Planning to escape the hustle and bustle of city life on your Hawaiian vacation? Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu won’t cut it, they are more of the same!
Your best bet is Ko Olina on the west side of Oahu, 30 miles or roughly an hour away from Waikiki.
Home to stunning premium resorts and a laid-back atmosphere, Ko Olina (Hawaiian for “place of joy“) is a great place for a leisurely vacation with beaches and golf courses.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do in the Ko Olina resort area! In fact, without the crowds you typically encounter in Waikiki and Honolulu, you can see and do a lot more with Ko Olina as your base!
Join us as we take you through a virtual tour of the best things to do in Ko Olina and nearby!
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Best Things to Do in Ko Olina Lagoons & Nearby
1. Enjoy the Beautiful Ko Olina Lagoons
Why have one lagoon when you can have four? The four Ko Olina lagoons are part of a stunning beachfront resort area, but are open to the public!
The four lagoons provide beautiful beaches with powdery white sand and crystal-clear, calm, turquoise waters!
The Ko Olina lagoons on the west side of the island are carefully designed, man-made lagoons built using ocean water barriers (with gaps).
The four Ko Olina lagoons are connected by a mile and a half of well-maintained seaside pathways, and you can easily move from one to the other.
Ko Olina lagoons have the best beaches in the area, and each lagoon has restrooms and showers, but no lifeguards on duty.
The lagoons are safe, sheltered areas with gentle waves and protected from strong ocean currents, suitable for all ages and skill levels.
I usually make my way to the Kohola Lagoon, I find it more secluded, probably because you have to walk a bit to reach it.
The deeper parts of the lagoon are around 10 – 15 feet, and you can rent life vests and other flotation devices from the resorts, if needed.
You can also rent kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear from the resorts for Ko Olina water activities.
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
Snorkeling Ko Olina Lagoons
Snorkeling in the calm waters of the Ko Olina Lagoons is the perfect safe place for families with small kids and beginners! The Nai’a and Kohola Lagoons are closer to coral reefs, and you can see sergeant fish, butterflyfish, wrasses, triggerfish, parrotfish and the ubiquitous tangs!
Ko Olina Lagoons Parking
While each lagoon has some public parking, most likely they will be full when you reach. Your best option is to park at the Ulua Lagoon, and walk down to whichever lagoon you want to frequent.
Ko Olina Lagoons Parking Hours
Daily public parking in the parking lots and designated areas is available sunrise to sunset.
Ko Olina Lagoons #1 (Kohola, Hawaiian for whale)
In front of the Four Seasons Resort and the Disney Aulani resort, the Kohola Lagoon is the largest of the four Ko Olina lagoons, and is adjacent to the Lanikuhonua nature preserve and the Ko Olina Secret Lagoon.
This lagoon is usually a bit less crowded, and you can see some ancient petroglyphs carved on the stones.
Ko Olina Lagoons #2 (Honu, Hawaiian for turtle)
The Honu Lagoon is in front of the Beach Villas at Ko Olina, an oceanfront condominium resort.
Ko Olina Lagoons #3 (Naia, Hawaiian for dolphin)
The Naia Lagoon serves the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, a timeshare resort. The Longboards beachfront restaurant is handy to grab a quick bite.
Ko Olina Lagoons #4 (Ulua, Hawaiian for fish)
The Ulua Lagoon is the smallest of the four Ko Olina lagoons, and part of the Ko Olina Beach Park (no resorts in this area).
This lagoon has about 100 parking spots, and is your best option for finding parking.
2. Hike the Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail
Want to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beachfront?
The Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail is a well-maintained, manicured path that connects the four Ko Olina Lagoons along the grassy areas of the beachfront, with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean waters.
The Ko Olina Walking Trail is a great hike for families with kids. The path is roughly 4 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of about 270 feet.
Jogging on the trail early morning is one of my favorite things to do in Ko Olina!
Watching spectacular sunsets while strolling along the Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail with your partner is one of the most romantic things to do in Ko Olina!
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
3. Admire the West Coast Sunset from a Cruise
Want a sunset location different from the Ko Olina Lagoons? A sunset cruise off the west coast of Oahu lets you watch stunning sunsets over the open ocean waters, while also taking in spectacular views of the coastline and mountains.
