Oahu, Hawaii Travel Guide | Everything You Need To Know

Tucked away in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean lies the alluring gem of Oahu, Hawaii. Renowned for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture, Oahu offers an unforgettable escape for travelers seeking both relaxation and adventure. Whether indulging in freshly shaved ice, hiking to breathtaking vistas, or immersing oneself in the rhythmic beats of traditional hula, Oahu offers an enchanting experience like no other.

Oahu, Hawaii is the most popular island among all the islands in Hawaii. The most famous destination in Oahu is Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, a stunning place always bustling with tourists. Therefore, we decided to rent a car and explore other parts of the island. 

In this travel blog, I will share everything you need to know about exploring this beautiful Island along with three day itinerary.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay – Beautiful crystal clear water and amazing place to go for snorkeling. We usually do guided snorkeling tour when we travel, this time we tried snorkeling by ourselves at Hanauma bay. Yup, we were a bit hesitant about it, however it turned out to be an awesome place to snorkel for beginners like us. Best time to visit would be early in the morning when the gates are open for the visitors. The Bay is closed every Tuesday for maintenance and cleaning.

You can get the latest information about the place here.

Lanai Lookout

After spending half day at Hanauma Bay, we drove the Kalanianaʻole Hwy where there are lots of hiking trails and lookouts to enjoy. Lanai lookout is one of the stop along the highway.

If you have time, do visit Lava Tube nearby. Its a short hike leads to gorgeous window opening with Oceanview. Do watch for bad weather and high tide before hiking.

Halona Blowhole Lookout

Next lookout at Kalanianaʻole Hwy was Halona Blowhole. It is one of Hawai’i’s natural wonders, created thousands of years ago when molten lava tubes were formed from volcanic eruptions. We waited for a while to see the big action however we only managed to see small waves crashing. Maybe next time…

Halona Beach Cove  is another place we would recommend to spend some time. It is just besides the Halona Blowhole lookout area. If you look on the righthand side near the entrance of parking lot you will find a rough path which leads to this stunning cove. You need to hike down to the small  beach area.

Makapu'u lookout

Just few mile from Halona lookout you can find another stunning spot called Makapu’u Lookout. It is located just off Kalanianaole Highway on Oahu’s southeastern tip. We parked our car and walked towards the lookout to enjoy the view overlooking at Makapu’u Beach and the two other smaller islands, Manana (aka Rabbit Island) and Kaohikaipu.

It is also a start of trailhead to Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Lookout – a 2.5 mile moderate hike from parking lot. 

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

After driving Kalanianaole Highway, we took Pali highway and drove to Nu’uanu Pali lookout. The drive through the Pali highway was breathtaking, where you will see the city disappear into the tranquil beauty of lush Hawaiian natural landscape. The lookout offers panoramic views of the gorgeous Koolau cliffs and Windward Coast. 

The entry is free, however if you are coming by car there is parking fee of $3.

Hike the Diamond head Summit trail

There are numerous hikes in Oahu – legal or illegal, easy or advance, short or day hike. You can fit any hikes based on how many days you are spending in the island. We had only 3 days to explore so we planned to do two short hikes, though we ended up doing only one as we had to cancel the other hike due to rain.

We planned Diamond Head Summit for sunrise and so we reached early as soon as park opens. The hike was good  (1.6 mile round trip) and views at the summit were beautiful and rewarding. 

Note – Since this is a popular trail you may find it crowded and the parking also fills up quickly. If you have time you can also check out Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Byodo-In Temple

 Byodo-In Temple which translate to the Temple of Equality, an authentic Japanese temple situated on the stunning backdrop of the lush Koolau Mountains. The temple is half-scale replica of a 900 year old structure in Uji, Japan and was build in a traditional way without using any nails (interesting!).

It was raining on the day when we visited and Ko’olau Mountains brought eye popping backdrop over clouds – and everything looked so beautiful and peaceful. If you want to visit Japan in Hawaii, you should certainly check out Byodo-In Temple 🙂

Travel Tips – (1) There is a cash only admission to the temple. (2) There is a small snack stall in the side of the temple – try Tapioca Coconut dessert, its delicious.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

The 400 acres garden is nestled at the base of majestic Koolau Mountain range . This place is about 20 mins drive from Honolulu and the entry is completely free. The drive inside the garden is something we will never forget. If you decide to trip around Oahu, we would definitely recommend to drive inside the garden.

