It can be tricky developing an itinerary for any destination let alone for visiting Oahu, an island rich with different experiences and sights to see. It’s difficult to know where to go, where to stay, what to do and even what to wear. And if your trip is limited in time, you’ll have to pack in everything in a few shorts days. Our last trip to Oahu lasted 6 days and it definitely wasn’t enough time to see everything. I’d recommend a 10 day visit to the island to fully see it all (and be able to also go on a few hikes!). This Oahu itinerary should help you in planning your own trip, whether it’s 5 days, 3 days or 10 days.
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ITINERARY FOR VISITING OAHU
Map of Oahu
This Google map of Oahu gives you an idea of where everything is located on the island that I’ve included in this itinerary. Oahu isn’t that big and is easily accessed by main roads. The drive from south to north is beautiful and even if you aren’t planning on too much exploration, I would still recommend renting a car for at least a day of driving around the island.
Where to Stay in Oahu
I can recommend two very different hotels to stay in when visiting Oahu: the luxurious Ritz Carlton and the amazing beachfront The Moana Surfrider. The Moana Surfrider is a charming hotel with amazing views, the most perfect location, and a great restaurant on-site. It has an oceanfront pool with a beach bar, a gorgeous veranda where you can enjoy tea and plenty of chairs (rocking chairs, beach chairs, you name it) to sit and enjoy the view. It’s also the oldest hotel in Waikiki dating back to the 19th century so historical buffs will love its classic interior and architecture! Conveniently, you can use Waikiki as your base for exploring the island of Oahu as the island is small, easily crossed in a day and contains the main hub of restaurants and açaí bowl shops that Oahu has to offer.
Oahu Vacation Ideas
North Shore (1-2 days) – I’d recommend spending an entire day on the North Shore. You can head to the beach to watch surfers, visit the popular town of Haleiwa, coffee shop hop, grab a smoothie bowl from Haleiwa Bowls or drive around the coast. There are also countless shrimp trucks here so if you’re a seafood fan, keep your eye out for two favorites: Fumi’s & Giovanni’s. If you’re interested in a helicopter ride, you may be leaving from the North Shore as well so keep that in mind when planning for visiting Oahu.
Waikiki & Honolulu (2-3 days) – Waikiki is chock-full of tourists but surprisingly, that’s what makes it fun. It comes alive at night and and shops stay open late and the city is full of restaurants and outlets for you to exercise retail therapy in. Waikiki Beach, though quite busy, hosts a beautiful sunset.
Kailua & Lanikai (2 days) – There are several activities in Kailua and Lanikai. You can kayak out to two tiny islands called the Mokes off the coast of Kailua or visit the peaceful Lanikai Beach for a relaxing day at the beach. You can also opt for a hike to the Lanikai Pillboxes.
Kualoa Ranch (1 day) – Kualoa Ranch boasts a myriad of activities like horseback riding, ATV tours, jungle expeditions and more. It’s location is magical with tall mountain peaks, thick jungle and to top it all off, oceanfront views. Perfect setting for a movie which is why Jurassic Park was filmed here.
Note: The length of your Oahu itinerary will also depend on how much hiking you want to do. Koko Crater and Diamond Head take an 1-3 hours each while a more strenuous hike will take at least half a day. Also a few highlights worth mentioning are Kaena Point, Makapuu Tidepools and Spitting Cave. Plan for 2 days for these highlights as they are located a few hours from each other.
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