7 days in Oahu itinerary

Epic Oahu itinerary for 5 days or more: Covers whole island!

Affiliate Disclosure

Are you looking for the perfect Oahu itinerary for 5 days or more?

Oahu is the first Hawaiian island that I visited, and it was so amazing! I did a lot of research before my trip to Oahu to ensure that I am able to see and do everything that is unique to Oahu!

Oahu is the most popular of all the Hawaiian Islands and home to Honolulu city, which is the capital of Hawaii state. Oahu is also the most visited Hawaii island as compared to Maui and Big Island!

This itinerary covers Honolulu and Waikiki, the South Shore, the Windward Side, and the North Shore of Oahu, thus giving you a taste of everything in Oahu.

By following this itinerary, you will see the famous attractions in Honolulu, like Diamond Head, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor, explore snorkeling at the famous Hanauma Bay, see some amazing waterfalls, and do some epic hikes.

Spend a day visiting the island’s windward side (east) and visit Kualoa Ranch and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Take a day trip to North Shore to see the Dole plantation and Waimea Falls.

Let’s get into the details of an epic 5 day Oahu itinerary!

Oahu Itinerary for 5 days (or more)

This Oahu 5 day itinerary starts from your first full day on the island and ends at the last full day in Oahu, not counting the travel days. It is packed with five full days of sightseeing, hiking, and water activities.

If you have fewer days, you can do the activities that most interest you, and if this is too much for your Hawaiian vacation, you can always leave out some stuff to add more relaxation time at the beach or resort.

This is a highly customizable itinerary; you can always switch days around based on your preference or based on when you can get reservations for certain activities and historical or National sites.

You can also extend this Oahu itinerary to 6, 7, or even ten days by spreading activities out and giving more time at each location. To extend this Oahu itinerary to 7 days, add some days in between to relax at the resort pool or beach.

This 5 day Oahu itinerary is planned by regions to minimize driving time so that you get maximum time each day to enjoy the beaches and activities.

Quick Overview of Oahu 5 day itinerary

  • Day 0: Arrival in Oahu, rest, and relax at the resort/condo
  • Day 1: Explore Waikiki -Diamond Head crater hike and Waikiki Beach
  • Day 2: Explore Honolulu – Manoa Falls, Pearl Harbor Memorial and other Honolulu attractions
  • Day 3: Explore South Shore Oahu – Hanauma Bay snorkeling, hiking
  • Day 4: Explore the Windward side of Oahu: Kualoa Ranch, Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Day 5: Explore North Shore Oahu: Dole Plantation, Waimea Falls, Turtle Beach

Day 0: Arrival day

This is the day you will arrive in Oahu from either mainland USA or from somewhere else in the world.

The journey to Oahu, Hawaii, is long and tiring, and after getting your luggage, getting your rental car, or finding your ride, and reaching your hotel, you might be exhausted.

This Oahu itinerary starts from the next full day on this island. Take this arrival day to get yourself acquainted with the Hawaiian time zone, get settled, check out your awesome accommodations, and explore the area around your resort, hotel, or vacation rental.

7 days in Oahu itinerary
Watching Sunset at Waikiki Beach

If there is a beach nearby, take in some fresh island air and some fantastic ocean views. Watch the famous Hawaiian sunset over the beach and get some dinner at a nearby restaurant.

We arrived much earlier in the day as we were flying in from San Francisco and staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. As we had time in the evening, we booked a Waikiki sunset cruise to see some epic views of the Waikiki coastline and Diamond Head. The sunset was spectacular!

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Waikiki Sunset Cocktail Cruise Including Drinks and Appetizers

Get a good night’s sleep to enjoy all the amazing stuff planned out for you in the next 5 days of this Oahu itinerary!

Day 1: Diamond Head Crater Hike and Waikiki Beach

Most visitors prefer staying in the Waikiki area of Honolulu. Honolulu is the capital city of Hawaii, and Waikiki is a neighborhood in Honolulu city. Waikiki is where the highest concentration of resorts and tourist activities are.

Waikiki is the number one tourist attraction, and Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach are the most visited places in Oahu.

On Day 1 in our Oahu itinerary, will explore the Waikiki Beach area and hike to the Diamond Head crater.

