Posted on December 18, 2023

Oahu 7 Day Itinerary

Follow our Sample 7 Day Itinerary for the Perfect Week on Oahu!

by Suzanne G., December 28, 2023

Day 1: Travel Day

After arriving at your hotel, take time to get settled. Explore your hotel and the surrounding areas, and check out the pool or the beach. This is a great time to take care of last-minute planning or return phone calls. Be sure to confirm tour reservations and pick-up locations. Strolling around Waikiki is an excellent way to shake off the day’s stress before dinner. If you don’t feel like walking, hop on the Waikiki Trolley. The trolley is a great way to see how Waikiki is laid out and get your bearings. 

Evening: Don’t make the mistake of booking a luau or other evening activities for your first night in Hawaii. Firstly, you won’t be refunded if you experience flight delays. Secondly, it is just not worth the added stress. And finally, don’t force yourself to “do something fun” when you likely won’t have the bandwidth left to enjoy it. Many travelers underestimate how tired they will be on that first night. This is especially true when traveling from several time zones ahead of Hawaiian time. 

Day 2: Explore Waikiki

Waikiki is famous for its golden beaches and sunshine, so you’ll likely want to enjoy them first. All beaches in Hawaii are public, so you’ll have access to every stretch of beach in Waikiki. And there is even a beach walk if you want to stroll from end to end. Some beaches in the area have tidal breakwaters that are ideal for swimming. This is especially true if you are not a strong swimmer or are traveling with children. All forms of watersports are available in Waikiki as well. Beginner surfing lessons, snorkeling, parasailing, flyboarding, and jetski rentals are all located close to the Waikiki resorts.

While exploring Waikiki you’ll want to check out the Duke Kahanamoku statue at Kuhio Beach. It is one of the most photographed landmarks in Waikiki. If you are not a beach person, you could also spend this day hiking to the top of Diamond Head Crater (reservations required). The amazing panoramic view of Waikiki is worth the uphill trek.  

Evening: This is probably the best day to schedule a luau because you are rested and close to your hotel. Most luaus start much earlier than you might expect (4-5ish). This can make it hard to coordinate tours or activities outside of Waikiki. Luaus are a great introduction to Hawaiian culture and history. You’ll learn more about Hawaii throughout your vacation and luaus are the perfect initiation. The Diamond Head Luau is located in Waikiki Beach and the Nutridge Luau is located in the mountains just outside of town. However, most luaus offer a shuttle service, so you have many options available to you. Click here for a full listing of Oahu luaus.

Day 3: Go on a Circle Island Tour

This will be an early morning. Circle Island tour hotel pickups start around 7:30 am, but they are worth the early start. Even if you are not a “tour person” circle island tours provide so much value that they are hard to resist. They are fully narrated by knowledgeable local guides, and they are an extremely efficient way to see many Oahu attractions in just one day. Circle tours will also provide an overview of the island, which will help you make a better game plan for the days when you’re exploring on your own.

The tours typically stop at several scenic overlooks, notable attractions, and a few local businesses. Stops usually include the Byodo-in Temple, the North Shore, a macadamia nut farm store, lunch, and the Waimea Valley. A swim at the seasonal Waimea Falls is the highlight of the afternoon (when water conditions permit). Then be sure to treat yourself to a Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation on the way back to Waikiki. 

Evening: Don’t make dinner plans for this evening. You’ll return too late for a luau, dinner show, or dinner cruise. And you may return even later than expected if traffic is heavy or there are delays along the way. Also, you’ll be sampling local foods and enjoying treats throughout the day, so you may not have much of an appetite when you return to Waikiki.       

Day 4: Visit Pearl Harbor  

The Pearl Harbor Memorial is the most visited site in Hawaii and an absolute must for first-time visitors. The USS Arizona Memorial is the most well-known and visited site in the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex. However, there are several other Pearl Harbor sites that you may want to include in your plans. These include the USS Bowfin Submarine and the Pacific Fleet Museum, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and the USS Battleship Missouri Museum. Each museum requires an admission fee, but they allow you to tour through the interiors of the vessels and see the WWII-era airplanes and hangars up close. These stops will enhance your visit by bringing history to life and providing a more interactive experience.  The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center also has many interesting exhibits and presents a short film about the December 7, 1941 attack that you’ll want to see.

