11 Best Things To Do In Oahu For Solo Travelers

Since diving into the world of solo travel with my first trip to Paris in 2011, I have had an insatiable appetite to explore the world on my own. The freedom and growing confidence with every solo trip is empowering and flows into all aspects of my life.

The older I get, the more I’m drawn to the sea (and all water). There is something about water, sand and a bright blue sky that has a meditative effect on me. I appreciate nature more now than I did in my 20s and 30s. Because of this, Hawaii gently twisted my arm to visit me.

Oahu is a perfect destination for us solo travelers to immerse themselves in nature. The sea, the mountains, the lush rainforests; Not only is there the beach and laid back lifestyle, but the locals are friendly too. The weather is fantastic and Oahu is a safe destination for solo travelers.

There is so much to do and see on Oahu, and here I am sharing some highlights that I enjoy exploring the island on my own.

1. Haleiwa

I love the North Shore and Haleiwa is the hub of this part of Oahu. The North Shore is the “real Oahu” that celebrates the surf lifestyle.


You can easily spend a good chunk of a day in Haleiwa wandering through all the cool shops selling everything from clothing to t-shirts to surf gear and homeware. Most shops are located just off the Kamehameha Highway along a 1 mile stretch. Much of this route is paved, but part of the way is not.

Breakfast burrito at Kono's in Haleʻiwa, Oahu, Hawaii

What the author calls “the best breakfast burrito on Oahu” at Kono’s in Hale’iwa

Image rights: Lori Helke


Haleiwa has some of the best dining in Oahu. I love grabbing a breakfast burrito at Kono’s in the North Shore Marketplace, finding a picnic table nearby, and watching the island chickens scurry around. There are a few sit down restaurants.

A delicious crepe from the North Shore Crepe Cafe Food Truck on Oahu, Hawaii

A delicious crepe from the North Shore Crepe Cafe Food Truck

Image rights: Lori Helke

Pro Tip: I like to skip the restaurants in favor of lunch at a food truck. Oahu has a very food truck-oriented lifestyle that’s perfect for solo travelers. This is evident in Haleiwa, where food trucks are everywhere. My favorite is North Shore Crepes. Just look for the cute VW van.

Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii

Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa, Oahu

Image rights: Lori Helke

2. Shaving ice at Matsumoto

You may encounter a long line of tourists and locals in Haleiwa waiting for a sweet treat with shaved ice at Matsumoto’s. Trust me it’s worth it.

Besides serving shave ice, the attached shop sells all kinds of goods. T-shirts, pancake mixes and other gift items are available.

Pro Tip: Ask for the Vanilla Ice Cream add-on! Trust me.

fun fact: The Matsumotos opened their grocery store in 1951 and eventually converted it to sell merchandise and souvenirs, then expanded and began selling shaving ice made with their own syrup recipes. Matsumoto’s is still a family business with only one location in the world.

These tiny black dots are surfers on the Banzai Pipeline off Oahu, Hawaii

These tiny black dots are surfers on the Banzai Pipeline.

Image rights: Lori Helke

3. World-class surfing on the Banzai Pipeline

A real treat when visiting Oahu’s North Shore in the winter months is spotting the pro surfers. You need a car to get to the pipeline. Drive approximately 2 miles past Waimea on the Kamehameha Highway to the “Pipeline”.

This is the most famous place to watch surfers in Hawaii. When the surf is right, waves from the northwest form these perfect barrels.

The best view is about 100 meters to the left of Ehukai Beach Park. If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot in the park, it’s a short walk to the beach. The alternative is street parking.

Pro Tip: Ask a shopkeeper at one of Haleiwa’s surf shops if the surfers are at Pipeline today. You will know if the conditions are right that day. If so, brace yourself for the traffic jam and know it’s worth it! It is a wonder to see the force of nature creating these waves.

Heirloom varieties of sugar cane used for Kō Hana Rum.  Oahu, Hawaii

Some of the ancient varieties of sugar cane used for the distinctive flavor of Kō Hana Rum

Image rights: Lori Helke

4. Ko Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum Distillery

Visiting the Kō Hana Distillery and tasting their rum is a uniquely Hawaiian experience. While molasses is the base for most rums, they make Kō Hana Rum from the fresh juice of 36 heirloom sugarcane strains. These varieties are native to Hawaii and like grapes to the winemaker, each sugarcane variety produces its own flavor.