Diamond Head Crater hike

Get an early start on our first day to do the most popular hike in Oahu, the Diamond Head crater. This iconic dormant volcano crater is seen from Waikiki Beach and is a famous landmark in Oahu.

Diamond Head Crater in Waikiki
Diamond Head Crater in Waikiki, picture taken from Catamaran cruise

The hike is uphill all the way, with some uneven and some paved switchbacks. It has some steep steps towards the end that go through a cave-like tunnel which was super cool!

If you reach the top, you will be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the Waikiki beach, resort area, and the ocean.

The hike is around 2 miles long with 500 feet elevation and is of type out and back. It is uphill to the top and then downhill on the way back. It is very crowded due to it’s popularity.

View of the Diamond Head Crater from the top of the hike
View of the Diamond Head Crater from the top of the hike

My kids are teens and were able to do the hike easily, but for kids below 5, the hike might be a little strenuous, especially on a hot day, as there is no shade on this hike. Make sure to start really early in the morning for this hike when it’s still cooler.

Note: You need to make a reservation for parking and entry before you visit the Diamond Head State Monument. You can make reservations at the Hawaii State Parks official website, or you can use a tour operator like we did.

We did not rent a car for our Oahu trip and booked transportation for most activities. We booked this Diamond Head Crater self-guided tour which included the entrance fees and round-trip transportation from our hotel.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Diamond Head Crater self-guided tour – includes entrance fees and transportation, map and water

Waikiki Beach

Spend the rest of the day on Waikiki Beach, which is one of the most popular beaches in Honolulu. If hiking Diamond Head is not for you, you can spend the entire day at Waikiki Beach; there is plenty to do here.

You can partake in the wide range of water activities that are available here or spend your day relaxing on the beach. It’s up to you! After the morning hike, you have earned it!

Waikiki Beach in Oahu
Waikiki Beach in Oahu

Top things to do on Waikiki Beach:

On Waikiki beach, I took a Submarine ride with my family as I was curious to see what the bottom of the ocean looked like! It was sandy 🙂 And we even saw some marine life like turtles, fish, and even a scuba diver! We also saw some sunken ship artifacts.

Sunken ship artifacts seen on the submarine ride
Sunken ship artifacts seen on the submarine ride

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Waikiki Atlantis Submarine Adventure – descend 100 feet and see the bottom of the ocean and marine life in a submarine.

In the evening, I highly recommend taking a sunset cruise and watching the spectacular Hawaiian sunset.

Diamond Head and Waikiki
Diamond Head and Waikiki views from the Catamaran cruise

The views of the Waikiki beach and the Diamond Head from the boat are out of this world, and the glow of the sunset makes it even more amazing.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Waikiki Sunset Cocktail Cruise Including Drinks and Appetizers

Day 2 in Oahu: Manoa Falls, Pearl Harbor Memorial, and explore Honolulu

After exploring the Waikiki neighborhood on Day 1 and spending some amazing time on Waikiki beach, on Day 2 we will explore other areas in Honolulu city.

Start your morning with a short but amazing hike to Manoa Falls. This should take around 2 to 4 hours in the morning.

Later, visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which is one of the most popular things to do in Honolulu.

Use the rest of day 2 to explore other areas in Honolulu listed below if you’d like, or relax at your hotel pool or nearby beach.

Manoa Falls hike

Waterfall hikes are very popular in Hawaii, and the Manoa Falls hike is one of the best waterfall hikes. It is a scenic short hike through a stunning rainforest with a rewarding waterfall at the end.

Manoa Falls hike path through a bamboo forest
Manoa Falls hike path through a bamboo forest

As you hike along the trail, you’ll be surrounded by lush rainforest vegetation, including bamboo groves, towering trees, and various tropical plants. I found the trail through the bamboo forest really serene and peaceful.

The path gradually ascends, and you’ll encounter a few small stream crossings along the way.

The highlight of the hike is reaching Manoa Falls, a 150-foot waterfall. You can admire the waterfall from a designated viewing area, but it’s important to note that swimming beneath the falls is not recommended due to safety concerns.

