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With its stunning beaches, lush forests, and rich culture, the island of Oahu is a dream destination for many travelers. If you’re wondering how best to explore and experience all that this Hawaiian island has to offer, you’ve come to the right place.

Deciding How to Get Around

Renting a Car

Renting a car is one of the most popular and convenient ways to explore Oahu. Major car rental companies like Hertz, Avis, and Budget have locations across Honolulu and at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Rental cars allow you the flexibility to make your own itinerary, stop at attractions anytime, and access more secluded parts of the island. Prices average $30-60 per day depending on the type of vehicle.

Using Public Transportation

Oahu has public bus routes that connect many popular sights and beaches, especially along the south and east shores between Waikiki and Hawaii Kai. TheBus offers an unlimited ride pass for $35 per day or $65 per week.

While budget-friendly, public transportation involves more time waiting at bus stops and less control over your schedule. Using the bus system takes more planning, but works well for travelers sticking to highly populated areas.

Booking Organized Tours

From Waikiki snorkeling adventures to road trips around the island, organized group tours package transportation and activities together for more convenience. Popular excursions like Atlantis Submarine and Polynesian Cultural Center packages include roundtrip transportation from Waikiki hotels.

Guided tours ensure you see top highlights with less effort coordinating logistics yourself. Tours range widely in terms of group size, destinations, and prices from $50 up to a few hundred dollars depending on inclusions.

Considering Other Options

While most visitors choose rental cars or group tours for transportation, Oahu also offers these alternative options to navigate certain areas:

  • The Waikiki Trolley offers three lines covering main Honolulu attractions for $25-$60 per day.
  • Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft operate across Oahu.
  • Bicycles and scooters can be rented affordably for short distances.
  • The monorail and boat services connect some resort areas.

Choosing your transportation comes down to factors like budget, destinations, group size, and convenience priorities. With scenic routes hugging the coastline and several modes linking key sights, getting around Oahu offers flexibility to match different travel styles.

Top Places to Visit in Oahu

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is a world-famous stretch of sand fronting the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu. With warm turquoise waters, steady waves, and white sand, it’s perfect for swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, and sunbathing. Don’t miss the lovely sunset views in the evenings.

Top resorts and hotels line the beach offering beachfront dining and entertainment. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Waikiki Beach had approximately 4.5 million visitors in 2021.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is a lagoon harbor on Oahu that is home to a number of historical sites and memorials commemorating the Pearl Harbor attack during WWII. Must-see attractions include the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Utah Memorial, USS Missouri, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Over 1.8 million people visited Pearl Harbor historic sites in 2021 according to the National Park Service.

North Shore

Oahu’s North Shore boasts some of the most famous and epic surf spots for big wave surfing. Top spots include Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Haleiwa. The thundering 30- to 50-foot waves roll in during the winter months attracting pro surfers and spectators.

The North Shore also offers sea turtle sightings, Shark’s Cove for snorkeling, quaint Haleiwa town for shopping, and beautiful beaches like Turtle Bay. Over 300,000 tourists visited famous surf towns on the North Shore in 2021.

Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach Park features over 2 miles of gorgeous sandy beach with calm, clear blue waters perfect for swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. The offshore coral reefs provide good snorkeling opportunities to see colorful fish and sea turtles.

Kite flying is also popular due to the trade winds. Kailua attracts both locals and visitors – over 830,000 people enjoyed the beautiful beach park in 2021 based on records from the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument is an iconic volcanic tuff cone featuring a popular 0.8 mile hiking trail leading up to breathtaking 360-degree views overlooking Honolulu and Waikiki. The trail has sets of stairs and tunnels and ends at an old military observation station built in 1908.

An astounding 1.1 million hikers climbed up Diamond Head in 2021 according to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, making it one of Hawaiʻi’s most visited and photographed natural sites.

Sample Oahu Itineraries

If You Have 1 Day

If you only have 24 hours on Oahu, you’ll need to make the most of your time! Here’s a jam-packed one day itinerary covering some of Oahu’s top attractions:

  • Start your morning off right with a quick stop at Diamond Head Lookout for sweeping views of Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu. It’s one of the island’s most iconic vistas and takes just a few minutes.
  • Head over to the North Shore and spend a couple hours strolling some of Oahu’s most famous beaches like Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) to see professional surfers catching waves and Sunset Beach. Grab a shaved ice to cool off!
  • Have a plate lunch at one of the North Shore’s casual restaurants like Kua Aina Sandwich Shop or Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.
  • On your drive back south, stop at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve for snorkeling and swimming with tropical fish in the sheltered bay.
  • Finish off your day in Waikiki with an iconic sunset dinner by the beach at Duke’s Waikiki Restaurant before browsing the shops on Kalakaua Ave.

This will show you several sides of Oahu within 24 hours! 🏖️ Of course there’s much more to see and do if you have more time.🌴

If You Have 3 Days

With three full days on Oahu, you’ll have time to see many of the highlights at a comfortable pace. Here’s a suggested 3 day Oahu itinerary:

  • Day 1: Follow the one day itinerary above to see Honolulu highlights like Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, North Shore beaches, and Hanauma Bay.
  • Day 2: Spend today exploring Oahu’s eastern region. Make the beautiful drive along the eastern coastline stopping at sights like Halona Blowhole, the scenic lookouts at Makapu’u Point, the quieter Waimanalo Beach, and the famous Sandy Beach.

    Also visit the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn about Pacific Islander culture through interactive demonstrations and shows. Have dinner in the North Shore town of Haleiwa.

  • Day 3: Devote today to visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, one of Hawaii’s most significant historical sites. Take a boat tour out to the memorial and spend time at the surrounding museums.

    Then drive up to the North Shore and end your last day on Oahu with sunset on one of the island’s legendary beaches.

This itinerary shows you Oahu’s most famous beaches as well as some important history and culture. 🤙 There are still things you’ll miss, so stay longer if you can! 🌺

If You Have 5+ Days

With five days or more to explore, you’ll be able to take Oahu at a more relaxed pace and also visit some lesser-known spots. Here is a 5 day Oahu itinerary recommendation:

Day 1 Follow the one day itinerary covering Honolulu, Waikiki, Diamond Head and the North Shore.
Day 2 Spend today exploring Oahu’s windward side including stops along the eastern coastline, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and dining in Haleiwa town.
Day 3 Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Take time to explore the on-site museums.
Day 4 Get off the beaten path! Visit Chinatown in downtown Honolulu. Explore off-the-grid beaches like Ka’ena Point. Hike lesser-known trails like the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. Have dinner in up-and-coming neighborhoods like Kaimuki.
Day 5 Spend your last day relaxing on any North Shore or Windward beaches you missed earlier in the week. Soak up the remaining hours on the island!

Having 5+ days allows you to combine Oahu’s most famous sights with some local favorites. You can take scenic drives along the coastline and have more flexibility if the weather changes. No matter what you choose to do, just relax and enjoy island time! 🤙☀️


With proper planning using the transportation options and top attractions listed above, you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip enjoying Oahu’s natural wonders, culture, and island charm.

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