Detailed Oahu sightseeing plans for a day trip island hop

UPDATE: Since we originally wrote the DIY day trip guides to Oahu, obtaining reservations at Pearl Harbor for the boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial have become much more difficult to secure with a reservation time that fits within our already-ambitious plans. As such, to minimize the stress, it probably makes more sense to choose a guided, day-trip tours that includes roundtrip airfare . Here are some fully guided tours that we are aware of:

  • Day trip from Kauai including USS Arizona Memorial – Tour
  • Day trip from Big Island to Oahu, including USS Arizona Memorial – Tour
  • Day trip from Maui to Oahu, including USS Arizona Memorial – Tour


A visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is high on the bucket list for many first-time Hawaii visitors. As you probably know, Pearl Harbor is on Oahu, but you don’t have plan your entire Hawaii vacation on Oahu in order to see Pearl Harbor. You can easily see Pearl Harbor, plus a whole lot more, on a day trip to Oahu.

We’ve recently created two, Oahu sightseeing plans designed for a day trip island hop from one of the other Hawaiian Islands. With the many direct flights between Kauai, Maui and the Island of Hawaii (Big Island) to Oahu, day trips are relatively easy to do. Especially when you have detailed plans like we’ve created.

USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is the first stop in our Oahu sightseeing plan.
USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is the first stop in our Oahu sightseeing plan.

Both of our Oahu sightseeing guides include Pearl Harbor plus a whole lot more! Both plans include beautiful beaches and amazing views.

Both plans provide Google Map directions that you can print and/or download. You can also customize the directions to your interests by removing or adding more stops.

The main difference between the two guides is the route from Honolulu over towards the north shore of Oahu. One guide leads you into the green mountains via the Pali Lookout and the other offers more coastal views with stops at Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Point. All the other stops are the same.

Here are links to the two Oahu sightseeing plans:

Oahu sightseeing tour and drive map via the Pali Lookout

Oahu sightseeing tour and drive map via Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Point

So, what’s the main difference between the two plans? It’s simply a matter of which way you go. The following photos show the different options.

The Pali Lookout version takes you from Honolulu to this view and then onwards:

A view from the Pali Lookout
A view from the Pali Lookout

The other driving plan via the Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Lookout takes you to these views:

Halona Blowhole Lookout
Halona Blowhole


This view of east Oahu can be enjoyed by a stop at Makapu'u just off Highway 72.
This view of east Oahu can be enjoyed by a stop at Makapu’u just off Highway 72.

Another key difference in the two sightseeing plans is that the version via the Pali Lookout is 30 minutes shorter.

What other views will you see on these Oahu drive guides? Let’s take a look at just a few other scenic stops.

A quick visit to Lanikai Beach will make sure you see one of Hawaii's most beautiful beaches.
A quick visit to Lanikai Beach will make sure you see one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches.
Seeing "Chinaman's Hat" is part of this scenic Oahu tour.
Seeing “Chinaman’s Hat” is part of this scenic Oahu tour.
Laie Point on the North Shore

There is much more to see on our island hop guides to Oahu. So be sure to check them out!

Please note that both plans are rather ambitious with the amount of things to see. If you like to take things slower then customize the plans to your liking by cutting out some of the stops.

  1. Im curious about visiting the West side, a day trip. Things to do, see, eat.
    Any thoughts??

  2. Do you have a circle island tour? Can you tell me the stops that it makes,how many hours and the price? Thank you

  3. I feel so stupid. How do I download the itineraries to Google Maps? I open the link in maps, but can’t find any download options for saving the itinerary. Do I have to do it with each stop as a separate entry? Thanks.

    1. You have to go to the google map links that are indicated on the individual itineraries. Open the link for each of the two portions. Within Google Maps, there are 3 symbols to the right of the total drive times. The first one is to download. The second one is to share and the third is to print.

    1. They’re all on paved highways. We don’t know the laws or limitations for mopeds, but if they’re allowed on the main highways, I would guess that they’re ok, but that’s just a guess.

  4. Planning a day trip from Maui to Oahu in July —

    When visiting Pearl Harbor do you have to make reservations in advance and is there a charge to enter?? I’ve seen on some sites there is a charge and other sites there is no charge

    Also, car rental agencies, any recommendations?

    1. It’s a confusing process.

      No – you don’t have to pay to enter. Tickets are free. When you arrive, if tickets are still available for that day, you are given tickets for the next available time slot to see the film and take the boat ride over to the USS Arizona Memorial.

      The fee that you’d probably read about is a reservation fee of $1.50 per person. It is optional. That being said, if you are planning a day trip and your day hinges on a visit to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona Memorial, it would be beneficial to secure a reservation time that’s early in the morning.

      At the moment, reservations become available for booking 60 days in advance. Then another batch of reservations are released the day before.

      If you click on one or both of the drive plans in this article, you’ll find links in them that provide more info on the process.

