This list is for those adventurous souls who need some adrenaline in their lives. Oahu is a huge playground with some amazing, intense activities and this is the ultimate guide!
1. Parasail in Honolulu
Not quite as crazy as skydiving, parasailing is an awesome way to see the city and get a little adrenaline pumping. And, it’s not as expensive!
You can choose different heights, all the way up to 1,000 feet into the air. Each height is a different price and, obviously, a different thrill level. Just sit back and let the boat pull you up till you’re flying with the birds!
For an adventure that won’t break the bank, parasailing in Honolulu is definitely a recommended activity on Oahu.
2. Skydive on North Shore
Feel like jumping out of an airplane hundreds of feet in the air? Skydiving on the North Shore is for you! Arguably one of the most pretty places to skydive, you can see the unique shape of the island as the wind contorts your face.
There are a few companies you can choose from but most take off from Dillingham Air Field in Waialua. As you step out of the plane, or your guide forces you out, you’ll feel the rush of air and sense of weightlessness. Most companies won’t allow you to take a GoPro but for an extra fee they will have another guide jump just before you in order to film you.
Probably the most adventurous activity on Oahu, the North Shore is an amazing place to skydive!
3. Kayak to Chinaman’s Hat and Hike to the Top
Chinaman’s Hat is a small island shaped like… you guessed it! A Chinaman’s hat. The official name is Mokoli’i. You can launch your kayak or paddle board from Kualoa Beach Park and will paddle for about 1/3 of a mile until reaching the small beach on the southwest side of the island. Make sure the tide isn’t too high or you won’t have much of a landing area and it will be difficult to secure your kayak or paddle board. Also, if you go during low tide you can actually walk the whole way to the island!
The hike is only .2 miles out-and-back but is a little intense and will require some basic rock climbing. You ascend pretty quickly and the views are incredible. From certain vantage points you can see through the clear water below and great views of the ridges behind Kualoa Ranch.
The top of Chinaman’s hat is a great place to relax and take it all in. Once back down you can also explore the north part of the island. There is a small beach there and you will sometimes find a seal hanging out on the rocks.
For the best bang-for-your buck, Chinaman’s Hat is a must-do for adventurers on Oahu.
4. Kayak to Mokulua Island and Find Queen’s Bath
The Mokulua Islands are a set of two islands located about ¾ of a mile from Lanikai Beach. The south island is off-limits so head toward the north island. You’ll paddle through the brightest blue waters on all of Oahu and, I think, the prettiest beach on the island.
If the surf is up then landing on the island is quite difficult. As you approach Mokulua the waves can get somewhat big. Directly surrounding the island, the waves travel in a circular motion and crash right in front of the beach on the southwest side where you land. You have to time it just right or the sideways waves will tip your kayak.
Once you make landfall you’ll find yourself on a great little beach on your own island! Most of the island is a protected bird sanctuary so you can’t go north or any more inland from the beach. You can, however, travel around the southern end of the island and find Queen’s Bath. This is a great little tide pool to swim in as the waves crash outside the rock walls and splash water on you. As with all tide pools, make sure the tide isn’t high enough to sweep you off to sea! If you continue past Queen’s Bath there are cliffs to jump off but that’s too crazy for me.
For a unique adventure through gorgeous Oahu waters, Mokulua Island is a great activity!
5. Hike to Maunawili Falls and Jump Off the Cliffs
Maunawili Falls is an awesome jungle hike to a small waterfall located in Maunawili, Oahu. The hike is a somewhat easy three-mile round trip, though if it has rained recently will be pretty muddy and slippery. Throughout much of the hike there are many tree roots that accent the trail. The mud and roots can slow you down.
The hike itself is very pretty and follows a small river. There’s also a rickety old jungle bridge, just like in the movies, that you can find (it’s sort of an alternate trail). The hike is popular so expect to see a lot of people.
The best part of the hike is reaching the falls. There is a large pool at the bottom and the high, surrounding walls make for a picturesque ambiance. And the adventurous part? There are three different places to jump off into the pool below. The first and shortest is right from the top of the falls and is maybe 10-15 feet. The second highest is to the right of and above the first—about 25 feet high. The third is crazy and is to the left of the falls—probably 40-50 feet high.
The very pretty jungle hike and fun falls with cliff jumping makes Maunawili Falls a must-do hike on Oahu.
6. Explore Mermaid Caves
Mermaid Caves is an incredible underground cave network with it’s own beach located just south of Nanakuli Beach on the leeward side of Oahu. It’s a five-minute walk over sharp lava rock and then you’ll see holes in the ground. The biggest hole is the furthest from the ocean and will allow you to drop down right onto the underground beach.
Make sure to go when the tide is low or the caves will be inaccessible. Even during low tide if you venture out too far the tide and waves are super powerful and dangerous. The colors in the caves are gorgeous as the light reflects hues of green and orange. Light rays shine through the holes in the cave ceiling and illuminate the blue water.
