A Day Trip Island Hop To Oahu

View of Honolulu from Punchbowl

When we traveled to Maui with my parents for their first visit to Hawaii, we wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to see the history and beauty of Oahu with a day trip. They very much enjoyed that island hop to Oahu. They have mentioned that seeing Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial as well as Punchbowl were some of the highlights of their Hawaii visit.

Being seasoned Hawaii travelers and inter-island “hopper-arounders”. Andy and I now know how to get around Hawaii with ease. Using our knowledge and experience, we planned a day trip itinerary to Oahu from Maui that worked extremely well.

Not only was our itinerary well-planned, if we do say so ourselves, but we also saved hundreds of dollars in comparison to booking an organized tour. In addition, we got to see far more sights and have more freedom and privacy than if we’d opted for an organized day trip tour.

By the way, I have nothing against organized island-hopping tours. In fact, the first time Andy and I visited Maui, we booked an organized day tour to Oahu. You pay more, but you deal with much less stress, especially if you are a first or second time visitor.

*** UPDATE: Since we originally wrote this article, we’ve created very detailed Oahu day trip drive guides, maps and instructions for a similar plan as we’ve listed below, along with another route.

In case you’re interested in planning your own independent day trip to Oahu from Maui, Kauai, Big Island, Lanai or Molokai, I wanted to share our itinerary with you.

1. 7am Hawaiian Airlines flight from Maui (OGG) to Oahu (HNL) arriving at 7:40am.

2. Pick up rental car with one slight, self-inflicted snag. 🙂 We brought our own GPS navigation system with us which helped tremendously to get around Oahu with ease.

3. Tour Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial. (We were here on the Saturday before Easter, so it was very crowded, but doable. If we had gone during a slower period, we would have been able to spend less time here and perhaps seen more of Oahu that day.)

4. Liliha Bakery for Coco Puffs.

5. Visit Punchbowl, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

6. Drive the Pali Highway (Highway 61) to East Oahu, with a stop at the Pali Lookout.

7. See Lanikai Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

8. Visit Byodo-In Temple near Kaneohe to see a beautiful example of Japanese architecture.

9. Drive the scenic Kam (Kamehameha) Highway (Hwy 83) along the East and North Shore of Oahu with stops to see:

10. Late lunch at Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore. (From here, we wanted to see the ancient Hawaiian temple at Puu O Mahuku or pop into Haleiwa for shave ice, but we were concerned we’d run out of time since our visit at the USS Arizona Memorial ran longer than on a normal day.)

11. From Ted’s we began to make our way back to Honolulu airport via Central Oahu. Along the way, we stopped at Dole Plantation to learn a few pineapple tidbits.

12. Return rental car. Depart Oahu (HNL) at 7:30pm, arriving back in Maui (OGG) at 8:10pm on Hawaiian Airlines.

You can see we had a full day and covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. As we were in HNL airport on our way back to Maui, Daddy stuck up a conversation with a local. The conversation led to what we had seen that day. The local was amazed at how much we had seen and done in just one short day..

As I’ve written this post, I was reminded of what a fun day we had on our Oahu day trip. I hope our itinerary might be useful to you as you consider making your own island hopping to Oahu plans.

To see the above plan along with a guide with a slightly different route, see our Oahu driving tour sightseeing guides.

  1. I would love to return to the N shore…if I could only get there without going through HNL! I very much disliked all the traffic!

  2. Wow Sheila! As a local, I’m also impressed with how much you did in one day. Not surprised though, because you sure do know your way around these islands. That route is pretty similar to where I’d take friends and family if they only had a day here as well.

    Great post!

    =) Malia

  3. And I have been fretting about how much I can accomplish in a week!!!! So many places to see and eat at–so little time…..

    1. Jen – I know how easy it is to fret over the planning. You will have a fantastic time whether you’ve planned every moment or you decide to kick back for a day at the beach. Plus, with all the great things to do and see in Hawaii, it just gives you excuses to return. 🙂

  4. Your parents were lucky to have such effecient, seasoned travelers as their guides!! Priceless! The GPS is a huge help but I don’t think people who haven’t been there could manage to squeeze all that in as you did. You really are superstars!! When we went to Lanikai beach it wasn’t clear to us where we could park and how to actually get down to the beach. We wasted a lot of time wandering around. However, now that I think about it, that was before I discovered your blog and had your expert advice and input- so maybe it would be possible! :>)

    1. Aw, thanks Janet! 🙂

      We were pleased with how much we were able to see. If it hadn’t been Easter weekend and super crowded at USS Arizona Memorial, we would have gotten to see more.