Taking your partner on a late evening cruise off Ko Olina and the west coast of Oahu is one of the most romantic things to do in Ko Olina!
We splurged on this Small Group Yacht Sunset Cruise from Oahu with an intimate sunset dinner and hosted bar. What better romance than lounging on the upper deck chairs sipping Mai Tai cocktails and taking in the fabulous views!
Just before sunset, we were lucky to see a pod of humpback whales on their winter migration!
That evening was one of our best evenings on the Ko Olina part of our Hawaiian vacation!
>> Check pricing and availability on this 5-star rated Small Group Yacht Sunset Cruise from Oahu now!
You have a choice of multiple, 5-star rated sunset cruise options from Ko Olina:
4. Snorkel at Electric Beach near Ko Olina
Electric Beach, part of the Kahe Point Beach Park, is called that because it is next to a power plant that outflows clean warm water through two large cooling pipes.
The pipes run out into the ocean and create an artificial reef that attracts a lot of sea life.
The best place to snorkel is around the pipes and their surroundings, about 200-300 feet from shore and about 20 feet deep at their openings.
I strongly recommend you wear swimming fins. You also need to be careful of strong, unpredictable currents.
The warm water attracts hundreds of fish, such as snappers, butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, tangs, and moray eels.
You may see Hawaiian green sea turtles and spinner dolphins, they are know to frequent this area.
5. Take Your Kids to the Coral Crater Adventure Park
A fan of the American Ninja Warrior TV show? You will love Coral Crater Adventure Park’s aerial adventure tower, an obstacle course high up!
Just a few miles from Ko Olina, Coral Crater Adventure Park in Kapolei offers ATV off-roading on rugged trails in their 35-acre park, ziplining over the park’s landscape with amazing views, and an aerial adventure tower with a climbing wall, obstacles and a 50-foot free fall.
You can opt for individual, 5-star rated experiences:
Our teenage kids chose a combination Zipline & Adventure Tower Package and had a wonderful half-day experience, especially on the Adventure Tower jungle gym!
Their friends took the ATV off-road trails and highly recommended that too!
>> Check pricing and availability on this 5-star rated Zipline & Adventure Tower Package now!
Coral Crater Adventure Park is one of the most thrilling things to do in Ko Olina for your teenage kids!
6. Play a Round of Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club
What’s more relaxing on a vacation than a round of golf on one of Hawaii’s best golf courses?
The Ko Olina Golf Club and an 18-hole beautiful golf course are right next to the resorts and lagoons, and the perfect spot for an early morning round of golf before the kids wake up!
Want to learn golf or improve your game? The Ko Olina Golf Club’s golf academy offers all kinds of classes and golf clinics with state-of-the-art facilities.
Where better to learn and improve than on the manicured greens of Ko Olina Golf Club, under swaying tropical palm trees and with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean?
7. Take Your Date to a Romantic Dinner
Want to celebrate a special occasion while vacationing in Ko Olina? With so many classy resorts, can fine dining be far away?
The premier Four Seasons Resort has two amazing food options – Mina’s Fish House and Noe.
Need a fine dining restaurant for a romantic date? Mina’s Fish House will likely be your first choice.
A beachfront restaurant with a casual, cozy ambiance, you can admire stunning views of the ocean and sunset while you enjoy contemporary Hawaiian cuisine with Asian and European influences, Chef Michael Mina’s masterpieces.
Pining for Italian pasta? Chef Takatsuka’s Noe is an Italian restaurant with a Japanese twist.
Disney’s Aulani Resort has an excellent beachfront restaurant – ‘Ama’ama that features contemporary island cooking with a modern twist. ‘Ama’ama is a local fish, a delicacy in Hawaii.
One of my favorites, Roy Yamaguchi’s Asian fusion restaurant, Roy’s Ko Olina, combines flavors of Hawaii, Japan, China and Thailand. I love watching the chefs prepare my food (they have an open kitchen).
Looking for a fun, lively place to eat? Monkeypod Kitchen has a lively, colorful ambiance with live music and local artwork. You can enjoy poke tacos, wood-fired pizza and macadamia nut-crusted fish.
