Planning a vacation to Oahu? Our insiders put together a list of top Oahu museums that you should consider adding to your itinerary.
Oahu’s rich heritage, notable history, and unique landscape are the foundation for a multitude of museums and attractions on the island.
From historic World War II sights to premier art and culture displays, Oahu offers the best in education and entertainment.
Looking for an Oahu Museums Pass?
Many of these great Oahu museums are available on the Go Oahu® Card pass.
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.
See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.
A few of the museums available on the Go Oahu Card include…
- USS Arizona Memorial
- Battleship Missouri Memorial
- The Pacific Aviation Museum
- USS Bowfin Submarine & Park
- Polynesian Cultural Center
- Iolani Palace
- Honolulu Museum of Art
- Hawaii’s Plantation Village
The most visited attraction in Hawaii is this somber memorial to commemorate those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship Arizona, where most of the 1,177-member crew died on December 7, 1941.
The memorial features an excellent audio tour that brings to life the stories behind this American tragedy.
Be sure to check out the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the new book store that offers exclusive books and souvenirs.
This ship is most famous for being the place where Japan officially surrendered to the United States, marking the end of World War II.
However, the Battleship Missouri also served through the Korean War and Gulf War, endowing it with a powerful historic account to share.
You can choose to take a self-guided tour or 1 of 3 guided tours aboard the “Mighty Mo.” Stand on the Surrender Deck, the official site of the end of the Second World War as you reflect upon the legacy of the United States.
Even if you aren’t a history buff or part of a military family, this vessel will leave you riveted.
One of the top aviation attractions in the nation, this museum on Ford Island occupies World War II hangars that were bombed during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. History comes to life at this moving attraction that houses an aircraft collection totaling over 20 planes.
You can even experience what it feels like to defend the skies like a real WWII pilot in one of the combat flight simulators.
For added entertainment, visit the Laniakea Cafe, an island-themed restaurant imitating a pilot’s club on the island as it would have been in the 1940s.
This museum provides full access to the aviation experience of the Second World War while honoring and preserving its history.
This legendary vessel is one of only 15 surviving U.S. combat submarines from World War II. Learn about submarines and the story of the USS Bowfin, known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”, including its many successful attacks on enemy warships and discover the hardships and victories the crew had.
Tour the ship itself and browse through the museum’s impressive collection of submarine artifacts including weapon systems, photographs, paintings, battle flags, and original military recruiting posters.
Visitors will find a new appreciation for the unique role that submarines played during WWII.
Experience the true culture of Polynesia for a day as you make your way around this celebrated cultural center. The PCC provides the most comprehensive way to explore the culture of the many Pacific islands through 8 re-created island villages and interactive exhibits.
Cracking coconuts, starting fires, and learning how to fire knife dance are just a few of the many activities to choose from.
The PCC is also home to the famed “Rainbows of Paradise” canoe pageant and the award-winning Ali’I Lu’au dinner.
Don’t miss the “Ha Breath of Life” show, an ancient Hawaiian story performed by over 100 cast members.
Discover a time when royalty reigned at this meticulously restored palace that housed the last 2 monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Iolani Palace, home to King Kalakaua and his successor Queen Lilioukalani in the late 1800s, is the architectural embodiment of opulence.
The palace also features a collection of recovered artifacts that were lost or stolen during the overthrow of the government in 1893. You’ll have access to all of the main rooms and halls, including the Grand Hall and the King and Queen’s private suites.
Before you leave this royal historic site, make sure to check out the gift shop for some unique Palace souvenirs.
Hawaii’s best fine arts museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art is a must-visit destination for art lovers. Whether you prefer classical sculpture and historic painting, or uniquely Hawaiian art, textiles, and more, you’ll find it all here.
Known for their fine collections of Asian art — including pieces from China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and India — they offer more than 16,000 objects from artists across all periods of history.
They also feature an excellent collection of Western art that includes artifacts from Ancient Egypt to the present day.
Experience the lives of Hawaii’s plantation workers at this outdoor museum in historic Waipahu.
You’ll get an intimate view of how Hawaii’s plantations have contributed to the islands’ ethnic heritage through furnished homes, community structures, plantation-era architecture, and small guided tours.
Many guides offer personal stories of their ancestries, which bring the experience to life. Feel the warm and inviting atmosphere of the community while learning about its rich and diverse history.