Suggestions for a seven-day Oahu vacation itinerary

Oahu Itinerary

We completely understand how daunting Oahu vacation planning can be. The island has so very much to offer that the options seem endless.

When planning your Oahu vacation, there are so many decisions to make – like when to go and where to stay — that by the time you’re ready to plan what you’ll do and see, you’re almost ready for a vacation from your vacation planning! That’s why we’ve created this seven-day Oahu itinerary to make your planning much, much easier.

We designed this itinerary to include outstanding scenery, adventure and history along with insights into Hawaiian culture. By the end of the week, you’ll definitely take home wonderful memories of your Oahu experiences.

This Oahu itinerary is flexible and customizable to suit anyone’s interests. Feel free to reorder the days to fit your needs and the weather forecast.

Please note that each link provides much greater detail about each site or activity.

2985348450_6014ff8606_z

Makapu’u Lookout

Oahu Day 1 – Discover Oahu’s East Side Sight-Seeing

You’ll most likely be anxious to get out to see the island. Chances are you’ll also be jet lagged and waking up earlier than you anticipated. So, we recommend you take advantage of the early start and discover the amazing scenery along the eastern shore.

If you’re interested in snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, start your day here. (Here’s a money saving and crowd prevention tip: it is highly possible that you can enter for free if you arrive before 7am. Hardly anyone will be there either so the water should be relatively clear without all the sand stirred up by loads of people. If you arrive around 9am to 10am, chances are the parking lot will already be full.) You can spend as little or as much time as you like in beautiful Hanauma Bay. Bring a towel and change of dry clothing to be comfortable for the rest of the day of sightseeing. (There are freshwater, outdoor showers plus changing areas in the bathhouses.) ** Special Note: Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays, so adjust your personal itinerary accordingly.

After you’ve seen Hanauma Bay, carry on onto Kalaniana’ole Highway (Hwy 72) heading north and east to enjoy the following highlights:

– Koko Head Crater (on your left as you are heading north and east on Highway 72)

– Take in the views and action of Halona Blowhole.

Makapuu Lookout offers a stunning view of the coastline and islets in the area. From here, you have a great view of the islet Manana Island, also known as Rabbit Island, and Kaohikaipu Island, which is the flatter of the two islets. If your time and interests permit, you might want to take the 1.4 mile (one-way) Makapuu Lighthouse Trail for great views of the lighthouse.

< Potential add on: Sea Life Park Hawaii is just around the corner from Makapuu Lookout. They offer marine life shows and exhibits plus hands-on experiences with dolphins. For reviews of Sea Life Park see this link to TripAdvisor. >

Waimanalo Beach is a very scenic beach and worthy of a stop.

< Lunch ideas: We like Hawaiian Island Cafe. (It is closed on Thursdays.) Alternatively, there are lots of restaurants in Kailua. Cinnamon’s is a popular Kailua restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch only until 2pm.

At the end of Highway 72, you’ll come to the intersection of Highway 61. From here you can go towards Kailua and Lanikai Beaches. Lanikai is arguably one of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches.

From Kailua and Lanikai, navigate your way to Highway 83 heading towards the North Shore. Make a scenic stop at Byodo-In Temple.

Continuing on Highway 83, make a stop at Kualoa Beach Park for a beautiful view of Mokoli’i, which is also known as Chinaman’s Hat.

< Potential add on: Kualoa Ranch offers activities including horseback riding, ATV tour, zipline tour, ancient fishpond and garden tour and a movie site tour. You could easily spend an entire day here taking their tours. The movie site tour may be of particular interest for fans of LOST, Hawaii Five-0, 50 First Dates and Jurassic Park. See this link for TripAdvisor reviews of Kualoa Ranch.>

This islet Mokoli'i is also known as Chinaman's Hat.

This islet Mokoli’i is also known as Chinaman’s Hat.

Oahu Day 2 – Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl & Tantulus Drive

We recommend visiting Pearl Harbor early in the day while the temperatures are a bit cooler and you might avoid crowds. Start with the USS Arizona Memorial, which is not to be missed. The USS Missouri Battleship Memorial is also worth visiting while you are in Pearl Harbor. If you’d like more military and history insights of Pearl Harbor, you might consider visiting the USS Bowfin and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

< Lunch ideas: though Nico’s at Pier 38 is not immediately nearby, it’s somewhat convenient for lunch. This restaurant is very popular with local residents. Alternatively, another convenient stop for lunch that’s near this sightseeing plan is Liliha Bakery which is near your next stop, Punchbowl. Don’t miss Liliha’s famous Coco Puffs.>

Next, visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which is also known as Punchbowl.

