If you’re looking to enjoy a Hawaiian getaway, you may be wondering where to go and how best to plan your time. Especially if you only have a week in Hawaii, you won’t want to waste a moment of your time in this tropical paradise.
One of the most popular Hawaiian islands for tourists is also home to the capital city, Honolulu. There are countless things to do in Oahu, so it is arguably the best island to spend a vacation.
This simple guide is a helpful Oahu trip planner for anyone planning on spending a week on the island.
ⓘ TIP: Planning your first visit to Hawaii can be stressful if you don’t know where to begin. Read our article How to Plan Your First Hawaii Trip for more help in figuring out when to go and which island to visit.
Getting to Honolulu
There are direct flights to Honolulu from cities all over the world, including London, Sydney, and even Southeast Asian destinations.
You can also find plenty of U.S. airports offering direct flights into Honolulu.
Getting around Oahu
Oahu is relatively small and you could easily drive around it in less than a day. So, no matter where you stay, it won’t take much time to get to your planned activities.
Car rentals are popular and perfect for a week in Hawaii. The rental companies offer excellent service and support, and you’re usually able to pick your vehicle up at, or near, the airport. Rental cars give you freedom and independence from the moment you arrive.
Renting a car for your 7-day trip to Hawaii means that you’re in charge of your time because you can go when and where you like. Plus, unlike with , you can easily take along any gear you need, and you’re protected from the elements.
A rented car can be quickly and efficiently organized online while you’re planning a trip to Oahu. You can pick your preferred vehicle, select your pick up and return dates, and secure your booking all before you even leave your home.
If you’ve never rented a car before, we can assure you it’s super simple to do. Your online payment is secure, your personal information is protected, and the rental companies are able and willing to help with anything you need.
For added assurance, you can read up on what it’s like to drive in Hawaii before you arrive.
Where to stay for one week in Hawaii
With its famous strip of beach, we recommend Waikiki for convenience. As a tourist hub, you can find most hotel chains there, as well as hundreds of restaurants and dozens of attractions. Best of all, it’s centrally located for getting to different spots around the island.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Waikiki, we suggest:
- High end: Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort
- Mid-range: Ramada Plaza Waikiki
- Budget: Waikiki Beachside Hostel
ⓘ TIP: If you don’t mind a 5- or 10-minute walk to Waikiki, Diamond Head locations are less crowded and less expensive.
7 Days in Oahu – trip planner
So now we get to the best part: How to spend 1 week in Hawaii! Our Oahu itinerary allows you to see most of the island, without rushing or missing the best highlights.
Day 1 – Discover Honolulu City
Honolulu is a spectacular place to spend the day. There are museums, parks, and plenty of inviting beaches to spend your time here.
Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art, see a traditional Oahu luau, and catch the most incredible sunset from Magic Island. You’ll find opportunities for shopping, eating, and enjoying the beach and water.
One of the most quintessential Hawaiian experiences can be found in Waikiki: try out a surf lesson with an expert and take home a new skill.
Day 2 – Climb Diamond Head
Start your second morning with a hike up Diamond Head. This volcanic crater rises over Waikiki and offers breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of the city and the ocean from the top.
The crater is a short drive from Honolulu city. The hike is easy enough to be done by the whole family but does have a lot of stairs, and the path gets tricky in places. It’s well worth the effort, though, and the ascent shouldn’t take you more than an hour.
Hike early in the morning, and then head to the Diamond Head Lookout to enjoy the views before unwinding on the Diamond Head Beach Park.
ⓘ TIP: Take a guided hike up to Diamond Head Crater with an expert. Learn about Hawaiian history, volcanic formation and bird and plant species on the way.
Day 3 – Travel to Koko Head District Park
Head to the east of the island and spend some time in this lush district park. You’ll find hiking trails, lookout points, and large parks for picnics. If you continue down the coast, you can enjoy more scenic beaches and impressive views.
The park is a 20- to 25-minute drive from Honolulu. If you drive along the coast, down to the Sea Life Park, you’ll have a 30-minute drive back to the city.
ⓘ SAFETY TIP: The hiking trails here are gorgeous but can be tricky to navigate. Inexperienced hikers, children, and seniors should be especially wary. Take a guide if possible.
Day 4 – Visit Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is a short 20-minute drive from Honolulu, and it’s a must-visit while you’re on Oahu. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri battleship, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.
ⓘ TIP: The official full-day Passport to Pearl Harbor will save money, effort, and time. It includes admission to and narrated tours of the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and more.
A visit here can easily take up the entire day, but if you get through all the captivating sites by lunchtime, you could take another 20-minute drive to Wet’n Wild Hawaii. This fun water theme park is especially great if you’re traveling with kids – or if you’re a big kid yourself.
Day 5 – Visit Kualoa Ranch
Take a leisurely 40-minute drive to Kualoa Ranch for the day and experience more of Oahu’s stunning scenery. This working cattle ranch also serves as a nature retreat and film location (prepare to enter lifelike scenes from Jurassic Park).
There are so many activities on offer, you’ll be busy all day. From ziplining and ATV rides to tours of Hollywood filming locations, there’s something here for everyone.
Day 6 – Visit Polynesian Cultural Center
This Polynesian theme park is about an hour’s drive out of Honolulu, so it’s best to make this day trip. There are six authentic villages inside the center for you to visit, with guided tours happening between 12 pm and 6 pm daily.
Each island performs cultural presentations throughout the day, and you’ll have a chance to mingle with the natives while there. Spend the day soaking in the culture, and end it with a luau dance at dinner.
Day 7 – Head to North Shore
Oahu’s North Shore is less than an hour’s drive from Honolulu and is full of even more fun island experiences. If you’re a surfer, this is where you’ll likely catch the best waves. For those who don’t surf, watching the pros on the water is quite a sight to behold.
There’s also snorkeling, skydiving, and hiking available in the area. And you’ll find some of the most delicious island food.
We suggest you make a stop at Turtle Beach before leaving the island, to view the Hawaiian green sea turtles lazing on the sand. Just be sure to respect the turtles, as they’re protected by law.
ⓘ TIP: If you’re feeling adventurous, end your 7-day Hawaii vacation with a spectacular shark dive off the North Shore.
Hawaii vacation itinerary summary
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, you’ll love spending 7 days in Honolulu and its surroundings. You’re in for a week of tropical paradise beaches, hiking, and outdoor adventures around every corner.