7 Day Oahu Itinerary: A Week (or Less!) in Paradise [2024]

Last updated:
Photo of author

Oahu is one of the best destinations on the planet for a tropical getaway, offering pristine white beaches, breathtaking hiking trails, and tons of adorable sea turtle friends. But with so much packed into the 600 square miles that make up this incredible island, it can be hard to know where- and what- you should do. Well, you’re in luck- we’ve laid out the perfect 7-day Oahu itinerary (with suggestions if you have less time!), so you can make the most of your time while you’re in paradise. 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission, for which we are extremely grateful, at no extra cost to you.

Woman walking in the water at Kailua Beach in Oahu
Preview of instagram card encouraging readers to follow Uprooted Traveler on Instagram

Before we dive into our Oahu itinerary, let’s back up and cover some important things you need to know about the island.

How to Get Around Oahu

While the Hawaiian Islands are quite small compared to some U.S. states (I’m looking at you, Texas), Oahu certainly isn’t tiny. It clocks in as the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands (behind the Big Island and Maui) and takes upwards of six hours to drive around. 

Woman sitting on a red Mustang convertible next to the ocean on Oahu

So if you’re wondering whether you need a rental car in Oahu, the answer is generally yes if you plan on spending a good amount of time exploring outside of Honolulu (which you absolutely should!). If, on the other hand, you plan on spending most of your time in the city or at your resort, though, you can probably get by just fine on the city’s solid public transit, taxis, or rideshares.

If you’re the kind of traveler who will likely need a rental car in Oahu, here’s a fair warning, though- they can be pretty pricey, especially during peak season, like the summer or over the December holidays. During my last visit to the island, my husband, Justin and I paid $671.91 for an 8-day reservation—and the very cheapest option they had was a Mustang convertible!

Road in the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden with the Koʻolau Mountains in the background in Oahu

That being said, if you want to get around the island, you’d almost certainly wind up spending just as much (or even more!) on Ubers or tours as you would booking a rental.

I’d recommend booking a cancellable rental car reservation waaaaay in advance and intermittently checking to see if the prices have dropped as your trip approaches. I’ve been able to save hundreds of dollars by doing this!

Road winding through the Koʻolau Mountains in Oahu

Another good strategy to save some money is to only book a rental car for the period of time you plan to be exploring outside of Honolulu- since most travelers spend at least a couple days in the city, that may be a super easy way to shave over a hundred dollars off your rental car total!

Where to Stay on Oahu

We actually wrote a whole post about where to stay in Oahu, but in a nutshell, Oahu is broken down into four main sections:

1. Honolulu

Almost all travelers that are visiting Oahu for the first time will stay in Hawaii’s buzzing capital city of Honolulu, at least for part of their stay. 

The most popular places to stay in Honolulu are:

Waikiki Beach

This glittery section of the city runs right along Hawaii’s most famous beach and offers tons of shopping, dining, and lodging options, from budget hostels to luxury resorts.

Kids boogie boarding at Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head in the background on Oahu

Given how many amenities are within walking distance of this neighborhood, it’s by far the most popular place for first time visitors to stay. However, it also tends to be quite pricey and won’t provide a very “authentic” Hawaiian experience. 

With that in mind, check out:

  • The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel: If you’re on a serious budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option on the island. This clean hostel offers both dorms and private rooms and is within a four-minute walk to Waikiki Beach.
  • Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel: Okay, besides the fact that this hotel is literally on the sands of Waikiki Beach, you’ll also enjoy the friendly staff, nightly live music, and informative programming about Hawaiian culture at its A‘o Cultural Center.
Skyscrapers along Waikiki Beach in Oahu

Ala Moana

This neighborhood is located just a few miles west of Waikiki Beach and yet, is a lot more relaxed. You’ll still be in a bustling city environment, with plenty of shopping and dining options available, but it isn’t quite as touristy or crowded as Waikiki. 