Manoa Falls in Oahu
Manoa Falls in Oahu

The hike is less than 2 miles round trip and has an elevation of around 600 feet. The hike is not paved, and it can be wet and muddy if it rained recently. It was muddy when we went during the winter holidays.

The drive to Manoa Falls trailhead is only a short 15-20 minute drive from Honolulu. There is a $7 parking fee per vehicle at the trailhead.

We booked this shuttle service to Manoa Falls from Waikiki and did the hike on our own. That way, we didn’t have to worry about finding parking.

Check rates and availability for:
Manoa Falls Shuttle Service from Waikiki or
Manoa Falls guided hike (does not include transportation)

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor Memorial is the most visited Historic site on Oahu due to its significance in US history, as the attack on Pearl Harbor subsequently led to the entry of the US into World War II.

Visiting Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu provides a solemn and historic experience. The memorial includes the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.

You can learn about the events of December 7, 1941, and pay your respects at the sunken battleship, which serves as a final resting place for many servicemen.

Note that reservations and tickets are not required to visit the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and Pearl Harbor National Memorial, walk the grounds, or visit the museums.

According to the National Park Service website, reservations are strongly recommended for the USS Arizona Memorial Programs and are available on the NPS website.

The USS Arizona Memorial Program reservation includes a shuttle boat ride to reach the USS Arizona Memorial, time at the Memorial, and a ride back to the harbor. The USS Arizona Memorial is built above water over the remains of the sunken ship.

It’s essential to plan ahead due to high demand and limited tickets and be prepared for security measures.

A great hassle-free alternative and what we did is to book a tour to the Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial, which includes transportation to Pearl Harbor and boat tickets to the USS Arizona. This just makes the whole logistics of visiting Pearl Harbor easier.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial tour – includes shuttle and tickets

If you want an in-depth tour of the Pearl Harbor sites, then check out this 8-hour Complete Pearl Harbor Experience tour that includes transport and admission to four museums – USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine, USS Missouri, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

Explore Honolulu

Use the rest of Day 2 in your Oahu itinerary to explore the city of Honolulu. Honolulu is the state capital and the most populous city in Hawaii. It is brimming with recreational activities, history, arts and culture, shopping, dining and entertainment.

➡ Check rates and availability for this 4-hour
Historical Honolulu Bike Tour and see the top sights in Honolulu with a local guide

Top things to do in Honolulu

  • Hike the Diamond Head Crater
  • Water activities at Waikiki Beach
  • Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial
  • Hike to Manoa Falls
  • Shopping in Ala Moana Center
  • Visit the historic Iolani Palace
  • Honolulu Zoo

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is a National Historic Landmark site in downtown Honolulu. This is a sacred palace where Hawaiian royalty used to reside in the late 1800s.

The palace now offers a variety of tours to give visitors a glimpse of Hawaii’s royal heritage. You can check the official Iolani Palace website for tour reservations.

Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo is a great escape from the city and the beaches to see animals in natural surroundings. If you are visiting Oahu with kids, this is a great place to spend a few hours in the day.

The zoo is beautifully landscaped, and there is a large variety of animals to see. You can see unique frog species, turtles, and even a Komodo Dragon here. We had never seen a Komodo dragon before, so it was exciting!

red tropical bird in a rainforest setting

There is a playground here as well that kids will enjoy. There is a parking fee and an admission fee to visit.

Ala Moana Center

Ala Moana Center is the largest open-air shopping hub in Honolulu and one of the biggest open-air shopping centers in the world. You will find everything here, from high-end designer brand stores to department stores.

They also have a huge food court and a variety of restaurants. Spend your evening here browsing the stores, and you can have dinner at one of the restaurants or at the food court.

There is free live entertainment here on most days, and you might catch a hula dance while there!

Day 3: South Shore side of Oahu – Hanauma Bay snorkeling, hiking

On Day 3 of your Oahu itinerary, take a road trip away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki to the scenic Southeast and windward (east) part of the island with excellent beaches, snorkeling, and hiking.

You can spend your morning at Hanauma Bay for some excellent snorkeling. Then, you can choose to do the unique Koko crater hike and/or explore the other top things to do in the southeast and windward side of Oahu listed here.

