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15 Best Things to Do in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii

Searching for the best things to do in Ko Olina? This guide from a local has all of the best recommendations for this beautiful beach destination!

Ko Olina is a little tourist hub on the West Side of Oahu, Hawaii. And while it might not looking like there are a lot of things to do in Ko Olina at first, looks can be deceiving. There's quite a lot to do in this little tourist hub -- starting with watching stunning sunsets.

Ko Olina is one of the tourist hotspots of Oahu – granted, one that’s much, much smaller than the tourist hub of Waikiki. Known for its four calm lagoons, Ko Olina is a particularly great for a peaceful beach day or a swim with the whole family. But there’s more to this West Side destination than meets the eye! The best things to do in Ko Olina range from luaus and lunches to golfing and boating – pretty impressive considering the whole area is only one square mile!

The Best Things to Do in Ko Olina Proper

Ko Olina is a metaphorical “island” within an island. There’s one way in, one way out. There’s not even any public transportation to the area, so it feels a little more remote, even though it’s only ten minutes from the nearby city of Kapolei.

This section covers the things you can do in Ko Olina proper. If you’re staying at one of the Ko Olina accommodations, you won’t need a car to do any of these things (though you may have to walk a little longer than usual).

A turtle swimming in the shallow waters of the secret Ko Olina lagoon. One of the best things to do in Ko Olina is snorkel, because there are so many marine animals living in its waters!

1. Go for a Swim or Snorkel

Ko Olina is home to some of the calmest waters on the island. And to make things even better, the lagoons are often dotted with marine life, making it a great place to snorkel. I’ve personally seen turtles, monk seals, eels, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and loads of fish in the lagoons.

*Note: If you do see turtles or monk seals while snorkeling, be sure to give them their space – it’s Hawaii law. While it’s safe to stay in the water with the turtles, if you see a monk seal swimming about, it’s best to get out.

Before heading out for your beach day, double check to see if you have everything you need using our comprehensive beach packing list.

The white building housing the luxurious Four Seasons Oahu hotel, found on Lagoon 1 in Ko Olina.

2. Walk the Full Length of the Four Main Lagoons

There’s a lovely, paved walkway that connects the four main lagoons of Ko Olina. All in all, it’s about 2.4 miles one way, and about 4.7 miles roundtrip. While this might seem like a lot, this flat path is surprisingly doable (for adults – younger kids will have a tricky time). I think the ocean views just make the distance fly right on by.

Before you know it, you’ll have gotten your exercise in and enjoyed the beauty of the area.

There are a couple of secret lagoons in Ko Olina, and the one by Paradise Cove is my favorite. This little area is great for snorkeling, suntanning, and swimming, making it one of the best things to do in Ko Olina.

3. Find the Secret Lagoons

Beyond the four main lagoons, there are a couple of secret lagoons in Ko Olina. To be honest, they’re not so much of a secret anymore – but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth visiting!

There’s one secret lagoon at the end of the walking path near The Four Seasons Oahu, and there’s another near the Paradise Cove Luau (sometimes called the Paradise Cove Luau lagoon). The former is great for a casual low-tide stroll, while the latter often has turtles swimming about its waters.

4. Play a Few Rounds of Golf at Ko Olina Golf Club

Did you know that Ko Olina is home to a world-class golf course? The Ko Olina Golf Club has hosted internationally renowned golf competitions, including LPGA’s Hawaiian Ladies Open, the Ko Olina Senior PGA, and the LPGA Lotte Championship. And you too can take on this beautiful, yet challenging 18-hole course!

hand holding kimchi musubi in front of a street. If you're looking for convenient, authentic local bites while in Ko Olina, look no further than Island Country Markets.

5. Get Casual Local Bites from Island Country Markets

Island Country Markets is the main (and only) grocery store and Ko Olina. While I don’t recommend buying all your groceries from Island Country Markets – the selection is limited and the prices are more expensive than the grocery stores in nearby Kapolei – there are a few food items that are worth your time.

Both the poke bowls and musubis at Island Country Markets are pretty dang good – and much better than the other local food options in the Ko Olina area. Snag some of these tasty bites from a snack or mid-day beach picnic.

Side note: Island Country Markets is located in the small Ko Olina Center, which has a few shops. The retailers tend to come and go, so it’s hard to recommend them, but, if you’re a shopper, it might be worth a quick stroll.

*Pro Tip: The parking area at the Ko Olina Center and Island Country Markets is now paid. Leave your car parked elsewhere (at your hotel or at the lagoons) and walk on over instead.

the two rust-colored buildings of Disney's Aulani hotel, as seen from the far end of Ko Olina's lagoon 1.

