Are you looking for the best things to do in Kailua, Hawaii? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything you need to know!
The picture-perfect town of Kailua, Hawaii is known for its stunning beaches, but there are so many other things to do in Kailua! From delicious food spots to fantastic hikes to beautiful botanical gardens, you’ll easily be able to find activities that pique your interest.
To help you figure out what else to do in this amazing town, here are 24 incredible things to do in Kailua.
Visit Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach is one of those picture-perfect beaches with beautiful turquoise waters and glistening white sand. As a matter of fact, Lanikai Beach has been called “the best beach in the world!”
While Hawaii has many of those, I think what separates Lanikai Beach from the rest is the fact that you can’t see or hear cars while you are there. There are houses and bushes blocking any sight of the street, truly making it one of the most relaxing things to do on Oahu.
Get Some Delicious Breakfast at Morning Brew
If you’re looking for a delicious, trendy breakfast or coffee place, Morning Brew is an amazing option. Their extensive coffee menu includes options such as cold-brewed nitro coffee, coconut Thai iced espresso, or just a simple French roast.
If you’d like a bite to eat along with your morning cup of caffeine, their breakfast options are incredible as well. Try the maple bacon waffle, vegan banana pancakes, the Indian-inspired brew breakfast, and even green eggs and ham!
Try Some Kalua Pig at Kono’s
Kalua pig is one of the most delicious traditional Hawaiian foods, but it can be difficult to find a place that does it justice. (Especially since making kalua pig is traditionally a two-week process, between the digging the whole in the ground and cooking the pig in the ground for several hours.)
Kono’s is one of the only places on the island that takes several hours to cook the kalua pig. While they don’t necessarily cook it in an imu (the Hawaiian name for the kalua-pig-cooking-hole), it still tastes quite good!
Visit Kailua Beach
Right next to Lanikai Beach is Kailua Beach. Along with the turquoise waters and glistening sand of Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach has quite a few trees that provide some shade (and a great place to hang a hammock)! Kailua Beach also has ample parking, which Lanikai Beach does not.
Do a Little Golfing
There are two golf courses in Kailua: Olomana Golf Links and Royal Hawaiian Golf Club. Out of the two, most people tend to prefer the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club. As a matter of fact, it’s so beautiful that people have actually held their weddings there in the past!
Gear Up for the Olomana Trail
Located on the border between Kailua and Maunawili, the Olomana Trail is one of the most dangerous on the island of Oahu. It is ONLY for very experienced hikers.
Olomana Trail, also known as three peaks, has three steep peaks that hikers must climb over to complete the hike. Each of these peaks are quite tall (the first is 1.5 miles up) and has steep drop offs on either side. Because of the steepness, this hike does require of a bit of rock climbing both with and without ropes. That said, the views from the top of the Olomana Peaks are absolutely stunning.
Dine at a Local Favorite: Boots & Kimo’s
Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen has long been a local Oahu favorite. While their macadamia nut banana pancakes are their specialty, their pulehu ribs, eggs benedict, and Portuguese sausage omelet are all favorites of Boots and Kimo’s regulars.
Kayak to the Mokes
If you’re into kayaking, you HAVE to kayak to the Mokes. Also known as the Mokulua Islands, the Mokes are the most popular kayaking destination on Oahu. From Kailua Beach (where the kayak rentals are located), it is about three miles to Moku Nui, the closer of the two islands. (Moku Iki, the farther island, is actually military property).
Before heading out, check to make sure that the tide will get lower as you continue your journey. If the tide is high when you try to head back, the journey will be significantly more difficult.
On the island, there is actually a bird sanctuary and a small hiking path that goes around the entire island. From the back side of the island, you might be able to see the neighboring island of Molokai! If you do plan on doing this hike on Moku Nui, consider bringing some hiking shoes and socks in a waterproof bag.
If kayaking is your thing, here are a few other fantastic places to kayak on Oahu.
Pick Up Something to Eat at the Kailua Farmers Market
While most farmers markets focus primarily on fresh fruits and vegetables, the Kailua Farmers Market has many vendors that sell pre-made dishes. Try a spam musubi, a Bahn Mi, guava-smoked barbecue, or even the market’s famous apple banana ice cream at the Cold Fyyre Stand!
The Kailua Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Take a Picture with the Lanikai Monument
Between Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach, there is a tan pillar known as the Lanikai Monument. While many visitors take pictures with the monument, the vast majority have no clue why it is there.
This monument was actually meant to mark the boundary between the “vacation” area and the residential area. So while Kailua Beach is in the vacation area, Lanikai Beach is technically in the residential area.
Take a Peek at the Plants at Lyon Arboretum
Located in Manoa Valley not too far from Manoa Falls lies Lyon Arboretum. On the property, there are several gardens, including the herb and spice garden, the Native Hawaiian Garden, and the Betty Ho Memorial Garden. There is also a small waterfall, Aihualama Falls, located on the property.
Rent an Electric Bike
As you wander around the Kailua area, it’s not uncommon to see bikers. But as you look closer, you’ll notice that most of these bikers aren’t peddling! They are using electric bikes from Pedego Kailua. Use the bikes to glide past the famous beaches, through the shopping areas, and perhaps even on the Kawainui Marsh Trail.