Ko Hana offers two different tours. Each tour also ends with a tasting of the rum. If you don’t have time for a tour, you can still enjoy a tasting.

Lanikai Beach on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu

Image rights: Lori Helke

5. Lanikai Beach

This 800 m long stretch of beach is perfect for postcards. The spectacular blue of the water and powder-soft sand make Lanikai Beach one of the best beaches in the world. On Oahu’s windward side, the water is calm and a great place to snorkel over the reefs, swim, and kayak.

Parking can be difficult here. There is free parking on one side of Mokulua Drive. This area is residential and access to the beach is via public walkways between properties, helping to keep crowds to a minimum.

Pro Tip: Go early in the day for a better chance of parking nearby, or you may have to park at Kailua Beach and walk (less than a mile) to Lanikai Beach. Kailua Beach has a large parking lot and restrooms. Lanikai and Kailua Beach are not connected.

6. Mokule’ia Beach

When I travel alone, I avoid crowds. So if you’re looking for a beach that makes you feel like you own it, this sandy beach is perfect. Though the surf is rough and you can’t swim here in the winter, it’s the seemingly endless miles of beach that lure those looking for an escape from the crowded beaches found in many other parts of Oahu. Here you can just stop your car and enter the beach. Take Highway 930 (Farrington Highway) and find your slice of beach paradise.

The trail leading to the rainforest portion of the Wahiawā Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii

The path leading down to the rainforest portion of the Wahiawā Botanical Garden

Image rights: Lori Helke

7. Wahiawa Botanical Garden

The Wahiawā Botanical Garden is located in central Oahu in the city of Wahiawā. This 27 hectare botanical garden has two levels. The upper level and a canyon that is dense rainforest. Maps are available at the entrance and a self-guided tour is also included in the brochure. Access to the gorge is via a steep path which may be difficult for some, but those with mobility issues can still enjoy the upper part of the garden. Admission is free.

The majestic mountain backdrop at the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu, Hawaii

The majestic mountain backdrop at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Image rights: Lori Helke

8. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens border the Ko’olau Mountains. While you can walk through the garden, it’s best to drive through and stop at the parking lots to inspect. There is a car park at the top and a viewpoint to go up to. The view from the platform is breathtaking. The mountains with their green blanket surround you and you feel like you can almost touch them. You can drive through it in 20 minutes, but why not allow at least a couple of hours? Admission is free.

"Crossing the Pacific" Sign at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii

“Crossroads of the Pacific” sign at Pearl Harbor

Image rights: Lori Helke

9. Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is a must-see when visiting Oahu. That short, somber ride to the USS Arizona Memorial was surreal. It was fascinating to walk around the grounds and go through the museum. Being there on site is an unforgettable experience. You can spend half a day here.

View of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii

View of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Image rights: Lori Helke

Pro Tip: If you are unable to obtain tickets to tour the USS Arizona Memorial, arrive early on the day you intend to go. You wait in line, and they add a few walk-ins every time you exit the monument. I arrived first and had no problems getting on the boat.

Fresh fruit at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Honolulu, Hawaii

Find fresh fruit at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.

Image rights: Lori Helke

10. Swap meet at Aloha Stadium

Instead of battling the crowds of Waikiki looking for fun souvenirs, this is the place to go. When traveling solo I like one stop shopping so I have more time for experiences, plus this is a fun place to people watch.

The swap meet is open three times a week: Wednesday and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Up to 400 vendors sell everything from ukuleles to fresh fruit. Admission is $2 for children 12 and older. More details can be found here.

11. Baileys Antiques and Aloha Shirts

Ask anyone on Oahu where there is a vintage Hawaiian shirt and they will name Bailey’s Antiques in Honolulu. Even if you’re not looking for a shirt, still stop to see pictures of the famous people who have shopped shirts here.

If you’ve been considering a solo trip to Oahu, you should. With a small and easy-to-navigate airport, a major highway system that makes it easy to travel from one side of the island to the other, quiet stretches of beach, and a food truck scene perfect for those of us who can dine alone You can’t be beat for that once-in-a-lifetime solo travel experience.

Pro Tip: Car Rentals. We solo travelers are an independent bunch and seeing the island by car is the best way. My suggestion is to check out Turo.

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