Travel tips- (1) Photography on some parts of the the road to the visitor center is not permitted and guards roam around to keep a check. (2) Stop at the visitor center and get to know more about the garden. (3) Campgrounds are available for overnight stay and permit is required for the same.

North shore - Oahu's Paradise

North shore Oahu has numerous things to offer – Pristine empty Beaches , delicious Poke and Acai Bowls, one of the best place to learn surfing. North Shore provided an opportunity to enjoy holiday far from the city’s hustle in cute small towns.

Waikiki Beach - The happening place

Though its crowded, I would not skip it (haha!). It has its own charm and beauty. If you like to enjoy the area I would suggest to walk the stretch from Kahanamoku Beach till Kuhio Beach Park (vice versa).

Travel Tip –

(1) The Kuhio Beach Hula Show is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (weather permitting) from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm (6 pm to 7 pm Nov.–Jan.) at the Kuhio Beach Hula mound on Kalakaua Avenue. If you are visiting Waikiki area at that time – this is one of the best place to watch Hula dance and its free.

(2) Every Friday night the sky lights up with a spectacular fireworks display at Hilton Hawaiian village near Waikiki Beach around 8.00 pm and lasts for 10 mins. The fireworks are for Aloha Friday, a custom in Hawaii that celebrates the weekend.

Finally, keep some time to wander and see where the roads take you . You cannot do everything when you are traveling, so just relax and enjoy the journey! 

Where to Eat

Waiahole Poi Factory  – We stopped at this place when we were driving Kamehameha Highway. They offer one of the best authentic Hawaiian food and we ordered Chicken Long Rice along with Poi & Kulolo (taro dessert) with Haupia ice cream.

The Sunrise shack – This one is near Sunset Beach, North shore. They offer amazing Acai Bowls and delicious fresh fruit shakes.

Duke’s Waikiki  – This one is on the Waikiki beach and offers delicious drinks and food. We tried Mai -Tai (ofcourse!) ,Cajun Fish Tacos & Kushyaki Kabob (weird name but Yumm!)

Fruit stall at  Byodo-In Temple areaTry their different type of juices (we had fresh Sugarcane) and Tapioca with Coconut milk topped Mangoes (dessert). 

Kono’s restaurant – This is in Haleiwa North Shore. We heard a lot about Hawaiian traditional dish Kalua pig , so we tried Kalua pig Nachos .. yup, it tasted good. This is a nice breakfast restaurant to try.

Ma ru ka Me Udon – There Udon Noodles are very famous in Waikiki area. They make fresh noodles  everyday, you can see them making while you order. We tried Bukkake & Nikutama – It was different and yummy.

Last but not least  – Try Malasadas at Leonard’s, Pineapple juices at any fruit stall, Acai Bowl and Loco Moco at Moena Cafe. 

Where to Stay

Hawaii is not a budget friendly destination at any point of the year. Only thing to avoid extra cost would be to book in advance. You can search for hotels online based on your budget. Check Booking.com ; Expedia or any other site online for some good deals. Also, you can look for Vacation Rentals on Airbnb or Vrbo. (If you sign up Airbnb with our link , you get upto $55 off.) If you are plaining to rent a car and stay near Waikiki, I would suggest to check the parking fee details.

How to Reach

Only way to reach any of Hawaiian Islands is via flight. It is not a budget friendly destination, however you can try to save money by being flexible in terms of dates. We flew in Southwest Airlines for inter-island travel and could save the money on luggage since Southwest provides 2 bags check-in complimentary.

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the main airport of  Oahu . There are many flights which run between Islands of Hawaii, if you are willing to visit Maui, Kauai or Big Island.

Getting Around

 The most convenient and the best way to get around Oahu is by Car . We rented our car via Expedia – very easy way to book (You can always book and cancel/modify later). If you are renting a car do note that parking is not cheap.

Hope you enjoyed reading our blog and find it helpful planning your trip. Do tell us in comment, if you have found any place/things interesting you would love to do when you visit Oahu. 

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