If you only have a few days to spend in Oahu (island where Honolulu is), then you will want to maximize your time and see some amazing sites and have a great time. The island is so beautiful with so many things to do and see, you definitely can spend weeks here and still not see everything.
Last month when we travelled to Hawaii, we decided to split our time between two islands (Oahu and Maui) as it was our first time visting. So, that gave us 4 nights and 3 full days that didn’t invlove travel to get out and explore Oahu.
Here are my top 5 things you need to see and do when in Oahu and only have a short time to visit.
#1 – Visit Diamond Head Park. You will notice this large hill/mountain right off Waikiki Beach. It’s the tall pointed mountain on the coastline looking to the north east when standing on the beach. It is an old dormant volcano and you access the park from the west entrance off Diamond Head Road. The parking lot and main entrance is right in the middle of the crater. Such an awesome feeling to be standing in the middle of the field looking all around you at the vast size of the crater. If you are physically able, take the time to hike to the top. The first third of the trail is a paved path. Beyond that, you will be on dirt trails and climbing over rocks and some steep staircases. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the top. The view is worth the climb!
- Arrive early. There is limited parking and if the lot is full you will have to wait in a que line for a spot to open. Other advantage to arriving early is it won’t be as hot (good to know if you are planning to hike to the top)
- Bring water. After the gift shop, there is no where to get water as you hike to the top.
- Bring sunscreen. The sun is very strong!
- Wear comfortable shoes. The hike up to the top is not suitable for flip flops.
#2 – Swim and Snorkel at Hanauma Bay. This is a national park and you will have to pay admission to enter the park ($7.50 per person plus $1 for the car), but it’s worth the stop. If you are not going to go swimming/snorkelling, you can just pay the $1 for parking and see the view from above. You will not be able to access the beach without paying the admission fee. You also have to watch a 15 minute mandatory video about safety of the reefs and the protective measures that have been put in place before you can head down to the beach. If you have your own snorkeling equipment, bring it. You can rent masks and fins on the beach. The snorkleing is wonderful and you can see so many beautiful fish only a few feet from the beach.
- Just rent the mask – no need for fins. The water is so shallow, you just float anyhow.
- If you are a family of 4, just get 2 sets of equipment. It’s $12 per mask to rent. We went out in pairs and took turns. That way your stuff is not left unattended on the beach.
- Bring food/drinks/water with you. There is no snack bar on the beach and its a very LONG walk back up the big hill to get to the snack bar.
#3 – Visit the North Shore / Haleiwa. The small town of Haleiwa is famous for it’s surfing conditions. Many competitions are held here and if the conditions are right, you will get to witness pretty massive waves. It’s fun to sit on the beach and watch the surfers. There is a shopping area as well on the main street (Kamehameha Hwy) with a good variety of shops offering clothing, souveniers and food.
- Take the highway along the east coast up to the north shore. The scenery is stunning with many interesting places to stop along the way (that drive alone is a whole other blog post!).
- Take your time driving there and stop at some of the beautiful beaches along the way.
#4 – Visit Pearl Harbour. Even if you are not into seeing historical sites, I do recommend you alot 1/2 a day and visit. The experience of being in the memorial is a profound one. It really does hit you with the magnitutde of what actually happened when you are standing in the memorial.
- If you are short on time, just do the free tour. The free tour is great. It includes access to the two museums, a 15 minute film and a boat ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial with time to splend reflecting.
- Arrive early to get your free tickets. They only give out 1300 tickets per day and once they are gone, they are gone. We arrived at 10:30am and were given tickets for 1pm. We opted to trade them in for 2:30pm and we went to go do something else first and then spent the afternoon on site.
- Parking is free, but you most likely will have to walk quite a distance to the main entrance. Best to drop off members of your party who need assistance and then go park your car.
#5 – Waikiki Beach. Our condo that we rented was in Waikiki Beach so we were lucky to be immersed in city and night life. Kalakaua Avenue is the main road that runs paralell to the beach. This is the “5th Avenue” of Hawaii. All the brand name and high end boutiques can be found here along with lot’s of other shopping, restaurants, bars and all the big hotels. Even if you just want to go for a walk and people watch, the area is always busy, no matter the time of day!
- Walk through some of the hotels. Many of them are joined to one another with walk-ways. Great too if you need to find a restroom or just need to access some wifi!!
- Look for bars with happy hours. Almost all of them offer some sort of happy hour and the drink deals are great.
- Watch the fireworks. Every Friday night, fireworks are set off from near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort. Best place to watch is on the pier at Fort Derussy Beach Park (next to the Outrigger Reef Beach Resort). Check online for start times. We were there in early February and the start time was 745pm. We arrived to get a spot to sit at 715pm.
There were so many things to do, we didn’t even get a chance to see everything. I would have loved to play a round of golf (there are so many beautiful courses), but we ran out of time.
Hope your first (or next) visit to Hawaii is amazing. If you are spending time on Oahu, hope you get to enjoy some of these great sites. If you have visited before, what were your favourite things to do? Drop me a comment below and let me know!
Eatch for my next blog where I will highlight my top 5 picks of things to do in Maui.
Amber Dinda is wife, mom of two teenagers and a serial entreprenuer. She has embraced the mid life years as an opportunity to enjoy and explore all that life has to offer and not approach mid life as a crisis. You can follow Amber’s journey and experiences by subscribing to her blog and connecting with her on Facebook or on Instagram.