Oahu is a beautiful island in Hawaii, packed with culture and history. If you’re visiting the island and want to experience some of its rich cultural heritage, then make sure you check out the top 18 historical sites and museums. Whether you’re an avid history buff or simply looking for some interesting activities during your vacation, these places are sure to offer something for everyone!

1. Pearl Harbor

Wide shot view of Pearl Harbor
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A visit to Pearl Harbor Hawaii is a moving and unforgettable experience. The site of the infamous attack on December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor is an emotional reminder of our nation’s history and serves as a solemn tribute to those who fought in World War II. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by emotion when visiting the USS Arizona Memorial or standing at the water’s edge looking out over Battleship Row. Even if you don’t have any personal connections to this historic event, it’s impossible not to be moved by the displays and artifacts that honor those lost during this tragic time. A visit here will give you an increased appreciation for America’s past struggles and victories, as well as an understanding of how peace can sometimes come at great cost.

2. Honolulu Museum of Art

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The Honolulu Museum of Art is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the rich culture and history of Honolulu. Established in 1927, the museum has grown from its initial collection of 13 works to over 50,000 pieces today. The museum offers visitors an opportunity to explore varied art forms from different cultures around the world. From ancient sculptures and paintings to modern installations and multimedia displays, there’s something for everyone at this remarkable institution. Visitors can also take part in workshops, lectures, and film screenings or simply enjoy some time browsing through its galleries. With so much on offer, a visit to the Honolulu Museum of Art is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

3. Mission Houses Museum

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The Mission Houses Museum in Oahu, Hawaii offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors looking to explore the history of this beautiful island. Established in 1821 by American Protestant missionaries, the museum consists of three original mission houses that have been restored to their 19th-century appearance. Visitors can take guided tours through the houses and learn about early Hawaiian culture as they explore artifacts from those days along with interactive displays. In addition to exploring the historic buildings, there are multiple educational programs available onsite for guests of all ages. The museum also hosts special events throughout the year featuring live music performances, hula dancing, art exhibitions, and more. Whether you’re visiting for a day or spending your entire vacation in Oahu, make sure you don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind opportunity at Mission Houses Museum!

4. Bishop Museum

Bishop Museum

Visiting the Bishop Museum Hawaii is a great way to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and history. Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop, the museum was originally built to house artifacts collected by his late wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who was descended from Hawaiian royalty. The museum has since grown into one of Hawaii’s largest museums with a collection of over 25 million items ranging from ancient artifacts to natural history specimens. Today, visitors can explore several permanent exhibits that showcase various aspects of Hawaiian life such as Polynesian voyaging and hula dancing. Additionally, there are special rotating exhibits dedicated to topics like anthropology or art which offer unique insight into different aspects of Hawaiian culture and its long-standing traditions.

5. USS Arizona Memorial

Sunken USS Arizona on top of a built structure
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Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii is an incredibly powerful and moving experience. Located at Pearl Harbor, the memorial commemorates one of the most tragic events in American history – the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941 that left 2,403 Americans dead. The USS Arizona Memorial stands as a testament to those brave men and women who lost their lives during this attack. It has since become a popular tourist destination for people from all around the world seeking to honor its fallen heroes. Today, visitors can take part in guided tours of the site which include exploring exhibits about World War II, visiting an interactive museum that tells stories of bravery and sacrifice, as well as paying respects at a shrine honoring those killed during the attack. It’s truly an unforgettable experience that no visitor will ever forget.

6. Battleship Missouri

Visitors flock at the entrance of USS Battleship Missouri
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Located in Pearl Harbor, this mighty battleship served as the site of Japan’s formal surrender at the end of World War II and is now open for visitors. The ship has been preserved in its original state, allowing visitors to explore its decks and view artifacts from its past including photos, uniforms, weapons, and more. Visitors can also take part in educational tours led by knowledgeable guides who will share stories about the ship’s history and significance during wartime. This one-of-a-kind attraction offers an unforgettable glimpse into America’s past while offering insight into current world events.