Our final suggestion for day two on Oahu is to take a jungle drive up Tantalus Drive and stop at Puu Ualakaa State Park for amazing views of Honolulu.

USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor

Oahu Day 3: Customized Day + Luau

For your third day on Oahu, we want to plan in flexibility for you to customize the day to your interests. Perhaps you’d like to enjoy a beach day, relax by a pool or rejuvenate with a spa treatment. But, if you are up for more Oahu exploration, see our post with over 50 suggestions of what to do on Oahu. From that list, here are recommendations we’d like to highlight:

  • Kayaking to the Mokulua Islands is a fun adventure.
  • To learn about the cultures of the Polynesian Islands, spend the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The island villages and presentations start at noon. You could stay through the day exploring the villages, enjoy a luau and then catch the excellent evening show Ha: Breath of Life. Please note that the Polynesian Cultural Center is open Monday through Saturday.
  • For culture and history, go to the Bishop Museum

End the day with a Polynesian dinner and dance show at a Oahu luau. Before you go, know what to expect from a luau.

A graceful hula dancer at a luau

A graceful hula dancer at a luau

Oahu Day 4: Diamond Head & Explore Waikiki

Start this day with a hike to the top of Diamond Head for an amazing view of Honolulu. We recommend an early start to avoid crowds and for more comfortable hiking temperatures.

After your hike, you’ll likely be ready for lunch and you can find many options in Waikiki. A couple of our favorite Waikiki lunch spots with great ocean views are Hula Grill, Duke’s Waikiki, and Tropics Bar and Grill for casual fare. For a bit more of an upscale lunch with an ocean view, we like Veranda at the Beachhouse and House without a Key.

< If you will be parking a car in Waikiki, see our guide to free or cheap Waikiki parking. >

After lunch, we recommend you take in the following Waikiki sites and activities:

A view of Waikiki and Honolulu from the top of Diamond Head

A view of Waikiki and Honolulu from the top of Diamond Head

Oahu Day 5: Explore Oahu’s North Shore

While Honolulu offers Oahu’s hustle and bustle, Oahu’s North Shore provides the relaxed, surfer-town vibe for a completely different experience.

For other days in this Oahu itinerary, we’ve organized activities and attractions in a logical sequence. For this North Shore day, there’s not a particular order we recommend. Organize it based on your interests. If you end up having to backtrack a time or two, at least it’s a very scenic area so you won’t mind backtracking. Here are the North Shore sights and experiences to plan into your day:

Tour Waimea Valley where you can learn about Hawaiian culture, admire a beautiful variety of trees, shrubs and plants and enjoy a swim at a waterfall. (See this link for TripAdvisor reviews of Waimea Valley.)

<Lunch ideas:

See the laid-back surfer town of Hale’iwa. There are quite a few unique shops here. For a refreshing treat, go to Matsumoto’s for a shave ice.

See Laie Point.

Stop at some of the scenic North Shore beaches that you’ll see along Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83) that hugs the North Shore coast. A few beaches we’ll highlight are:

  • If you are visiting from mid-December to February, you may get to observe the massive winter waves. The Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach is a popular spot to watch the waves and possibly a surfing competition.
  • Laniakea Beach, which is also known as Turtle Beach, is a popular beach for honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) to come to rest. Admire them from a distance only! This beach is located immediately by Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83), but parking has become a bit of a controversy. Use this Google Map link to find Turtle Beach.
  • Fans of the hit TV show LOST may find the beach where LOST was filmed of particular interest.  

Go up to Puu O Mahuka to see an ancient Hawaiian temple. From here, you can also enjoy a gorgeous view of Waimea.

3282614608_d4d59ac39b_z

A surfer carves through the monster winter waves at the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore.

Oahu Day 6: Hike Manoa Falls + Customizable Time

This day of your Oahu vacation itinerary recommends hiking to Manoa Falls for a walk in a green jungle that ends at the base of this 100-ft waterfall.

The waterfall hike will not take your entire day, so you will have time to customize based on your personal interests. For suggestions, see our post with many great Oahu vacation attractions and ideas.

