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.
Oahu is arguably the most popular Hawaiian island, and Honolulu is the most popular destination on Oahu. If you’re planning to visit, read on for the best Oahu tourist attractions and other fun things. We’ve created this 7 day Oahu itinerary as an easy guide to help you plan your trip.
Rather than create some random generic list of things to do in Honolulu, we’ve created a travel plan so you can see the entire island in a week. We’re sure you want to immerse yourself in this tropical island paradise! Are we right?
Thought so. The Oahu itinerary in this article includes a wide variety of attractions, from culture to nature to action. And we’ve included lots of public transportation and tour options so you can spend a week in Honolulu without a car if you want.
Getting to Honolulu
Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii, and home to Hawaii’s largest airport, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The airport code is HNL.
It’s possible to fly into Honolulu from many U.S. destinations, and in fact there are direct flights from cities all over the world, from London and Sydney to Canada and even Southeast Asia. You can check airfares here.
If you’re from Singapore and wondering, “do Singaporeans need ESTA to USA.” you’ll be happy to know that you can now use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, known as ESTA, to enter the United States. This permit lets you enter the US for tourist, business, and medical purposes for up to 90 days, without the cost and hassle of applying for a visa.
Where to stay for one week in Hawaii
With its famous strip of beach, we recommend staying in Waikiki. It’s centrally located and a great spot for getting to different spots around the island.
As a tourist hub, you can find most hotel chains there, as well as hundreds of restaurants and dozens of attractions.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Waikiki, we recommend:
- High end: Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort
- Mid-range: Ramada Plaza Waikiki
- Budget: The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel
ⓘ TIP: To save hassle getting to your hotel, book an airport shuttle ahead of time. Your driver will be waiting for you when you arrive. You’ll even get help with your bags! Find your ride here.
7 Days on Oahu: itinerary plan
So now we get to the best part: planning your 7 days on Oahu! We strongly suggest you don’t waste time changing hotels. It’s best to stay in Honolulu for a week, and travel around to see it all.
Our 7-day Oahu itinerary is designed to show you the best of the island without rushing around.
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.
ⓘ BUDGET TIP: You can save up to 55% on admission with the Go Oahu All-Inclusive Pass. Enjoy free entry to 45+ top Hawaiian sights including the Polynesian Cultural Center, Pearl Harbor and more. Click here for details.
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.
Or head to ‘Iolani Palace to find Hawaii’s royal Polynesian heritage. Did you know that ‘Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and is the only royal palace in the United States? There are lots of interesting facts about Honolulu to discover!
Another quintessential Hawaiian experiences you should try while on 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.
We suggest that you plan your Diamond Head hike early in the morning. You’ll get better photos and views from Diamond Head Lookout if the sun isn’t directly overhead. Afterward, you can unwind on Diamond Head Beach Park.
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 Hawaiian 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 quick, 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. December 7, 1941, was a key date in U.S. history, and this will really help you understand America’s role in the battle for the Pacific.
Be sure to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri battleship, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (aka Pacific Aviation Museum), and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park.
ⓘ TIP: Many people reserve a full day for Pearl Harbor. For the most powerful experience, it’s worth booking a tour with a knowledgeable guide. This tour gets especially good reviews.
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
Polynesian Cultural Center is a theme park is about an hour’s drive out of Honolulu. 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.
ⓘ TIP: Book well ahead if you want to attend a luau while visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center.
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.
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What to add to your Hawaii vacation itinerary
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, go for 7 days in Honolulu and Oahu. You’re in for a week of tropical paradise beaches, hiking, and outdoor adventures around every corner.
A week vacation in Hawaii should be all about having a good time, so if one of our suggestions doesn’t float your boat, feel free to do something else. A good Oahu travel guide will have plenty of inspiration. For example:
- If you’re traveling with children, Wet’n Wild Hawaii is only 20 minutes from Pearl Harbor. This fun water theme park is fun whether you’re traveling with kids – or if you’re a big kid yourself.
- For some of the best snorkeling on Oahu, head to Hanauma Bay State Park, along the southeast coast of the island. Imagine being able to swim through a gorgeous reef filled with turtles, rays, fish, and more. You can rent snorkel gear there, but rentals are included with the Go Oahu Card.
Here are a few other ideas:
How to get around Oahu
When it comes to getting around Oahu, you basically have three main options: take public transportation, rent a car, or take a tour. This itinerary works with them all.
If you don’t plan to spend all 7 days in Honolulu by the pool, rent a car for at least part of your trip. Oahu is small and you can easily drive around the entire island in less than a day.
With a good car rental company (we like this one), it’s easy to quickly and efficiently arrange everything ahead of time. You can pick your preferred vehicle, compare prices, and secure your booking, all before you even leave your home.
Renting a car gives you independence and the freedom to go when and where you like. Plus, unlike public transportation, you can easily take along any gear you need, and you’ll always be protected from the elements.
Oahu’s public transportation system is called TheBus. It has a surprisingly good route system and stops at many of the best attractions on the island.
With a one-day pass costing only $5.50, this is the cheapest way to get around Oahu. It’s not the fastest way to get around, but it is a good option if you want to relax and avoid Honolulu’s horrible traffic.
If you want to get the most from your trip, book a tour. Tour guides can explain cultural traditions, introduce you to new foods, take you to off-the-beaten-path places, and answer your questions. Transportation is included, and they always speak the local language fluently.
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FAQs for planning an Oahu itinerary
What is the best time to visit Oahu?
Oahu has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s (°F) year-round. The dry season runs from May to October and has the best weather, as well as the most crowds. The best time to visit for fewer crowds is during the shoulder seasons, from mid-April to early June or between September and mid-December.
What are the must-visit attractions in Oahu?
Some popular attractions include Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Koko Crater Railway Trailhead, Iolani Palace, and the North Shore’s Banzai Pipeline.
What are the best beaches to visit in Oahu?
Waikiki Beach, Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach Park, and Sunset Beach are some of the famous and beautiful beaches on Oahu.
Is there a nightlife scene on Oahu?
Yes, Honolulu’s Waikiki area offers a vibrant nightlife with bars, clubs, and live music venues.
Are there family-friendly activities on Oahu?
Absolutely! You can visit the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Dole Plantation, Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii, and take a family-friendly luau at places like the Polynesian Cultural Center.
How many days do I need in Honolulu?
You can see the very best of Honolulu in just a couple of days, but you’ll need 3-4 days if you want time to unwind and spend more time at your favorite locations. To explore everything Oahu has to offer and yet have time for relaxation, 7 days in Honolulu is plenty.