Guided Sightseeing Tours
If your time is limited, you might want to consider a guided 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., Suite 105, Honolulu (www.enoa.com; 800/824-8804 or 808/591-2561), offers a range of narrated tours, from island loops to explorations of Pearl Harbor, on air-conditioned, 27-passenger minibuses. The Majestic Circle Island Tour ($99 for adults, $80 for children 3–11) 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 focus on Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial and the North Shore.
Waikiki Trolley Tours ★, 1141 Waimanu St., Suite 105, Honolulu (www.waikikitrolley.com; 800/824-8804 or 808/593-2822), offers four tours of sightseeing, entertainment, dining, and shopping that give you 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 $45 for adults; a 4-day pass is $65. For the same price, you can experience the 2-hour narrated Panoramic Coast Line tour (Blue Line) 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: Air Tours
To understand why Oahu was the island of kings, you need to see it from the air. Island Seaplane Service ★★★ (www.islandseaplane.com; 808/836-6273) operates flights departing from a floating dock in the protected waters of Ke‘ehi Lagoon in either a six-passenger de Havilland 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, Kāhala’s luxury estates, and the sparkling waters of Hanauma and Kāne‘ohe 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
Below is a sampling of specialty tours found on Oahu.
Chocolate Factory Tour
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. to grow cacao commercially, and at bean-to-bar maker Manoa Chocolate ★★, 315 Uluniu St., Suite 203 (www.manoachocolate.com; 808/262-6789), you can find out more about Hawaii’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 Hawaii-grown chocolate with chocolate from around the world. A rare treat.
Ko Hana Rum Tour
Discover how rum is made, from grass to glass at Ko Hana ★★★, 92-1770 Kunia Rd. #227 (www.kohanarum.com; 808/517-4067). But this is not just any rum. This is Hawaiian agricole rum, distilled from pure cane juice, fresh-pressed from heirloom varieties of Hawaiian sugarcane. Most rum you see on shelves starts from molasses, whereas at Ko Hana, it begins with sugarcane, and each bottle is labeled with the varietal it was distilled from. The tour in Kunia, in the heart of Oahu’s farmland, will not only give you sweeping views all the way to Diamond Head, it will take you through the cane fields, the distillery, and the tasting room to sample white rums alongside barrel-aged ones. Tours are $25 for adults.
Take a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the tropical fruit groves of Kahuku Farms ★★, 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy. (www.kahukufarms.com; 808/628-0639). For the smoothie tour ($16 for adults, $14 for children 5–12), you’ll learn about the apple banana (short and tart), lilikoi (passion fruit), and pineapple, and then taste them all in a smoothie made on the spot at the cafe. Oh, and 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.