Oahu’s National Parks and Historical Sites

Hawaii is a special place with its many microenvironments, like beaches and rainforests, as well as its diverse history, such as becoming the 50th state in 1959. Because of the state’s unique topography and history, there are several sites dedicated to preservation.

The island of Oahu has several national parks that the public does not have access to. This is for the protection of the wildlife, such as in the case of O’ahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Other sites, like the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, are now closed to the public due to staff reductions and may only be available for research, restoration and other development purposes.

However, Oahu has several other natural and historical sites that tourists can visit and enjoy. Some offer a way to connect with Hawaii’s past while others provide a firsthand experience with the areas environmental wonders. Check out the ones below to help with planning your trip to Hawaii.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

A popular tourist attraction, visitors can snorkel with sea turtles and over the coral that grows in the shallow waters of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Masks, fins, snorkels and lockers are available for rent. There is also a snack bar, so beachgoers can enjoy the entire day without worrying about missing lunch.

Since there is a coral reef in the bay, visitors must use reef-friendly sunscreen and follow the rules to protect the growth of the coral. Shuttles bring tourists to and from Waikiki several times a day.

Time of Year Open: Every day except Tuesdays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

Visiting Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (in winter) or 7 p.m. (in summer)

Fees: $7.50 per person older than 12 years of age (or free with local or active military ID) plus $1 parking lot fee

 Malaekahana State Recreational Area

For those looking for a fun experience in Hawaii, Malaekahana Beach Park has swimming and other water-related activities as well as shore fishing. It is great for day trips to the beach or for picnicking with several picnic tables set up in the wooded area of the beach park.

There are also 37 campsites available for a fee. The campsites have restrooms, showers and water from fountains. However, campers can reserve a location from Friday through Wednesday only.

Time of Year Open: Year-round

Visiting Hours: 7 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. (from April 1 to Labor Day) or 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. (after Labor Day to March 31)

Entrance Fees: Free

Camping: Starting at $12 a night

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Since December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor has been known as the event that pushed the United States into World War II. On its Remembrance Day each year, survivors and veterans meet at the memorial for commemorative events and a ceremony. Visitors can also go to other Pearl Harbor historical sites including:

  • The Battleship Missouri Memorial.
  • The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.
  • The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

Visitors at the USS Arizona Memorial can watch a documentary about the Pearl Harbor attack and take a boat ride to the memorial. There are also exhibit galleries with artifacts, memorabilia and audible recordings of witnesses. It is an impactful way to experience history.

Time of Year Open: Every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

Visiting Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fees:

  • Free, however, there is a $1 fee per reserved ticket
  • $7.50 for a narrated headset
  • $12.50 for the USS Arizona Memorial Deluxe Tour

Diamond Head

Formed 300,000 years ago, this crater is the result of a volcanic eruption. Diamond Head crater has a coastal view that couples and families can enjoy. Diamond Head is rich in military history due to its shape and proximity to the shore. There are self-guided audio tours available at the gift shop that provides narrative into the history and geography of the area.

The Diamond Head Summit Trail hike is arduous and a 1.6-mile trek round trip, thus visitors should wear proper shoes. Visitors can follow the trail route to the observation station, bunker and lookout.

Time of Year Open: Every day except holidays

Visiting Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; last hiking entrance at 4:30 p.m.

Fees: $1 per walk-in or $5 per vehicle

Iolani Palace

Built in 1882, Iolani Palace was the official home of Hawaii’s monarchy. At  its zenith, it served to entertain dignitaries and be a place for official functions. It was later used as the prison for the last reigning monarch and office headquarters for the new government.

Since its restoration to its former regal glory, the Iolani Palace is now a historical site open to the public. Through staterooms and private quarters of the Hawaiian monarchy, visitors can learn about its history with self-guided or volunteer-led tours.

Time of Year Open: Year-round except on holidays

Visiting Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fees:

  • Free for children up to four years of age
  • $6 for children between five and 12 years of age
  • $27 for those older than 12 years of age or $23 with kamaaina/military ID
  • $22 per guest with groups of 10 or more

Bishop Museum

The biggest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts and specimens is on display at the Bishop Museum. Named to honor the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the Bishop Museum is a fun way to experience history. Visitors can also hear stories about the legends and beliefs of the locals prior to contact with other cultures.

There are many sections to the museum including a science adventure center that has interactive exhibits about Hawaii’s environment and a garden with plants found nowhere else. The Bishop Museum Has artwork, exhibits and cultural displays that appeal to everyone.

Time of Year Open: Every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day

Visiting Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fees:    

  • Free for children up to four years of age
  • $16.95 for children between four and 17 years of age or $10.95 with kamaaina/military ID
  • $24.95 for adults up to 65 years of age or $14.95 with kamaaina/military ID
  • $21.95 for adults 65 years of age or older or $12.95 with kamaaina/military ID

An All-Access Day Pass is more expensive, as is the two-day pass.