7. USS Bowfin Submarine 

Entrance to the bowfin submarine
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Visiting the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park in Honolulu, Hawaii is an amazing experience. This submarine was launched just one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It has been preserved as a memorial to all submariners who have served and sacrificed for their country since World War II. At this historical site, visitors can explore the USS Bowfin’s interior, watch films about submarines at the theater, take part in interactive exhibits about submarines throughout history, learn more about life onboard a sub during World War II through stories told by veterans, view artifacts from other subs such as torpedoes and deck guns from various eras of submarine warfare; plus much more! There are also educational programs available for those interested in learning more about this important piece of American history. Whether you’re looking for some fun activities or an informative tour of a historic landmark – there’s something here for everyone!

8. Pacific Aviation Museum

Vintage war aircrafts at Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
© Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

The Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii is an amazing place to visit for anyone interested in aviation history. Located on historic Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, the museum was founded in 1999 with the mission of preserving and protecting World War II aircraft and artifacts. The museum features a variety of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience history first-hand by exploring restored hangars, vintage airplanes, engines, and other displays. From viewing restored WWII aircraft in their original hangars to taking a flight simulator ride over Pearl Harbor or joining a guided tour with veterans who share first-hand accounts of their experiences, there are plenty of ways for guests to immerse themselves in the rich history at Pacific Aviation Museum.

9. Kamehameha Statue

King Kamehameha Statue
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Visiting the Kamehameha Statue on Oahu, Hawaii is a must-do for any traveler. Located in Honolulu, this iconic statue is a symbol of Hawaiian culture and history that should not be missed. The 18-foot bronze sculpture was created by Thomas Gould in honor of King Kamehameha I who unified the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. Today, it’s a popular destination for tourists to visit, take pictures with, and learn about its rich cultural significance. While there are plenty of things to do around the area such as shopping and dining at nearby restaurants, visitors can also take part in special ceremonies held at the site like torch lighting or hula performances which celebrate King Kamehameha’s legacy. Whether you’re looking to learn more about Hawaiian culture or simply admire this beautiful monument up close, visiting the Kamehameha Statue on Oahu will certainly be an experience you won’t soon forget!

10. Duke Kahanamoku Statue

Duke Kahanamoku Statue
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Located in Waikiki Beach, the Duke Kahanamoku Statue is a tribute to the legendary Hawaiian swimmer and surfer who was known as “The Father of Surfing”. The statue serves as an iconic symbol for Oahu and its rich history of surfing. Built-in 1990, the 9-foot bronze sculpture stands tall overlooking Waikiki Beach with outstretched arms inviting visitors from all over the world to enjoy Hawaii’s beautiful beaches. There are many activities that one can enjoy near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue such as swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or simply relaxing on one of Oahu’s stunning white sand beaches. Visitors are also able to offer leis and learn about Duke’s life story while admiring his statue by reading its plaque which provides some interesting facts about his accomplishments throughout his lifetime.

11. Punchbowl Cemetery

An unidentified woman sits near the fountain monument at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii.
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For those looking to experience the unique culture and history of Hawaii, a visit to Punchbowl Cemetery is an absolute must. Located in Honolulu, this historical site was established in 1949 as a national cemetery for veterans of World War II and has since become the final resting place for thousands of US military personnel from all branches of service. Not only does Punchbowl Cemetery provide visitors with an opportunity to honor fallen heroes, but it also offers stunning views and a variety of activities that make it one of Hawaii’s top tourist destinations. Visitors can take part in guided tours to learn more about its rich history or explore the grounds on their own. The cemetery also features several monuments dedicated to various wars and conflicts such as the Vietnam War Memorial Wall which provides an emotional tribute to those who served our country bravely. Additionally, there are plenty of benches located throughout where people can sit back and enjoy beautiful panoramic views or simply reflect on life’s greatest gifts – freedom, courage, loyalty, and love.

12. Army Museum

The Army Museum in Oahu, Hawaii is a must-see destination for anyone interested in military history. Located on the grounds of Fort DeRussy at Waikiki Beach, this museum showcases artifacts from all branches of the U.S. armed forces and provides an interesting look into our nation’s past. The museum has since grown to become one of the most popular tourist attractions on Oahu with exhibits featuring everything from weapons used by soldiers during World War II to tanks used during Desert Storm. Visitors can also explore interactive displays that give insight into life as a soldier or sailor throughout different periods, as well as learn about famous battles fought across the globe. In addition to learning about military history, visitors can also enjoy educational programs such as guided tours and lectures given by knowledgeable docents who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others.