Eating at Monkeypod Kitchen is one of the best fun things to do in Ko Olina!
>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!
8. Hike the Pu’u O Hulu Trail (aka Pink Pillbox Trail, Maili Pillbox)
Want a short and easy hike on Oahu’s west side? Try the Pu’u O Hulu Trail (popularly called the Pink Pillbox Trail)!
The Pink Pillbox Hike is a short 1.6 mile (round trip), moderately challenging hike along a ridge with an elevation gain of about 700 feet.
The trailhead is on Kaukama Road near Nanakuli, just past the entrance to the Kahe Power Plant. You can park in a small dirt parking lot on the right side of the road.
You can expect some stunning views along the trail as well as many colored pillboxes (World War II bunkers). The first pillbox is painted pink (hence the trail nickname).
From the end of the trail (summit of Pu’u O Hulu ridge), on a clear day, you can see all the way to Kaena Point (the westernmost tip of Oahu), the Pacific Ocean on the west coast of Oahu, and the towns of Waianae, Nanakuli and Maili.
The Pink Pillbox Hike is one of the best sunrise hikes on the west coast of Oahu, with the sun rising from behind Koko Head crater and Makapuu Point.
9. Take a Ko Olina Snorkeling Tour
Want a richer snorkeling experience than what you get at Ko Olina Lagoons? Snorkeling at the lagoons is great for beginners and families with smaller kids, but the marine life pales in comparison to what you can see at places like the Electric Beach.
Though Electric Beach has much better marine life, unfortunately, you need good swimming skills to reach the right spots near the pipe openings.
An alternative for all levels of snorkelers to enjoy a great snorkeling experience is a snorkel trip departing from the Ko Olina Marina.
The captain of the boat will take you to coral reefs in the ocean usually teeming with marine life.
You will be provided with snorkeling gear (weak swimmers and non-swimmers can usually participate with the appropriate flotation devices).
If you are lucky you may even spot Hawaiian green sea turtles, spinner dolphins and humpback whales (in winter).
Here are some highly rated snorkeling tours leaving from Ko Olina:
10. Explore Mermaid Caves
Want to explore secret underwater caves? Exploring Mermaid Caves is one of the exciting things to do near Ko Olina!
Mermaid Caves, so called because they seem to be out a fairy tale, are half-submerged caves filled with clear blue water and surrounded by coral reefs.
Mermaid Caves are located near Kahe Point Beach Park. The parking lot is just before the power plant, on the left side of the coastal road.
I strongly recommend swim fins and a snorkel with a mask. Note, you often find strong currents in this area, so be careful and explore in a group.
Obviously, low tide is the safest time to explore the caves, the water levels are much easier to manage.
The caves appear magical with the sunlight shimmering off the clear, warm water, and colorful, tropical reef fish like butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, and snappers swimming in the water.
You can also expect to see Hawaiian green sea turtles which are commonly found around the caves.
Do not go too deep or too far into the caves, the passages get narrow and dark corners can be dangerous!
11. Learn to Surf near Ko Olina
Hawaii vacation and don’t know how to surf? Hawaii is where the sport of surfing began, with Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing and Hawaiian native, making the sport popular all over Hawaii.
Far away from the crowds of Waikiki, Ko Olina is the perfect place to learn surfing!
Our entire family took a small-group surf lesson with Surf HNL: Surf Lessons near Ko’olina!!!!!, and loved the experience.
The lessons were on the southwestern end of the island, at Barbers Point, where the waves were gentle.
The instructor was excellent, and our teenage kids were paddling and popping to their feet in no time, and able to ride the waves by the end of the lesson!
I took a longer time, but still had great fun! Learning to surf at Barber’s Point is one of the best things to do near Ko Olina!
>> Check pricing and availability on this 5-star rated Surf HNL: Surf Lessons near Ko’olina!!!!! now!
12. Explore the Highlights of the North Shore of Oahu
Want to take in more of the island of Oahu? The North Shore of Oahu is roughly an hour away from Ko Olina, and has many exciting things to offer.
The North Shore is more rural and scenic, but includes the Ehukai Beach, popularly called the Banzai Pipeline, a world-famous spot for professional surfing.
