One of the best reasons to get married on Oahu, Hawaii, is that you’re not only tying the knot, but you’re also getting a vacation with your friends and family! We see tons of summer weddings from May-August, and summer is such an amazing time to visit the island! The weather is calm, the pace of life is slow, and we find that our couples aren’t very stressed about their weddings because they’re so blissed out being on vacation!
As wedding planners who live on the island, we are always giving advice on what to do here, from large group excursions to small, simple day trips. Here are some great things to do on Oahu when visiting in the summertime!
1. Hit the beaches!
Sun, sand and surf is what Hawaii is known for! Oahu’s iconic North Shore is home to some of the top rated beaches in the world. Summer is the best time of the year for snorkeling on the North Shore, which is world-famous for its gigantic waves in the wintertime. Try checking out Shark’s Cove or even the beaches up at Turtle Bay! When at the beach, make sure to apply reef-safe sunscreen, as toxic sunscreen is banned in the state of Hawai’i and is harmful to the wildlife like the honu (turtles) who you’ll see while snorkeling! Make sure to also keep your distance from them and other wildlife. There are also surf schools such as DFC surf academy that take advantage of the small waves in the summer to teach visitors how to ride the waves! It’s easy, fun, and anyone can do it!
2. Go Shopping!
Shopping locally matters to the island economy. We’re not talking about the mall and department stores. There are many small businesses on the island with cute souvenirs, island-style clothing, and ono (delicious) local food! We also recommend going to the local shopping centers in Haleiwa town and Kailua town for a great way to “shop local” while in Hawaii. Farmer’s Markets such as Aloha Home Market and road-side stands are also great places to pick up fun local items and gifts to bring home! If you also love shopping online, follow this hashtag #madeinhawaiiwithaloha for loads of fun island goodies even after you leave the islands!
3. Immerse yourself in a cultural experience!
There are so many great cultural experiences on Oahu, and our personal two favorites are Waimea Valley and Kualoa Ranch, which also double as wedding venues! It’s a great opportunity to view the wedding venues if you haven’t already booked one, and then enjoy the tours and scenery while you’re there!
Waimea Valley is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and offers admission to the park. Here you can walk around these lush tropical gardens and see local flora, fauna, cultural sites, and a majestic waterfall. This sacred site is rich in mana (energy) as it holds a lot of history. It translates to “The Valley of the Priests” and has been home to Hawaiian royalty. The venue also offers traditional luaus for a rich cultural experience! We love Waimea because all the money it makes goes right back into it to help preserve and conserve the sacred site. Bringing your guests here for a visit is always a good idea!
Kualoa Ranch is open daily from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm and has a variety of different tours and activities to choose from! From horseback riding, zip lining, and ATVs, to a boat excursion to a ‘secret beach’ and many more, Kualoa Ranch is an ideal place to bring your entire guest list for a day of fun either pre or post-wedding. Kualoa Ranch is most well-known for the countless movie productions it hosted (i.e. Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Jumanji 2) however, it is also one of the most sacred places on O`ahu, as it was a training ground for Ali’i (or high chiefs in the Hawaiian Kingdom). All of Kualoa’s tours touch on the historical importance of the land, and how their team works to give back and celebrate the land’s history. Kualoa even gives their wedding couples & their guests a generous discount on tours and activities in the weeks surrounding their wedding dates. Be sure to book well in advance because tours fill up quickly!
4. Go on a hike!
Oahu is home to amazing hikes, all ranging from easy to crazy difficult! There are incredible hikes on all sides of the island. Try checking out the Diamond Head Trail, Koko Head, Pillbox hikes in Kailua & Pupukea, and head over to Manoa falls or Maunawili falls to experience Oahu’s lush waterfalls! Oahu’s Ko’olau Mountains on the East Side are absolutely beautiful and offer stunning views, however they can also be dangerous with steep drops, so it’s best to know before you go. For best hike “grades” and difficulty levels, check out the All Trails app. There’s lots of options and also reviews to read to make sure it’s the right hike for you!
5. Get some amazing food!
After all the physical activity and exploring, you’ll need to re-fuel. There are so many amazing places to eat on the island from local to gourmet. There’s great local eateries on the North Shore from Haleiwa, all the way up the coast to Kualoa Ranch, mostly owned and operated by local families. Most famous are Kua Aina Sandwiches (try the Teriyaki Chicken!) and Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa (get the rainbow flavor with azuki bean and ice cream on the bottom!), the Elephant Truck (Thai Food) at Sunset Beach, and the Original Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (garlic butter shrimp, YUM!) in Kahuku! On the East side, just outside of Kualoa Ranch, you can taste authentic Hawaiian cuisine that the locals love at the Waiahole Poi Factory! Options are endless and exploring Oahu with your taste buds is just SO MUCH FUN!
While enjoying your time in these islands, remember to slow down, be kind, and keep aloha in your heart and actions while soaking in the sun, the beautiful island scenery, and experiencing the unique mix of local cultures. This is the all-time best formula to embrace and discover what Oahu and all of Hawaii has to offer!