Check out:

  • Prince Waikiki: This hotel offers a perfect location right on the edge of Ala Moana, so you can quickly walk to Waikiki whenever you want. It also has a fantastic pool area, which directly overlooks the Waikiki Yacht Club and even frequently has live music.
  • Ala Moana Hotel: Okay, listen, this hotel is literally located inside of the world’s largest outdoor shopping center, comes with a stellar rooftop pool, and is just steps away from Ala Moana Beach. Need I say more?
People relaxing on the Ala Moana Beach in Honolulu, Oahu

2. Windward Side (East Side)

The east side of the island is full of tiny beach towns, chill vibes, and views straight out of Jurassic Park (like, literally– it was filmed here!). If you’re looking for something that feels a bit more laidback and authentic, I’d suggest staying here or along the North Shore. 

Woman walking on Ka'a'wa Beach on the Windward Side of Oahu

Check out:

  • Paradise Bay Resort: This is really the only hotel on the east side and good news- it’s an awesome one! The property is incredibly lush, with the Koʻolau Mountains as its backdrop and provides guests a variety of perks, from complimentary kayak rentals to fire dancing shows.
  • Guest House near Kailua Beach: This guesthouse is just a block away from one of the best beaches on Oahu and has a lovely lanai to unwind in the evenings.

3. North Shore

I try not to play favorites, but I LOVE Oahu’s North Shore. It’s iconically the birthplace of big wave surfing and the surfers’ mega-chill vibes have definitely seeped into the local culture here. The North Shore offers countless stunning beaches, quirky small towns, and SOOO many good food trucks.

Hawaiian sea turtle sleeping on Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu

Check out:

  • Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village: For a budget accommodation, this hostel is clean and has an excellent location across the street from a beach that offers some of the very best snorkeling in Oahu.
  • Turtle Bay Resort: If you’re looking for a resort where you literally don’t have to leave or think about anything, this is your place. Turtle Bay has multiple pools, restaurants, and activities, ranging from snorkeling in the resort’s lagoon to on-site surf lessons.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore: This is an awesome middle ground, if you’re looking for something between a romantic honeymoon resort, like Turtle Bay, and a backpacker hostel. There’s still really nice amenities, like a pool and onsite restaurant, but it doesn’t come with quite as hefty prices as the more upscale resorts on Oahu.
Woman looking at a food truck with palm trees in the background on the North Shore of Oahu

4. Leeward (West side)

The west side of the island is largely undeveloped and a bit more desert-y than the rest of Oahu. The only place for visitors to stay here is Ko Olina, a resort town built in the 1980s. Accordingly, it definitely feels engineered towards tourists, because, well, it quite literally is!

That being said, if you’re looking for a resort that will keep your whole family entertained or if you just want to lay on the beach and relax for a week, this may be the perfect option.

Two girls, wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and sitting by the pool at Aulani Disney Resort and Spa in Oahu

Check out:

  • Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa: This resort lives up to its reputation of a Disney property, with fantastic water features (including water slides and a lazy river) and a calm lagoon for snorkelers of all skill levels to enjoy.
  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu: If you’re celebrating something big, like a honeymoon, or just looking to treat yourself, this luxurious resort should be at the top of your list, thanks to amenities like its stunning infinity pool and world-class spa.

Where I’d Recommend Staying in Oahu

While most first-time visitors stay in Honolulu, I’d actually suggest that you split up your trip between Honolulu and the North Shore if you’re planning on visiting the island for more than three nights (which is exactly what I suggest in my Oahu itinerary below).

That way, you’ll get to more deeply explore two very different parts of the island and be close enough to check out the leeward and windward sides as well. Win, win!

Woman jumping in front of Koʻolau Mountains in Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu

How Many Days Do You Need in Oahu?

Some travelers just briefly stop in Oahu for a couple days before heading over to explore one of the other islands, but on average, most visitors stay in Oahu for 7 days (which just so happens to be the length of our suggested Oahu itinerary!). 

If you’re wondering whether 7 days is too long to stay in Oahu, I can say from first hand experience that it’s not. While I think you can definitely see most of the island’s highlights in about five or so days, a week will definitely give you a bit more time to dive into the island past its most touristy attractions.

Man sitting on the edge of a cliff at Laʻie Point State Wayside in Oahu

That being said, I’ve been to the island four times and still haven’t even scratched the surface of the island, so if you’re interested in staying for 10 days (or even longer!) on Oahu, there’s plenty to keep you busy here!