Top things to do in South Shore of Oahu

  • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
  • Koko Head Stairs hike
  • Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail
  • Kailua Bay and beach
  • Lanikai Pillbox Hike

If you do not want to hike today, you can also just enjoy the scenic coastal ride and do beach hopping. There are several excellent beaches on the southeast part of the island.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Pack a picnic lunch and your snorkeling gear, and spend your Day 3 morning on Hanauma Bay for some excellent snorkeling. The beach here is amazing!

We used this Hanauma Bay Snorkeling shuttle service, which included transportation from our Waikiki resort and provided us with snorkeling equipment.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the top snorkeling destination in Oahu and is located on the southeast coast of Oahu. It is only a 25-minute drive from the Waikiki resort area to Hanauma Bay.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay in Oahu
Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay in Oahu

The water here is very shallow, and you can just float and see a variety of tropical fish and coral reefs, making this a very family-friendly snorkeling destination.

Hanauma Bay is also an excellent snorkeling destination for non-swimmers, as you can just stand in the shallow water and see a variety of fish. We had a great time snorkeling here. The beach is beautiful and sandy, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch here.

The overlook at the parking lot above is great for taking panoramic shots of the bay, as seen in the picture above. You will have to watch an information video about the bay before you can make your way down to the beach.

There is a tram at Hanauma Bay to take you down to the beach if needed and included in your ticket price. We just walked down to the bay and took the tram on the way back up.

Online reservations to visit Hanauma Bay are released two days before at the Honolulu city website.

Pro-Tip: Tickets are released online 48 hours before and get sold out in minutes. If you do not get a ticket online, make sure to come here very early, like at 6 AM, before it opens, as there is a huge line for walk-in tickets. Parking here is limited and fills up early in the day.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling shuttle service – includes shuttle and snorkeling equipment

Koko Head Crater Hike

Want to hike up an abandoned railroad track to the summit for some incredible crater and coast views? Then, head to the Koko Crater Railway Trailhead at Koko Head District Park.

This hike is also called the ‘Koko Head Stairs‘ due to the stairs formed by the upward slope of the railway tracks. The hike is around 1 mile straight uphill with around 1000+ railway track steps and quite a bit of elevation.

The sweeping panoramic views from the top of the Koko crater and coast make the strenuous climb worth it! There are no facilities at the top. Bring lots of water.

Attempt it only if you have good knees and health for all that uphill climb! Otherwise, there are other hikes like the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail with coastal views.

I think the unique railway tracks are what makes the Koko Head Crater hike so challenging, popular, and fun.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse hike

Another popular but easy hike on the South Shore of Oahu is the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.

It is a 2.5-mile round trip with only around 500 feet of elevation, making this doable for most people. The hike is paved and has incredible coastal views and views of the Makapu’u lighthouse.

views of sandy beach, ocean and rock stacks

Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach is a beautiful beach on southeast Oahu in Kailua Bay with soft white sand and perfect water for recreational opportunities.

Kailua Beach is a very popular beach for swimming, kayaking, parasailing, surfing, sunbathing, or just enjoying the scenery.

Parking is extremely limited here. There are showers and restrooms at the beach entrance.

➡ If you like kayaking, make sure to check out this highly rated
Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch – includes kayak and snorkeling equipment

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Another hiking alternative is to do the moderate to hard Lanikai Pillbox hike, which is also called the Kaiwa Ridge Trail.

This hike is relatively short, less than 2 miles round trip, but the steep sections which need some scrambling are what makes this hike challenging.

The hike is a dirt road and is uneven in sections. The panoramic coastal views from the various pillboxes at the top make the hike worth it.

Day 4: Windward side of Oahu: Kualoa Ranch, Polynesian Cultural Center

On Day 4 of your Oahu itinerary, take a road trip to the windward (eastern side) of Oahu island. There are several amazing things to experience on this side of the island.

Top things to do on Windward side of Oahu

  • Byodo-In Temple
  • Visit Kualoa Ranch
  • Polynesian Cultural Center, Luau and Show
  • Macadamia Nut Farm
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

If you are staying in Honolulu, and take Hwy 61 to go to Byodo-In temple, you can stop at Nuuanu Pali Lookout on the way.