      Lanikai Beach is a challenge to find. I know we had trouble finding it the first time. I think the key is just finding the public beach access signs and trying to find a parking space close by.

  5. Hi Sheila. What about doing it the other way? Recommendations? For Oahu to Maui for a day (skipping Hana). Aloha

  6. What would be your suggestions doing the reverse…staying kn Oahu but want to do a say trip to Maui…going the beginning of February…..thanks

  7. Hi Sheila,

    I’m thinking of doing Kauai for a day or two from HNL. Any suggestions of what to do to see and where to eat on a budget. Thank you very much.

  8. Hi,

    How much did your Oahu day trip cost per person?
    If you can remember a ball park estimate…


    1. It’s been more than four years since we did this so our memory is not fresh. I would guess roughly $150 per person.

  9. will be visiting Oahu Feb 25-27th. Disappointed the International Mkt isn’t open anymore. Staying in Maui for 3 wks. What tour company in Oahu is most reasonable for taking island tour of Oahu. Hoped to do that on 26th. Is it very hard to drive on Oahu. It looked it last time we were there, 7yrs ago. Taking friend to most highlites on Oahu for her first time there. Any help would be appreciative..

    1. Susie – it’s not very hard to drive on Oahu, especially with a GPS navigation system. If you don’t have one, you can rent one for the day at the rental car site.

      Doing your own DIY tour is far cheaper than taking a packaged tour.

      I’ve not checked any tour price comparisons recently. Some companies you might want to consider are Polynesian Adventures, HawaiiTours.com and Roberts Hawaii. I’m not sure if it’s still the case but I believe Roberts is the only company that makes a stop in Punchbowl while the others only drive through. You may want to verify that. You might also want to check tour prices from a discount tour reseller like HawaiiDiscount.com

  10. Did you reserve tickets ahead of time or did you get the free walk up tickets for the USS Arizona that morning? We are flying into Oahu from Maui on a Monday and should land around 7:45am. If we got our rental car and went straight to the memorial, would that be reasonable to get tickets? I’ve seen a lot of people saying you need to get there really really early.

    1. We just got walk up tickets.

      I can’t say for sure that you’ll be able to secure walk up tickets based on your timing. Unless you were visiting over a holiday, I’d say no worries prior to the reserve ticketing process. That process changed the whole dynamic.

      For more info on reserving tickets see this link.

  11. Wow, that’s a good trip! Sounds like you guys planned that one to the minute. Rounding the North side of Oahu can take some time but so worth it!

    We did a day trip to Maui and completed the Road to Hana. Took the first flight from HNL and a 7pm return. We were able to complete the entire road with lots of stops including Kipahulu’s Pipiwai trail.

    Day trips are the best!

  12. Hi Sheila. Great website with lots of really useful information! My wife and I have planned a trip to Maui in March and want to do a day trip to Oahu. For island hopping flights, how early do you need to be at the airport for your flights? You took a 7am flight from Maui. How much before 7 did you need to be at the airport? I’m just trying to gauge the timing of everything. Since we’re staying in the Lahaina part of Maui, there’s a 45-50 minute drive to the airport to start the day. That, plus the time needed in the airport will help me decide which flight to take in the AM. Thanks!

    1. We can’t give you an exact amount of time as lines for check in and security are two of the biggest variables. Personally, we’d try to arrive an hour before the flight.

  13. Are any Inter-Island Ferries available for travel between Oahu, Maui, Kaui or Hawaii? We will be traveling May 2017.

  14. So what is the advantage of doing a day trip to an island instead of just going to that island for a few nights? Beginning stages of planning and hubby wants Pearl Harbor, I want volcanoes and I think we’d both enjoy Maui? A day trip to Pearl Harbor intrigues me?

    1. Yes, works from any Hawaiian island as long as you can get early morning and late evening flights.

  15. Considering how much time you have spent in Hawaii,would you say it would be safe for a woman to travel by car alone to see the sights or would you suggest a touring group? I am on a budget.

  16. What do you do with your rental car on Maui when you day trip to Oahu? Park it at the airport or take a taxi to the airport and leave rental car at your condo/hotel?

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