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4 Must-See Museums in Oahu and How to Visit

From Pearl Harbor Historic Sites to Bishop Museum, here are the top spots.

Oahu on a misty day
Hi, I'm Jen!

Jen is a Tahoe-based writer who loves traveling, food, and adventures. She has written about food and drink for the likes of Mashed, Tasting Table, and Getaway Reno/Tahoe. Jen spent 20 years living in China and Hong Kong, and has traveled to more than 75 countries. When she’s not out exploring the world or the great outdoors, you can find her curled up with a good book.

From historic World War II memorials to world-class art and royal heirlooms, Oahu has museums to keep visitors occupied for days. Here’s a list of the top museums on the island.

1. Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

Visitors explore Pearl Harbor Historic Sites near Honolulu.
Pearl Harbor Historic Sites is a place of reflection.Photo credit: Elyse Butler / Viator

For historic aircrafts.

In addition to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, Pearl Harbor Historic Sites comprises the USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of a sunken battleship; the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the last American battleship ever built; the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, one of 15 surviving US combat submarines from World War II; and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, home to more than 20 aircrafts and a combat flight simulator.

How to Visit: To gain access to each site, you’ll need a separate admission ticket. Numerous tour options are available, from ticket packages and transfers to half- and full-day tours by land and sea. Opt for a skip-the-line-pass to save time. Day tours are also available from other islands, including the Big Island and Maui.

2. Bishop Museum

Green grounds around Bishop Museum in Hawaii.
Bishop Museum on Oahu.Photo credit: cleanfotos / Shutterstock

For Polynesian culture.

Founded in 1889 to house Princess Bishop’s extensive collection of artifacts and heirlooms, the museum—which covers topics from art and culture to archaeology and natural history—contains millions of artifacts and photos and documents about Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures. Exhibits and interactive presentations are spread across five buildings.

How to Visit: Admission tickets can be booked in advance. Planetarium shows and some programs require a separate fee. Admission is also included as part of the multi-attraction Go Oahu Card.

3. Honolulu Museum of Art

Outside the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii.
Outside the Honolulu Museum of Art.Photo credit: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock

For paintings.

One of the best fine art museums in Hawaii, the Honolulu Museum of Art has a permanent collection of more than 38,000 works of art from around the world. Find paintings, sculptures, and textiles across more than 30 galleries, including Spalding House, the Robert Allerton Art Library, the Art School, and the Shangri La Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

How to Visit: Separate tickets are required for the main museum, Spalding House, and Shangri La. Docent-led tours are available and admission ticket are also included as part of the multi-attraction Go Oahu Card.

4. Iolani Palace

Exterior of the Iolani Palace in Oahu.
The grand palace is a must-see destination.Photo credit: Allen.G / Shutterstock

For royal assets.

The meticulously restored Iolani Palace was home to the last two monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom, who lived there in the late 19th century. See all the main rooms and halls, which feature recovered original artifacts and furniture and then explore the grounds and ornate royal tomb.

How to Visit: Both guided and self-guided tours are available. A guided tour covers just the basement exhibits, which includes the crown jewels. Many historical and cultural tours include a stop here. Admission is also included as part of the multi-attraction Go Oahu Card.

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