Views from Nuuanu Pali Lookout Oahu
Views from Nuuanu Pali Lookout

This is a popular scenic overlook with panoramic views of the lush green windward side and the coast. There is a parking lot here with paid parking.

Byodo-In Temple

If you start early enough in your day, you can visit the Byodo-In Buddhist temple on the way to Kualoa Ranch. The temple opens at 8:30 AM, and you can buy admission tickets at the gate, which is only around $5 per person.

The Byodo-In temple is a replica of a historic Japanese Buddhist temple in Japan. The grounds are beautiful to walk through and there is a koi fish pond that adds to the serenity of the temple.

It was a very peaceful and calming place and was a beautiful way to start your day!

Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts

On the way to Kualoa Ranch, take a quick stop at Macadamia Nut Farm, which has a good variety of flavored macadamia nuts to purchase. They have free coffee samples to try.

The store also sells coffee, body lotions and soaps, souvenirs, and gift items. Overall, it was a fun stop, and we bought several gifts from here to take to the mainland for family and friends.

Visit Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch is a very popular adventure park with jungle jeep excursions, ATV rides, ziplining, and horseback riding.

Jurrasic World film set at Kualoa Ranch
Jurassic World film set at Kualoa Ranch

There have been several movies shot here, like Jurassic Park and the newer Jumanji.

There are several activities to choose from at Kualoa Ranch, and you can even do multiple, depending on the time you have.

Activity options at Kualoa Ranch:

Jurassic Adventure Tour – see the Jurrasic Park and Jumanji film shooting locations in an open-air vehicle.
Jungle Expedition Tour – off-road adventure tour of Kualoa Ranch
Jurassic Valley Zipline – zipline over rainforests
Hollywood Movie Sites Tour – visit famous movie sites in Kualoa Ranch
Horseback walking tours – beginner-friendly
Best of Kualoa Experience Package – a full-day tour which includes three Kualoa tours and lunch

We did the Jurassic Adventure Tour tour and got to ride their jungle expedition vehicles. The tour took us through the lush Hakipu’u rainforest and showed us the place where a scene of Jumanji was filmed.

Jeep adventure at Kualoa Ranch
Me on a Jurrasic Jeep adventure at Kualoa Ranch

The tour also included a short hike to an overlook to see panoramic views of the Ka’a’awa and Hakipu’u valleys. The Jurrasic tour was the most favorite activity of my kids in Oahu.

Jurassic world film location in Oahu
Jurassic World film location in Kualoa Ranch

Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-do in any Oahu itinerary for first-timers. It is a great place to learn about the different Polynesian islands and to immerse in Polynesian culture. All in all, it is a great family-friendly activity, and lots to see and do here.

Boat parade at Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu
Boat parade at Polynesian Cultural Center

During your visit, you can see six authentic island villages of Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, and Aotearoa with hands-on activities and small classes and shows. You can take a private or group-guided tour or do a self-guided tour.

You can easily spend an entire day here. Try to come early in the day. The ticket is good for three days, so if you have more days in Oahu, you can come back again for a self-guided walk through the island villages.

Cultural show at Polynesian Cultural Center
Cultural show at Polynesian Cultural Center

Most packages come with the Alii Luau Polynesian buffet with live entertainment. They have the pig roasting ceremony as part of the luau.

There is an evening show here called the Ha: Breath of Life, which was the most amazing fire and dance show I have seen to date. It was a remarkable storyline, and the performances were awesome.

Anu’s Pro-tip: I recommend doing a group guided tour of the island, the Alii luau, and the Breath of Life show. The show was a perfect end to our day 4 in Oahu!

➡ Check rates and availability for
Polynesian Cultural Center Luau and other packages.

Day 5: Day trip to North Shore Oahu

On day 5 in your Oahu itinerary, take a day trip to explore the North Shore of Oahu. Oahu’s North Shore is less crowded and more peaceful than Waikiki beaches. There are plenty of things to explore here.

The North Shore was one of my favorite places in Oahu! I really loved visiting Turtle Bay and the Dole Plantation.

If you do not have a rental car in Oahu, you can book a North Shore circle Island tour that will include a visit to the North Shore and Dole Plantation.

