Oahu in 7 Days: everything you need to know

Are you going to spend a week on the wonderful island of Oahu? Well, you are in luck because in only 7 days you will be able to visit the most important places of the island, get lost in its paradisiacal landscapes and get to know its culture, traditions and history.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

14 min read

Oahu in 7 Days: everything you need to know

Oahu at sunset | ©Edmund Garman

Oahu is synonymous with "meeting place" and rightly so! On this island you will find a great fusion of cultures with populated areas such as the Hawaiian capital Honolulu and also totally remote and lost areas with paradisiacal landscapes that will take your breath away.

You can easily find out what to see and do in Oahu following this 7-day plan. My proposal is to spend the first days visiting the most populated areas of the island, such as Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, and then go into the wildest and most natural areas. We will do a mix between relax and adventure, but I will make sure that you will come back with your batteries charged and a backpack full of memories.

Day 1: Discover the history of Pearl Harbor and get to know Honolulu

Pearl Harbor| ©Javner
Pearl Harbor| ©Javner

Once you land (here you have information if you need it about airport transfers to Honolulu) and rest from jet lag, I recommend you spend your first day in the city and do not miss the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor, one of the most emblematic places in the history of the United States.

Delve into the history of Pearl Harbor

An essential plan in Honolulu is to visit Pearl Harbor, the place that was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. It is an emblematic and very important place in the history of the United States, so much so that even Hollywood has wanted to commemorate it with a movie that portrays the events.

There are different tours to visit Pearl Harbor with which you can delve into the history of the place and learn in detail everything that happened. The points that I would highlight in this visit are:

  • The Visitor Center, where you can watch a video upon arrival that explains in detail what happened in Pearl Harbor, in addition to different exhibitions on the historical events.
  • The USS Arizona Memorial, a memorial to the victims that is built on top of the wreckage of the ship that was bombed and sunk.
  • The US Bowfin, also called "The Avenger", a US submarine that was built to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Book a tour of Pearl Harbor

See Aloha Tower and dine nearby

Once you have visited downtown, you can go to Honolulu Harbor where Aloha Tower, one of the most recognizable icons of the city, is located.

Built in 1926, this tower served as a lighthouse for many years to guide visitors arriving in the city from the sea.

It is currently part of the Aloha Tower Marketplace where you can enjoy the local cuisine and eat overlooking the ocean.

Visit Iolani Palace, Capitol Hill and Washington Place

Honolulu is not only good beaches, but also offers the possibility of visiting some attractive places full of history.

Perhaps the most emblematic place in the whole city, which I highly recommend you to visit, is the Iolani Palace.

This exclusive style building (Florentine American) was inhabited by King Kalākaua and successor queen Liliuokalani until the monarchy was overthrown on the island.

During the visit you will learn about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy and tour not only the exteriors, but also the interiors with royal rooms, art in abundance and period jewelry and attire.

Afterwards, I encourage you to approach the Capitol to discover that it is nothing like what we are used to Americans, but it is a building of a peculiar and postmodernist architecture. And, by the way, take the opportunity to also discover Washington Place, the current governor's residence and a former mansion converted into a historic monument.

Day 2: Relax in Waikiki and enjoy a Luau Show

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

What if we debut that swimsuit we bought for the trip and go to know one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii?

On this second day I propose you to swim in the crystal clear waters of Waikiki or Kuhio Beach, stroll along the fine sand of this coast and enjoy the views of Leahi (Diamond Head), learn more about the sea or its waves and end the day with dinner and a show that will be a feast for all your senses.

Enjoy a morning at the best beaches in Honolulu

Waikiki, known in Hawaii as "the water jets", is one of the most famous beaches in the world, largely due to the famous Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing and tourism in this region. In fact, when you arrive in Waikiki you will be greeted by his statue with open arms.

Waikiki is located at the foot of one of the most famous craters of the island, Leahi (also known as "Diamond Head"). It is possible to visit this monument but keep in mind that it is a hike of moderate difficulty and with a good amount of stairs. Of course, from the top the panoramic views of Honolulu are incredible.