Even if you are not a professional surfer, you should still visit the Banzai Pipeline to watch these experienced surfers gracefully glide on massive 40+ foot waves!
Vacationing with family and younger children?
The Polynesian Cultural Center is an Epcot Center-like theme park where your kids can learn about the native Hawaiian culture and history, and the larger group of Polynesian seafaring people through interactive activities and shows.
With six villages themed along Polynesian islands, the Alii Luau Hawaiian feast, and a 100+ artist performance (HA: Breath of Life), the Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-visit destination on the North Shore.
Waimea Valley is another kid-friendly attraction that includes a gorgeous waterfall with a natural pool area where your small children can splash around and a beautiful botanical garden with ancient Hawaiian structures.
The Toa Luau at Waimea Valley is a popular, 5-star rated that includes the entrance fee to Waimea Valley and the Toa Luau feast and entertainment.
Your teenage kids getting bored? They will love the family-friendly cage-diving with sharks tours from Haleiwa Harbor on the north shore.
The tours take you to shark-infested deep open ocean waters where you lowered in a steel, polyglass cage under the surface of water (with breathing tubes).
Our kids were thrilled to see large sharks swimming so close to them, they were literally at an arm’s length (but safely on the other side of the polyglass cage).
13. Spend a Day on the Windward (East) Side of Oahu
Vacationing in Ko Olina and wondering where the tropical rainforests that you heard about are? Ko Olina is on the leeward, protected side of Oahu, and doesn’t get much rain.
The windward side of Oahu, or the east shore, is where all the tropical rain forests are, along with the best nature hikes and the biggest waterfalls!
One of the best things to do on the windward side of Oahu is to hike to Manoa Falls, a hike that covers a tropical rainforest, a dense bamboo forest and a 150-foot amazing waterfall, the biggest on Oahu!
The Lanikai Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu, and the adjacent Kailua Beach, offer kayaking and standup paddle boarding to the popular islets of Mokulua (the Mokes).
Parasailing and kitesurfing are popular on these beaches due to the winds!
Fan of the Jurassic Park movies? You can’t miss Kualoa Ranch, a beautiful adventure ranch for families where several Jurassic Park scenes were shot.
You can take a Hollywood tour, a jungle expedition tour or try ATVs, horseback riding or ziplining!
Ko Olina Lagoons Map (+ Attractions Near Ko Olina)
The below map of Ko Olina, Ko Olina Lagoons and nearby, shows the locations of the best things to do in Ko Olina discussed above.
Best Things to Do in Ko Olina (+ Nearby): FAQ
What are things to do in Ko Olina with kids?
The best things to do in Ko Olina with kids are enjoy the lagoon beaches (swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding), take them to the Coral Crater Adventure Park, take them on a Ko Olina snorkeling tour or put them on a learn to surf lesson near Ko Olina.
What are things to do in Ko Olina for adults?
The best things to do in Ko Olina for adults are to take a sunset cruise, play some golf, and enjoy a romantic fine-dining dinner!
How do you get to the secret beach in Ko Olina?
The secret beach in Ko Olina is located between the Four Seasons Resort and the Paradise Cove Luau on the west side of Oahu. You can find more information and directions in our best snorkeling in west Oahu post.
Can anyone go to Ko Olina Lagoons?
Yes, the four Ko Olina lagoons are open to the public and you can access all four beaches. You can rent equipment and book tours from the resorts, and have meals at their restaurants.
Can you swim in Ko Olina lagoons?
Yes, you can swim in all four of the Ko Olina lagoons, and can rent flotation devices like life jackets from the resorts or nearby stores.
What island is Ko Olina, Hawaii, on?
Ko Olina is a beautiful, secluded resort area on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
Book a Guided Oahu Hiking Adventure!
Excited about hiking in Oahu but haven’t hiked in Hawaii before? This guided hiking adventure is a great way to get started.
It’s customizable to your interests and abilities and a local guide that’s familiar with the terrain will accompany you. Plus, round-trip transport is included.
You can pick two short hikes or a longer hike, and your guide can suggest specific hikes if you don’t know which ones you want to try.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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