➡ Check rates and availability for this this highly popular
North Shore Circle Island Adventure Including Snorkeling with the Turtles – includes snorkeling equipment and stop at Dole Plantation, plus many other stops on the circle tour of the island.

Top things to do in North Shore Oahu

  • Dole Plantation
  • Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls
  • Waimea Bay Beach
  • Shark’s Cove
  • Sunset Beach
  • Turtle Bay and Turtle Beach

Dole Plantation

The first stop in our beautiful day trip to the North Shore Oahu is the Dole Plantation for all things pineapple! Pineapple is usually the first fruit that comes to mind when we think of Hawaii! My kids were very excited to see the pineapple farm and to try the Dole Whip!

The plantation is a working farm and grows several tropical fruits and flowers. There is a train ride called the Pineapple Express that will take you on a tour of the property.

Dole Plantation has a huge cafeteria, but the most popular item here is the Dole soft serve, also called the Dole Whip. There is a long line to get this delicious treat!

Pineapple soft serve at Dole Plantation
Pineapple soft serve at Dole Plantation

We had eaten Dole whip before in Disneyland, California, but eating Dole Whip in a pineapple was really something else! Plus, the flavor here was much more fresh and authentic!

They also have a Pineapple Garden Maze, one of the World’s largest mazes. You can take self-guided tours of the many gardens here. Tickets for the train ride, maze, and garden tours can be bought on the property.

Dole Plantation is around a 40-minute drive from Waikiki and a fun family-friendly stop to spend a couple of hours.

➡ Alternatively visit a working Dole pineapple farm on this exclusive North Shore Dole Pineapple Farm Tour and Oahu Day Tour – includes 2 hours at Dole’s Gold pineapple farm, where you can see the pineapple harvesting process and sample some delicious pineapple straight from the fields!

Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls

Next stop on your Oahu North Shore road trip is the beautiful Waimea Valley and the breathtaking Waimea Falls.

The Waimea Valley has a beautiful botanical garden and historical sites to explore, along with the swimmable Waimea Falls.

The walk to Waimea Falls is around 3/4 mile one way through a paved path exploring various cultural and historic sites. It’s a beautiful walk with a huge variety of tropical plants and flowers to explore and amazing views of the Waimea Valley.

Pro-tip: Swimming is permitted at the waterfall depending on water conditions on a particular day. Please call the Waimea Valley admission office to inquire about the swimming status on the morning of your visit to avoid disappointment.

There is an entrance fee of around $25 per person to visit the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens and Waimea Waterfalls. Life jackets are provided for free near the waterfall. They have a snack bar with hot food and drinks.

Waimea Valley is a beautiful well well-maintained place and a must-visit on your day trip to North Shore Oahu.

On select days of the week there is a spectacular Toa Luau held at Waimea Valley. You can pick from a lunch show or dinner show and enjoy a luau feast along with a poylnesian show and fire dancing.

➡ If you like kayaking, make sure to check out this highly rated
Toa Luau at Waimea Valley – luau feast, Polynesian show, includes entrance to Waimea Valley

Waimea Bay Beach

Right outside the Waimea Valley is the Waimea Bay Beach which is a great spot for swimming and surfing. The beach here is excellent, with soft sand. There is a parking lot, but it gets filled up quickly. There are restrooms here.

waves crashing against ocean bluffs

Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove is a rocky but shallow snorkeling spot that is perfect for families. The water in the tide pools here is quite shallow and you can just stand still and observe fish. The rocks can be very sharp, so definitely bring water shoes to protect your feet.

There is parking, restrooms, and showers here.

Sunset Beach

There is a great stretch of beach next to Sharks Cove called Sunset Beach. It’s a great place to take a break and have some beach time in your day.

Turtle Bay and Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach is in the northernmost region of Oahu and next to Turtle Bay Resort. This is a shallow beach great for snorkeling and watching Hawaiian green turtles.

Hawaiian turtle seen in shallow rocky water

There is public parking, restrooms, and showers at Turtle Beach. The beach is right next to Turtle Bay Resort. Turtle Bay side of the resort is rocky and is excellent for surfing. You might catch some surfers there.