When to Visit Oahu

Great news- there’s really no bad time of the year to visit Oahu! Of course, as with anything, there’s pros and cons to visiting during different seasons.

In general, the best months to visit Oahu are during the shoulder seasons of April, May, September, and October. The temperatures will generally be in the low to mid-80s, the skies are clear, and, due to the lull in the crowds, they also tend to be the cheapest months to visit Oahu.

Alternatively, winter in Hawaii still has pleasant temperatures in the upper 70s AND it’s the best time of the year to see humpbacks on a whale-watching tour. That being said, it tends to be a bit on the rainier side.

Humpback whale breaching in Hawaii

During the summer and at Christmastime, the number of visitors on Oahu surges to astronomical levels… and accordingly, so will the prices of hotels and airfare. Keep a lookout for deals, though- you can definitely still score them year round!

7-day Oahu Itinerary

Now to the good stuff- what to do with a week in Oahu! 

Here’s exactly how you can spend your time exploring this tropical paradise, including some of the most jaw-dropping hikes I’ve ever been on, a beach that’s routinely been voted one of the best in the world, and lots of tasty food along the way.

Couple holding hands in Lanikai Beach at sunrise in Oahu

And if you have less than a week on the island, not to worry! For each day of this Oahu itinerary, all of the activities are grouped together based on their proximity to one another. So it should be an (island) breeze to shuffle around and mix and match the days, based on how much time you have on Oahu and what kind of activities interest you.

Day 1: Honolulu

Coffee and breakfast

You’re probably on the struggle-bus with jet lag right now, so, first things first- let’s grab some coffee! 

Ali’i Coffee Co. brews up some seriously good Kona coffee and even has fun mocktails made with coffee. I got a taro ube latte and it was ten outta ten!

After that, head on over to the Island Brew Coffeehouse for a delicious acai bowl or a smoothie made from some local tropical fruit.

Avocado toast and an acai bowl at the Island Brew Coffeehouse in Honolulu, Oahu

Diamond Head Hike

Next up- hiking to the top of the Diamond Head Crater.

If you’re looking for one of the most iconic and easy hikes on Oahu, this 1.6 mile trail will definitely scratch the itch, taking you up to the summit of the extinct Koʻolau Volcano. Once you reach the top, you’ll have panoramic views of the Honolulu skyline and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Before you head to the trailhead, it’s worth noting that the Hawaii Division of State Parks has implemented a requirement that all hikers need to book reservations for the trail ahead of time. It costs $10 to park and $5 per person entrance fee to hike on the trail. 

View of the Honolulu skyline and the Pacific Ocean from the Diamond Head Crater trail in Oahu

Lunch (plus shave ice!)

Head over to Aloha Table Waikiki for lunch of Hawaiian comfort food. It’s been voted as having the best loco moco on the island a number of times and the staff are incredibly friendly.

If you have any room left, be sure to stop by Monsaratt Shave Ice. This little stand serves up the most comically enormous bowl of fluffy shave ice ever, but my favorite part about them is that their syrup is made of real, organic fruit (like, there’s actually GIANT chunks of fruit in it). Cash only!

Bowl of shave ice with palms in the background in Oahu

Waikiki Beach

Of course, no Oahu itinerary would be complete without some time to explore the Waikiki Beach area.

If you’re into shopping, there’s countless stores, just steps away from the beach, along Kalākaua Avenue to peruse, ranging from cheesy souvenir stands to Chanel and Tiffany.

Otherwise, just kick back and enjoy the beach itself, which has soft white sand, turquoise water, and lots of palm trees. There’s so much to do here, like people-watching, boogie boarding (check out Ohana Surf Project for rentals), or even taking some surf lessons on Waikiki.

I’d suggest sticking around for sunset. Between the golden glow on the Pacific and the surfers, Waikiki definitely puts on quite a show!

People surfing and boogie boarding at Waikiki Beach at sunset

If you happen to be visiting on a Tuesday or Saturday, I’d suggest checking the Kuhio Beach Hula Show website to see if any shows are available. As of right now in 2024, the show isn’t operating due to lack of funding, but usually, there’s a free hula performance near the Duke Kahanamoku Statue on Waikiki Beach.

