Although Hawai’i is part of the United States, it has a unique culture; it’s part of the Polynesian Islands, has a royal history, and its own language. A visit to one of Oahu’s many cultural spots allows you to develop a deeper connection to the island. We’ve rounded up five of our favorites — these are just a few of the many cultural sites you can visit while you’re here.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Do not miss the Polynesian Cultural Center on your trip to Oahu! This isn’t the typical museum — it’s an immersive opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture. Walk through six villages representing Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga to get a taste of each island’s diverse way of life.
Throw a spear while visiting Tonga, dance with the Islanders of Tahiti, watch a warrior climb a 40-foot tree at Samoa, honor the chief of Fiji, learn the Haka dance at Aotearoa, and learn how to fish in Hawaii. And, be sure to stay until evening to catch the Ha Breath of Life show.
Visit Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in America. That’s why it’s a a top cultural spot in Oahu to check out! The last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, was overthrown in 1893. Learn about her reign and love for the Hawaiian people during a palace tour. If you’re taking the Shaka Guide Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour you’ll visit this National Historic Landmark.
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The Bishop Museum gives visitors an in-depth history of the state. Signature exhibits include a picture gallery with 19th-century Hawaiian art and a garden with native plants. At the museum, you’ll learn about Hawaiian values and how they relate to the other Polynesian islands. Added bonus! This is a great cultural spot in Oahu for the whole family. There’s a Science Adventure Center with lots of hands-on activities to keep kids engaged.
Free Waikiki Hula Show
What better way to enjoy an evening in Waikiki than to see a hula performance? Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday dancers perform this historic dance in Waikiki. Visit the Kūhiō Beach Hula Mound at 6:30 p.m. on any of these nights for a free performance. The evening starts with the lighting of the torch and traditional blowing of the conch shell, followed by hula. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the cultural immersion.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Legend is a huge part of Hawaiian culture and the land is rooted in folklore. That holds true for Makapu’u — an extinct volcano on the eastern tip of Oahu. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail isn’t just a two-mile hike with an amazing view… it’s a legend! Makapu’u was a supernatural being who had eight big, bright eyes. The lighthouse is named after her as she watches those at sea. Coincidentally, the Makapu’u Lighthouse is also home to the biggest lighthouse lens in the United States.
What would a trip to Hawai’i be without experiencing the state’s special culture? Oahu may be known for it’s bustling capital and award-winning beaches, but the cultural sites tell the island’s story.
RELATED TOURS: Visiting Oahu? We have five tours on the island! Download our Circle Island Driving Tour, South Shore Drive, Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour, Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour, and Biki Street Art Tour.