If you prefer to stay at sea level, you can walk and swim along many miles of white sand beaches and crystal clear water, but I encourage you not to stay only there and take the opportunity to learn or surf, diving, book a snorkeling activity or take a guided boat tour. The Waikiki seabed hides real gems!

Dare to snorkel in the waters of the Pacific Ocean

Taking advantage of the wonderful waters of the Pacific, why not get to know its marine species by snorkeling? I recommend you to check out the best snorkeling tours in Oahu.

From the most basic ones for beginners, to those that take you on a catamaran, to those that show you the spectacular Hawaiian green turtles. Don't miss the trendiest sport in the most incredible place in the world.

Compare the best snorkeling tours

Enjoy good food, music and dance with a Luau show

After spending the day at the beach, what better way to enjoy one of **Hawaii'**s most iconic and traditional experiences? At the Luau the most common thing to do is to cook and taste dishes of the local gastronomy such as:

  • Kalua pork, cooked in an underground oven following the traditional imu ceremony.
  • Poi, a cream made from the roots of a local plant called Taro
  • Poke, a dish popularized in the West consisting of a raw fish salad.

All this is surrounded by live music, hula dancing, the attendees decorate themselves with flower necklaces or beads (known as lei), there may be shows about Polynesian history and even fire juggling. It will certainly be a party you will never forget!

In the Waikiki area you will find a multitude of places where you can enjoy a Luau, synonymous with "party" for the Hawaiian population.

I personally recommend you to go for Aha'aina Luau or Waikiki Starlight Luau if you want a 5 star experience or try the Kuhio Beach Hula Show if you prefer something more casual and without dinner. If you prefer you can also take a look at this article about the best Luau in Oahu.

Day 3: Lose yourself in the volcanic landscapes, and don't forget to pack your camera!

Snorkel with the turtles| ©David Siu
Snorkel with the turtles| ©David Siu

On your third day of the itinerary, I suggest you get to know the volcanic lands of Oahu up close, discover the underwater ecosystem offered by its coasts and, if you like hiking and are not afraid of climbing hills, climb up to one of the highest and most emblematic craters in the area to see the best panoramic views of the area.

To get to this place I advise you to rent a car, it will be the fastest way to get there, because in just 20 minutes from Honolulu you will be enjoying the views of the volcano. Another option, less recommended, is to go by bus, which involves a journey of about an hour and twenty minutes.

Discover the submerged crater of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

This natural reserve has a marine education center that simulates the original shape of the volcanic caves. In this center you can see murals describing the marine biodiversity of the area, plus you can watch a short documentary that will inform you about everything.

There you can rent snorkeling equipment, if you don't bring your own, to enjoy this unique area.

The natural form of Hanauma Bay consists of an eroded volcanic crater that has been covered by the sea.

Because of this, its calm waters have such particular conditions that it accumulates a very rich marine life close to the coast, making it a spectacular underwater landscape.

In this bay it is possible to see, among others:

  • Schools of butterfly fish
  • Angel fish
  • Green turtles
  • Live coral
  • Octopus
  • Crabs

In any case, remember that you can also discover the seabed of Oahu with an underwater route, for example, taking a tour with the Atlantis submarine.

Book your underwater adventure in Oahu with Atlantis

Put on your hiking boots and climb Koko Crater

This plan is only suitable for those who want to give hard to the legs and climb a few stairs because the Koko Crater Trail is more than a "walk". I recommend that you prepare your backpack well and do not forget to wear comfortable and appropriate clothing and footwear, as well as some energy food to recharge during the ascent and above all plenty of water.

The ascent to Koko Crater by the old train tracks (Railway Trailhead) usually takes about an hour and you have to climb many stairs if you want to reach the top but I assure you that the effort will be well worth the reward as the views are blessed glory. But, if you prefer a quieter pace, you can also climb the Arch Trail which is much lighter and the views do not disappoint either.

Relax at the end of the day watching the sunset on the beach

You already know the volcanic landscapes and surely this third day has left you exhausted. But nature can surprise you even more if you go to a beach to watch the sunset.