It typically runs from 6:30-7:30 pm, February through October or 6:00-7:00 November through January). The show opens with the traditional blowing of a conch shell and includes traditional Hawaiian music and, of course, lots of hula. 

Dinner

If you’re looking to end your first night in Oahu with a bang, have dinner at natuRe Waikiki. This unique restaurant offers a six-course tasting menu (including an option for plant-based diners), dishing up French-Hawaiian fusion dishes made from local ingredients.

If you’re not in a treat-yourself mood, Poke Bar uses incredibly fresh ingredients to build huge and reasonably affordable (for Waikiki, anyway!) bowls. When in Oahu, you gotta eat poke!

Bowl of udon noodle

Alternatively, Marugame Udon offers a menu with Hawaiian and Japanese influences, including homemade udon noodles and rice-based dishes. Beyond its tasty food, the restaurant has an open kitchen, so you basically get a dinner AND a show!

Return to your hotel

Go back to your hotel in either Waikiki Beach or Ala Moana and hit the hay- you’ve had quite the action-packed first day in Oahu!

Day 2: Honolulu

Breakfast

Head to Island Vintage Coffee for a delicious breakfast sandwich or acai bowl to fuel up for the day’s adventures.

Man pouring syrup on waffles in Honolulu, Oahu

Snorkeling in Turtle Canyon

So you’ve been on the island for over 24 hours and haven’t seen a sea turtle yet- let’s fix that!

Book any of the awesome tours to Turtle Canyon, located about a mile and a half off the shores of Waikiki. You’ll be taken out in a boat to a marine reserve, where turtles flock to get their shells cleaned by so-called “cleaner” fish. You’ll swim and snorkel as these adorable creatures feast, rest, and get so fresh and so clean, clean in the water below you. 

Sea turtle swimming near a coral reef underwater

One of my favorite options is this highly-rated tour, which does an awesome job of making sure you have a good time, while making sure our turtle friends are still protected!

If you’re a newbie snorkeler and feel a bit nervous being out in the open ocean, there’s plenty of other Waikiki snorkeling tours to help you get your confidence in the water, like this tour that teaches you all of the basics of snorkeling or this tour to Hanauma Bay, which is largely considered to be the best place to snorkel in Honolulu.

Lunch

Make a pitstop at The Pig and The Lady, an award-winning Vietnamese-fusion restaurant in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Try a banh mi and che panna cotta for dessert!

Moana Falls Trail

Burn off some of that lunch by hitting the Moana Falls trail, an easy 1.7-mile out-and-back hike to a stunning waterfall, tucked into a lush rainforest. Parking at the trailhead costs $7 and be sure to bring plenty bug spray– the mosquitoes can be downright nasty here!

Moana Falls in a lush rainforest in Oahu

Explore the Kaka‘ako neighborhood

Spend an hour or two wandering around the funky Kaka‘ako neighborhood of Honolulu, which has over 50 colorful and ever changing murals splashed across its buildings and a handful of awesome microbreweries.

Try the Shoyu Rice Lager at Honolulu Beerworks, an open-air brewery with chill vibes and a whole bookcase of board games to play. 

Man drinking beer at the Honolulu Beerworks in Honolulu, Oahu

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

If you’ve still got a bit of energy, head over to the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, a spectacular 4.7-mile hike that takes you up and along a narrow ridge of a mountain. As you climb up the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Koʻolau Mountains unfolding at your feet and, beyond, the sparkling turquoise of the Pacific Ocean. 

The trailhead is located in the Waialae Iki 5 community, a swanky gated neighborhood in the hills overlooking Honolulu. You’re required to snag a permit from the security guard at the neighborhood’s entrance and you must be off the trail by the time the sun goes down.

Woman standing and watching the sunset along the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in Oahu

That being said, if you can time your descent down the trail with golden hour, I promise you won’t be disappointed with the views! (just don’t forget to pack a headlamp, just in case).

Dinner

To cap off your evening, stop at Wagaya, which dishes up some of the best Japanese food this side of the Pacific. The ramen broth is incredibly flavorful, you can choose the thickness of your noodles, and the staff is super friendly.