13. Waikiki Aquarium

Giant clams and fish at Waikiki Aquarium
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Visiting Waikiki Aquarium in Oahu, Hawaii is an experience like no other. Located on the legendary shore of Waikiki Beach, this world-class aquarium has been entertaining and educating visitors since 1904. With over 500 species of marine life from around the Pacific Ocean, including tropical fish, turtles, sharks, and jellyfish, there’s something for everyone to explore. From interactive exhibits to educational programs about ocean conservation and sustainability initiatives, a visit to Waikiki Aquarium will leave you inspired and connected with nature. Come discover why this piece of paradise continues to captivate people from all walks of life!

14. Honolulu Zoo 

Honolulu Zoo - Giraffe & Zebra
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If you’re looking for an exciting day of exploration and learning, then a visit to the Honolulu Zoo in Oahu Hawaii is worth your while. Founded in 1876, it’s one of the oldest zoos in America and home to more than 1,230 animals from around the world. From exotic birds to rare reptiles, there are plenty of interesting creatures to discover. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours that provide insights into animal habitats and behavior, educational programs with opportunities for hands-on experiences with some species, as well as special events such as movie nights under the stars or family camping trips. With plenty of activities for all ages, a visit to Honolulu Zoo is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

15. Byodo-In Temple

Serene view at the Byodo-in Temple
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Byodo-In Temple in Oahu Hawaii is an iconic destination for tourists and locals alike. Located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, this beautiful temple was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigrants coming to Hawaii. This non-denominational Buddhist temple offers visitors a chance to experience ancient Eastern culture while visiting one of America’s most stunningly beautiful islands. At Byodo-In Temple, visitors can explore its traditional Japanese architecture and gardens, as well as take part in many cultural activities such as listening to chanting monks, meditating at sacred shrines, or participating in ceremonies like weddings or funerals that are held here. The grounds also feature a tranquil koi pond where you can feed the fish with food purchased from nearby vendors. For those looking for something more spiritual, there are several meditation classes offered throughout the year by experienced teachers who will help guide you on your journey toward inner peace and enlightenment.

16. Doris Duke Shangri La

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Doris Duke Shangri La is a breathtaking estate located in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was built by tobacco heiress Doris Duke between 1938 and 1942 as an homage to the Islamic art she collected during her travels around the world. The estate has been lovingly preserved and still contains many of its original features, making it a perfect destination for visitors looking to experience exotic beauty and culture up close. Visitors can explore the palace-like residence which includes lush gardens, ornate courtyards, and intricate tilework crafted from rare materials found throughout Asia. They will also have access to some of the finest examples of Islamic art on display at Shangri La’s museum collection. A visit to this stunning property is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

17. Queen Emma Summer Palace

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A visit to the Queen Emma Summer Palace in Hawaii is a truly unique experience. Located on the grounds of Hawaiian royalty, this historic palace offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of Hawaiian kings and queens from centuries past. Built-in 1857, it was once home to King Kamehameha IV and his wife Queen Emma for their summer retreats. Today, it serves as an incredible reminder of Hawaii’s rich cultural history while providing visitors with plenty to do and explore. Visitors can take guided tours through the palace’s many rooms, learn about its royal inhabitants, enjoy lunch at its outdoor cafe, or even pick up souvenirs at its gift shop. With breathtaking views of the Honolulu cityscape and Diamond Head crater visible from many windows within the palace walls, a visit here will leave you feeling both inspired and humbled by all that has come before us in this special place.

18. Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace
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Iolani Palace in Oahu, Hawaii is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty and grandeur of Hawaiian royalty. Built-in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace served as the official residence of the last two reigning monarchs of Hawaii until their overthrow in 1893. Today, it stands as a symbol of Hawaiian independence and culture that can be experienced through guided tours or special events hosted at its grounds. Visitors can explore the palace’s opulent interior design filled with artwork from around the world while learning about its history through interactive exhibits such as Iolani Barracks and Coronation Pavilion. There are also unique activities like hula lessons taught by local kumu (teachers) or traditional lūʻau feasts which offer an immersive glimpse into Polynesian culture.