Oahu Itinerary ideas: A flexible plan for your best ever tropical vacation

best oahu itinerary ideas

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Looking for Oahu itinerary ideas? Taking a short or longer break on the tropical and breathtakingly beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu is always a great idea, but apart from beaches, what is there to see and do?

This flexible Hawaii itinerary has some suggestions, and can be adapted to suit the time you have as well as your interests. Whether you prefer a relaxed break or a more active vacation, why not see the very best of Oahu your way?   

Overview – 7 days in Oahu

This flexible itinerary is built around the idea of spending time at two bases, staying several days in Waikiki and a few on the North Shore. This allows you to experience the best beaches, culture, and food of the island, while sampling the tropical lifestyle. It also minimises the travel time required, as well as avoiding the upheaval of switching accommodation every day.

To make the most of this 7 day Oahu itinerary it’s best to rent a car for some or all of your trip so you can access all the locations you want to spend time in. Whether you prefer to chill out or like to be kept busy while on vacation, both relaxing and more active options are included for a week in Oahu to remember. 

Day 1 – 4: Explore Waikiki and Honolulu

waikiki oahu itinerary 7 days

Your base: Waikiki Beach

Waikiki beach is a great place to stay. Yes, it’s well known and therefore busy, but as there’s plenty of space it rarely feels crowded. Staying here gives you access to a great range of high quality accommodation, while sampling the appealing laid-back coastal lifestyle of the Hawaiian islands.

Day One: Take a surfing lesson or glass bottom boat tour

We suggest taking a relaxed approach to your first day in Waikiki. Explore the streets, and the long sweep of golden sand, perhaps stopping here and there for a coffee or cocktail and to browse in the stores. If you do feel like getting active, you could book a 90-minute surfing lesson on the famous beach so you can master the basics right away. Or for a more relaxing option, try a glass bottom boat tour so you can marvel at the aquatic life found below the surface. 

surfboards on waikiki beach oahu

Day Two: Visit Pearl Harbor Memorial or snorkel with turtles

The World War II memorial at Pearl Harbor is a fascinating place to visit – and the memorial also occupies a dramatic coastal site. You can get to Pearl Harbour by renting a car, or taking an organized trip like the Salute to Pearl Harbor tour

An alternative way to spend your second day is to take a catamaran cruise from Waikiki to Turtle Canyon to snorkel with the resident green sea turtles. You may also have the opportunity of spotting migrating whales or dolphins, and will witness superb views of Diamond Head.

Both of these are half day tours, giving you the chance to relax at the beach or by the pool during the afternoon. For the evening, we recommend making a booking at Duke’s bar, for dinner or sunset drinks with a view of the beach and spectacular Diamond Head

see the sea turtles oahu hawaii

Thinking of renting a car for your trip to Oahu? You’ll find the best deals on Car Rental by booking.com. Pick up your car at Honolulu ariport to access the best prices.

Day Three: Waimanalo Beach, Kualoa Ranch or a submarine trip

To see the best of Oahu on your third day, a rental car will be required so you can take a drive to Waimanalo Beach or Kualoa Ranch. Otherwise, you could embark on an underwater submarine adventure. If you opt for a beach day, our top tip is to leave early so you can stop en route at Leonard’s Bakery. Sampling the malasadas – a type of Portuguese donut without a hole – is an island must. Once at the beach, you can take advantage of powdery golden sands, curling waves and warm, clear blue waters. This part of the coast is rarely crowded, especially during weekdays.

kualoa ranch oahu itinerary 5 days

Today’s alternative is to take a trip to Kualoa Ranch, where you can see the spectacular scenery and locations used when filming Jurassic Park and Hawaii Five-O. Once you’re there, a vintage movie bus tour can take you to see the key sights if you wish. For those without a rental car, taking a submarine journey underwater is a fascinating way to spend the day. Venturing 100 feet below the ocean surface while staying completely dry, passengers can observe coral reefs and colorful sea life.  

During the evening, we recommend hiring a local photographer so you can take a guided photoshoot. Those in the know can help you capture the most amazing sunset pictures ever, so you can show off to your family and friends back home. 