Day 3: Southeastern side of Oahu

Breakfast

Kick off your day with breakfast and a cup of coffee at the Barefoot Beach Cafe on Queen’s Surf Beach. With a location right in the sand, you can enjoy your breakfast along with the stunning views of the Pacific and the loco moco is HUGE and delicious!

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Head to the popular Hanauma Bay, which arguably offers the best snorkeling in Honolulu!

Aerial view over Hanauma Bay in Oahu

Enjoyed by over one MILLION tourists every year, this former volcanic crater has now been taken over by a colorful coral reef, with over 400 species of tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine life calling the bay home. Hanauma Bay is not only beloved for its wildlife, but also because its calm waters provide a perfect environment for beginner snorkelers. 

It’s so incredibly popular, though, that the State of Hawaii has instituted a reservation system to make sure its reef isn’t damaged by overtourism. You can make an online reservation, up to two days in advance starting at 7 AM HST. I’d recommend setting an alarm for yourself to remember to buy them as soon as they go on sale, because they often sell out just minutes after being listed for purchase!

View of snorkelers and palm trees in Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, Oahu

Halona Beach Cove

Spend the rest of the morning at Halona Beach Cove, a secluded beach with sparkling turquoise water and surrounded by rugged cliffs. It’s STUNNING- so stunning, in fact, that it’s been featured in several movies, including the 1950s classic From Here to Eternity and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The waves here are a bit on the gnarly side, though, so you’ll probably do more soaking up the sun than actual swimming.

Lunch

Grab lunch at Hawaiian Island Cafe, a sweet and simple family-run cafe with a mix of comfort staples and Hawaiian fare. 

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Head to the easternmost corner of the island, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail. This easy 2.5-mile trail is along a paved pathway that snakes up a coastal hill, overlooking the brilliantly blue water. In fact, in the wintertime, it’s actually one of the best places to see whales from land in Oahu!

View from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail, with the Makapu'u Lighthouse and Manana Island in Oahu

At the top, you’ll have jaw-dropping views of the Makapu’u Beach below (spoiler- you’re heading there next!) and a historic lighthouse, complete with a jaunty little red roof, from 1909.

Makapu’u Beach

As promised, make your way to Makapu’u Beach, tucked away in a cove and surrounded by dramatic volcanic cliffs, for some beach time. The water is SO blue here and the waves on the right hand side of the beach are usually perfect for body or boogie-boarding.

View of Makapu'u Beach from the Makapu'u Lookout in Oahu

Koko Crater Trail

If you’re up for a challenge, end your day by hitting the Koko Crater trail, one of the most unique Oahu hikes. And be warned—while its 1.6-mile length may suggest this trail is easy, it’s anything but.

You’ll spend the first half of the hike climbing up a series of extremely steep and rickety railroad ties leading up to the summit of the Koko Crater, a volcanic cone that last erupted about 7,000 years ago. This railroad was built during World War II to carry soldiers and equipment to the bunker at the summit, which was used as a military lookout for planes and to house operational equipment. 

View from the summit of the Koko Crater trail overlooking Hanauma Bay at sunset in Oahu

Once you huff and puff your way up to the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of Hanauma Bay, the Honolulu skyline, and the Koʻolau Mountains. 

If you’re comfortable hiking at night, time your trek with sunset—the views from the summit are absolutely unreal. Just remember to pack a headlamp—you do not want to hike down this hill in the dark. 

Dinner

For dinner, grab some tacos from Alejandro’s Mexican Food. Or if you get a burrito, don’t forget to have them “make it wet”!

Head back to your hotel and pack your bags

Once you get back to your hotel, pack your bags! We’re heading on an Oahu road trip bright and early tomorrow morning, exploring the east side of the island and making our way to our new home on the North Shore. 

Day 4- Explore the East Side, while heading to the North Shore

Sunrise at Lanikai Beach

Set an alarm, pack up your car, and head to Lanikai Beach for sunrise.

Woman walking at Lanikai Beach at sunrise in Oahu

If you were only going to include one beach in your Oahu itinerary, it should be this one, in my opinion.