When you return to your hotel, drop by the nearest beach to enjoy one of the most beautiful landscapes that will remain in your memory forever. Waikiki, for example, will offer you a show at the end of the day that you cannot miss. Late at night, you will be able to contemplate and capture the best photos of the stars in the Hawaiian sky, something unforgettable!

Day 4: See every surfer's favorite beach and Oahu's most spectacular lighthouse

Surfing in Haleiwa| ©Robert Linsdell
Surfing in Haleiwa| ©Robert Linsdell

How do you like surfing? If it is a sport that you practice, I assure you that Sandy Beach will not leave you indifferent. Another option is to sign up for a surf class in the area. In any case, a walk in the area is a perfect plan. And, since you'll be nearby, I recommend that you make the hiking trail to the Makapu'u lighthouse.

As to reach the volcanic craters, to get to Sandy Beach, nothing better than renting a car. Public transport is not advisable, as there is a significant difference in time that you would lose: from 20 minutes by car to an hour and a half ..... Besides, there is no direct bus to this beach, you would have to take two lines.

Ride the waves at Sandy Beach Park

Sandy Beach Park is known throughout Hawaii for being one of the beaches where giant waves that can reach six or even seven meters high, wow!

During your visit to this area you can enjoy the views, see the impressive waves, hallucinate with the contrast between the volcanic rock and the sea and, why not, enter its waters with a good surfboard, if you dare. Of course, always paying attention to the local guides to make sure it is safe.

If you are traveling with children or prefer a quieter area, then I recommend that you come to see Kaloko Beach, the next beach to the east.

This beach is beautiful and full of charm. You can see tide pools and a multitude of small fish, although it is somewhat more complicated to bathe because it is a rocky area.

Immerse yourself in the nature and surroundings of Oahu's most beautiful lighthouse

After spending the morning on the beaches of the southeast of the island, my recommendation is to visit one of the most beautiful lighthouses I know (and with the most spectacular views). Makapu'u Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse that was built in 1909 on the easternmost point of the island of Oahu, at a height of about 183 meters above sea level.

To reach the lighthouse you will have to walk an accessible and comfortable hiking trail of about 4 kilometers where on clear days you can see as far as the islands of Manana and Molokai.

If you go between December and May, do not lose sight of the sea and take binoculars with you: you may be able to spot a whale or two.

Day 5: Discover Kailua Bay and surroundings

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

Today my proposal is that you immerse yourself in the Hawaiian culture by the hand of the charming town of Kailua visiting its markets, tasting the local food and enjoying the natural environment.

To get to Kailua, by car you will only need 19 minutes, depending on traffic and from there you can move to nearby beaches such as Lanikai, which you will reach in about 7 or 8 minutes. It is the most comfortable option to move around the area.

Take a stroll and a dip in Lanikai Beach

I suggest that, as soon as you get out of bed, you get into the wonderful coast of Lanikai Beach. This beach is one of the most beautiful and quiet of the whole island where it is not possible to see much underwater life but, on the other hand, its waters are calm and allow swimming without any risk of big waves.

This beach is ideal if you visit Oahu with family (you can even access with pets) and here you can, in addition to stroll through fine sand and bathe in crystal clear waters, enjoy the views and tranquility of all the nature that surrounds it.

Traveller Tip

Because there are not many services available on this beach, I advise you to bring water and food and, if you need some services, go to Kailua Beach Park (1.5 Km.).

Get to know the charming downtown Kailua and taste the local gastronomy

Besides the incredible beaches and views, if there is something you are going to enjoy a lot in Oahu is the gastronomy.

You will be surprised, for example, to know in Kailua the farmers market (Kailua Farmers Market) where you can buy from local businesses all kinds of products and food from the area accompanied by the warmth of its people.

In addition, in downtown Kailua you will find a wide range of restaurants and cafes where you can relax and enjoy good food.

If you are a true foodie, I encourage you to dedicate today to a gastronomic route. In this article you can check the best gastronomic routes in Oahu, let your sense of taste also enjoy the trip and take some good memories!