(Please note that you don’t have to start the day with the waterfall hike. If there’s an activity that starts in the morning that you want to do, it’s perfectly fine to start with that and then hike Manoa Falls later.)

Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

Oahu Day 7: Enjoy Oahu Beach Time

The final day of your week-long visit to Oahu can be one of the most challenging to plan. This is the day you’ll be packing up and checking out of your accommodation.

We recommend starting the day with an oceanfront breakfast near where you are staying. Savor a tasty meal to start your day along with ocean views.

Enjoy some beach or pool time before you head back home. Just relax and reflect on your week-long trip to Oahu’s paradise.

If your flight leaves later in the afternoon/evening and you want to enjoy more Oahu attractions and/or beach/pool time, you’ll need to come up with a plan to deal with your luggage. Some ideas to help you with this challenge are as follows:

  • Inquire at the front desk about the possibility of a late checkout. Call the front desk to inquire first thing in the morning. It has been our experience that most Hawaii hotels will extend checkout time from a typical 11am to 1pm if possible,  subject to availability. Some hotels might offer extended check out for an additional fee.
  • Check to see if your hotel offers a courtesy suite and luggage lockers. Some hotels provide a suite for guests to use to shower and clean up after check out.
  • If your budget allows, consider paying for an extra night. Even though you won’t be staying one more night, it’s very convenient.
  • Ask if your hotel will hold your luggage after check out.
  • Take your luggage with you and put it in the trunk of your rental car. Please note that this can be risky it is easy for thieves to break into rental cars.
  • Check with your airline to find out how soon you can check your luggage at the airport.
Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Notes:

– You may have noticed that this itinerary does not plan activities for the day of arrival. There are so many potential variables — like flight delays, heavy traffic, lost luggage, etc. — that it’s difficult to plan in activities. Plus, depending on how far you’ve traveled, you may be too exhausted to do anything except check-in, unpack and grab a quick dinner. 

– Depending upon the amount of time you spend at the suggested sites, you might have time left over to see more or not enough time to see it all in a given day. It all depends on your interests. You may find that you have to plan in some flexibility to suit your interests.

– Since we can’t cover in one article what a 300-page guidebook can cover, we suggest that you purchase an island guidebook. Review the guidebook prior to your visit to help you identify the sights and activities that you don’t want to miss. We recommend the Oahu Revealed guidebook.

– This Oahu vacation itinerary can be adapted and applied no matter where you are staying. However, this guide was primarily written based on staying in the Waikiki/Honolulu area.

– This itinerary works best when you have a rental car, but you can still see and enjoy the vast majority of these sights and activities through guided tours or TheBus. If you are unsure about renting a car, see this post for advice : Do I Need a Rental Car If I Stay in Waikiki Beach.


About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

21 comments

  1. Thanks Sheila! Very nice!

    While in Waikiki,one can walk the Waikiki Historic Trail & learn about Waikiki before & after it was developed. There are surfboards that mark stops along the trail.

    http://waikikihistorictrail.org/

  2. Fantastic! So well thought out and great tips for when the best time to go somewhere and do a certain activity! Love it!

  3. mailoha albaladejo

    Isn’t Diamond Head illegal to hike?

  4. mailoha albaladejo

    Got it confused with Stairway to Heaven. Sorry! 🙂

  5. Hi! Going to O’ahu on Monday and spending 7 full days to do activities. The first two days we are without transportation and staying near Waikiki Beach. I’m wondering if taking TheBus is possible and less expensive to like Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona?

  6. Very interesting suggestions, do I understand that we always come back to the same hotel every nights or do we schedule our stays night after night depending where we are at?

  7. Do we need to rent a car? we’re planning our 7 days trip and not sure if we need the car for the whole trip.

    • I went in February for the first time and used The Bus a lot to get around as well as a ton of walking. We only used a car to get to the North Shore and east side of the island. I would say you wouldn’t need to rent a car all 7 days. Plan your trip out with places you must visit and then optional. That will help you narrow down when you would need a car. Also consider a moped because it’s cheaper and been told it’s more fun.

    • See the last point in the article which addresses rental cars.

    • Yes, rent a car the entire time. You can see the island much better if you have a car the entire time. Forget the moped! Too dangerous!

  8. Thank you all very much

  9. Is it possible to spend time on the islands of Oahu and Maui on a 7 day trip?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please do not use keywords in your name. Please keep your comment on the topic of the article as we will not approve or address off-topic comments. Required fields are marked *

*

Scroll To Top