And it’s not just me who thinks that Lanikai Beach is stunning. In fact, it’s frequently been named as one of the best beaches on the planet by the likes of CNN and the LA Times and, with turquoise water, soft white sand, and the two Mokulua islands off in the distance, it’s not hard to see why.

While I imagine Lanikai is stunning at any point in the day, it’s absolutely incredible at sunrise, due to its location on the eastern side of the island. Stand in the warm water as you watch the sun eclipse past the Mokulua Islands. If this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is!

Breakfast

Head into the beach town of Kailua and grab a cup of coffee and a pastry from Cafe Kopi. The super sweet owners are from Singapore, so the menu has an Asian flair to it (the dumplings are soooo good!). 

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Hit the Lanikai Pillbox hike, a moderate 1.7-mile trail where you’ll climb along the dusty Ka’iwa Ridge.

Woman sitting on bunker along the Lanikai Pillbow Trail in Kailua, Oahu

At the summit, you’ll find three bunkers or “pillboxes” from World War II, with stunning views over Lanikai and Kailua Beaches and, to the west, the Koʻolau Mountains.

There’s some steep and slippery sections of the trail and significant drop-offs along the way, so I wouldn’t recommend this trail for little kids.

Kailua Beach

If the Lanikai Pillbox hike doesn’t sound like your jam, feel free to skip to our next stop, Kailua Beach. The water here is seriously, like, BRIGHT electric blue.

Woman walking in turquoise water at Kailua Beach in Kailua, Oahu

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more adventurous than beach lounging, there’s kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent here.

Ka’a’wa Beach

It’s time to start marking our way up the east coast of the island on our way to the North Shore.

I’d recommend carving out time in your Oahu itinerary for a quick stop at Ka’a’wa Beach, which I think is one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu. While there’s tons of gorgeous beaches on the island, Ka’a’wa offers almost comically blue water, swaying palm trees, and the most Jurassic Park-y mountains you’ve seen in the background.

Woman walking down Ka'a'wa Beach with the Koʻolau Mountains in the background on Oahu

Lunch

For lunch, Raised by the Waves in Kahuku (on the northeastern side of Oahu) is a locally (and women!) owned cafe, dishing out plant-based foods with a heavy influence from Hawaii’s surf culture. Expect fun offerings like beet poke nachos, berry and chocolate waffles (*drools*), and Buddha bowls.

Sandwich at Raised by the Waves on the North Shore of Oahu

Pssst… if you saved a bit of room, make a stop up the road at Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp for a cup of Dole Whip, a pineapple juice-based soft serve that’s basically the food of the gods in my book.

Snorkeling at Kuilima Cove

Spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling at Kuilima Cove, a calm and protected lagoon at the Turtle Bay Resort. This little cove is absolutely perfect for beginner snorkelers and is frequented by adorable sea turtles (which is actually where the resort gets its name!).

Unless you’re planning on staying at the resort during your time on the North Shore, just remember to bring your own snorkel gear. Justin and I each have this snorkeling set and after using them countless times, we still love them!

Sunset at Ehukai Beach

End the day by watching sunset at Ehukai Beach, home to the iconic Bonzai Pipeline.

Couple watching sunset on Ehukai Beach along the North Shore of Oahu

While you won’t be able to see the famed 30-foot waves here outside of the winter season, you’ll still get quite a spectacular show as the sun sinks into the Pacific. 

Dinner

For me, nothing says the North Shore of Oahu quite like food trucks.

So head across the street from the beach and pick up dinner at the Elephant Truck, which is possibly the best Thai food I’ve ever had (yes, served out of a truck!). Order the pad kee mao (and probably a pad thai too) and thank me later.

Food truck on the North Shore of Oahu

Go to your hotel

Check into your hotel on the North Shore and make yourself at home!

Day 5: North Shore

Breakfast

Justin and I consumed SO many smoothie bowls while we were staying here- I kind of think it’s basically MANDATORY while you’re on the North Shore!

So, follow suit and stop at the famed Sunrise Shack for breakfast, a cheerful yellow stand dishing up papaya bowls stuffed with berries, peanut butter, and granola, and spirulina smoothie bowls.

