Aloha, fellow Oahu adventurers!
I just returned from yet another trip to this breathtaking island with my boyfriend, and let me tell you – we’ve discovered some of the most stunning views you could ever imagine. As an avid explorer and lover of all things outdoors, I want to share our experiences and guide you on your own journey through Oahu’s incredible landscapes.
You see, over several visits to this magical island paradise, we’ve learned which spots offer unparalleled beauty combined with ease of access. And now that we have compiled our top 5 destinations for jaw-dropping vistas in Oahu, it’s only fair that I help you make memories as vivid as mine by sharing them with you!
But first, a little about me: I have been researching and exploring locations across the globe for years now. My thirst for adventure has taken me down countless trails through remarkable terrains – including the unforgettable Hawaiian archipelago! So trust me when I say that these 5 must-see spots are sure to satisfy even the most discerning eye.
Now you might be wondering who exactly this list is designed for – well, dear reader (that’s right, YOU!), whether a curious solo traveler or part of a family seeking something memorable beyond lifeless beaches filled with tourists – these gems are perfect for everyone seeking solace in nature’s embrace.
Warning: Once you witness these awe-inspiring locales firsthand while munching on fresh poke bowls or sipping coconut water (it doesn’t get more authentic than this), don’t blame me if it gets difficult convincing yourself that it isn’t just another beautiful dream.
So strap on those hiking boots or rev up your engines – together we’ll embark on an unforgettable tour de force across Oahu’s most mesmerizing sights!
#1 Kaiwa Ridge aka Lanikai Pillbox Hike – Best view from high above
Address: 265 Kaelepulu Dr, Kailua, HI 96734
This short and fun hike offers a breathtaking view overlooking Kailua Bay and the Ko’olau Mountains. It’s a perfect spot to look out onto the ocean, city, and jungle. Also, it’s my favorite sunset-watching spot. It’s not overcrowded, so you can enjoy it.
This is a 1.7-mile out-and-back hike near Kailua and should take you about 30 to 40 minutes one way. It’s somewhat steep with an elevation gain of up to 640 feet, but the climb is steady. While making your way up, you will enjoy many different beachside and ocean views. The ridges will give you panoramic sights you won’t see anywhere else.
Once you arrive at the top you will see the most picturesque view on the island. The residential views add to the experience as you look out at Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, and Lanikai Beach. Also, there are two famous observation stations named the Lanikai Pillboxes. They add to the whole experience and provide some shade.
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike offers the best view in Oahu because:
- You get to the top with a short and simple hike.
- The view is of residential areas, mountains, Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, and Lanikai Beach.
- The sunset from this spot is amazing and it’s usually not overcrowded by tourists.
- The panoramic views give you a perfect layout of the land.
#2 Kaneohe Sandbar – Stunning view from the beach in the middle of the ocean
Address: 47-86 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
This isn’t the traditional view you expect on a list like this. Nonetheless, the Kaneohe Sandbar offers a unique once-in-a-lifetime view. It’s a sandy large beach 1 mile out from the shore. You get 360-degree views of the city, beaches, open ocean, and mountains. As a bonus, this is a prime snorkeling and swimming spot when the tide is down.
To get out to the sandbar take a 4-hour tour with one of the local boats. The locals sometimes canoe and kayak to the sandbar, but it’s not safe and there is no place to leave your stuff. Tours are relatively cheap and include rental equipment for snorkeling, instructors, meals, and more. There is plenty of marine life to see since it’s located in the center of reef-protected Kaneohe Bay.
When the tide is low, the water is up to your ankles, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to walk around the sandy shore and enjoy the views. This is the closest experience to being on a deserted island. Having the ocean all around you while you walk and explore is breathtaking. The ocean here is clear, the sand is white and you will see gorgeous tropical turquoise in all directions.
Make sure to admire the amazing view from Kaneohe Sandbar because:
- This is a truly unique spot one mile out from the beach, where you can walk around and observe 360-degree views of the bay, mountains, and open ocean.
