Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It’s an island chain in the Pacific famous for pristine beaches, volcanic landscapes, lush vegetation and surfing culture. Of Hawaii’s islands, Oahu is home to Hawaii’s capital city Honolulu and the famous Pearl Harbor Memorial. Oahu is the perfect destination for adventurers, nature-lovers and Eco-tourists. This Oahu itinerary (7 days by Valentina Djordjevic from Valentina’s Destinations) covers Oahu’s main attractions and adventure activities on this beautiful island paradise.
Hawaii is leading the nation in renewable energy developments.
The state’s goal is to power its entire grid with renewable sources by 2045.
This will be achieved through solar, geothermal and wind power.
Also, Hawaii provides a rich ecosystem for diverse marine and jungle life to thrive.
From beautiful tropical flowers to giant Leatherback sea turtles and colourful corals teeming with fish, Oahu is an ecological paradise always with the spotlight on preservation and conservation.
- Preparing for your Oahu Itinerary
- Oahu Itinerary (7 Days)
- Oahu Itinerary Day 1
- Oahu Itinerary Day 2
- Oahu Itinerary Day 3
- Oahu Itinerary Day 4
- Oahu Itinerary Day 5
- Oahu Itinerary Day 6
- Oahu Itinerary Day 7
Preparing for your Oahu Itinerary
Driving in Oahu
Oahu is a small island about 40 miles in diameter. In order to get around Oahu, you’ll need to rent a car and drive around Oahu.
If you want the flexibility and freedom to see as much of this beautiful island as possible, driving in Oahu is the only way to go.
The Kamehameha Highways loops around from the eastern coast to the North shore and straight down the middle towards Honolulu.
Although it’s called a “highway”, it’s nothing more than a road with one lane going in each direction.
The road loops back and forth, up and down hills, it’s virtually impossible to pass buses and slower vehicles.
How long to drive around Oahu will depend on the traffic as if there’s traffic on the roads, it can easily take over an hour to get from the North Shore to Waikiki.
To help you prepare for your road trip, here are some road trip essentials to pack.
Where to stay on Oahu
Our biggest mistake was booking only one night’s accommodation on the North Shore, which meant we were constantly going back and forth taking an hour to get there and an hour back.
We lost so much time in transit.
About half of the top attractions in Oahu are located near the North Shore and the rest are close to Honolulu.
I highly recommend booking four nights accommodation near Honolulu and four nights accommodation on the North Shore, as this will minimise the time you waste travelling.
This Oahu itinerary is designed to work with the accommodation split described above.
Oahu Accommodation near Honolulu
- Halekulani for the ultimate luxury
- Royal Hawaiian for affordable luxury and historic charm
- Ala Moana Hotel for a top-rated budget experience
Oahu Accommodation on the North Shore
- Turtle Bay Resort for resort oasis and golf (luxury pick)
- Courtyard by Marriott is an excellent mid-range option
- Aloha Wahiawa is budget-friendly
Oahu Itinerary (7 Days)
If you’re planning on spending 7 days in Hawaii, I’d suggest staying on Oahu. Even though the island may be small, it’s not possible to see all of Oahu in a one day tour. I’d recommend an Oahu itinerary for 7 days at least.
Oahu Itinerary Day 1
Breakfast at Koko Head
Head to Koko Head Cafe for breakfast, which is a popular pan-Asian brunch restaurant owned and operated by Celebrity Chef Lee Anne Wong.
You’ve got to try the breakfast dumplings!
This cafe is a 10-minute drive from Waikiki Beach in the direction of the Hanauma Bay State Park.
Hanauma Bay State Park
Spend your first-day snorkelling at the Hanauma Bay State Park where over 2,000 people visit almost every day to snorkel for good reason.
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve and a conservation area with over 400 unique species of fish.
It’s also a nursery site for Green sea turtles.
The coral in this bay has not been immune to bleaching but they are still abundant and even if you’re stopping in Honolulu for a short visit, this is an Oahu day trip worth doing.
The parking lot fills up quickly here, so try to come early.
Hanauma Bay State Park costs $7.50 to enter and $20 to rent a snorkel set.
The park also offers a $25 (per person) package that includes transportation from your Waikiki hotel and snorkel equipment, which is a good idea if you are concerned about finding parking. This package does not include the $7.50 park fee.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse
Visit the Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse, which is a 10-minute drive from Hanauma Bay and one of Hawaii’s famous landmarks.
The trail to the lighthouse is a moderate 2-mile round trip walk offering breathtaking views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline and the historic Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse.
This lighthouse was built in 1909 and has a distinctive red roof that is a striking contrast to the blue sea.
Bring binoculars if you’re interested in bird watching or whale watching, as humpback whales pass by during their migration from November to May.
