sampler pack is a great way to introduce your taste buds to Leonard’s though, especially because filled malasadas are available for the picking, and you’re not going to want to miss out on those. Options like the chocolate or haupia malasadas are actually perfection and should never be slept on.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck


Ok, Giovanni’s is almost as famous as it gets, but I still wouldn’t consider it outside of the bounds of its hype. All the hype for Giovanni’s is deserved. Like how amazingly fresh the food at the Wiahole Poi factory is, Giovanni’s is a shrimp truck vending shrimp right on the north shore of Oahu. Now, that’s pretty fresh! Sometimes we just need some garlic buttery goodness, and when that time comes, opt for Giovanni’s. The shrimp is melt-in-your-mouth goodness that you won’t want to miss out on when visiting Oahu.

Mililani Restaurant


Ok, I’m not just hyping this place up because I’m from Mililani. If you ever are craving fried saimin, or you’re at a party and you wonder where the HUGE tray of fried saimin is from… The answer is always Mililani Restaurant when the question is fried saimin. The other menu options are great choices, but those noodles really are the star of the show. Try them out for yourself and you’ll understand why!

Foodland Poke


You’re in Hawaii! Want to know where the best, freshest Poke can be found? Well, if you’re looking to do it like a local, then look no further than Foodland. And hey, there’s one right next to Mililani Restaurant! Instead of a typical seafood counter, Hawaii grocery stores have an extra special seafood station with fresh poke at the ready, and trust me, it’s always the best stuff at Foodland!

Matsumoto’s


Another must-eat while you’re in Hawaii is shave ice, right? Well, the best place to get it has always been Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa. Matsumoto’s has shave ice down to a science. Even though the shop looks way different than the little shack Matsumoto’s used to be when I was little, the shave ice still tastes just as amazing! There just might be a bit of a longer wait to get it now too.

Activities

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Kualoa Ranch


A fan of Jurassic Park, Karate Kid, Godzilla, or even Niki Minaj’s starship music video? Well, visit the spot where the magic happened (and where lots of other stuff also happened to be filmed). This fun corner of the island is a great spot to explore, but the private ranch also offers tons of fun activities that help you explore the gorgeous rainforest surroundings. Activities like zip lining, ATV riding, horseback riding, etc. are all available and insanely fun at Kualoa Ranch.

Pearl Harbor


Where World War II touched US soil, Pearl Harbor is a great site to visit when on Oahu because of the rich history and the activities available to explore and learn while at the memorial. To see the famous U.S.S. Arizona memorial, ferries dock at the harbor to take visitors out. Other things to see at Pearl Harbor include museums, and a submarine you can climb around in, not to mention the gorgeous Hawaiian ocean view. You’d be surprised how peaceful this site is even after the infamous attack.

Waimea (Valley+Beach)


Ancient Hawaiians divided the islands up into watershed systems called Ahapua’as. One of these Ahapua’as, Waimea, runs from the waterfalls at the top of Waimea Valley down to the famous Waimea beach at Waimea bay. Yes, THE big wave famous Waimea bay. See nature do her thing in this protected sliver of island where it truly is absolutely stunning. Visitors can even walk along a guided path with markers identifying native plants!

Manoa Falls


This hike is so fun! Talk about the definition of tropical and fantastical, you see plants that seem like they must be millions of years old, lots of mini waterfalls, and a gorgeous huge waterfall and swimming hole at the end of the hike. While this hike is pretty popular, I would recommend it to anyone because the environment makes any crowd pretty worth it. It was raining and crazy muddy the last time I went, but it still was the best time, so it’s definitely worth checking out in any conditions!

Dole Plantation


Think you can only get Dole Whip at Disney? Well, think again. At Dole plantation, they grow the pineapples for Dole, and thus Dole Whip. So, Dole Plantation has to literally be the best place in the world to get Dole Whip… and I agree. If not just for the Dole Whip, there are tons of other reasons to make it out to Dole Plantation. Most notably, the plantation is also famous for having its huge pineapple garden maze, which until 2008 was the largest maze in the world. That’s pretty cool, I think! Especially knowing elementary school me was able to best the world’s largest maze at the time having collected stamps from all the visiting stations within the maze. For a fun day in the sun and cooling off with some Dole Whip, Dole Plantation is an obvious choice.

Boyodo-In Temple


Not only is it up against the gorgeous Ko’olau mountain range, the Boyodo-In Temple is a gorgeous structure in itself. Built with craftsmanship and artistry and maintained with care, the temple is such a beautiful, peaceful place to visit among the gardens. If you are in the mood to clear your mind, this might be a great spot to visit. A few laps around the property will be sure to bring you just a bit closer to enlightenment… Right?

Makapu’u


Are you a fan of lighthouses? Whales? Hikes? Well, if you answered yes to any of the questions above, you should probably hike the Makapu’u lighthouse trail in Kaneohe. This trail is paved all the way, so it’s great for everyone of any skillset, but does feature a pretty steady incline the whole way up. But don’t worry, you’ll be distracted by the views for sure. If you hike it in the winter, pretty much the whole hike can be spent whale watching. Yep, whale watching. From the mountain, you’re able to see whales swimming, playing, breaching and spraying and it’s such a breathtaking experience. If you’re not hiking it in winter, you can still look out for something at the end of this hike: A lighthouse! This red and white lighthouse is pretty cool looking if you ask me, and makes for a great photo-op at the end of your hike.

Koko Crater


Want a bit more of a challenge while hiking. Well, a unique, insanely difficult, and still legal (and if you know what I’m referring to, no you don’t) hike is Koko Crater. Climbing to the top of Kokohead crater seems difficult, but the 360 views of the island makes the climb way worth it. Regardless, if the challenge is what you’re looking for, you’re going to get it. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart but it can make you feel like a champion post-completion. The straight-on approach is one way to get that ish done, and the old railway path definitely makes this hike a unique one, and worth the add on your Oahu bucket list!