Some people walk to the edge of the lava rock above and jump into the water at the mouth of the cave. You’ll need to time the jump just right so as to not be swept into the caves by the waves.
When you’re finished exploring the caves, Nanakuli is a great beach to relax on. Mermaid Caves is a unique and awesome adventure to be had on Oahu.
7. Ride ATVs Through the Jungle
Kualoa Ranch is home to the green valleys and ridges you’ve seen in Jurassic Park and offers activities like horseback riding, zip lining, and ATV tours. The ATV tour takes you behind the mountains you can see from the highway and through a lush valley surrounded by tall ridges. The sight is incredible and it’s even cooler when you’re zooming through it all on an ATV.
The trail is fun and you’re allowed to drive surprisingly fast as you snake through the jungle. You’ll drive past movie signs marking filming locations of a half-dozen movies. During breaks you get to take in all the spectacular sights.
Given the beautiful location the ATV tour at Kuala Ranch is a super fun thing to do on Oahu.
8. Swim with Sharks
On crazy par with skydiving, swimming with sharks is for sure a top adventurous thing to do on Oahu. Most tours depart from Haleiwa and many boast no accidents since their inception.
You’ll be transported on a boat a few miles from shore and then take the plunge into shark-infested waters. You’ll be in the water with a group of people and the guides give you instructions so as to not agitate the sharks. You’re in their element and it’s humbling and amazing to get so close.
Whether with or without a cage, swimming with sharks is definitely a thrill for the adventurous souls visiting Oahu!
9. Swim with Dolphins
Swimming with dolphins is a special adventure to have on the west side of Oahu. Definitely not as scary as swimming with sharks but still awesome to see these majestic animals.
Most tours guarantee dolphin sightings or they’ll refund your money or allow you to take the tour again. Along with dolphins you’ll likely see turtles and a bunch of fish. The tour guides know exactly where to go to give you the best experience possible.
10. Jump off the Rock at Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is a world-class beach and surf spot. It’s also home to some great snorkeling and a rock to jump off. The beach is located on the north shore in an area known as the “7 mile miracle.” The sand is powdery white and the water is as clear as you’ll ever see.
Waimea rock juts out of the ocean about 50 ft from shore. You’ll always find people jumping off and you can go to different parts of the rock for different heights that suit your courage. What’s lesser known are the underwater caves you can swim through! These aren’t very challenging but still fun—there’s one in the middle of the rock and a shorter one on the far end of the rock.
If you’re lucky you’ll see a pod of dolphins swimming in the bay. Just north of the rock there is some great reef for snorkeling and finding turtles.
Waimea Bay is a must-visit if you’ve never been. If you think beaches are boring then this is a good one due to the rock jumping and snorkeling.
11. Dive Through Tunnels at Shark’s Cove
Shark’s Cove is right next door to Waimea Bay and is a great snorkeling and diving spot. On the north side huge barrier walls create a large area of calm water that is shallow but a decent snorkeling area. On the south side is a smaller cove that is one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. There are tons of fish and turtles—I’ve even been encircled by hundreds of fish that were swimming circles around me.
The adventurous part is the diving. Located somewhere in the middle of the cove there are some underground cave networks that are super fun to dive into. You’ll see holes in the reef floor 20-30 feet down. Depending on how long you can hold your breath there are a lot of caves to explore.
Shark’s Cove is also one of the world’s best scuba diving spots. Deep down is an area known as Cathedrals due to the columns of lava rock that stick out from the sea floor.
With great snorkeling and diving, Shark’s Cove is an awesome adventure to be had on Oahu.
12. Hike the Narrow Ridges of Pu’u Manamana
Hiking Pu’u Manamana is one of the coolest things you can do on Oahu. Located in Ka’a’awa on the south end of Kahana Bay are the high, narrow ridges of Pu’u Manamana.
First you can hike to Crouching Lion which is a rock formation that only takes about 30 minutes to get to. This is a very popular, easy hike and offers some amazing views of Kahana Bay. From Crouching Lion you follow the ridge line up and to the west. You have to stop every 15 minutes because the hike is so incredible and the views so spectacular. The ridge gets very thin and some parts require some rock climbing.
Once you get to the top of the ridge there are parts that are only about a foot wide with steep, hundreds of feet drop-offs on both sides. Definitely make sure you go on a dry day with no winds or you might just slip off or be blown off the mountain.
If the sun is out you will be rewarded with the most incredible views of bright blue water and the lush green Ko’olau Mountains. It hardly needs to be said, but hiking Pu’u Manamana is one of the top adventurous things to do on Oahu.
13. Climb a Waterfall at Makaua Falls
Makaua Falls is a little-known but incredible and short hike in Ka’a’awa. The hike is only about a mile out-and-back but is a little more difficult since you follow the river and have to rock hop most of the way. Make sure it has rained in the last day or so of the falls won’t be flowing—you can see if they are from the highway near the fire station.
After about 20 minutes you’ll be hiking in a narrow jungle paradise. The funnest part is about 10 minutes before the falls there is a smaller waterfall that requires a rope to climb up. Depending on the amount of rain there could be a large pool at the bottom that you’ll need to wade through, or rock climb around, in order to get to the base of the waterfall.
