Maui to Oahu Day Trip: The Best Things To Do
Sarah is a Hawaii local and full-time travel writer. When she’s not writing, Sarah practices what she preaches by traveling to new destinations, hiking to beautiful waterfalls, and exploring her home. Find out more
During your Maui vacation, take a day trip to the neighboring island of Oahu. As the most populated island of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is packed with attractions that simply don’t exist on Maui.
Visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial, hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, and exploring Iolani Palace are just the start of the best things to do on Oahu, Hawaii. You’ll also find Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, on the island. Visit the city if you’re looking to explore its fascinating shops, restaurants, hotels and monuments on your Oahu to Maui day trip.
While there are daily ferries and island-hopping cruises between Maui and Oahu, if you want to make the most of your time you can take a quick 40 minute flight. Travel out in the early morning and return in the late evening to avoid needing to stay overnight.
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Hike the Lanikai Pillbox Trail
You’ve undoubtedly seen photos from the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. The ones with the stunning sunrise, the beautiful blue waters, and the two bright green Mokulua Islands in the distance. During your Oahu visit, you can see this magical view in person.
The Lanikai Pillbox Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island – and for good reason. Not only does this relatively easy hike have amazing views at the end, it also only takes about 25 minutes to get there.
Soak up the sun at Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach
No list of things to do on Oahu would be complete without a beach or two. Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach are twin shorelines in Kailua, not far from the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. These two spots are known for their soft sand, turquoise waters, and beautiful views of the Mokulua Islands.
You’d be hard-pressed to find better beaches than this pair, so take a few hours to soak up the sun, search for shells, and swim in the ocean.
Take a surfing lesson for an amazing Oahu to Maui day trip
No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a surfing lesson. After all, the islands are best-known for their amazing waves and surf competitions.
The group surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach with Surfer Girl Academy is one of the best options out there. This Hurley-certified school has some of the most talented surf instructors on the island. And with the easy conditions of the relatively calm waters of Waikiki Beach, you’ll be catching waves in no time.
Watch the surfers on the North Shore
After taking your surfing lesson and catching a few waves, you’ll definitely want to watch the pros in action. While Waikiki Beach is a good spot for smaller waves, pro surfers tend to hit up the North Shore for the larger swells. In the winter, it’s not uncommon to see them tackling massive 20- to 30-foot waves just for fun.
If you’re taking a day trip to Oahu from Maui in November to January, keep an eye out for surf competitions. The Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, and Billabong Pipe Masters are just a few of the coolest surf competitions hosted at the iconic Banzai Pipeline Beach.
You definitely won’t want to miss out on these captivating events. Be sure to wake up early and check the competition is still on for the day (sometimes they’re canceled, because the waves aren’t big enough). Then, when you make it to the North Shore, grab your seat on the sand and watch these incredible surfers do what they do best. Who knows? You might even get to see a few surfing greats like Kelly Slater, Billy Kemper and Carissa Moore.
Take a moment at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy Air Service bombed the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor, killing over 1,000 people. Since these deaths couldn’t go unanswered, this event prompted the United States’ involvement in World War II.
Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, where you can learn about the attack and pay your respects to those who lost their lives. You can even check out the best-known part of Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial. During your visit, I highly recommend taking a tour, whether it’s a simple audio tour or a full-fledged guided tour.
Attend a luau
A luau is an extravagant, traditional Hawaiian feast featuring delicious food and fascinating entertainment. King Kamehameha II of the Kingdom of Hawaii hosted the first-ever luau in 1819. Over 200 years later, the islands are still hosting these celebrations.
There are a couple of different luaus on Oahu that are worth your time. First, there’s the beloved Paradise Cove Luau in Ko Olina. With its hidden oceanfront lagoon, traditional Hawaiian games and mouthwatering local food, it’s a winner. And it’s not just me who believes that – the Paradise Cove Luau consistently wins the celebrated “Hawaii’s best luau” title.
The Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park is another great option. Just 20 minutes from Waikiki, the Ka Moana Luau includes leis, mai tais, a tropical buffet and a fire-filled performance. What more could you ask for?
Do a little snorkeling
One of the best things to do on Oahu is go snorkeling and experience Hawaii’s famous waters, which are filled with incredible marine life.
While you can snorkel on your own at places like Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove, I recommend booking a tour, especially if you have a specific animal that you’d like to see. If sea turtles are at the top of your list, this Turtle Canyons snorkel excursion with Living Ocean Scuba is too good to pass up. Quite a few turtles come and say hello during this tour off the Waikiki coast.
If dolphins are your marine animal of choice, that’s no problem either. Head to West Oahu for an extraordinary snorkel sail with Hawaii Nautical. Pods of spinner dolphins love to hang out on the west side of the island, and this eco-friendly sailboat will take you right to them.
Hitch a ride in a glass bottom boat
If you prefer to stay dry while taking in all of the amazing fish, take a glass bottom boat tour with Hawaii Glass Bottom Boat. As you cruise out past Diamond Head, you’ll be able to see colorful fish, friendly dolphins, and peaceful turtles swimming beneath your feet. You’ll even get to check out one of Hawaii’s shipwrecks on this glass bottom boat adventure.
Say hello to a few sharks on a cage diving adventure
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Or just someone who likes to step out of their comfort zone? Cage diving with North Shore Shark Adventures is the activity for you. From the safety of an underwater cage, get up close with one of nature’s fiercest animals: the shark. If you’re extra lucky, dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, and green sea turtles might also make an appearance.
Take a sunset cruise
One of the best ways to end any day in Hawaii is with a sunset. And while a Hawaii sunset on land is already fantastic, a sunset cruise with Atlantis Adventures is even better. On top of enjoying the breathtaking sunset aboard this luxurious yacht, you’ll also get to sip on tasty cocktails, take in the Honolulu city lights, and smell the fresh ocean breeze.
Dive below the surface on a submarine ride
One of the coolest things to do in Waikiki is take a submarine ride with Atlantis Adventures. As you dive below the surface of the Pacific, you’ll say hello to all sorts of marine life, including fish, coral, sea urchins, turtles, stingrays and more.
Learn a bit of Hawaiian history at Iolani Palace
Many visitors taking a day trip from Oahu to Maui forget to make time to learn about Hawaii’s history and culture. Luckily, Iolani Palace is a famous Oahu attraction that can help you do just that.
Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the entire United States. From 1882 to 1893, it served as the home of Hawaiian royalty, including King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. Today, you can tour this gorgeous building and learn more about Native Hawaiian history and culture.
Pop by the Byodo-In Temple
Hidden within the luscious greenery of the Koolau Mountains lies the Byodo-In Temple. Located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, it’s a miniature version of the Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan – which just happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its beautiful architecture is so similar to Japanese designs, for a minute you might even think you’ve traveled to Japan.
As well as taking in the architecture, there are a few things to do at this unique landmark. Take a stroll through the temple grounds, check out the giant gold Buddha statue, and ring the giant bell.
Make a stop at the Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation was established on Oahu in 1899, since becoming an important part of island life. It’s a pineapple plantation, which quickly became one of Hawaii’s most famous exports, and, not long after, the Dole Plantation became one of Oahu’s most popular attractions.
There’s so much to do at the Dole Plantation. Ride on a train through the pineapple fields, learn about the company’s history, sample countless pineapple sweets, and even make your way through the world’s largest maze.
But if there’s just one thing you have to do at the Dole Plantation, it’s get a Dole Whip. Yes, you can get Dole Whips all around the United States, but they’re just not as good as the original ones from the Dole Plantation. For even more pineapple flavor, get the Dole Whip with extra pineapple on the edges. What better way to end your Oahu to Maui day trip?