Where to stay in Oahu

Most first-time tourists prefer to stay in Waikiki as it is very accessible, and a lot of attractions are close by. We stayed in Waikiki when we visited Oahu. Most tour companies pick from major resorts in Waikiki, so that is another advantage of staying here.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beachfront Resort is where we stayed on our Oahu trip

Mid-range hotels in Oahu

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort This is where we stayed in Waikiki, and it was an amazing stay. The resort is a beachfront property with several room types, even condos. The resort has multiple pools, waterslides, and a great location for families. The sunsets at Waikiki Beach were spectacular. It was within walking distance of several stores and restaurants.

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa A centrally located resort with comfortable rooms, great dining options, and easy beach access.

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort: – Offers a mix of modern amenities and Hawaiian charm right on Waikiki Beach.

Sheraton Waikiki– A well-appointed hotel with beautiful ocean views and proximity to shopping and dining in Waikiki.

Luxury resorts in Oahu

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina – A luxury beachfront resort with stunning ocean views, exceptional dining, and a championship golf course.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa– A family-friendly resort with Disney magic, water parks, and immersive Hawaiian experiences.

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort– Known as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” this iconic hotel offers a historic, upscale beachfront experience in Waikiki.

Turtle Bay Resort – Located on the North Shore, it’s a luxurious retreat with beautiful beaches, golf courses, and outdoor adventures. If you want a quieter location than the touristy Waikiki or more time to explore the North Shore Oahu, this is a great place to stay.

Budget-friendly Places to Stay in Oahu

Vacation Rentals can sometimes be cost-effective if you are looking for multiple rooms and a kitchen. When we travel with family or friends, we look for vacation rentals as they have more living space to spread out. Be sure to check reviews and verify the property’s location.

Budget Hotels – Look for budget-friendly hotels like the Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki, Ewa Hotel Waikiki, and White Sands Hotel.

Hostels – Oahu has several hostels catering to budget travelers. Popular choices include The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel and Waikiki Beachside Hostel.

Where to eat in Oahu

There are plentiful dining options on Oahu, catering to a wide range of tastes and budgets, ranging from local food trucks to upscale fine dining restaurants. Be sure to explore the local cuisine and try some traditional Hawaiian dishes while on the island.

Girl enjoying a pineapple drink in Oahu
Me enjoying a pineapple drink in Oahu

Best places to eat in Waikiki

  • Duke’s Waikiki – Known for its beachfront location, this restaurant offers fresh seafood and Hawaiian cuisine with live music in the evenings.
  • Marukame Udon – A popular Japanese restaurant for delicious and affordable udon noodles made fresh daily.
  • House Without a Key – Located at the Halekulani Hotel, this American cuisine restaurant offers a stunning view of Waikiki Beach and serves Pacific Rim cuisine with live hula performances.
  • Rainbow Drive-In – A local institution famous for its plate lunches, serving Hawaiian comfort food like loco moco and plate combos.

Best places to eat in Honolulu

  • Helena’s Hawaiian Food – A family-owned eatery serving traditional Hawaiian dishes like laulau and kalua pig.
  • The Pig & The Lady – A popular Vietnamese fusion restaurant known for its creative and flavorful dishes.
  • MW Restaurant – Offers modern Hawaiian cuisine with a farm-to-table approach and an emphasis on local ingredients.

Best places to eat in North Shore Oahu

  • Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (North Shore) – Famous for its garlic shrimp, it’s a must-visit while exploring the North Shore.
  • Ted’s Bakery (North Shore) – Known for its delicious pies and plate lunches, it’s a great stop for a casual meal. Try the chocolate haupia pie!!
  • Haleiwa Joe’s (North Shore) – Offers seafood, steaks, and a relaxing atmosphere with views of the ocean.
  • Kahuku Farms (North Shore) – A farm-to-table café offering fresh, tropical dishes amid lush gardens.