6. Explore Disney’s Aulani Resort

It was a big deal when Disney’s Aulani Resort opened on August 29, 2011. Officially known as the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, this resort is just one of four accommodation options in Ko Olina. And while to get the full range of fun – from kids’ club activities to lazy river rides – you’ll have to stay at the hotel, there are some exciting happenings for non-guests as well.

First off, all of the dining options at Disney’s Aulani are open to the public. But the restaurant that’s particularly Disney-esque is the Makahiki, with its breakfast character dining. Your favorite classic and island characters – Mickey, Minnie, Moana, and Stitch, just to start – frequently make appearances at this Ko Olina breakfast spot. Add the three-course breakfast to the mix, and it’s a real treat!

Beyond the dining, it’s cool to just wander around the Aulani property. Island-inspired design choices and hidden Mickeys dot the property. And who knows? You might even come across some characters or pin traders out and about!

Adults can wrap up their visit to the Aulani at the Olelo Room. This cocktail bar offers small bites and drinks, with a side of Hawaiian music. Try the eye-catching rainbow roll and the tropical lychee en voyage, both crowd-favorites.

fire dancer in traditional dress in front of an ocean background. There are three luau in Ko Olina for you to choose from. It's one of the best things to do in Ko Olina if you're looking for a taste of authentic Hawaiian culture.
Photo Courtesy of Paradise Cove Luau

7. Book an Evening Luau

Just about every night of the week, you’ll hear the faint percussive beat of an ipu (traditional Hawaiian gourd drum) in the background. That’s because there’s a luau going on nearly every evening in Ko Olina!

There are three luaus in the area: the Kawaa Luau at Disney’s Aulani, the Fia Fia Dinner Show at Disney’s Ko Olina Beach Club, and the Paradise Cove Luau. Each of these options offers a little something different.

To no one’s surprise, Disney’s Kawaa Luau is particularly great at catering to kids. There are lots of interactive and traditional pre-show activities, like kapa printing, temporary kakau tattoos, and taro pounding. There’s also a dedicated kids’ menu that comes in a nice, personalized bento box (as opposed to the adult buffet), complete with island-inspired, Disney-esque choices that kids will love.

The Marriott’s Fia Fia luau doesn’t just focus on Hawaii. It covers quite a few Polynesian Island cultures. That said, it’s the charismatic MC – who used to be the tree climber, though I think he retired from that particular gig – who’s the star of the show.

Then, there’s the Paradise Cove Luau. An all-around classic, this particular luau has been voted as the best luau on Oahu countless times. You’ll get the classic luau experience, complete with kalua pig, hula dancing, fire dancing, and a gorgeous sunset.

fish meal from Roy's Ko Olina, one of the fanciest restaurants in the area. Ko Olina has a surprising number of high-end restaurants, despite the area's small size.

8. Enjoy Luxury Dining

Other than Honolulu and Waikiki, Ko Olina is really the only other spot on Oahu with fancy restaurants. I’d go so far as to say that Ko Olina’s restaurant scene is pretty epic, considering how small it is. Savor a fancy Italian meal at Noe, go for Mediterranean flavors at Mina’s Fish House, or devour the decadent chocolate souffle at Roy’s, just to start.

As a note, Hawaii in general is interesting when it comes to upscale dining. While the food is fancy, your attire doesn’t have to be. For men, a short sleeve button down and some khakis will do. For women, a cute sundress is perfect. Just some helpful thoughts to keep in mind while planning your Hawaii outfits.

Aerial view of mom and baby whale in the blue Pacific Ocean. In the winter, whales come down to Hawaii, and many boat companies offer whale watching tours. Between December and March, it's one of the best things to do in Ko Olina.

9. Take a Tour from the Marina

Past the end of Ko Olina’s Lagoon 4 lies the Ko Olina Marina. While some wealthy locals dock their boats here, a few of the boat slips are saved for two main tour companies, Ocean Joy Cruises and Ko Olina Ocean Adventures.

Both of these companies have two main types of tours. During the day, they offer snorkeling tours that take you outside of the lagoons and into deeper waters. There, you’ll find rays, dolphins, and even the occasional winter whale.

When sunset rolls around, the eyes (and the tours) are all on the prize. Both companies take the boats out for a special sunset viewing experience. While Ocean Joy Cruises offers a full dinner spread for its sunset cruise, Ko Olina Ocean Adventures satisfies its guests with light appetizers and complimentary alcoholic drinks.

Beautiful Ko Olina sunset with orange and pink clouds, as well as an thatched umbrella silhouette in the foreground.

