Oahu’s beauty is legendary — from the famed Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and surf spots on the North Shore to the lush Manoa Valley and the island’s two mountain ranges, the Waianae and the Koolau. Given its diverse natural beauty, as well as its variety of cultural attractions, historical sights, and outdoor activities, it draws tourists from all over the world. This also means Oahu, like many other Hawaiian islands, has experienced an influx of over-tourism, particularly since COVID-19 restrictions were removed. While tourism continues to be one of the largest industries on Oahu (and Hawaii as a whole), travelers must be aware of their impact on both the environment as well as the people who call this exquisite place home.
“Coming to Hawaii with a mindset of giving versus receiving is a great start,” says Kealoha Domingo, chef and owner of Nui Kealoha, Kupaʻāina. “Know that although we are often dependent on visitor industry dollars, negative impacts and irresponsibility with what our ʻāina (land) has been gracious enough to provide often cannot be reversed. Please come to Hawaii to become an active part of the circular ecology, not as a mere consumer.”
According to Zita Cup Choy, the palace historian at ʻIolani Palace, this means travelers should take a multi-faceted approach to their visit. Along with “following designated paths, properly disposing of waste, and opting for eco-friendly transportation,” she recommends “engaging respectfully with locals, learning about their traditions, leaving natural areas undisturbed, and supporting conservation efforts.” One of the most straightforward ways to ensure you’re embracing both sustainable and respectful travel practices in Oahu is to support local businesses. “Choosing locally-owned accommodations, dining at neighborhood eateries, and shopping from Indigenous artisans or farmers markets not only offer an authentic experience but also boost the island’s economy, ensuring a more sustainable future for Oahu’s residents,” she explains.
Interested in planning a trip to the third largest of the Hawaiian islands? Read on to discover some of the best things to do on Oahu — all of which come recommended by locals and help preserve the island’s cultural heritage and natural beauty.
Related: Oahu Is Home to a Jaw-dropping Volcanic Crater, Luxury Hotels, and Some of the World’s Most Famous Surf Beaches