Oahu, also known as “The Gathering Place,” is the third largest Hawaiian Island and home to the capital city of Honolulu.
With its stunning beaches, rich history, and diverse culture, Oahu is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Hawaii.
If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, here’s an itinerary and tips that will help you make the most of your time on the island.
Oahu has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just soaking up the sun on the beach.
The ultimate Oahu itinerary
Day 1: Explore Waikiki
Waikiki is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Oahu, and for good reason.
This vibrant neighborhood is home to some of the island’s best restaurants, shops, and nightlife, as well as its most famous beach.
Start your day with a stop at Island Vintage Coffee for one of their famous acai bowls .. and a coffee!
Spend the day soaking up the sun on Waikiki Beach, grab a mai tai from Mai Tai Beach Bar, then explore the shops and restaurants along Kalakaua Avenue.
In the evening, head to Duke’s Waikiki for dinner and drinks, and enjoy live music and hula dancing.
Additional activities to enjoy in Waikiki:
- take a surfing lesson
- go parasailing
- turtle snorkeling tour
- Waikiki submarine tour
- glass bottom boat tour
- snorkel and sailing adventure
- Waikiki helicopter tour – doors on OR off!
- sunset cruise
Day 2: Visit Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in World War II history.
The site is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which marks the final resting place of 1,102 sailors who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
You can also visit the USS Missouri, where Japan surrendered to the United States, and the Pacific Aviation Museum, which showcases the history of aviation in the Pacific.
It can get very busy depending on time of year and day. I highly recommend a skip the line ticket – it also comes with transportation from Waikiki, so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot.
Day 3: Explore the North Shore
The North Shore is a world-famous surf destination, and it’s also home to some of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu.
If you do not want to rent a car or drive, I highly recommend booking this North Shore Experience. You will have transportation and visit all the best places.
Start your day with breakfast at Kono’s in Haleiwa, then head to Sunset Beach to watch the surfers ride the waves.
If you are feeling up for an adventure, do the shark cage dive or you could go snorkeling for something more lowkey, but still fun.
You can also visit Waimea Bay, where you can cliff jump into the water or watch the local daredevils do the same. For lunch, make sure and visit the iconic Giovanni’s Shrimp truck!
Pro tip – bring your own cash and hand wipes as this is a food truck with no restrooms or sinks.
In the afternoon, visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation. there are several activities you can choose from, but do not skip eating Dole Whip. Arguably the best dessert in the area.
In the evening, head back to Haleiwa for dinner at one of the town’s many great restaurants. Top picks would be: Hale’iwa Beach House or Uncle Bo’s.
Stick around for an amazing sunset on the beach!
Day 4: Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head is a volcanic crater located on the east side of Oahu, and it offers some of the best views of the island that should not be missed.
The hike to the summit is relatively easy, and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the top. Once you’re there, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu.
You will want to do this early to avoid the late crowds and heat later in the day.
Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen and comfortable clothing.
Pro tip: it is always a little chaotic around there, parking can be a challenge. For ease, you could just take an Uber or a taxi. Alternatively, you can just book a ticket with transportation (this also allows you to skip the queues of people waiting to pay to enter).
If you are on foot (AKA you were dropped off, took a bus, taxi, Uber, walked over) you will only have to pay $5 to enter. If you are parking, the cost is $10. Parking is very limited.
Highly recommend a visit to Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas after for a post hike treat! I like the cinnamon sugar coated with custard inside, but they are all amazing.
Other activities to fill your day up with:
- Waikiki luau
- haunts and haunting ghost tour
- sights and bites island tour
- Oahu sunset photography tour
- highlights of Oahu small group tour
- history tour pub crawl
- jet ski adventure
- Honolulu food and photo tour
Day 5: Explore Kailua and Lanikai
Kailua and Lanikai are two of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu, and they’re located on the windward side of the island.
One thing you should absolutely try while you are here is a plate lunch. I have had this a variety of ways, but it is typically mac salad, rice and a protein of some sort.
Spend the day soaking up the sun on the beach, and if you are feeling adventurous, do the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.
If you don’t want to sit on the beach all day and want something more active on the water, do the kayak tour to the Mokulua Islands!
Then head to Buzz’s Original Steakhouse for dinner.
After dinner, take a walk along Lanikai Beach and watch the sunset over the Mokulua Islands.
Day 6: Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum that showcases the cultures of Polynesia.
The center features six different villages, each representing a different island culture, as well as daily performances and demonstrations. You can also enjoy a traditional luau and an evening show called “Ha: Breath of Life.”
If you are not planning to do a luau anywhere else on the island, make sure and do one here.
Since this is not an all day experience, I would highly recommend stopping at The Byodo-In Temple on your way and exploring there (max time I have ever spent here was an hour).
Closer to the Polynesian Cultural Center, you should also check out the La’ie Point State Wayside. The lookout is beautiful.
Day 7: Take a Day Trip to Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is a marine preserve located on the southeast side of Oahu, and it’s one of the best places on the island to go snorkeling.
The bay is home to a wide variety of tropical fish and other marine life, and the water is crystal clear. You can rent snorkeling gear on site, or you can book a snorkeling tour that includes transportation and gear.
Please note – you have to plan to visit here. Only 1400 people are allowed in per day, closed on Monday and Tuesday, Hours are 645am-4pm, and you HAVE to get a ticket for entry – which you can only get tickets up to two days in advance (they open at 700am local time in Hawaii), and those tickets require you to watch an orientation video. . Knowing that it is limited, please plan in advance.
Parking is also very limited, even for those with a reservation.
You can rental snorkel gear or you can bring your own, whichever you prefer.
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