10. Watch the Sunset

In my opinion, Ko Olina is the best place to watch the sunset on Oahu. The angle is right, the colors are bright, and the lagoon setting makes things extra picture-perfect.

*Pro Tip: For the best colors, wait around for another 10 to 15 minutes after sunset. While this doesn’t happen every evening, the colors often spread and brighten after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

side view of the secret lagoon at Ko Olina, complete with palm trees and a rocky walkway of sorts.

The Best Things to Do Near Ko Olina

You’ll need a car to do these activities near Ko Olina, but they’re more than worth the extra 10 to 20 minutes of driving.

11. Hop Aboard the Hawaiian Railway Society Train

Every now and then, you’ll hear the chugging and the choo-choo of a train passing its way through Ko Olina. That’s the Hawaiian Railway Society Train. Departing from the nearby town of Ewa Beach, riders will learn all about Hawaii’s sugar plantation history (a big part of Hawaii train history). The two-hour ride is broken up with a refreshing ice cream stop in Ko Olina (not included in the price).

12. Shop and Dine at Ka Makana Alii

Ka Makana Alii is the only mall on the West Side of Oahu. In addition to big-box brands like Macy’s and H&M, it’s also home to loads of small, Native Hawaiian-owned shops, like No‘eau Designers, The Collective by Hawaii’s Finest, and Sweet Honey Hawaii.

This mall also has quite a few restaurants, but they’re always changing. If an eatery catches your eye, why not try it out?

The pink Maili pillbox, or abandoned cement military bunker, is found at the end of a one-mile one-way trail just ten minutes from Ko Olina. In this image, two people are standing on top of the bright pink pillbox with the unending Pacific Ocean behind them.

13. Hike the Maili Pillbox Trail

One of my favorite hikes on Oahu is the Maili Pillbox Trail – and it’s only a 10-minute drive from Ko Olina! Also called Puu O Hulu or the Pink Pillbox Trail, this relatively easy Oahu hike is just two miles round-trip, though there is a bit of elevation into consideration. But at the end, you’ll get to see stunning views of the entire West side of Oahu and the expansive Pacific Ocean!

And let’s not forget to mention the pillboxes! Pillboxes are essentially abandoned cement military lookout points from World War II. Today, they’re found on quite a few hikes around Oahu – including Lanikai Pillbox in Kailua and Ehukai Pillbox on the North Shore – because they offer stunning views.

Maili Pillbox Trail’s pillboxes are a little bit different. For one, there’s a whole bunch of them clumped together, rather than just one or two. On top of that, one of the Maili pillboxes is painted bright pink for breast cancer awareness. Many hikers write the names of loved ones who have struggled with cancer on the magenta walls, making it a particularly special spot.

three people racing down rainbow-colored waterslides at Hawaii's only water park, Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii. It's just five minutes from Ko Olina, so it's one of the best things to do if you're hoping to switch things up.
Photo Courtesy of Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii

14. Visit Hawaii’s Only Water Park

There’s only one water park in Hawaii – and it’s five minutes from Ko Olina. While once upon a time, it was the locally-owned Hawaiian Waters, today it’s owned by the water park giant, Wet ‘n’ Wild. There are 13 thrilling rides – my favorite is the Tornado – along with the Hawaiian Waters Wave Pool.

Wet ‘n’ Wild’s hours are very unpredictable. If you’d like to visit, be sure to visit the water park’s website and come up with a solid plan based on the days and times that they’re open during your visit.

15. Participate in a Beach Clean-Up

It’s always great to give back, no matter where you vacation, but especially in Hawaii, since nature is such a big part of the draw. 808 Cleanups, a local non-profit, cleans up the nearby Nimitz Beach every Wednesday. Just 15 minutes from Ko Olina, this shoreline is easy enough to get to. And during the two-hour volunteer period, you’ll have helped make this Hawaii beach cleaner than you found it!

And there you have it! All of the best things to do in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii! We hope you found a few new things to do during your island vacation.

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Looking for the best things to do in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii? This set of four beautiful lagoons on the West Side of Oahu is filled with great things to do -- from beaches and food finds to luxurious hotels and golf courses -- if you only know where to look! Luckily for you, Ko Olina is one of my favorite beaches on Oahu, so I know exactly where to find all of the best things to do in Ko Olina, Hawaii. #hawaii #beachvacation
Looking for the best things to do in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii? This set of four beautiful lagoons on the West Side of Oahu is filled with great things to do -- from beaches and food finds to luxurious hotels and golf courses -- if you only know where to look! Luckily for you, Ko Olina is one of my favorite beaches on Oahu, so I know exactly where to find all of the best things to do in Ko Olina, Hawaii. #hawaii #beachvacation

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