Who doesn’t want to escape to beautiful Oahu in the depths of winter? Avoiding all that shoveling, ice scraping, the bad driving conditions…sign me up for a Hawaiian vacation any day.
Winter is actually one of the more popular seasons for Oahu, too, as it attracts a lot of holiday-time vacationers looking to get away for a bit of warmth and sun during a festive time of year.
To help you plan that perfect Hawaiian winter getaway, we’ve put together a list of fun things to do in Oahu in Winter 2016-2017, including some of the best holiday activities and attractions.
Save on Attraction Admission
Regular admission to a number of these attractions are included on the Go Oahu® Card.
Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special Winter events may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go Oahu Card.
13 Days of Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Where: Polynesian Cultural Center
When: December 9-22, 2016
The Polynesian Cultural Center is the place to explore all things islander during this time of the year. Meet a surfing Santa Claus, enjoy live Christmas concerts by Hawaiian musical legends, go on a holiday canoe ride, and more.
Be sure to also stop by the Hukilau Marketplace for some original holiday gifts!
Getting in: Polynesian Cultural Center tickets are included on the Go Oahu Card and holiday events are included with admission, unless otherwise noted.
Christmas at the Palace
When: Extended hours December 10 & 17, 2016; 6:00 pm-8:00 pm
Head to Queen Emma Summer Palace and enjoy extended hours during the holiday season.
You’ll get to take a tour of the historic building from the days of Hawaiian monarchy and get to see all the furnishings that have been carefully preserved with many of the original furnishings intact.
Getting in: Queen Emma Summer Palace tickets are included on the Go Oahu Card.
Go Whale Watching
Between the months of November and April, over 10,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the warm Hawaiian waters for the winter.
Peak season for whale watching is in February and March, so this is the perfect time of year to book your whale watching adventure.
Whale watching in Oahu is extra special because you’ll get a chance to witness these majestic creatures, which native Hawaiians traditionally consider the guardians of the islands, in their natural habitat.
One popular option for those who wish to catch sight of a humpback up close is to hop on board the Makani Catamaran.
During this two-hour sail through the sparkling waters of the Pacific, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to whale-watch as you cruise through the water in comfort.
Getting in: Makani Catamaran tickets are available on the Go Oahu Card.
Go on a Hike
If you’d prefer to stay on land, consider the Makapuu Lighthouse Hike, a two-mile trek to the beautiful and historic lighthouse on the southernmost part of Hawaii.
During the hike, you’ll be lead to the Halona Blow Hole, a spot famous for its spectacular views of humpback whales during the migration.
You could also opt to see some other scenic parts of Oahu on fun and only moderately vigorous treks like the hike up to Diamond Head, the historic volcanic crater with gorgeous, glittering, “diamond-like” formations in the inside.
Try Your Hand at Surfing
Hawaii is known around the world as the place to catch the biggest waves in the winter. In fact, the sport of big wave surfing was born here!
Two of the best places to watch are Waimea Bay, which is where big wave surfing started in the ‘50s, and the Banzai Pipeline, a dangerous spot that’s in an ideal position for spectators.
Of course, if you want to surf yourself, you’ll need to find someplace a little less intense. Out on Maunalua Bay, the waters are calm and incredibly crowd-free.
If you don’t mind the crowds and would rather find a surf spot closer to your accommodation, check out Waikiki Beach.
It’s one of the world’s most famous and historic surfing destinations—it’s where “Big Kahuna” Duke Kahanamoku and his friends grew up and surfed all day back in the early 20th century.
Save a Little Beach Time
There are hundreds of little beaches to choose from along the coast of Oahu and it can be hard to choose the best one. Here are a few of our favorite outdoor spots on the island:
Kualoa Ranch is an enormous recreational complex, in the midst of which lies some of Hawaii’s most beautiful and most-filmed scenery.
It’s in this complex that you’ll find Secret Island Beach, a secluded beach with beautiful views of Kaneohe Bay. You’ll also have access to hours of outdoor recreational fun, like kayaking, snorkeling, and volleyball.
Home to more than 5,000 tropical plant species, the Lyon Arboretum is a tropical rain forest right outside Honolulu. It’s a great escape from the busy resort area, and the gorgeous setting is ideal for both exploration and relaxation.
Soak up Some Culture
While you may be tempted to spend most of your time outdoors enjoying the sun and warmth, there is plenty to be enjoyed indoors as well.
Oahu has a vibrant arts scene and a lot of historical architecture the whole family can enjoy.
If you’re an arty sort of person, visit the Honolulu Museum of Art – they have beautiful and compelling special exhibits year round, in addition to a number of fun seasonal events that locals enjoy.
If what you’re really looking for is the perfect exploration of Hawaiian heritage, then look no further than the Polynesian Cultural Center, an impressive and comprehensive interactive museum of the cultures of Hawaii and all of Polynesia.
With seven distinct cultures represented in different areas, tons of authentic activities to try out, and a mountain of delicious local food to try, it’s a must-see attraction.
Sony Open in Hawaii® Golf Tournament
In addition to the great Hawaiian sport that is surfing, Oahu also attracts another classic sport this time of year with the Sony Open golf tournament.
This year’s tournament runs from January 9-15, 2017 with a large portion of the proceeds going to charity.
It’s held at Waiaele Country Club in Honolulu and tickets are available to the public. Prefer to swing a few clubs yourself? If you visit after the tournament the course is open to all.
Getting in: Information about participating and spectating can be found on the Sony Open website.
Mingle at Local Festivals
There are so many wonderful, small cultural events going on all the time throughout Hawaii that it’s hard to choose just one to attend. Here are a few of our favorites.
The 15th annual ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival will be held on January 27-28, 2017, and features a plethora of excellent hula dancing and other dance performances. It’s a great way to help preserve a valuable part of Hawaiian culture and enjoy some authentic performances as well.
The 13th Annual Kona Surf Film Festival is another fantastic option on January 28, 2017, although it’s hosted by the Big Island. It combines two of Hawaii’s greatest passions – surfing and the arts. Enjoy short and feature length films, documentaries, and more all on the subject of the ocean and its greatest sport.
Honolulu City Lights
Throughout the month of December, Honolulu City Lights is hosting a handful of fun, festive, and free family-friendly events, including free “photos with Santa” nights, a free family movie night, milk & cookies night, and more.
Getting in: for more information, check the Honolulu City Lights website.
Let it Snow!
When: Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday December 1-22, 2016; 6:30 & 8:00 pm and December 24; 12:00 pm & 2:00 pm
Head to Queen Kaahumanu, where winter comes to Hawaii, to experience a free “snow” show with complimentary Starbucks hot chocolate (while supplies last) to get into the holiday spirit!
Bonus: as this event is in a mall, you can finish up any last-minute holiday shopping!
Remember to Save on Attraction Admission
So there you have it. Our list of a few things to do in Oahu in the winter, including holiday events, other seasonal activities in December, January, and more.
Remember, many of these options are included on the Go Oahu Card, where you can save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, the Winter events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go Oahu Card.
We hope you plan to add a few of these fun options to your winter vacation itinerary.