It’s pretty safe to say that if you’re spending any time in Oahu, you are going to encounter a rainy day or two. The excellent thing about rain in Hawaii is that it tends to be a gentler, more tropical rainfall, which doesn’t often thwart your outdoor plans.
However, a rainy day in Oahu presents the perfect opportunity to experience some of the indoor activities on the island that are well worth the trip.
So if you are looking for things to do in Oahu when it rains, we suggest visiting a number of indoor attractions, and consider picking up a Go Oahu® Card. It can save you up to 55% on combined admission to top museums, tours, and more.
Iolani Palace is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. This National Historic Landmark was home to the Hawaiian kingdom’s two final monarchs.
The palace was built in 1882 by King Kalakaua; his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, resided here until the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
This beloved Hawaiian monument showcases the 19th-century grandeur of a unique architectural style known as “American Florentine” and features a grand hall and piano, both built of koa wood.
Iolani Palace was also used as the capitol building for the Provisional Government Republic of Hawaii until 1969. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1978.
Visitors can wander through the sumptuous main rooms and halls, including the Grand Hall, the Throne Room, the State Dining Room, and the King and Queen’s private suites.
Guests can also visit the gorgeous Blue Room, which was used for small receptions and displays a striking portrait of King Louis Philipe, given to the palace as a gift from the French government.
Honolulu Academy of Art
After a morning spent wandering the beautiful grounds of Iolani Palace, with a break for a leisurely lunch at a nearby cafe, guests can travel just a mile to the Honolulu Museum of Art. Founded in 1927, the museum is Hawaii’s largest private presenter of visual arts programs, with an internationally recognized collection of more than 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years.
The permanent collection boasts an incredible array of works, including Japanese Woodblock prints, Asian art, Medieval and Renaissance art, 17th and 18th century art, 19th and 20th century art, European and American Prints and Drawings, Hawaiian art, and an impressive textile collection.
In addition to the museum’s extensive collections and exhibitions, the Honolulu Academy of Art also features films and concert programs, lectures, art classes and workshops, cementing its place as Honolulu’s cultural hub.
Historic Bus Tour of Honolulu
Another way to avoid the rain is on an enclosed bus tour. Hop aboard a Pearl Harbor/Historical City Tour and enjoy the informative and engaging narration as you sit in comfort.
The tour begins with a visit to Pearl Harbor (and the chance to stop at the Arizona Memorial if you want to brave the rain), at which point your guides will fill you in on all the important history and legacy of the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
Then, it’s on to downtown Honolulu for a tour of the city’s most important historical sites, including the majestic State Capitol, Washington Place, the home of Hawaiian royalty in the nineteenth century, and the King Kamehameha statue, erected in honor of the legendary founder of Hawaii.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the natural beauty of Oahu in spite of (or perhaps because of!) the rain. Drive by the famed Punchbowl Crater, part of a (fortunately) extinct volcano that is now home to the National Cemetery of the Pacific.
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites
A visit here might be a bit tricky in heavy rain, but if you’re dodging scattered raindrops you’ll have the flexibility to skip between separate memorials and museums at this one popular site. The Pearl Harbor Historic Sites incorporate a number of important landmarks, vessels, and institutions.
The Battleship Missouri Memorial, or “Mighty Mo” stands guard in Oahu as the very last battleship ever built. Take a tour of this momentous site where Japan surrendered to the United States at the conclusion of World War II.
Next, the USS Arizona Memorial is the most-visited site in all of Oahu and should definitely be on your must-see list. This historic memorial is designed to honor the 1,177 Arizona crewmen who perished in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Finally, the Pacific Aviation Museum (in addition to being a great place to hide from the rain) is an exciting, comprehensive record of the history of aviation in Hawaii and beyond. You’ll see everything from American fighter jets and bombers to Japanese aircraft from the WWII era.
Queen Emma Summer Palace
If you enjoy historical or cultural sites, you should set aside an hour or so to explore the charming Queen Emma Summer Palace. Once the home to Queen Emma, King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward, it was used by these nineteenth century monarchs as a summer home away from their primary residence.
Today, the building serves as a museum commemorating the truly cosmopolitan culture of Queen Emma’s reign, from the commercial and cultural trade with England and Europe to the flourishing of Hawaiian culture.
You’ll get a chance to see authentic period furniture and real artifacts from the family including porcelain, jewelry, and personal items.
Don’t forget to leave a little time to stroll the grounds, a lush expanse filled with native plants and trees, as well as some gorgeous imported specimens.