If you’re looking for things to do in Oahu on your vacation, there are several islets off the islands of Hawaii that provide a quick getaway from all the excitement in the city. These small escapes offer views of Oahu’s cliffs and mountain ranges from a different perspective, as well as the opportunity to explore uncharted waters, all without ever having to book a flight to the other islands of Hawaii. While some of these islets are bird sanctuaries or marked restricted, some are open to the public. Take a swim, kayak, or snorkel your way over to one of these offshore escapes.
Just a few hundred yards out from one of the most loved beaches in the world, Kailua Beach, is Popoia Island or “Flat Island,” so named for its flattened shape. Translated from Hawaiian, Popoia means “fish rot,” referring to the area once being used as a place of offering by ancient Hawaiians. Getting here may take some energy (it’s about a 20 minute swim), but once you arrive, you can relax on a sandy lounge bed, marvel at a nest of seabirds, and if you’re lucky, spot a pod of spinner dolphins jumping in the distance.
Mokulua Twin Islands
Look out a little further down the road and you’ll see a pair of peaks known as the Mokulua Twin Islands or “The Mokes.” A favorite among things to do in Oahu, the easiest way to get here is by kayak, which you can easily rent from a place nearby like Kailua Beach Adventures. Along the way, look out over the hull and witness all the majesty beneath the surface. Before you know it, you’ll be on land, making your way to the top of Moku Nui (the larger islet of the two), and diving feet-first off the jagged lava rock platform into the cool waters below. It’s a long way down, so inexperienced divers take caution.
If you like the sights and sounds the windward side has to offer, but you’d like somewhere a bit more secluded, you’ll love this little sanctuary located about two miles off the coast of Kaneohe Bay. Once you get your crew together, you’ll embark on a journey through crystal-clear waters—and on low-tide, a sandbar where you can take a refreshing dip in the ocean. Walk through native trees and plants, such as kahakai, hinahina, and milo, while native birds like the wedge-tailed shearwater (or ‘ua’u kani) take refuge in the shade. Once used by ancient Hawaiians as a base of operation for fishing, it’s the perfect place to cast off, sit back, and relax.
Come summer, when the wind and waves are calm surrounding the islands of Hawaii, the north shore of Oahu is easily the largest ocean playground in the world. Instead of sticking to the Seven Mile Miracle, take a detour a little further north to Laie Point and discover a land with few footprints. Be sure to pack your snorkel gear because the views below are worth it. Watch the shimmer of tropical fish underneath you, and explore the coral reefs surrounding this tropical refuge.
After sweating in out on a hike through the forests of Mokuleia, refresh yourself in the cool waters off the coast of Malaekahana Beach Campground, where you can find a myriad of fun things to do in Oahu. Getting there is the easy part—it’s only 0.4 miles from the beach—while leaving, on the other hand, might be a little tough. Relaxing on the shore here, away from all the crowds of tourists, is a little like relaxing on your very own private island.
Looking for a good photo op to remember your incredible vacation? Mokoli’i Island is famous for appearing in Hollywood films set in Hawaii. The setting here is picturesque: a small cove and a sandy beach, perfect for suntanning and shell-picking. At low tide, you can walk right onto the island, but always err on the side of caution and bring swim gear. Spend the final part of your journey at tip of the island, in awe of the stunning views of the Koolau Mountain Range.