Sun-kissed Oahu is among the most popular destinations in America for its beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and omnipresent volcanoes. But what should an active traveller do when it rains during their visit to the third-largest Hawaiian island?

    Worry not, for Hawaii isn’t only about the great outdoors. Although the island’s most iconic landmarks do require the weather to be on your side, there’s also a substantial selection of indoor attractions to enjoy. From royal residences to history museums galore, let’s take a look at the top things to do in Oahu when it rains, below.


    Iolani Palace

    America’s only royal residence

    Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence in the entire United States, which is a good reason to add it to your Oahu rainy-day itineraries. Even so, there’s more to this National Historic Landmark than the novelty factor. King Kalakaua had the grandiose structure built in 1882 to house the Hawaiian monarchs of the time, and the beautiful building is among Hawaii’s most majestic.

    The palace features an American Florentine architectural style, with several sumptuous suites and extravagant halls. The State Dining Room, the Throne Room, and the Grand Hall are among the highlights, not to mention the beautiful grand piano, which is made entirely out of the endemic koa wood.

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    Location: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 808-522-0822


    Pearl Harbour Aviation Museum

    Discover an impressive collection of warplanes

    The Pearl Harbour Aviation Museum (Pacific Aviation Museum)  is a must-visit for aircraft enthusiasts and history buffs in Oahu. And unlike the USS Arizona Memorial, which is the most popular Pearl Harbour attraction, this expansive exhibition space is entirely indoors and provides a much-needed respite from the rain.

    The Ford Island museum has 2 separate 1930s-era seaplane hangars, both of which exhibit a wide range of vintage aircraft. Of particular interest is the Japanese A6M2 Zero, which crashed into the island of Ni'ihau during the Pearl Harbour attack. Tours of a B-17 bomber called Swamp Ghost that fought in the conflict are another major drawcard. Grab a self-guided audio tour to explore the site in your own time.

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    Location: 319 Lexington Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-441-1000


    photo by Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Hawaii Army Museum Society

    Learn about the military history of Hawaii and beyond

    The Hawaii Army Museum Society is a hit with military personnel or anyone interested in the history of warfare in the region. Also called the US Army Museum of Hawaii, this free museum occupies a 1911 coastal defence battery just north of Waikiki Bay.

    Artefacts on display are from the early Hawaiian period right up until the Vietnam War. An AH-1 Cobra helicopter is the museum's most impressive piece of hardware, though the artillery battery itself is well worth a look. You can also visit the Gallery of Heroes, which honours the country’s brave Medal of Honour recipients.

    Location: 2131 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +1 808-955-9552


    Honolulu Museum of Art

    The greatest art house in Hawaii

    The Honolulu Museum of Art is Hawaii’s biggest (and probably the best) fine arts museum. Its permanent exhibition has an impressive collection of Asian, European, and American works. There are over 50,000 individual pieces, ranging from Japanese woodblock prints to Renaissance art and finely woven textiles. Most of the artefacts are from the modern era to up to 5 centuries ago. Hawaii is particularly well represented, with numerous exhibits showcasing the artisanal prowess of its early inhabitants.

    The Honolulu Museum of Art has served as a cultural hub since its inauguration in 1927. Throughout the year, it hosts musical performances, film screenings, art workshops, and academic presentations regularly.

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    Location: 900 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 4.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 808-532-8700


    Bishop Museum

    A museum the whole family can enjoy

    The Bishop Museum is a superb family-friendly option because there are exhibits here to suit all ages. The giant 5-building museum houses a mindboggling 24 million artefacts, so you could certainly spend the whole day here as you please.

    The Hawaiian Hall comes packed full of Polynesian treasures that detail the region’s rich cultural history. Examples include an impressive array of seashells, apparel, handicrafts, and fossils. Kids will love the Science Adventure Center, particularly the Hot Spot theatre with its fantastic indoor volcano. Be sure to drop past the planetarium, a museum highlight that puts on 4 daily shows.

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    Location: 1525 Bernice St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 808-847-3511


    photo by Mark Miller (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Diamond Head Theatre

    Enjoy the Broadway of the Pacific

    The Diamond Head Theatre attracts theatre buffs in search of a quick cultural fix in Oahu. Formerly known as the Footlights and Honolulu Community Theatre, the institute has been operating under its current name since 1915. It’s the third-oldest continually-operating community theatre in the USA.

    The so-called ‘Broadway of the Pacific’ runs 6 productions each season. Spanning a wide range of genres, expect to find dramas, comedies, musicals, and holiday favourites on the billboard. The building is within the Diamond Head district of Honolulu, about a 10-minute drive from Waikiki Beach.

    Location: 520 Makapuu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm (closed on Saturdays and Sundays)

    Phone: +1 808-733-0274


    photo by Otterbein University Theatre & Dance (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Ala Moana Centre

    The biggest shopping mall in Hawaii

    The Ala Moana Centre is must if you fancy a little retail therapy in Oahu, especially on a rainy day. While it’s famous for being one of the largest open-air shopping centres in the world, its covered arcades provide plenty of space to escape to when it rains.

    At Hawaii’s biggest mall, there are around 350 stores to peruse, from big-brand outlets to unique boutiques. Get your souvenir shopping done in 1 swoop at stores such as Hawaiian Island Creations or check out designer outlets for the latest trends. With over 100 restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, you won’t go hungry at the Ala Moana Centre. There are live ukulele and hula shows for when you fancy a break.

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    Location: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9.30 am to 9 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 808-955-9517


    photo by Daniel Ramirez (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Royal Hawaiian Center

    A high-end shopping centre with a Polynesian cultural program

    The Royal Hawaiian Center is a big shopping mall on Kalākaua Avenue, one of Honolulu’s most well-known streets. Some say it’s fit for a princess – Her Royal Highness Bernice Pauahi, a 19th-century Hawaiian princess, indeed once resided on these grounds.

    Aside from 100 or so retail stores and restaurants, the building serves as a cultural space. Ukulele and hula classes, lei-making lessons, and lomilomi massage give you an insight into local culture without having to forgo the comfort of air-conditioning. All these programs and more are available for free from Mondays to Saturdays.

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    Location: 2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 808-922-2299


    photo by Jack Miller (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Queen Emma Summer Palace

    The grand summer palace of a beloved Hawaiian queen

    The Queen Emma Summer Palace is an outstanding indoor option in Oahu if you fancy seeing how the Hawaiian royalty once lived. From the mid- to late-19th century, Queen Emma of Hawaii, her husband and son resided in the palace during the summer. Today, the magnificent place has become a museum to celebrate her achievements, from the conservation of Hawaiian culture to the commercial ties she formed with Europe.

    Beautiful antique furniture and priceless family heirlooms such as porcelain and jewellery are on display. It’s a great spot to head to when it pours. When the rain dies down, head outside to stroll through the leafy gardens and take in the array of exotic and colourful plants.

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    Location: 2913 Pali Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +1 808-595-3167


    photo by PaulT (Gunther Tschuch) (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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