Woman holding acai bowls at Sunrise Shack in the North Shore of Oahu

Waimea Bay Beach

Head on over to Waimea Bay Beach, which is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. 

To see the most underwater wildlife, I’d suggest heading to the right hand side of the beach. Justin and I saw SO many vibrant fish while snorkeling here. Plus, we were told by a local that a seal lives in the bay- so, if you’re lucky, you might just spot a cute seal friend too!

Woman snorkeling underwater at Waimea Bay Beach in the North Shore of Oahu

One important thing to note—get to Waimea Bay Beach EARLY. The parking lot is quite small and things can get borderline vicious when lots of people are vulturing for a spot.

Lunch

For lunch, walk over to the Aji Limo Truck, a colorful food truck dishing up incredibly fresh food that’s “globally”-inspired, ranging from Peruvian to Japanese.

While restaurants that offer multiple styles of cuisine usually make me a bit nervous (should ceviche and pierogis really be on the same menu?!), I’ll happily confirm this truck is delicious- it’s the only place Justin and I ate twice during our last trip to Oahu!

Haleiwa

Spend the afternoon exploring the adorable town of Haleiwa, which perfectly melds laid back surfer vibes with its colorful plantation-era buildings.

Man laying on a sidewalk with rainbow "Aloha" chalk in Oahu

I’d suggest just strolling down the main drag, Kamehameha Highway, and popping into whatever stores catch your interest. Some of my favorite stops here include Matsumoto Shave Ice, Aloha General Store, and Silver Moon Emporium.

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

To catch a magnificent sunset, take on the Ehukai Pillbox hike, a moderately-challenging 2.1 mile trail. Along the way, you’ll weave your way through a lush forest and climb up a rocky hillside to reach two concrete bunkers perched along a ridgeline.

Couple sitting on the Peace Pillbox along the Ehukai Pillbox Hike in Oahu

From the top of these colorful bunkers, you’ll have panoramic views of Oahu’s northern coastline and a front row seat to one of the best sunsets on the island. Just remember to bring your headlamp

Dinner

After a good hike, you gotta carboload, right?! Jax Woodfired Pizza serves up pies made with locally-grown ingredients and a perfectly chewy sourdough crust.

Day 6: North Shore

Breakfast

Another day, another smoothie bowl!

Haleiwa Bowls makes some of the most delicious (and the most Instagrammable) bowls on the island. I still dream about the Paniolo Bowl, which is topped with bananas, strawberries, and raw cacao nibs. 

Woman holding two acai bowls from Haleiwa Bowls on the North Shore of Oahu

Shark’s Cove or Three Tables

Snag a parking spot somewhere near Shark’s Cove or Three Tables in the town of Pupukea, which are just a 6 minute walk from one another. Spend the morning snorkeling at one or both of these incredible beaches, both of which provide stunning amounts of colorful coral and vibrant fish feeding on it. 

Lunch

For lunch, hit up one of the North Shore’s best food trucks, like Panda’s Thai Food Truck or Surf n’ Salsa.

Laniakea Beach

In the afternoon, stop by Laniakea Beach, which just so happens to be one of the best places in Oahu to see sea turtles.

These cold blooded cuties crawl up on Laniakea’s shores almost every afternoon to bask in the warm sun before slipping back into the sea at night. There’s few things better than getting to enjoy a beach AND admire the largest species of sea turtle on the planet (which can clock in at over 300 pounds!). 

Hawaiian sea turtle at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu

One of my favorite memories of Oahu was watching the sunset over Laniakea Beach, while watching a 30 year old sea turtle named Olivia (according to the volunteers making sure no one was messing with the sea turtles) take a nap on the warm sand.

Tao Luau

Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening at the Tao Luau at Waimea Valley. You’ll kick off the afternoon by walking through its incredibly lush botanical gardens and along a paved path to Waimea Falls, a 45-foot waterfall that you can actually swim under. 

Bird of Paradise at the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu

While the Waimea Valley definitely tends to be a bit on the touristy side during the day, the luau here offers a much more intimate experience, with a focus on Polynesian culture and history. Yes, you’ll still get the typical fresh flower lei, Hawaiian food, and fire dancer finale that you’d expect at any luau, but it also includes thoughtful cooking and cultural demonstrations, like a traditional Fijian kava ceremony. 