Best Food to Try in Oahu

Below are some popular food items that are a must-try when in Oahu:

  • Malasadas – Fried Portuguese donuts filled with different flavors like custard, Nutella, etc.
  • Hawaiian Shaved Ice – There are so many flavors, and a shaved ice bowl looks so pretty!
  • Fresh tropical fruits – Try the coconuts, pineapples, passion fruit, and any other tropical fruits you can find.
  • POG – This is a juice blend of Passion fruit, Orange, and Guava.
  • Fish Tacos – The fresh fish imparts great flavor to the tacos.
  • Poke bowls – Available in so many different flavor combinations!
greenery, ocean and rock stacks

Travel tips and FAQs for visiting Oahu

Below are travel tips and answers to frequently asked questions that will help you make the most of your visit to Oahu.

Best time to visit Oahu

If you are trying to avoid crowds, Oahu’s peak tourist season is during school breaks, so June to August, two weeks of winter break, and spring break in April are very crowded.

Summer break is usually less crowded than winter break. The two weeks during winter break from mid-December to early January is the busiest tourist season as people fly to Hawaii to escape the harsh winters. But if that is when you can go, then go for it.

I visited Oahu in the first week of January with my family, and we really had a great time. Oahu is very laid back, and everything is on island time here, which is relaxed.

September to November, February, March, and May months would be considered good months to visit if you do not have school-going kids to worry about.

Prices of flights and accommodations will be much lower during these off-season months, and you will not have to deal with crowds everywhere.

How many days are needed for Oahu vacation?

I would recommend a minimum of 5 to 7 days for a trip to Oahu. If this is the only island you are visiting like us, then a week would be great.

If you are island hopping, then you should also plan to spend at least five days in Oahu to see the main tourist attractions in Oahu.

How to get to Oahu?

Flying into the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu is the best way to reach Oahu. There are flights to HNL airport from most major US cities and even from international destinations.

How to get around Oahu?

The Honolulu and Waikiki area are really developed, and there is Uber available readily as it is a major city and state capital.

There are also several tour companies that will pick you up from your hotel/resort and take you to tourist attractions. Several tourist attractions also offer pick-up/drop-off service at an additional charge.

The best way to see the island of Oahu beyond Waikiki would be by getting a rental car. With a rental car, you will have the freedom to make any stops you wish.

You can do a hybrid approach too, like we did, that is, use tours and Uber in Waikiki and South Shore and then do a rental car for the days you want to explore the North Shore, and the Windward (east) side of Oahu.

What to pack for a trip to Oahu?

Its best to bring most things you need with you as prices can be high here, considering most stuff is coming from the mainland. Below are a few essentials that you should definitely pack for a trip to Oahu:

  • Hawaiian style clothes – Hawaiian shirts, summer dresses, shorts, t-shirts, skirts, sun hat/cap
  • Footwear – flip flops and sandals for the beach. Shoes for hiking, Water shoes for snorkeling to protect your feet from sharp rocks in the water.
  • Swimwear – I recommend several pairs if you plan to do a lot of water activities.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen – And lots of it!
  • Snorkeling gear – It’s cheaper to buy your own snorkeling gear than renting it daily.
  • Backpack and reusable water bottle – For all the day trips to the North Shore and Windward Side and hiking.
  • Ponchos – for the sudden pouring rain during your excursions in rainforests like Kualoa Ranch and the windward side
  • Hiking poles or sticks – If you plan to do hikes like Koko Head for balance and support.
  • Bug bracelets – For rainforest hikes. I tend to get bitten by bugs a lot, but my husband does not!

Final Takeaways: 5 day Oahu itinerary

Oahu is an amazing vacation destination with excellent beaches, hiking, snorkeling, and waterfalls. It is also rich in Hawaiian history and culture. Pearl Harbor had a significant role in World War II history.

This itinerary will help you get a glimpse of all the wonderful things to do and see in Oahu.

Summary of 5 days in Oahu itinerary:

  • Day 1: Waikiki -Diamond Head crater hike and Waikiki Beach
  • Day 2: Honolulu – Manoa Falls, Pearl Harbor Memorial and other Honolulu attractions
  • Day 3: South Shore Oahu – Hanauma Bay snorkeling, hiking
  • Day 4: Windward side of Oahu: Kualoa Ranch, Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Day 5: North Shore Oahu: Dole Plantation, Waimea Falls, Turtle Beach

More about Oahu

Visiting Oahu? Check out my other posts from my visit to Oahu and other Hawaii Islands: