This may seem like a no-brainer. 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 busier 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 that we know you’ll love.
Choose as you go from dozens of top Oahu attractions and save up to 55% off combined admission vs paying at the gate. Or, build your own pass and save up to 20% off.
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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.
Embark 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 little hundreds of different 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 because 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 rainforest 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 of 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, then you absolutely must pay a visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art & Spalding House.
They have beautiful and compelling special exhibits year round, in addition to a number of fun seasonal events that locals enjoy a great deal.
They’re both gorgeous historic structures from the days of Hawaiian monarchy and have been lovingly preserved with a lot of the original furniture and furnishings intact.
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.
Enjoy Island Sports
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 11-17, 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.
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 14th annual ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival will be held in the end of January this year, 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 12 Annual Kona Surf Film Festival is another fantastic option (also held in the end of January), 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.
The Chinese New Year Celebration will be held in early February in Honolulu, at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. Although it’s going to be similar to other like festivals around the world, Hawaii’s strong Asian heritage makes it that much more special.
My personal favorite is the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, held the first Saturday in February.
It showcases the beauty and history of these delicate, fragrant blossoms in Church Row Park. Be sure to stop by the park even if you can’t make it to the festival; but be warned, cherry trees only bloom for a limited time!
Save on Admission
As you can see, there is plenty more to do in the Oahu during the winter months than simply sunbathing and swimming (although there’s obviously nothing wrong with that!).
From fun local cultural events to the magnificent showings of nature, we know you’ll just love everything Hawaii has to offer this winter.
And remember, if you’re looking to save on admission to tons of great attractions, the Go Oahu® Card is for you!