If your time is limited, you might want to consider a guided island tour. These tours are informative, can give you a good overview of Honolulu or Oahu in a limited amount of time, and are surprisingly entertaining.
E Noa Tours, 1141 Waimanu St., Ste. 105, Honolulu (tel. 800/824-8804 or 808/591-2561; www.enoa.com), offers a range of tours, from island loops to explorations of historic Honolulu. These narrated tours are on air-conditioned, 27-passenger minibuses. The Majestic Grand Circle Island tour ($99 for adults, $80 for children 6-11, $59 for children under 6), stops at Diamond Head Crater, Hanauma Bay, Byodo-In Temple, Sunset Beach, Waimea Valley (admission included), and various beach sites along the way. Other tours go to the Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial and the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Waikiki Trolley Tours, 1141 Waimanu St., Ste. 105, Honolulu (tel. 800/824-8804 or 808/596-2199; www.waikikitrolley.com), offers three fun tours of sightseeing, entertainment, dining, and shopping. These tours are a great way to get the lay of the land. You can get on and off the trolley as needed (trolleys come along every 2-20 min.). An all-day pass (8:30am-11:35pm) is $38 for adults, $28 for seniors, and $14 for children (4-11); a 4-day pass is $59 for adults, $41 for seniors and children. For the same price, you can experience the 2-hour narrated Ocean Coastline tour of the southeast side of Oahu, an easy way to see the stunning views.
Grayline Polynesian Tours (tel. 800/622-3011 or 808/833-3000; www.polyadhawaiitours.com), offers several excursions. The all-day island tour starts at $97for adults, $59 for children under 12; the half-day scenic shore tour is $30 for adults, $23 for children 3 to 11; the half-day USS Arizona Memorial Excursion is $55 for adults and $33 for children 3 to 11.
For those who'd prefer a self-guided driving tour, TourTalk-Oahu (tel. 877/585-7499; www.tourtalkhawaii.com) offers a complete package of 78-minute narrated audio tours with driving instructions for $15.
The Hawaii Mission Houses Historic Site, 553 S. King St., at Kawaiahao Street (tel. 808/531-0481; www.missionhouses.org; TheBus no. 2), offers a guided tour of the Visitors' Center, frame House and Printing Office, Tuesday to Saturday at 11am, 1pm, and 2:45pm. Admission is $10 adults, $8 seniors, and $6 children age 6 and up, age 5 and under free.
A Bird's-Eye View
To understand why Oahu was the island of kings, you need to see it from the air. Island Seaplane Service (www.islandseaplane.com; tel. 808/836-6273) operates flights departing from a floating dock in the protected waters of Keehi Lagoon in either a six-passenger DeHavilland Beaver or a four-passenger Cessna 206. There’s nothing quite like feeling the slap of the waves as the plane skims across the water and then effortlessly lifts into the air.The half-hour tour ($179) gives you aerial views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, Kahala’s luxury estates, and the sparkling waters of Hanauma and Kaneohe bays; the 1-hour tour ($299) continues on to Chinaman’s Hat, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the rolling surf of the North Shore. The flight returns across the island, over Hawaii’s historic wartime sites: Schofield Barracks and the Pearl Harbor memorials.Specialty Tours
Oahu isn't just high-rises in Waikiki or urban sprawl in Honolulu; it also has extinct craters, hidden waterfalls, lush rainforests, forgotten coastlines, and rainbow-filled valleys. To experience the other side of Oahu, contact Oahu Nature Tours (tel. 808/924-2473; www.oahunaturetours.com). It offers seven different eco-tours, starting at $31 per person, and provides everything: expert guides (geologists, historians, archaeologists), round-trip transportation, entrance fees, bottled water, and use of day packs, binoculars, flashlights, and rain gear.Hawaiʻi is the only state in the U.S. to grow cacao commercially, and at bean-to-bar maker Mānoa Chocolate, 315 Uluniu St., Suite 203 (www.manoachocolate.com; tel. 808/262-6789), you can find out more about Hawaiʻi’s burgeoning chocolate scene and see what it takes to turn cacao beans into smooth chocolate bars. You’ll taste the beans through every step of the process and be able to compare Hawai‘i-grown chocolate with chocolate from around the world. A rare treat.
Take a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the tropical fruit groves of Kahuku Farms, 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy. (www.kahukufarms.com; tel. 808/628-0639). For the smoothie tour, you’ll learn about the apple banana (short and tart), lilikoʻi (passionfruit), and pineapple, and then taste them all in a smoothie made on the spot at the café. Oh, and definitely don’t miss the grilled banana bread topped with made-on-the-farm ice cream and haupia (coconut) and caramel sauce.
For a really different look at Honolulu and the island, O‘ahu Ghost Tours (www.oahughosttours.com; tel. 877/597-7325)offers a look at the supernatural side of this ancient place. Originally started by Glen Grant, who dedicated his life to exploring stories and sightings of the paranormal, the company has continued his investigations of ghosts, unusual sightings, and the unexplainable. The offerings include Honolulu City Haunts, a 2-hour walking tour of places where it’s rumored that supernatural events are still happening today ($39 adults, $29 children 11 and under); Sacred Spirits, a 5-hour walking tour of the most sacred native Hawaiian spots on O‘ahu ($59 adults, $49 children); and the Orbs of O‘ahu driving tour, which circles the island, stopping at some of the “most haunted” locations ($59 adults, $49 children).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.