Oahu in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Three days is a perfect time to explore this paradisiacal destination in Hawaii. Follow this complete itinerary and enjoy to the fullest

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

7 min read

Oahu in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Oahu, Kaʻena Point | ©Rodney Humble

Of the islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu is the most famous and where most travelers spend the most time exploring. You'll soon realize that the island is very touristy - follow this three-day itinerary and make the most of Oahu!

Day 1: Explore Pearl Harbor and the best of Waikiki

Waikiki Beach| ©Images Alight
Waikiki Beach| ©Images Alight

On your first day on Oahu, I recommend exploring the areas closest to Waikiki, as this part of the island is where the vast majority of hotels and lodging options are located. Spend the day getting to know the most visited monuments, exploring the city and taking advantage of the good humor of its people.

Take the Pearl Harbor tour

Start your first day of your Oahu adventure by seeing the island's most visited historic site, Pearl Harbor. Although the attraction is primarily a Memorial in honor of the many victims who lost their lives in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, there are many other sites and museums within the complex worth exploring.

In addition to the Pearl Harbor bus tour, you will find numerous companies in the Honolulu area that offer guided tours of Pearl Harbor with round-trip transportation and a historian guide who is a specialist in the subject matter and language of your choice. I recommend booking this type of experience as far in advance as possible, especially if you are going to Hawaii with friends and family and want to make sure no one misses out.

Book a Pearl Harbor Bus Tour

Get to know the city of Honolulu on the Tour Bus

Oahu Sightseeing Bus| ©boaski
Oahu Sightseeing Bus| ©boaski

If you book the Honolulu bus tour you will get to know a new destination and a special service for travelers that takes tourists through the highlights of the city. For those visiting the city for a short time, I recommend spending the afternoon of the first day exploring Honolulu and Waikiki using this service.

On the Oahu tourist bus you can buy a pass of up to nine hours with which you will be able to get on and off the bus as many times as you want (while the pass is still valid), saving time and money while you move around the city.

In your exploration on the tourist bus I recommend paying attention to the following highlights: the Capitol of Hawaii, the Iolani Palace, the statue of King Kamehameha or Washington Place.

  • Schedule: From 7 a.m.
  • Price: From 68 €.
  • Duration: From 5 to 9 hours.

Book a bus tour in Honolulu

Enjoy the sunset at Magic Center

End your exploration of the city as close as you can to Ala Moana and head to Magic Center Park to watch the sunset over the Waikiki shoreline. I recommend bringing your camera ready as the sunset over the waters of Kahanamoku Lagoon is a sight to behold.

Get ready for dinner and a night of shopping in Waikiki.

After sunset, head to Waikiki, on the opposite side of Kahanamoku Lagoon. Kalakaua Avenue, located along Waikiki Beach, is a long shopping avenue lined with restaurants, bars and upscale stores. You can take advantage of this time to shop for souvenirs and enjoy a typical Hawaiian meal.

  • Hula Grill Waikiki Located at 2335 Kalakaua Avenue, this Hawaiian restaurant serves tropical drinks, fish tacos and much more.
  • LuLu's Waikiki At 2586 Kalakua Ave, offers a variety of dishes and includes American food and drinks.
  • Oahu Mexican Grill Mexican food restaurant located at 2520 Kalakaua Ave, second floor.
  • Duke's Waikiki Located in front of the sea, at 2335 Kalakaua Ave, it is a seafood restaurant with a surfing and relaxed atmosphere.

You can visit this area by booking an Oahu Island tour.

Book an Oahu Island Tour

Day 2: Enjoy the ocean and Oahu hiking trails

View of Diamond Head from the cruise ship| ©Brent Storm
View of Diamond Head from the cruise ship| ©Brent Storm

For the second day, my suggestion is that you spend time getting to know the natural areas closest to Waikiki. This includes hiking trails to view the city of Honolulu from the top and, of course, fun at sea.

Take a hike to Diamond Head

Diamond Head is among the most visited mountains on the island, as it is located in a really accessible spot very close to Waikiki. I recommend you take an adventure to the top early in the morning to take advantage of the cooler hours and avoid the heat of the strong Hawaiian sun, because, although it is a fully paved trail and easy to walk, the truth is that there are no trees that provide shade.

The Diamond Head hiking trail is considered one of the best hikes on Oahu. The trail will take you to the top of a dormant volcano where you can get fabulous views of the city of Honolulu and the beautiful Waikiki Bay. If you want to take aerial photos of the island's surroundings, take advantage of these incredible views!

And if you decide to travel on your own, parking is available at the trailhead. You can also book a tour to Diamond Head with a round-trip transfer and an audio guide explaining the route.

  • Hours: Diamond Head is open to the public daily from 6 am to 4 pm.
  • Price: About 39 € per person.
  • Duration: You should reserve about 3 hours for this tour.

Take a turtle and dolphin watching tour

The best waters for snorkeling| ©Maggie Collins
The best waters for snorkeling| ©Maggie Collins

Snorkeling on Oahu is one of the most fun water activities on the island, due to the many calm, swimmable beaches and abundant marine life that characterize its coastline. I recommend dedicating the afternoon of the second day to exploring as much of this beautiful ocean world as you can. And, for that, book a bus tour of Oahu and snorkel with turtles.

Turtle Canyon is an area off the coast of Waikiki famous for being a favorite hangout for turtles and other marine species, such as the famous flying fish. If you like photography, bring your equipment ready.

  • Schedule: From 7 a.m. in the morning.
  • Price: From 90 €.
  • Duration: It has a duration of 8 hours.

Book a bus tour around Oahu and snorkel with turtles

Attend a traditional Luau party on Oahu.

End the evening of your second day on Oahu in style by booking a Luau show at one of the many venues on the island that offer this entertainment activity. Famous for its fun and varied Hawaiian Luau shows, Honolulu is the best place to enjoy the show.

In the Polynesian islands, the luau is an important part of the life and traditions of its people. It is a celebration that includes food, music and dance. For centuries it has been used to celebrate important milestones such as a baby's first birthday, a wedding or a young person's graduation. The people of Oahu have expanded the tradition to include the many visitors they welcome.

When you pay for a Luau party you get access to the facilities of an entertainment center where a Hawaiian buffet-style open bar menu is offered, as well as a show that includes various entertainment, games and traditional dances.

  • Schedule: These types of activities are generally held from 5:00 pm onwards.
  • Price: The adult ticket is priced from 128 €; young people from 13 to 20 years old pay 105 €, while children from 5 to 12 years old pay 90 €. Under the age of 5, admission is free.
  • Duration: The dinner with show has a duration of 2 hours.

Book your Luau show

Day 3: Explore Oahu's North Shore

Lanikai Beach| ©Jon Parise
Lanikai Beach| ©Jon Parise

After enjoying all the things to see, do and enjoy throughout Oahu, I recommend spending your last day on the island exploring the natural wonders hidden there.

As you'll soon realize, on Oahu's North Shore you'll find far fewer crowds than in the Honolulu area; however, the natural wonders and beautiful scenery are much more impressive. That's why I recommend booking a North Oahu tour so you don't miss a thing. And if you feel that three days are too short for you, don't hesitate to check out the following itineraries:

The idea is that you can complete your stay with other excursions to get to know more interesting destinations of the archipelago such as the Big Island and, of course, the beautiful island of Maui.

Take an organized excursion to North Oahu

Since getting around Oahu using public transportation can be tricky, my recommendation is to book a North Oahu tour.

A specialized guide takes adventurers to see various places on the North Shore. While it is true that the itinerary can change a lot from one company to another, some of the most interesting experiences may include one or more of the following activities.

  • Visit Waimea Valley: It is one of the best natural parks on Oahu. Here you will find a fantastic hiking trail that leads to a famous waterfall known as Waimea Falls. The facilities of the place are excellently equipped with everything the traveler needs to have a few hours of fun alone or with the family.
  • Visit Lanikai Beach: Rated as one of the best beaches on Oahu, it is the perfect place to watch turtles and marvel at the island's wildlife. If you like snorkeling, you may want to be prepared to swim in this area.
  • Visit the Dole Plantation: Some North Oahu tours include a stop at the Dole Plantation, a historic pineapple plantation where you'll find family games and outdoor fun activities.
  • TourPrice: Available starting at $127 per traveler.
  • TourDuration: This type of experience usually starts early and lasts approximately 8 hours.

Book a North Oahu Tour

Take a dinner cruise on the Waikiki Shores

End your 3-day trip in paradise on a high note by booking a dolphin and snorkeling cruise in Oahu or a glass-bottom boat ride in Oahu.

From the sea, you'll have a full view of the beautiful coastline with its many hotels, the city of Oahu and, of course, the towering Diamond Head Mountain. In addition, almost every Friday there is a fireworks show at nightfall, which you can take into account when making your reservation.

  • Price of the excursion: From 36 €.
  • Duration of the excursion: From 1 to 3 hours.

Book your glass bottom boat tour in Oahu