Finish the day with a sunset cruise

As a suggestion to end this day, I recommend that you let yourself go aboard a cruise along the coast of Waikiki. Some of them will allow you to watch the Hawaii sunset while tasting cocktails and typical appetizers.

Although if you happen to catch dinner time, there are also cruises where you can enjoy a three-star dinner with show included. A fantastic experience to end the day.

Book the best sunset cruises in Oahu

Considering the hours, you might want to spend the night in Kailua this day, from where you can start the penultimate day of your trip. Just 10 minutes away by car, you have your next stop...

Day 6: Get in touch with nature in Kaneohe and immerse yourself in the Valley of the Temples

Valley Of The Temples| ©Cristo Vlahos
Valley Of The Temples| ©Cristo Vlahos

Continuing north from Kailua, we arrive at Kaneohe where I suggest you spend a day of tranquility and picnic in the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, and then finish the day knowing the Valley of the Temples, a unique place where peace reigns in every corner.

Lose yourself in Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

This garden is a Protected Natural Reserve of about 160 hectares where you can get lost and enjoy the calm and nature at its best. You can travel parts of the road by car and others on foot, as you like. It is also possible to camp inside the reserve, in case you feel like experiencing a different night.

My suggestion is to bring a picnic and spend the morning and noon in this beautiful place where you will find a variety of tropical plants, a lagoon with fish that will approach if you throw them some food and spectacular views of the entire bay. This place is ideal to spend a quiet day immersed in nature, perfect for both adults and children.

Awaken your zen side at Valley Of The Temples

If you know the series Lost or Hawaii Five-O, the itinerary I propose below will be familiar to you as it was used in several of its chapters.

Valley Of The Temples Memorial Park, at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains (near Kaneohe), has a replica of Buddhist temples originating in Japan (Byodo-In from the 11th century).

A visit to this place will bring you peace, incredible photographs of the views and discover the unique monuments found there. In addition, if you are a spiritual and sensitive person, you will surely feel the immense energy that is concentrated in this place.

I advise you to return to Honolulu at this point to get a good rest. The next day and to finish your trip in Oahu, I am going to propose an essential plan for which you have to prepare a slightly longer journey.

Day 7: Laniakea Beach and Waimea Falls

Waimea Bay| ©Alan & Flora Botting
Waimea Bay| ©Alan & Flora Botting

We have reached the last day of the itinerary but you know what they say: the best always comes last. Today I propose a simple hiking route with a final reward of scandal and that you finish the day watching a last sunset on the island with a company of the most unique.

If you continue with your rented car, which is highly recommended, to reach this other wonder of nature you will need about 50 minutes driving to the north of the island. Again, I do not recommend public transport, as you will then need more than two hours.

Meet the local wildlife and enjoy Waimea Falls

As I said, on the north shore of Oahu is Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi Falls, one of the most beautiful and easily accessible waterfalls on the island of Oahu.

To get there you will have to go to Waimea Valley, where you will find a botanical garden, tourist information center, parking and even shuttle transportation to the falls. If you arrive early, I encourage you to take the hiking trail which is easy and so you can better enjoy the surroundings.

Say goodbye to Oahu with a sunset and the famous turtles of Laniakea Beach

After visiting the waterfalls and to finish your trip in style, I recommend you to go to Laniakea Beach. This time I will not tell you to take your towel or go for a swim, but simply sit on the shore to enjoy the views and wait patiently for the friendliest inhabitants of this beach to come out to say hello.

Laniakea Beach is also known as Turtle Beach, because for decades the Hawaiian green sea turtles have frequented this beach more than any other on the island due to the conditions it provides for them to feed.

So take a towel and if you want a picnic to sit on this beautiful beach to enjoy the views and observe the majesty of the sea turtles. See how they cope in their environment will be to say goodbye to this incredible island in style.

If you follow this itinerary you can travel from north to south, the most spectacular points of Oahu. You will not be left without discovering its history, meeting its people and culture, tasting its gastronomy and getting into the magic of its nature and coasts. Now you just have to take this adventure and make it yours, Oahu is waiting for you!

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