      1. thank you, that’s helpful — could you provide me with the site to make reservations for the USS Arizona Memorial??

        1. If you follow the links to one or both of the individual drive plans and continue to follow the link related tips for visiting the USS Arizona, it’s there.

  5. Hello, I will be visiting next month and is curious as to what is the cheapest way to travel to different attractions. And we were planning to use the Go Card for the different attractions, do you recommend that and again are the attractions kind of close to each other on there. Thank you!!

    1. You could check TheBus to see how close they go to your desired attractions or rent a small car.

  6. Hi Sheila,

    I couldn’t believe my luck when I came across your blog, and it still amazes me every time I go further & further into your many posts! Thank you so much for having created this, it’s such a big help.
    I’m arriving in Honolulu in Feb next year and have already started looking at itinerary options, this was a godsend.
    Just wondering, I noticed your reply to Carm C said rent a small car – is this because a smaller car is easier to travel in due to the roads, or is it just because it’s more economical? I was planning on renting an SUV.

    1. Glad to hear you’re finding Go Visit Hawaii to be helpful. We’ve literally written thousands of articles with helpful Hawaii travel advice. 🙂

      We recommend a small car for economical purposes only. The roads are in great shape…just like any road you’d find on the US Mainland.

  7. The advanced reservations for Pearl Harbor are only available for 11AM- 2:45PM (no early morning advanced reservations are offered). Any advice on how to do this one day plan with Pearl Harbor in the middle of the day?

    Going in mid June and not sure if walk up reservations would be available for morning after our flight from Maui and picking up rental car.

    1. When we originally created these plans, which was less than a year ago, early morning tickets could be booked ahead, which made executing this plan more predictable.

      We have seen numerous changes of the ticket schedules and release quantities since this reservation system started. It has become a moving target and headache for planning purposes.

      Walk up tickets are distributed every day. (In fact, it has been our experience that we can just walk up and get a ticket.) You could definitely try that option. As long as you’re not visiting around a holiday or during the busy summertime, you may not have a problem at all.

      As far as using the plans based on a mid-day ticket reservation, you really can’t make that work and still use the drive plans. Instead, you could maybe go straight to Punchbowl first, either drive into Waikiki and walk around or drive to the Bishop Museum. Then go to USS Arizona Memorial. Grab lunch. Then perhaps drive out to some of the east side sites and return to the airport. That would be a nice day and intro to Oahu. Use google maps to create a plan based on when/if you decide to go with the mid-day reservation option.

      1. Thank you for the response Sheila! Your website has been so helpful already in planning our first trip.

        I checked and see that there are flights from Maui that land on Oahu at 9:45am and then depart Oahu at 10pm. That would make Pearl Harbor 11am reservation seem good for first attraction. That would still give us the 12 hours you recommend for either of the day plans. Would that work or do some of the stops in the 2nd half of the tour not work well in the evening?

        Other option would be to take a chance on a walk up reservation early in the morning (or hope the advanced reservation system changes to allow morning reservations before our trip!).

        1. Check sunset time and then see how that aligns with your delayed start time. Bear in mind that there would still be some twilight remaining after sunset. The drive and the stops are best and in many cases only enjoyed in daylight.

        2. Reservations used to be available for 8am, 9am and 10am. This was changed in June 2017 eliminating the 8am and 9am tours for advanced reservations. The 10am tour was eliminated a year or so ago for advanced reservations.

          The reason the NPS gave was that walk-ups would not have to wait as long for their tour. The 50 tickets that could be reserved in advance for 8am, 9am and 10am (25 each for 2 month in advance and 25 for 1 day in advance) is a drop in the bucket considering 150 tickets (seats) for tours starting at 7:30am, every 15 minutes.

          I think NPS did a disservice to those wanting to make advanced reservations for an early tour for USS Arizona Memorial. Used to be one could make reservations for an early tour and then get out and explore the island.

          Now one has to make reservations for mid-day. It is hard to tour the island either before or after a mid-day USS Arizona Memorial tour.

          If you have advanced reservations, and want to get there earlier, you can probably exchange them for an earlier tour.

          Direct link for reservations for USS Arizona Memorial:

          Best to sign up/register in advance using the sign in or sign up button (upper right on the page), so that at 7am HST (using either the two month option or the one day option), one can make the reservation.

          These tickets are reserved very quickly, especially the one day in advance option.

  8. Thank you so much for your information. I’m confused about walk-up tickets. Can reservations be made 24 hrs in advance or are they truly walk-up? Also, do you recommend the narrated tour? How far is the drive from Hnl? Thanks again.

    1. The reservation process has changed several times without notice since it was implemented. In fact, it appears that they’ve changed their process of releasing a quantity tickets for reserving for 24-hours ahead. So, it’s always best to check for their current process.

      Each day, free walk-up tickets are available.

      If you follow the links we provide, you’ll find many answers.There’s simply too much information to insert into one article, but each link provides much more detail.

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