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5 Tourist Traps on Oahu, Hawaii (And Some Better Alternatives)


Hoping to avoid the tourist traps on your trip to Hawaii? Here are a few to Oahu that you’ll want to skip — and some cool alternatives to see instead.

Waikiki Diamond Head Hawaii tourist traps

Thousands and thousands of tourists come to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu each year. However, most of the time, they end up spending most (if not all) of their time at tourist traps. Here are five tourist traps on Oahu, and some alternatives, so you can actually experience some local favorites.

1. Waikiki Beach

Straight off the bat, I have to call out Waikiki Beach. It is probably my least favorite beach on the entire island, because there is nothing special about it, besides the hordes of tourists that are always there. There are so many options that are so much better, no matter what you would like to do.

For just relaxing, check out beaches on the East and West shores of the island. The waters there are calm and clear, perfect for a peaceful vacation. For snorkeling, Hanauma Bay is actually a pretty good option, but I prefer some of the beaches on the West side. For surfing, there are beaches on the North Shore for the pros, and, for the beginners, there are some options on the South shore.

Be sure that if you choose to explore new beaches around the island, you keep your safety in mind. Tourists in Hawaii actually drown at nine times the rate of locals, so PLEASE pay attention to your surroundings. If possible, bring a local with you! If not, don’t be overconfident, pay attention to how far you are from shore, and watch out for rip currents and sharp coral. That being said, please don’t only visit Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki skyline Hawaii tourist traps

2. Waikiki Shopping District

I’m not a huge fan of the Waikiki area in general, including the shopping district. As a matter of fact, shopping in Waikiki is a pretty common mistake that visitors to the islands make.

The stores in Waikiki mark up their prices significantly, because they know tourists will pay! Plus, many of the shops in that area can be found all over the world! There is nothing “Hawaiian” about them.

Instead, if you are looking for some genuine local goodies, head over to one of the two House of Mana Up stores. These stores only sell goods locally made in Hawaii, so you’re sure to find local treasures — from chocolate to beach toys.

If you want to explore the shopping options outside of Waikiki, check out the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet or even the Ka Makana Alii Shopping Center in Kapolei.

set of three shave ice from Ululani's
Photo Courtesy of Ululani’s Shave Ice

3. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice

I’m just going to say it. The famed Matsumoto’s Shave Ice isn’t all that special. Even though I have a serious sweet tooth, their shave ice was WAY too sweet for me, and it was simply not worth the wait. The line can take HOURS, and the reward won’t even be good. I think it’s one of the worst Oahu tourist traps.

My favorite shave ice place anywhere is Ululani’s. Originally started on Maui, this incredible shave ice spot now has locations on Oahu, the Big Island, and even the mainland. The smooth ice texture and naturally flavored syrups can’t be beat. So if you have the chance, be sure to stop by!

Also, just a tip, never go to a place that says “shaved ice” instead of “shave ice”. That’s how you know it won’t be any good. That’s actually one of the biggest mistakes that you can make in Hawaii.

Looking for a few more great shave ice options? Here’s my list of the best shave ice spots in Waikiki and Honolulu!

Waimea Falls with people swimming in the pool

4. Waimea Falls

Compared to the other tourist traps on this list, Waimea Falls isn’t too bad. You actually get to see a little waterfall here! The reason it’s on this list though, is because there is so much better on Oahu!

Manoa Falls is a pretty popular hike with tourists and locals alike. Here are eight of my favorites! However, if you are looking for one that’s a little more hidden, do a quick Google search and see what comes up.

Diamond Head with surfers in the water in the foreground

5. Diamond Head Hike

Once again, this hike isn’t too much of a tourist trap. Yes, there are TONS of tourists here, but the views from the top are pretty bomb. But if views are what you are going for, head to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, at sunrise if possible, for some spectacular views.

I hope these suggestions make your visit to Hawaii a little less touristy and a little more local!

Looking for more suggestions from a Hawaii local?  Check out these (not cliché) souvenirs to buy in Hawaii.  Or you if you’re getting really excited, you can check out all of the posts in my “Hawaii” section.

Hawaii Tourist Trap FAQs

Is Hawaii a Tourist Trap?

No, I don’t think Hawaii as a whole is a tourist trap. Of course, there are tourist traps scattered here and there (like the ones mentioned above), but I wouldn’t let them scare you away from a trip to Hawaii.

How Do I Avoid Tourist Traps in Hawaii?

Great question! But at the end of the day, it’s really hard to decipher what’s worth your time and money and what’s not, especially if you’re not from the islands. I’d recommend asking a local if you can (even me! Feel free to send me an email via my contact page) to 1) ask if something is a tourist trap and 2) hopefully get better alternatives.

Any other tourist traps on Oahu that you can think of? What alternatives would you recommend?  Write them below in the comments!

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