- It’s an easy and safe trip out, which includes snorkeling, swimming, and even some snacks or meals. Some people even barbecue here.
- It lets you enjoy the turquoise clear water far away from the city beach and reverses the view of Hawaii from a unique angle.
#3 Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden – Best tropical jungle views
Address: 45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744
This place is so beautiful, it was made famous on Instagram with stunning jungle plants and backdrops. This garden stretches over 400 acres (huge!), and you will find the best plant life and wonderful jungle scenery here. Many of the plants are labeled and you can explore for hours. It’s open all year round and there is always something to see.
Here you will enjoy authentic Hawaiian landscape, native and exotic plants, and jungle-like paths. I love the bamboo forests and towering exotic trees. It’s an amazing place to bird watch. And the man-made lake is a nice picnic spot. Make sure to bring your own food and drinks.
There is no admissions fee and you can always find parking. It’s easy to get around because you can use their online map to track your movements. If you have time also head up to the lookout at Kilonani Mauka.
Note: If you are not able to hike, there is a driving option to see most of the gardens. The road is paved and it takes about 20 minutes depending on how many stops you make. It’s also free.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden has one of the best views in Oahu because:
- It’s a huge botanical garden stretching out over 400 acres of land.
- It is home to native and exotic plants from all over the world and there are stunning jungle-like paths to follow.
- Many of the plants are labeled, and there are towering forests and bamboo patches to explore.
- You can have a picnic here or do a drive-through tour. Everything is free.
#4 Diamond Head State Monument – One-of-a-kind view from a volcanic crater
Address: 4204 Diamond Head Rd., Honolulu, HI 96816
This is a short 1.6-mile trail that can be done by everyone and it leads to the summit of the volcanic cone. As a reward you get a stunning panoramic view, only found in Oahu. This is the most recognizable monument in Hawaii and the trail is historic tying back to military history. There are multiple spots on the trail that offer coastal views.
The ascent near the end of the trail goes up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel. At the summit itself, there are bunkers on the crater rim and a navigational interesting lighthouse. Looking out from the summit you will also see the shoreline of southeastern Oahu all the way from Koko Head to Waianae.
This is a good spot to have some food and drink or watch a sunset. Make sure to bring a flashlight if you stay for the sunset.
Don’t miss out on the gorgeous view from Diamond Head State Monument because:
- You can have a historic hike and observe multiple panoramic views.
- The summit of the trail has a stunning view of the shoreline all the way from Koko Head to Waianae.
- It’s a great place for a picnic or watching the sunset.
- The trail is safe and can be done by most people.
#5 Tantalus Lookout at Puu Ualakaa State Park
Address: Nutridge St, Honolulu, HI 96822
This relaxing and romantic hilltop is a perfect spot for an intimate picnic or some quiet family time. The lookout point is near Honolulu and hovers over the city with stunning views of the city and the Diamond Head crater. Many watch the sunset here. But it’s spacious so you won’t feel crowded.
You can drive directly to the spot so no need to hike. Or you can do one of the easy trails leading up to it. There is a 15-minute easy walk option. The trail is popular for bird watching, so another added bonus.
The park is open all year round and is a safe spot for families. Dogs are allowed but on a leash. I particularly love this view because it has both mountain and ocean views. Not to mention the powerful downtown city view.
Tantalus Lookout at Puu Ualakaa State Park has a great view because:
- There are views of mountains, forests, city, and ocean all in one.
- It’s a great flat and safe area for picnics or family time. So you can enjoy the view for a long time.
- It’s dog friendly (on a leash).
- You can hike or drive to the spot, and it’s near Honolulu.
No Oahu vacation would be complete without exploring the picturesque views. The island offers stunning lookout points, lush jungle-like botanical gardens, and views from the middle of the ocean.
There are some great family-friendly and romantic spots you have to visit. Many don’t involve hiking! Some are even pet-friendly!
So follow my advice and check out all five spots!
Last Updated on April 7, 2023 by Brigitte