If you want to take in all of the sites at Pearl Harbor plan to spend a full day there. You can do this on your own or use a tour company. Tour operators will coordinate your USS Arizona Memorial reservation, tickets to the museums, transportation, and sometimes even lunch for you. 

Evening: It is best to plan for a low-key, laid-back dinner on this night. A day at Pearl Harbor can be tiring. It is a deeply moving and emotional experience for some. And the amount of historical information that you absorb throughout the day, although interesting, can take its toll. You or your loved ones may not be in the mood for a luau or other high-energy entertainment, so you may want to hold off on scheduling evening plans.          

Day 5: Re-visit the North Shore (on your own)

This is the one day on Oahu where you’ll need a rental car. Although you already spent some time on the North Shore during your Circle Island tour, this is your day to explore all the areas that you didn’t get to stop at, especially all the amazing beaches. (Commercial vehicles are not allowed to stop at the beaches on the North Shore, so you will have to drive yourself there if you want to explore them.)  North Shore beaches are known for big waves and surfing competitions in the winter, but they are great for swimming in the summer and sea turtle spotting year-round. Meanwhile, Haleiwa is the social and cultural hub of the North Shore, a charming little surf town that should not be missed while you are in the area.

Additionally, many popular activities like plantation or farm tours, shark diving, horseback riding, ziplining, and off-roading are located on the North Shore. Fortunately, everything of interest is closely concentrated in a small area, so you could easily coordinate several activities or tours, and still have time for exploring.   

Alternatively, Kualoa Ranch and the Polynesian Cultural Center are two other big draws on the North Shore that offer a shuttle service if you prefer to not rent a car. You could easily spend all day exploring either location. If you’d rather spend some quiet time in nature, this would also be a great day to explore one of the many excellent scenic hikes on Oahu.        

Evening: If you haven’t yet been to a luau, Toa Luau located in the Waimea Valley, offers one of the best luaus on Oahu. Toa Luau places a strong emphasis on cultural education and authenticity and provides a lot of hands-on learning and pre-dinner activities for its guests. The luau includes a sit-down dinner (not a buffet), Polynesian dancing, and a spectacular fire-knife performance to end the evening. Luau tickets include admission to the Waimea Valley and a pre-luau swim in the waterfall too!  

Day 6: Explore Downtown Honolulu

Although you could spend another day on the beach, you don’t want to miss out on all that Honolulu has to offer. Hawaii’s capital city has a rich history and cultural heritage, so be sure to explore downtown. Notable landmarks include the ‘Iolani Palace, the former residence of Hawaiian monarchs. Other stops include the King Kamehameha the Great statue, the Hawaii State Capital building, the Aloha Tower, and the Honolulu Harborfront. You may also want to visit Punchbowl Crater National Cemetery, the Izumo Taisha Shrine, the Foster Botanical Garden, the Bishop Museum, or the Hawaiian Museum of Art. You’ll certainly want to check out the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. Or wander the streets of the trendy Kaka’ako neighborhood. And be on the lookout for the many stunning murals that decorate buildings throughout Honolulu. 

Many of the sites mentioned above are located within walking distance of each other, but you may want to use a rideshare service and/or public transportation to get from Waikiki to downtown and back again. Another great option would be Waikiki Trolley’s Heroes and Legends Tour, which is a hop-on-hop-off tour that will pick you up in Waikiki and take you to all of these locations. 

Evening: A sunset dinner cruise aboard the Star of Honolulu is the best way to end a day exploring Honolulu and wind down your Hawaiian vacation. The ship is docked in Honolulu Harbor, right next to the Aloha Tower. You’ll enjoy a relaxing five-course meal while listening to live music and watching the sunset. The four-story Star is surrounded by observation decks on every floor and another deck at the very top with a panoramic view. You’ll enjoy stunning views of Waikiki and Diamond Head crater during the “golden hour”, which makes a perfect background for vacation pictures. 

Alternatively, the Ka Moana Luau is also located at the Aloha Tower. If you haven’t been to a luau yet, this is your last chance!    

Day 7: Travel Day 

If you have a later flight, enjoy a low-key morning at the beach, hanging out at the pool, or picking up those last-minute souvenirs. Rideshare drivers and taxis are busiest around hotel check-out time, so plan ahead to avoid experiencing delays.    

Sunset in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii.

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