Oahu Itinerary: The Top 10 Things To Do in Hawaii

The list of things to do on Oahu is seemingly endless. There are countless beautiful beaches, jaw-droppingly gorgeous hikes, and tons of amazing restaurants making it hard for visitors to narrow down their itinerary for Oahu to the most important things.

As the daughter of someone born and raised in Hawaii, I am a self-proclaimed expert.  I have visited over 50 times, most of my family still lives there today, and I even have the geo coordinates of Honolulu tattooed on my arm (the ultimate sign of love, no?).  

Over the course of my life, while on my 50+ Oahu trips, I have done just about everything the island has to offer.  As such, I have come up with a long list of do's and don'ts.  

Below are my top 10 Oahu itinerary recommendations for those looking to have the trip of a lifetime!

Is it your first time visiting? Click here for facts about Hawaii to know before you visit!

 

Where to Stay

Before we get into the itinerary items, let’s talk about where to stay! Location-wise I recommend you stay in Honolulu (including Waikiki), Kailua (home of the world’s prettiest beach!), or the North Shore. Ko Olina is also a good option for some people.

If you prefer a hotel or resort, click here for my list of the best ones.

Want a more local experience? Click here for the 11 best Airbnbs on Oahu.

 

Oahu Itinerary: Top 10 Things to do in Hawaii

WAIKIKI

Whenever my friends or people I know go to Oahu and stay in Waikiki the entire time they all end up hating it.  Because of that, let me start out by saying do not spend all of your time in Waikiki.  Waikiki is a great place to stay but if you do stay there make sure you rent a car so that you are able to get to items 1-9 below!

My local’s guide to the best places to eat on Oahu has a lot of Waikiki spots I recommend stopping by.

If you have free time at night, walk up and down Waikiki.  There are street performers, parrots, and other fun things to check out!  Also try a sunset cruise if that is of interest to you.

Click below to see the latest prices on popular activities in Waikiki:

 

KUALOA RANCH

If you want to spend the day (or two!) feeling like you're in the real life Jurassic Park or need a fun break between restless beach days, look no further.  Kualoa Ranch is a beautiful ranch between Honolulu and the North Shore where many famous movies were filmed - Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Pearl Harbor to name a few.  It is a must on your Oahu itinerary.

They offer countless different tours and adventures, everything from horseback rides to ATV tours to their new treetop canopy zipline tour! I have done most and would highly recommend them all. Click here to see all the different options.

PS. Secret island (#4 on this list) is also here!

 

HIKING

One of the best things you can do while visiting Oahu is to take advantage of the beautiful hiking options.  There are trails for hikers of all experience levels and the photo opps you'll get can only be captured on foot so get out there and explore! I would recommend making at least one of the below hikes part of your Hawaii itinerary.

For a quick and easy hike with a beautiful view check out Diamond Head.  

Also with beautiful views and still fairly easy is Lanikai Pillboxes. Click here for a guide to the Lanikai Pillbox hike.

For a moderate jungle hike try Tantalus.  

And, if you are in for something extra difficult, try my favorite of them all - Kokohead.  Go before sunrise as there is no shade whatsoever and it gets HOT.

If you’d like to do a guided hike, click below to see the latest prices and reserve your spot:

 

KAYAKING

Kayaking anywhere in Hawaii is gorgeous (of course) but my go-to is from Lanikai beach to the mokes. For kayak rental check out Hawaii Beach Time, they'll bring it right to you at the beach!

 

NORTH SHORE

When visiting Oahu you can absolutely not miss a visit to the North Shore. The North Shore is the most remote and by far the most beautiful, in my humble opinion.  Haleiwa should be your North Shore destination and I'd recommend making numerous stops on your way and while there.

Click here for a local’s guide to visiting Oahu’s North Shore.

If you don’t want to explore on your own or you will not be renting a car, click below to see the latest prices and reserve your spot:

 

HALEIWA JOE'S AT HAIKU GARDEN

Haleiwa Joe's at Haiku Gardens is my favorite dinner spot in all of Hawai'i - and that's saying a lot coming from someone that has visited Hawai'i over 50 times! This is especially important if you are here because you’re looking for the perfect Hawaii honeymoon itinerary.

Dining here makes you feel like you are eating dinner in Jurassic Park and to make it even better, the food is also to die for.  If you’re looking for an Oahu 3 day itinerary or even just have one day, this is a must.

Go early, put your name in (make sure you request a table on the edge so you have a clear view) then walk around the gardens below until your table is ready.  It is a 15-30 min drive from Honolulu, depending on traffic.

Note: there's also a Haleiwa Joe's in Haleiwa, but I specifically recommend the Kaneohe location at Haiku Gardens.

 
 

SECRET ISLAND AT KUALOA RANCH

If you are looking for a beach that is more remote, Secret Island (part of Kualoa Ranch) is my go to.  If you’re looking to fill an Oahu itinerary 7 days, I would add this to the list. If you have less time than that it might not be the best use of your time depending on how much beach time you want to spend.

Although not free, buying a ticket gets you access to the beach and unlimited activities such as standup paddleboarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, etc. for 2.5 hours.  I would consider doing this in the morning and then taking a tour of the ranch in the afternoon.

Pricing varies depending on age and season. You can find more specific info on their site by clicking here.

 

LANIKAI BEACH

DO NOT MISS THIS! Lanikai Beach is my favorite beach of all time and is often listed as one of the best in the world!

Try to get there for sunrise or stay for sunset, not just for the views but also to avoid the crowds (it is quite popular these days).  If you're looking for an activity, consider kayaking to the mokes.  

For kayak rental check out Hawaii Beach Time.  Alternatively you can hike to the nearby Lanikai Pillboxes when you are sick of the beach.


 

DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR

A doors off helicopter tour is hands down THE most beautiful way to see the island. Going the doors off route makes for completely unobstructed views so if you are interested in the photo opps provided from a helicopter, there is no better option.

Click here to see the latest prices and reserve your spot!

If you need a place to rent a good lens, Hawaii Camera Rental was very helpful. I used the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II for my trip.

 

SWIM WITH DOLPHINS IN THE WILD

Swimming with dolphins in the wild is a truly magical experience that should be made top priority while visiting Oahu. I love it so much that I've done it a handful of times already!

Dolphin Excursions is the company I recommend using. They will provide you with you roundtrip transportation from Waikiki or Ko Olina if needed.

Click here to see the latest prices and reserve your spot (they sell out so do this now).

 

If you are interested in capturing good photos, click below to see the latest prices for four popular photo tours:

 
 

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