It’s not a super difficult climb but it is a gorgeous little waterfall and climbing through the water is fun. Once at the top there are a couple more rope sections to climb through. As you enter the end of the valley you’re surrounded by high rock walls in almost a full circle.
This place is magical. Words don’t do it justice but it’s majestic. The chute is 250 feet tall and it’s a great place to relax.
14. Rope Swing at Kahana River
Kahana River is a short ride through a narrow jungle river. The area is totally idyllic. You can kayak or paddle board down the serene river. It usually takes about 30 minutes to get to the end, depending on how high the river is that day.
What makes Kahana River an adventurous activity? The rope swing. About halfway down the river you’ll see a rope swing on the left side. If you’re aggressive enough with the jump you can actually get pretty high over the water. I have almost completed two backflips here.
Kahana River is a beautiful little adventure and the rope swing adds just enough adrenaline to make this a highly recommended activity on Oahu.
15. Scuba Dive
Oahu offers world-class scuba diving among shipwrecks and unique lava-rock formations. There are many dive shops that can help you get certified and have options for you to choose from based on your experience level.
From Honolulu to the North Shore, you can have an incredible experience exploring things at depths very few humans ever will!
16. Snorkel at Electric Beach
Electric Beach is right in front of a factory that pumps hot water through huge tubes into the ocean. If you follow the pipes a couple hundred feet into the ocean you will find an area fish and turtles love to frequent.
Located on the west side of Oahu, the water is deep and clear and the hot water provides some of the best snorkeling on the island!
17. Swim in Makapu’u Tide Pools
The Makapu’u Tide Pools are amazingly beautiful tide pools beneath the Makapu’u Lighthouse. The “hike” to the lighthouse is windy, steep and paved. The views at the top are cool but the hike is not too exciting. About ¾ of the way to the lighthouse you can look down the cliff and see the pools way below.
There’s not much of a path down but you can faintly see a zig-zagging line down the very steep cliff. The descent is only for the skilled hiker.
Make sure you go during low-tide as the waves are incredibly powerful. People have died due to unexpectedly large waves that drag along the jagged lava rock and sweep them out to sea.
The Makapu’u Tide Pools are famous for the crystal blue and green clear waters and the great snorkeling they afford. Because of the crazy hike down and the beauty of the water this is a great adventure on Oahu.
18. Tube Kaukonahua Stream
Very little known and a unique adventure on Oahu, tubing Kaukonahua Stream is great for adventurers on Oahu. Located in the middle of the island in Wahiawa, this trek requires a pretty long hike to the stream and another pretty long float down.
The trail is very confusing as various trails are marked that intersect with and veer off from the correct path. Make sure you take a map and understand the path before you go. Also ensure that there has been sufficient rain, but not too much to cause flash flooding, in order to be able to float the whole stream. If the stream isn’t high enough then you’ll be forced to walk through certain parts.
For the daring and adventurous, tubing Kaukonahua Stream is a unique thing to do on Oahu!
19. Chill at Kaneohe Bay Sandbar
The Kaneohe Bay Sandbar is an awesome, huge stretch of sand that rises out of Kaneohe Bay. You can hang out at the beach in the middle of the ocean! This may be the most unique adventure on Oahu as you travel into the ocean and then find a large beach great for snorkeling, BBQ, volleyball, relaxing, etc.
You can take a kayak or charter a tour in order to get there—the sandbar is about a mile out from shore. If you rent a kayak you can launch from He’eia State Park. The snorkeling is great here and the deep water surrounding the sandbar is apparently a Hammerhead Shark breeding area—so that’s cool!
20. Surf the Famed Waves in Waikiki and the North Shore
Any trip to Oahu needs to include surfing the famous Hawaiian breaks. In the summer you’ll find good waves in Waikiki and in the winter the big waves are on the North Shore.
There’s just something about surfing in Waikiki. There are numerous board rentals in the area, including many right on the beach. Make sure to ask which board is best for you based on your skill level and the types of waves you’ll be riding. Generally, big boards are best for smaller waves and beginner surfers. The shorter boards are for bigger, steeper waves and more advanced surfers; although, there are a few other factors that go into the perfect board for you. So just ask.
The North Shore is home to many surf competitions. Depending on the day and the break, the waves could be huge or small. Make sure to ask before going out to ensure you don’t die—Waimea Bay, for example, hosts competitions for some of the biggest waves in the world. Some good beaches for normal people are Sunset, Chun’s, Stables, Haleiwa, Velzyland, Pua’ena Point, and Backdoor.
Surfing on Oahu is definitely a special experience and a must-do on your next trip.
No waves or want to try something new? Kitesurfing on Oahu is a great way to make the ocean your playground. There are a few companies that rent the equipment and give you lessons—most are located in Honolulu and Kailua.
Perfect for all skill levels, harness the power of the wind and kite surf on Oahu!