Day 7: Make your way back to Honolulu

Breakfast

Pack your bags and load up the car- it’s sadly time to make your way back to Honolulu to fly home. On your way out, grab breakfast at Crispy Grindz, a food truck serving up Brazilian street food, located in Haleiwa. I LOVE the pastels, which are HUGE fried wontons stuffed with savory or sweet offerings, like cinnamon banana. Yes, please! 

Stop along the leeward (west) side of Oahu

Depending on if you have time to burn before your flight, you can make a stop on the leeward side of the island at Ko Olina.

As mentioned above, Ko Olina is a resort town, so while the authentic Hawaiian vibes are admittedly pretty low here, it’s inarguably got some really nice amenities that are worth checking out, like man made lagoons that are perfect for relaxing and upscale spas. 

View of Aulani, A Disney Resort in Ko Olina, Oahu

On the other hand, if you’re feeling like seeing something slightly more off-the beaten path, Electric Beach is an under-the-radar snorkeling spot near Ko Olina.

As the name may suggest, the beach is located near a power plant, which shoots warm (totally clean!) water into the ocean. Everything from fish to turtles LOVE this warm stream of water— in fact, when we stopped here, other snorkelers actually saw dolphins in the water! Just be forewarned—the waves can definitely be on the gnarlier side here.

Lunch

Make your way back to Honolulu and if you need one more meal before your flight, stop at the Aloha Tortilla Factory.

It’s a fast-casual restaurant with seriously good Mexican food with a Hawaiian twist—you gotta soak up all those aloha vibes while you can. Plus, their horchata is SO good!

Woman holding a horchata in front of Aloha Tortilla Factory and Cafe in Honolulu, Oahu

Head to the airport

Sadly, it’s time- head to the airport and start planning your next trip to Oahu!

Other Things to Do in Oahu:

If you have more time on Oahu or aren’t super into some of the hiking trails I suggested above, consider checking out:

Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden (Honolulu)

Besides being packed with tropical flowers from all over the world, these gardens offer one of the most dramatic views of the impossibly green Koʻolau Mountains on the island. Plus, it’s totally free!

Ko'olau Mountains at the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Honolulu, Oahu

Helicopter tour (Honolulu)

Continuing with the Jurassic Park vibes, why not check out Oahu’s lush mountains and stunning waterfalls from above? There’s plenty of companies offering helicopter tours, like this tour (which you can take either doors on or off!) or this open door tour.

Kualoa Ranch (Kaneohe on the east side of Oahu)

If Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens aren’t Jurassic Park-y enough for you, check out Kualoa Ranch, which was quite literally the filming location of everyone’s favorite dinosaur flick. Besides being epically gorgeous, there’s tons of adventures you can get up to here, including UTVing, ziplining, or on a tour of actual Jurassic Park shooting locations.

ATV driving in front of the Koʻolau Mountains at the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu

Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Honolulu)

This memorial commemorates the 1,102 sailors and Marines that were killed on the USS Arizona, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here, you’ll be able to reflect on the past and learn information about the events of this fateful day, as well as how it impacted the United States’ involvement in World War II. You can either explore the memorial yourself or, to learn a bit more about its history, you can join a group tour with a knowledgeable guide.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial by the USS Arizona in Honolulu, Oahu

What to Pack for Oahu

We have a whole article dedicated to what you should include on your Hawaii packing list, but if you want a quick and dirty list of some of the key items you’ll need to bring along, don’t forget:

Man snorkeling at Waimea Bay Beach on the North Shore of Oahu

Phew- I hope you have a better idea of what your Oahu itinerary is going to look like. Do you have any questions about the island or any of the activities? Did I forget anything unmissable? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for reading our post! Check out our latest stories here and follow us on Instagram (@UprootedTraveler), YouTube, or on Facebook to see what we’re up to next!

Preview of instagram card encouraging readers to follow Uprooted Traveler on Instagram

Leave a Comment

Want to work with us?

Ask us any questions