Dinner at Duke’s Waikiki
You’ve got to have dinner at the iconic Duke’s Waikiki, which is a restaurant named after Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku.
This is a great place to try Hawaiian food with a modern twist. Make a reservation in advance!
Next, head to Mai Tai Bar for airy feels, tropical drinks and live music.
If you’re here during the weekend, you can continue the party at popular rooftop nightclub, SKY Waikiki.
Oahu Itinerary Day 2
Breakfast at Liliha Bakery
Start your day with breakfast at Liliha Bakery, which has been an island favourite since 1950.
The bakery is famous for coco puffs and extra fluffy pancakes.
Make sure to try these!
Drink locally-grown, fresh-brewed, Kona Coffee.
No visit to Oahu is complete without seeing Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is one of the most important war memorials in the US and a National Historic Landmark.
It was the place where Japan conducted a surprise attack on the US in 1941 leading to the immediate entry of the United States into WW II.
At Pearl Harbor, you can tour the legendary USS Arizona battleship and the USS Bowfin Submarine.
There is also an aviation museum on site.
Diamond Head State Park
Spend the rest of your day hiking at Diamond Head State Park, which is set on a seaside crater.
At the summit, you’ll see panoramic views of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.
The main trail is just under 2 miles (round trip) and difficult as you’ll gain 500 ft during this trail, climbing up stairs and ramps.
There is a $5 per car entrance fee which is cash only and make sure to arrive prior to 4.30 pm.
Dinner at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
Have dinner at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, which is the only US location of this popular Japanese restaurant chain.
They are known for their breaded pork cutlets or Tonkatsu and you’ve also got to try their Hawaiian cabbage.
After dinner, Hideout at the Laylow is a trendy open-air terrace that serves refreshing cocktails.
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Oahu Itinerary Day 3
Breakfast at Hula Grill
Have breakfast at the Hula Grill before heading to Manoa Falls.
Manoa Falls is a 20-minute drive from Waikiki while the Manoa Falls trail is 1.6 miles round trip, with an 800 ft rise in elevation.
At the summit is a stunning 150-foot waterfall.
Unfortunately, you can’t swim there due to the number of rocks as well as the risk of Leptospirosis infection.
Make sure to bring appropriate hiking shoes because this area is often very muddy.
It won’t take long to visit Manoa Falls so once you’ve seen the waterfall, head to the Lyon Arboretum.
This botanical garden contains a large variety of vibrant rain forest plants.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Continue your plant exploration at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is about a 30-minute drive from the Manoa Falls/Lyon Arboretum area.
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is free to visit and has 400 acres of stunning tropical paradise where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Jurassic Park.
Recharge and refresh with some food at the Kalapawai Cafe or Haleiwa Joe’s nearby. Kalapawai Cafe has a casual, local vibe while Haleiwa Joes is more formal and has beautiful views.
Dinner at Tommy Bahama Restaurant
Tommy Bahama Restaurant is classy, refined and tiki-chic.
As this is your last night in Waikiki, you might want to take a stroll down Kalakaua Ave and do some shopping.
Oahu Itinerary Day 4
Start your Oahu road trip early in the morning. You’ll find lots to see along the way and plenty of things to do in North Shore Oahu.
Kualoa Ranch, also known as Jurassic Valley, is one of the most beautiful places on the island of Oahu.
It’s a private nature reserve and famous filming location, so if you’re visiting Hawaii with kids, make sure you put Kualoa Ranch on your Oahu itinerary.
At Kualoa, you can rent ATVs, kayak, ride horseback and have fun on the zip line.
Above all, I recommend the Hollywood Movie Site Tour as Kualoa Ranch has been the backdrop for many popular movies and TV Shows.
Movies like Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and Godzilla were shot here, as was popular series Lost and Hawaii Five-O.
You’ll learn about the various filming locations and have a few cool opportunities to take photos.
After the tour, take a walk around this beautiful cattle ranch and meet the horses.
Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts
Just down the street from Kualoa Ranch is Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts, where a farm tour will teach you about their plantations and fruits.
You’ll get to sample fresh and flavoured macadamia nuts, drink Kona coffee and learn about Polynesian culture.
Tasting macadamia nuts in Hawaii is definitely an experience for your Oahu bucket list as fresh macadamias taste so much better than the packaged nuts you buy from a grocery store.
Continue north, stop at Papa Ole’s Kitchen for lunch. It’s a local favourite, casual restaurant, serving up Hawaiian classics in generous portions.
Polynesian Cultural Center Hawaiian Luau
The best luau in town is held at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
This luau is more pricey, at $150 per person, however, it’s worth it.
With the traditional luau dinner and show, you’ll also receive admission to the evening performance.
