What to do on a rainy Oahu vacation

You could save all year long — heck, three whole years — for that dream trip you’ve been fixating over to visit Hawaii, but the simple fact is that the weather has a mind of its own.

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Golden sunshine and bluebird skies aren’t always guaranteed in the Aloha State, no matter which month, but that’s not to say you still can’t have a dreamy vacay.

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While technically this is the island of Molokai, the rules apply across pretty much all of the Hawaiian Islands.

So what to get into if the seas are rough and clouds are bursting on a week-or-two trip to paradise? Surprisingly, kind of a lot. Here are eight recommendations if you luck out with a rainy one on Oahu.

Explore Chinatown


Once upon a 20 years ago, Honolulu’s Chinatown district equated with seediness. But, like many a past shabby ‘hood, the cheap rent and forgotten architecture drew artists and creatives to set up shop with their own take on it.

These days, Chinatown is the place to go not only for nightlife, but also for a plethora of interesting and delicious top-notch restaurants with chefs from far and wide. Proudly lacking the kitsch and glamour of touristic Waikiki, Chinatown has a booming art, boutique, café, bar and indie-cultural scene and is definitely worth some time to wander. “First Fridays” are always a good-ol’ time.

Switch sides

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Why miss a chance to check out the fabled Sunset Beach on the North Shore?

Rented an Airbnb on the east side of the island and the weather’s gloomy? Chase the sun, baby. The thing about most Hawaiian islands is that there are four different sides, often each with its own mini weather pattern.

One common rule of thumb is that if it’s rainy on the east and north shores, it’s usually sunny on the west side and south shore — and vice versa. So basically, rent a car.

See a show

While Honolulu is certainly no LA or New York in terms of great music on a weekly basis, you’d be surprised who wants Honolulu as one of their tour stops. (Or maybe you wouldn’t; it is Hawaii.)

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Honolulu has a ton of shows, from major bands to comedy to some kind of traditional live music, happening nearly every night somewhere. Might as well indulge. There’ll be a cover if it’s raining.

Wander the museums


Yep, Hawaii’s got these, too. The Honolulu Museum of Art is chock full of astounding collections and rotating exhibitions, with a killer “Art After Dark” social event every month. The Bishop Museum has a huge collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian history and artifacts too.

The Doris Duke’s Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures, a gorgeous mansion on the sea by Diamond Head, has a large collection of Islamic art, plus an amazing theater showing foreign films. It’s a must-see.

Practice yoga

Hell, go for the swanky studio. Photo: Anna Greenberg/Unsplash

Pretty self-explanatory, but yeah, with the live-well, uber-organic city-by-the-sea lifestyle in Honolulu, there’s no shortage of quality yoga studios with amazing instructors.

Jump off a cliff


Because a little rain isn’t going to get you any wetter than jumping off a rock into the sea, right? There are fun rock jumps into the ocean all over Hawaii; we’ll let you discover them so as not to blow out any spots. As with anything, always look before you leap.

Take a hike


In the rain? With mud?! Yeah, sure, why not? Granted, we don’t recommend you hit the dozens of hiking trails around Oahu mid-storm or with a moderate downpour, but clearly one good thing about some gray skies and a little drizzle is how much they can cut down the crowds.

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You might have a trail to yourself, even, but do beware of the mud and how you will ruin your clothes/shoes. Waterfalls are pretty robust, though, after a fresh rain …

Snorkel on


No, not into the middle of a storm or rough seas, but at large tide pools like Shark’s Cove on the North Shore, snorkeling in the rain is pretty darn dreamy. Not to mention, top-rated beaches like Hanauma Bay, which are commonly overrun and maxed out with tourists, will be uncrowded. Might as well take advantage and look at a gray day through rose-colored lenses.