Escape the Crowds at Oahu Hidden Gems

Escape the Crowds at Oahu Hidden Gems

Oahu is a favorite tourist destination. But, many of Oahu’s activities have large crowds. You find people everywhere at Pearl Harbor, the Dole Plantation, and Waikiki Beach. If you are interested in escaping the crowds, try these Oahu hidden gems.

What are Oahu’s Hidden Gems?

There are a few place around the island that have smaller crowds. If you are looking for a quieter experience, an uncrowded place to escape a rainy day, or just want to keep away from large crowds, try these locales in and around Honolulu.

Foster Botanical Garden

Foster  Botanical Garden
Flowers line the pathways of Foster Botanical Garden

The Foster Botanical Garden is in the heart of Honolulu. The Gardens are near Chinatown and the Punchbowl.

This is the oldest of Honolulu’s botanical gardens, with some trees planted in the 1850s. The 14 acre grounds is a quiet oasis in the midst of the booming metropolis.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for Kamaaina, $1 for children 6-12, and free for children 5 and younger.

You discover prehistoric ferns, butterfly plants, and economic trees and shrubs (vegetation used for economic sustenance) such as cinnamon, macadamia nut, breadfruit and coffee. The gardens house a number of sculptures and other eye-catching views.

Foster Botanical Garden is large enough to avoid other guests in your self-guided tour if you choose.

U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii

US Army of Hawaii
The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii in downtown Waikiki

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii is located inside Honolulu’s historic Battery Randolph in the heart of Waikiki.

Admission is free (our favorite admission cost) and hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm.

You see exhibits tracing Hawaiian military history from the days of King Kamehameha in the 1800s to WWII and the Viet Nam War.

We enjoyed looking at weapons from the Hawaiian Kingdom and the Cobra Helicopter used during the Viet Nam War.

And it is fun to explore history in an actual military battery.

Waikiki Aquarium

Oahu Hidden Gems Waikiki Aquarium
Escape the crowds at the Waikiki Aquarium

It’s the second oldest aquarium in the United States. The Waikiki Aquarium is located within walking distance of most of the most popular resorts.

The Aquarium has both interior and exterior tank and pools. You can see a number of marine life, including many species native to the Hawaiian islands.

The aquarium is small, and probably takes an hour to tour. And, you can download audio tours for your visit,.

Hawaii State Art Museum

Hawaii State Art Museum Oahu Hidden Gem
Artwork displayed at the Hawaii State Museum of Art

OK. So exploring an art museum may not be on the top of your list for things to do in Hawaii. However, the Hawaii State Art Museum is worth visiting.

The museum also is near the Iolani Palace, making for a great combination tour.

People always seek rainy day activities during a Hawaiian vacation. The museum is a great option for those rainy days. Free admission is another selling point.

The museum has both permanent and rotating exhibits. That makes for something new to see at each visit.

Honolulu Zoo

Oahu Hidden Gems Honolulu Zoo
A flamboyance of flamingos at the Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo, at the Queen Kapil’olani Park, may be one of the more crowded locales on our list. However, you still can avoid crowds by visiting in the afternoon. Crowds arrive as the zoo is opening. Also, the zoo is large enough for you to visit less crowded exhibits.

Located on 42 acres, the zoo features animals both exotic and endemic to the Hawaiian islands. Yes, you see giraffes, apes and lions. But, you also see Nene, the endangered Hawaiian state bird.

The museum hosts more than animals. Don’t miss the ginormous banyan trees throughout the museum. I enjoyed the animal sculptures and succulent garden within the zoo grounds.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Koko Crater succulents
Discover cacti and succulents at Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Oahu is lush and green. People marvel at the tropical foliage and flowers.

People are surprised by the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. At the base of Koko Head (a popular and arduous climb), the garden offers a stark contrast the lush, topical island.

I loved the seclusion I found at the garden. There were few people on the two miles of trails during my visit. This is another garden where you escape the hubbub of the city and spent some quiet time exploring and contemplating.

Admission is free, an added bonus. For those seeking the traditional Hawaiian flora, you can marvel at the ample plumeria tree grove near the entrance of the garden.

Bishop Museum

Oahu Bishop Museum
Learn everything about Hawaiian history at the Bishop Museum.

Learn everything you could possibly imagine about Hawaiian history at the Bishop Museum.

The Bernice Bishop Museum houses an unbelievably large collection of Hawaiian artifacts telling the story of the islands from the first settlers through modern times.  But, that’s not all. You also get to learn history from other Pacific Islands. One could spend hours in the galleries, and still have more to see, read, and discover.

If that’s not enough, the museum has a planetarium, a science center, a native Hawaiian garden, and a children’s learning center/playground.

The museum galleries and grounds are large enough to allow those wanting to escape the crowds a perfect opportunity to do so.

Iolani Palace

The museum in the heart of Honolulu is the United States’ only royal palace. That’s because the Hawaiian Islands were a kingdom before becoming a territory and eventual state.

The Iolani Palace offers both audio and docent-led tours. The palace, built by King Kalakaua in 1882, is a registered national historic landmark.

On both tours, you learn the history of Hawaii’s royal family, see the clothes they wore, and witness a palace with modern conveniences like electricity, telephone, and lavatories with running water.

However, the tours also tell a more sobering history as well. The palace became the prison of Queen Liliuokalani when the U.S. usurped the power of the Hawaiian monarchy. The Queen was sequestered to a single room of the palace for months before the monarchy was overthrown by the U.S. government.

The Iolani Palace holds a special place in the hearts of the Hawaiian people. It is a culturally and historical significant place to visit.


There you have it. Our compilation of places to escape the crowds during your Oahu visit. At each locale, you will likely learn something new or unexpected about Hawaiian culture and leave with a new appreciation for the islands.

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