Day Four: Beach time, Ala Moana mall, Honolulu or a helicopter trip

iolani palace honolulu itinerary

For your final day in Waikiki, enjoy a lazy day on Waikiki beach or browse the attractive range of stores at the Ala Moana shopping mall for a bargain, vacation souvenir or gift. Another option for your last day on the southern shore is to explore the wider city of Honolulu, beyond Waikiki, where the key attractions include Iolani Palace, the wall murals of the Kakaako District and Chinatown. The city is seen as a hub for street art, and hosts the Pow! Wow! street art festival every February.

Alternatively, take a helicopter tour of the island for a bird’s eye view of Oahu. This 45-minute trip can be taken with the doors on or off, for a thrilling ride over Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Sacred Falls and more. You may also spot volcanoes, pineapple plantations and lush rainforest. During the evening, a memorable way to bid Waikiki a fond farewell is to take a sunset cocktail cruise. Nibble canapes and sip delicious drinks during the 1.5 hour catamaran trip, while the sun sinks over the Pacific horizon. 

Days 5 – 7: Discover the North Shore

Your base: Oahu’s North Shore

The great thing about a week long stay on Oahu is that you can experience the chilled out surfer vibes and relaxed atmosphere of the North Shore as well as bustling Honololu and Waikiki. The North Shore is famous for sunsets, food trucks and, of course, incredible surf. It’s the place to go to really relax into your vacation and enjoy the unique Polynesian culture of Oahu.

Day Five: Haleiwa beach and town and Waimea Valley and falls

Today, take your rental car on a trip to Haleiwa on the North Shore to begin the second part of your Oahu vacation itinerary. The journey should take about an hour.  Spend some time at Haleiwa Beach Park, as well as wandering through the town, making sure to stop and sample the yummy Matsumoto Shave Ice, a local specialty that originated in Japan. It consists of vanilla ice cream topped with shaved ice of various flavors. 

haleiwa oahu itineraries

We’d also recommend visiting Waimea Valley, where it’s possible to take a swim at Waimea Falls, which is set among a pretty botanical garden. For dinner in the evening, trying some of the fabulous food trucks the North Shore is famous for is a must-do. Our family favorites include Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck and North Shore Fish Tacos. If you do pass by, don’t miss Giovanni’s sublime garlic shrimp. 

Day Six: Polynesian Cultural Center or rainforest zipline

The Polynesian Cultural Center allows visitors to delve deeper into the rich history and culture of the Pacific islands and Polynesian people. Occupying a scenic 42-acre site, the cultural center offers the chance to explore island villages, dine at a traditional luau and see a spectacular evening show. If you sample all of these, it’s easy to spend a whole day at the center. 

polynesian cultural center oahu

To experience an adrenaline rush like no other, take a zipline ride through the Hawaiian rainforest. This thrill-filled ride is packed with mountain and ocean panoramas as well as boardwalks and bridges. A range of ziplines is available, between 500 and 2,400 feet and ranging from extra quiet to ultra high or super long. Along the way, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for tropical gardens, waterfalls and other beautiful scenery. As the day draws to a close, don’t miss the natural spectacle as the sun sets over the aptly-named Sunset Beach. 

READ: Our round up of the best luaus on Oahu

Day Seven: Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay and Dole Whip

banzai pipeline north shore hawaii

For the final part of your 7 day itinerary on Oahu, make sure you check out the sizeable waves of the Banzai Pipeline. Often locally referred to simply as ‘pipe’ or ‘pipeline’, this surf break can be accessed via Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea. For experienced wave riders only, the sheer scale of the rolling surf has to be seen to be believed.

Hopefully you’ll have time for one last end-of-vacation swim at Waimea Bay Beach, making sure to pick up a Dole Whip pineapple ice cream on the way to Honolulu airport. This local delicacy is a pineapple flavored soft serve treat dreamt up by Dole during the 1980s, and is now hugely popular at Disney theme parks as well as other attractions worldwide. 

Where will your Oahu itinerary take you?

sunset in oahu hawaii

Allowing you to see the very best of the island, we hope this Oahu itinerary for 7 days in Hawaii helps inspire your trip. As you can see, it can easily be adapted to the time you have available – whether that’s 5 days in Oahu or an entire fortnight’s family vacation.

For further trip inspiration, why not check out our other Hawaii guides including top things to see and do on Oahu and our recommended top ten North Shore experiences 

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