Try Some Vegan Lau Lau
Ai Love Nalo in Kailua is the only place on Oahu that has a vegan version of the Hawaiian dish, lau lau. Lau lau is traditionally made of pork wrapped and cooked in ti leaves. To attempt to imitate the flavor of the local dish without the use of animal products, Ai Love Nalo turned to breadfruit and sweet potatoes, along with a few other secret ingredients.
Take a Bite of the Guava Chiffon Pancakes at Cinnamon’s
If you’re looking for a solid pancake place, Cinnamon’s has reserved that title on Oahu – especially if you’re looking for guava pancakes. Cinnamon’s guava chiffon pancakes have made a name for themselves in the islands. So why not stop by for a bite?
Reach the Popoia Island State Bird Sanctuary
If you lounge around on Kailua Beach, you’ll notice that there’s a flat island not too far from shore. This is Popoia Island State Bird Sanctuary. Only about one quarter of a mile away from the shores of Kailua Beach, many people kayak, stand-up paddle board, or even swim to Popoia Island! This, of course, depends on each person’s skill level and the current that day.
Popoia Island is also a bird sanctuary! That means, if you do happen to reach the islands, you might find a few bird nesting holes, so be sure not to break any eggs!
*Note: if you do plan on kayaking or paddling to Popoia Island, you will need to pay an additional $3 landing permit fee.
Spend Some Time at Kalama Beach Park
Kalama Beach Park is another beach near Kailua and Lanikai. However, unlike those two beaches, most visitors have not heard of it just yet!
Hike Lanikai Pillbox for Sunrise
If your goal is to find the most amazing spot to watch an Oahu sunrise, Lanikai Pillbox is definitely the spot for you. Regardless of the time of day, the Lanikai Pillbox hike is definitely one of the best things to do on Oahu. But doing it at sunrise just makes it all the more spectacular.
Here’s our guide to hiking Lanikai Pillbox at sunrise.
Or if you’re looking for a less popular Oahu sunrise hike, we’ve got you covered too.
Take a Stroll Along the Kawainui Marsh Trail
The Kawainui Marsh Trail is one of Oahu’s hidden gems. Most people already know about Kailua Beach and the nearby trendy shopping area. But somehow the Kawanui Marsh Trail slips under the radar.
This three-mile walking trail is right next to Kawainui Marsh takes you past a lovely lake with a bit of wild life. It’s not uncommon to see birds, ducks, geese, and even butterflies hanging out on this trail.
Check Out an Ancient Hawaiian Temple
Scattered throughout Hawaii, you can find quite a few ancient Hawaiian temples known as heiau. But most people have no idea that you can find a heiau in the town of Kailua!
In ancient times, the Ulupo Heiau was used to protect the people in the area as well as to provide good fishing catches. Since 1954, Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site has been a national park.
Check Out the Kawainui Model Airplane Field
If you’re into flying model planes, check out the Kawainui model airplane field in Kailua. While you are allowed to fly small model airplanes almost anywhere, the larger ones must be flown at AMA sanctioned fields, like the Kawainui model airplane field. So go check it out!
Take a Beginner’s Hula Class at Pattye’s Hula Studio
Hula is an important part of Hawaiian culture. Aside from a quick two-minute class at luaus, visitors hardly get to try their hands at this cultural dance. If you’re interested, Pattye’s Hula Studio in Kailua has hula dance classes for all experience levels, including beginners.
Try Your Hand at Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
The waters in Kailua tend to be quite calm, so if you want to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding Kailua Beach or Lanikai Beach could be the place!
Hike to Maunawili Falls
The 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to Maunawili Falls actually requires a couple of stream crossings, so be prepared to get your feet wet! This waterfall is also known for being home to a few native plants, as well as the (non-native) beloved lilikoi (passion fruit) plant. If you’re lucky enough to be there while it’s in season, feel free to snag a couple of the bright yellow or purple spheres to munch on later.
It is important to note that Maunawaili Falls has gotten extremely popular in recent years. Please be sure to take care of the trail when you visit.
Limited street parking is available for this hike. Be courteous to those who live in the area and do not block the driveways.
*Local Secret: if you scramble your way up over Maunawili Falls and hike a bit further, you’ll actually make your way to an abandoned wooden bridge, if that sort of adventure is up your alley. That said, this experience is for advances hikers only.
*As of summer 2021, Maunawili Falls is closed to the public. Prior to that, hundreds of people were visiting this waterfall every day, so the State of Hawaii decided to give the land some time to heal. As of summer 2023, this hike still hasn’t reopened.
Maunawili Falls isn’t the only amazing waterfall hike on Oahu. Check out our list of Oahu waterfall hikes to discover more!
Get the Freshest Fish Ever at Nico’s
As if the fresh fish wasn’t enough to lure you to Nico’s, the affordable prices might! You don’t have to fish all the money out of your pockets to pay for a meal at Nico’s (check out the prices of Mama’s Fish House on Maui for comparison).
After buying fresh seafood from the fishermen each and every morning, the chefs at Nico’s whip up some tasty dishes like furikake pan seared ahi, fish and chips, and Nico’s steamed clams. To top it all off, you’ll have a stunning view of the pier as you eat.
Do you have any other recommendations that should be on this list of things to do in Kailua? Let me know in the comments!
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