I continue the series of articles of what to see with only one day on each island with a day trip to Oahu. Before we dive into the details, I though I’d give you just to give you a little background on this Oahu day trip. I first visited Oahu on a day trip from Maui. At the time I was taking my first vacation to Hawaii and silly me, I thought this vacation would be my one and only to Hawaii. So, the plans I’m about to share are what I actually did on a one day visit to Oahu.
Though Oahu has beautiful beaches and views, in my opinion, its top attraction is its rich history and significance in World War II. The historic sites are mainly concentrated in Pearl Harbor. With that in mind, here’s what I advise you see in one day on Oahu:
- USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor marks the beginning of World War II. You’ll watch a brief film before taking a boat ride to the memorial. Get here as early in the morning as you can to avoid crowds and make sure you are aware of their strict security guidelines. Visiting this memorial is free. You do need to be prepared before you visit the memorial, so see my detailed tips on visiting the USS Arizona Memorial.
- USS Missouri (Mighty Mo) at Pearl Harbor. This battleship marks the end of World War II. There is an admission fee to tour this ship.
- Soak in the scene and have lunch on Waikiki Beach (Dukes would be a good choice.)
- See Punchbowl Cemetery (National Memorial of the Pacific). This solemn site is in the middle of the extinct volcanic crater, Puowaina. Visiting this site is free.
- If you have time drive up to the Pali Lookout for a nice view of the windward side of Oahu. See my post with more information on seeing the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.
Arrival and arranging transportation:
First, you’ll probably arrive in Honolulu at the airport or at the cruise ship harbor. From there you can either rent a car or arrange for a guided tour. In my case, I had Polynesian Adventures arrange the entire tour including air and ground transportation with a guided tour. I normally prefer touring on my own, but with the city streets of Honolulu, I decided to let someone else do the driving this time. Note that traffic in Honolulu can be difficult at times so make sure you plan adequate time in for your return to the airport or cruise ship.
What if I don’t like war history stuff? What else would you recommend I see and do?
I would take a tour around Oahu. This tour is usually called a “Circle Island Tour”. There are lots of tour companies who provide a narrated tour, which for a first time visitor takes much of the hassle of planning and logistics off your plate. If you abhor tour buses, you can drive it on your own. I would see the North Shore beaches, Haleiwa (try to get a shave ice here), Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, the Byodo-In Temple, and the Pali Lookout.
What if I have two days or more on Oahu?
Well, one thing is for sure, you’ll never have a lack of things to do on Oahu. I would consider spending an entire day and evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center. You’ll learn tons about the various Polynesian islands and their cultures, catch a luau, and see the best Polynesian music and dance show I’ve seen.
For fans of the TV show Lost, you may enjoy renting a car and driving to see some of the Lost filming locations. Seeing Police Beach where the survivors beach camp is filmed was one of the top spots I wanted to see. Also, in the same day that you visit the beach camp, you could tour the Kualoa Ranch where many scenes are filmed.
For more ideas, see my popular article on the top 10 best free activities and sites on Oahu.
Update: After writing this article, I planned another day trip to Oahu. Please check out this excellent Oahu day trip itinerary to help you develop your own practical plan for an Oahu island hop.