Oahu for Solo Travelers

From the beautiful, white sands of Waikiki, to the heights of Ka‘ala, to the laid-back lifestyle and surfing on the North Shore, Oahu has it all. With urban highlights in Honolulu and easily accessible escapes into nature, it’s the ultimate island getaway.

2801-N2 Lā-'ī Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA
Waikiki and the North Shore get most of the attention on the island of Oahu, and for good reason. Oahu is the surfing capital of the world and has something to offer every skill level, but hiking on the island of Oahu is one of its best-kept secrets! One of my favorite hikes is the Lanipo Trail. It is a a strenuous 7.5 mile (12 km) hike that can take 4 to 6 hours depending on conditions (I would not recommend doing this hike when it’s wet), but the scenery and experience offered by this hike is definitely worth the effort! The hike along the Mauna Lani Heights ridge, above the neighborhood of Kaimuki, offers breathtaking views of the island and Honolulu. The terrain is diverse, and at times you are hiking on steep boulders, and others navigating thick jungle. There is one section of the trail that carves through tall bamboo that clank together when the wind blows—like a natural wind chime. You will not be disappointed with the summit and the sense of accomplishment that you feel when you get there!
770 Auloa Road
Visible from anywhere in Kailua-Kaneohe are the three peaks of Mount Olomana. The majestic peaks are named after a mythical Hawaiian warrior and offers more than spectacular views from all angles. To reach your destination from Honolulu you take the Pali through the Kalanionaole Highway and look out for the Luana Hills Country Club. You can park right outside of the club as the entrance to the hike is just a quarter mile from the entrance. The peaks are challenging, with steep drop-offs and some rock climbing, and are only for experienced hikers. The first peak offers the highest views and the third is the most dangerous of all the peaks. Make sure you do your research and talk to locals about likely conditions. That said, it’s been my favorite hike on Oahu so far and it offers unforgettable views of the city. Bring some snack and water with you to sit atop one of the peaks and have a quick picnic.
3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
If you’re hungry for a deliciously carb-heavy Hawaiian plate lunch, why not go to Rainbow Drive-in and enjoy a meal fit for a president? It’s true: President Obama ate there as a kid and tries to make it back during his visits. Starting at 7 am, you can order up a big plate of mahi-mahi, eggs, and rice (or the omnipresent Spam). Lunch specials include loco moco, BBQ ahi, fried chicken, and chili dogs, with plenty of gravy poured over everything. Best of all, nothing on the menu is over $9, making this a rare bargain on a very expensive island. Stop at their shop next door for seasonings and souvenirs on your way out.
1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
From the dingy exterior, you might expect Little Village Noodle House to be a hole-in-the-wall, but it’s surprisingly cute and nicely decorated inside, with fountains, decorative woodwork, and nice tables and chairs. The chef’s special fried rice is justifiably a signature dish: piled high with pork, shrimp, duck, egg, and other goodies. The orange chicken was intensely citrusy with lots of orange flavor — but not that gross, sickly-sweet syrupy coating that usually makes the dish a soggy mess. Lunch items are around $10-12, and portions are decent, though not huge. Considering the unexpectedly fancy decor and fast, friendly service, this is a great choice for a meal in Honolulu‘s Chinatown.
2365 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Built in 1901, the legendary “First Lady of Waikiki” blends Victorian architecture with a golden beach and turquoise seas. Putting a luxury hotel in a deserted backwater was a bold move—but one that paid off. Tourism took off here and the Moana remains its ruling monarch. One of the most lovely, historical hotels in Hawaii, it still has Ionic columns supporting an elegant porte-cochère, plus a long shaded gallery along its facade where rocking chairs encourage guests to watch the world go by. A $21-million renovation brought it up-to-date in 2014 and added a new beach club. But an exhibit room still honors its rich past on the second floor of the Banyan Wing, and serves as a jumping-off point for free historical tours (11 a.m., Mondays and Wednesdays).
364 South King Street
The grand koa wood staircase was shining with a new coat of oil as the focal point of the room; it’s beautiful curves lead the eye gently from the second floor down to the first floor. Men and women dressed in ornate gowns and neck-restricting tuxedos floated around the staircase receiving each other with a proper handshake or curtsy. The party was just beginning as horses pulled up to the ultra modern palace depositing people of stature out of their buggies. The year was 1882 in the island nation of Hawaii. Even though I like to live in the present, I couldn’t help but imagine the past as I was led through the Iolani Palace in Oahu. The docent painted a perfect picture of arriving at a ball in the mid 1880’s – the sites, sounds, and even the dinner entries that would be served. After the docent led tour you can have the pleasure of saying the you’ve been in the only palace in America! More Info: Iolani Palace Tour Information: Guided Docent Led Tours – Adults: $20 / Children (5-12) $6. This tour is available from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Audie Tours – Adults: $13 / Children (5-12) $6. This tour is available from Monday through Saturday 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Be sure to check the times and costs on the website which will have up to date information and details. Get all of the details including great historical information, information on the restoration, and learn about upcoming events on the Iolani Palace website: www.iolanipalace.org.
86-344 Kuwale Rd
When it comes to traditional “made in Hawaii” dishes, cheese probably doesn’t come to mind. You might think of pineapples and macadamia nuts, which, as it happens, are also being enjoyed by the cows at Naked Cow Dairy, Oahu’s only dairy farm. Antibiotic- and hormone-free, Naked Cow makes a variety of butters (try the toasted coconut), yogurts, and hard and soft cheeses. The products are available at several farmers’ markets and restaurants, but for a real treat, visit the farm for a tour. Located on the leeward coast about an hour from Honolulu, tours range from basic butter tastings to hands-on cheesemaking classes.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Food + Drink
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East