The Ha Breath of Life performance features over 100 performers, beautifully choreographed dancing, fire spinning and a culturally enriching story.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is also a beautiful place to walk around at sunset.
The grounds are set up as a traditional village, so you can learn as you tour the property.
Oahu Itinerary Day 5
If you love the ocean and the beach, you won’t be wondering what to do in North Shore Oahu as there are lots of choices for active people who love being outdoors.
Swim with sharks
You’ve probably heard that Hawaii’s warm waters make the perfect nursery grounds for sharks but did you know that you can swim with them in Oahu?
On Hawaii’s north shore, you can go cage diving with sharks.
Hawaii’s waters are home to over 40 different species of shark, but during the tour, you’ll most likely see the Galapagos and Sandbar sharks.
Hawaii Shark Encounters is an organization committed to dispelling shark stereotypes and shark conservation
During the tour, you’ll take a boat out to shark grounds, where sharks are so common if you don’t see one, you don’t pay.
You’ll jump into a big poly-glass cage with snorkels and be up close and personal with finned friends.
After your shark tour, head to Laniakea Beach around noon to spot sea turtles.
Sea turtles love Laniakea Beach because of its rocky ledges and ample seaweed.
Volunteers are usually around to make sure that the turtles are safe from human contact.
It’s important to respect the turtles and follow the rules.
You’ll be sure to spot turtles here!
Dinner at Turtle Bay Resort
Watch the sunset as you walk along the beach at Turtle Bay Resort.
Enjoy a fine dining experience at Pa’aka, where the ocean-to-table seafood prepared using traditional methods is stunning.
Finish the night at Surfer, the Bar.
Oahu Itinerary Day 6
Breakfast at Surfers Coffee
You can’t have too much Kona Coffee so start the day at Surfers Coffee, which is also a great place to pick up some Kona Coffee for the family –a thoughtful gift to bring home.
Surfers Coffee is especially cool because it is 100% non-profit and volunteer operated.
This coffee house donates all of its proceeds to local and global organizations, which is one of the reasons why it’s a community staple and favourite meeting spot.
Dole Pineapple Plantation
From Surfer’s Coffee, you’ll want to head to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.
Take the Pineapple Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour and get lost in the Pineapple Garden Maze.
You’ll learn how sugarcane, cacao and other tropical fruits are grown.
In season, you’ll be decorated with flowerful lei necklaces.
Above all, you’ve got to have one of the refreshing Dole Whip treats at the Plantation Grille.
Blue Shrimp Food Truck
Head back to the North Shore, stop by the Blue Shrimp food truck for a savoury snack. Don’t miss their coconut shrimp!
Learn to Surf
As surfing in Hawaii is a popular pastime, it’s only fitting to add a surfing lesson to your Oahu itinerary. You may not want to attempt the Banzai Pipeline but there are several places to take surfing lessons on Oahu.
One popular studio is North Shore Surf Lessons. Also, Sunset Suzy is great for beginners.
Surfing is an important part of Hawaiian culture, so there’s no better way to experience it than to learn from someone who has surfed all their lives.
An evening in Oahu at the Northshore Marketplace should start with drinks at Breakers surf bar.
Then, walk around this quaint shopping district and pick up a few more souvenirs.
Have dinner at the Hale’iwa Beach House.
Oahu Itinerary Day 7
Breakfast at Kono’s Haleiwa
Kono’s Haleiwa is a top spot in Oahu for a hearty breakfast.
This restaurant has won “Best of Oahu” awards three years in a row and is popular for their 12-hour slow-roasted Kalua pork.
Waimea Falls and Beach Park
At Waimea Falls Park, there’s an easy hiking trail to Waimea Falls where you can cool down with a swim under the waterfall.
After visiting the waterfall, make sure to tour the botanical gardens at Waimea Bay on your way to Waimea Bay Beach Park.
At the beach park, there’s a huge rock that you can climb and jump off of but be careful not to do this when the waters are too rough as it can be dangerous.
Eat Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie
Visit Ted’s Bakery, home of the Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie, a North Shore icon and a local favourite.
Dinner at Kahuku Farm
At Kahuku Farm, start with drinks at Lei Lei’s Bar and Grill. Rest, pack and reflect on all these amazing experiences you had on your Oahu itinerary.
The video in this post was produced by InVideo.
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I’m Valentina Djordjevic and Valentina’s Destinations was born from my obsession with meticulously researching, organizing and planning my travel itineraries. I’m originally from Nis, Serbia. My family moved to the US when I was young, and I’ve been living in Chicago for the last decade. My passion is travelling the world with my boyfriend, Remigijus. When we’re not travelling, I work as a physician assistant in the psychiatry field. The mental health field is as rewarding as travelling can be.