Where to Stay
If you’re planning a trip to Oahu consider staying in a place where you can shred some waves, lounge at pristine beaches, shop, dine at delicious restaurants, and so much more. Waikiki is a bit more touristy than say, the North Shore, but it offers more options for places to stay and it’s still a fairly short drive to the North Shore. If it’s your first time to Hawaii, in general, Waikiki is the way to go. Now, for accommodations you have two main options: hotel or Airbnb. It is worth noting that Hawaii has a restriction on residential homes being used as short term rentals; meaning limited availability for Airbnbs and rentals go fast. If you aren’t planning on traveling with more than two people I suggest staying in a hotel. If you go that route, be sure to check up on possible discounts on a room through your credit card, employer, or even use points/airline miles.
How to Get Around
Taking The Bus (Oahu’s public transit system) is the cheapest option. One way is only $2.75 a person (or $5.50 for a 1 day pass) and it goes to the North Shore! The only downside is that The Bus is definitely the most time consuming option – a 30 min drive from the airport to Waikiki took over an hour on The Bus.
If you’re thinking about renting a car, use Turo. It’s a bit cheaper than other rental options. Cars get rented pretty fast so try to book in advance. Plan on just getting a rental car when you go to the North Shore. Parking in the city can be pretty costly.
Walk, bike and scooter as much as you can. Not only will you be burning off the calories from delicious Hawaiian treats, but the weather typically permits these forms of transportation, and who doesn’t want to help the environment out a little? Of course, these options are difficult if you’re traveling with kids or adults who have a hard time getting around. If that’s the case go for the rental car or utilize Uber.
Day 1: ARS Coffee, Diamond Head Summit Trail, Queens Beach
Start your day with coffee and breakfast at Ars Coffee for some delicious Kona coffee and breakfast sandwiches then make your way to Diamond Head to do the summit trail! Try getting to Diamond Head earlier in the morning or on a weekday as it can get pretty crowded on the weekend. Depending on what part of Waikiki you’re in, it could be anywhere from a 30-45 min walk just to get to the Diamond Head area, so keep this in mind if you’d prefer to Uber there instead. There is a food truck stationed outside the entrance to the trail but another fun option is to pack food from a market to take with you for a picnic before you leave the crater. But make sure you do stop at the truck for Dole Whip on your way out! Finish the day lounging on Queen’s Beach in Waikiki and get dinner at one of the many delicious restaurants in the area.
Day 2: Barefoot Beach Cafe, Snorkel with Sea Turtles, Luau
Okay, so Barefoot Beach Cafe is a pretty touristy spot but the breakfast is good and it is right on the beach. The acai bowl, avocado toast, and breakfast sandwich are all popular options. In Hawaii, water activities are a must so today is the perfect day to book a sea turtle snorkeling excursion like this one I booked on Viator for only $57 a person (price varies depending on season), with a flexible cancellation policy. It was two hours round trip, the guides were great and we got to swim with sea turtles! Spend the last part of the day at a luau for dinner and a show! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend a luau on this trip as they were all sold out (book in advance). But I hear it’s a really fun experience if you’ve never been to one. You can find a list of luaus on Oahu here or check Groupon for deals.
Day 3: Waimea Falls, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Sunset Beach
Today is all about the North Shore. Grab breakfast from Duke’s Lane Market in Waikiki (and something for lunch), pack up the rental car and hit the road! It takes a little under an hour to get from Waikiki to Waimea Valley. Admission is $20 for adults, $12 for kids, and they offer military and student discounts. The trail is about 1.5 miles and will take you through a beautiful botanical garden straight to a waterfall. Depending on the weather you may even be able to swim in the waterfall! If you happen to visit Waimea Valley on a Thursday make sure you stop at the farmer’s market, open from 2-6pm. Waimea Valley is also home to the 5 star rated Toa Luau, which offers luaus three days a week through May 2021, four days a week June through August 2021, and back to three for the rest of the year. Buying tickets to the luau will also give you free admission to the falls! After Waimea, make your way to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa for dinner. Get the garlic shrimp scampi – you’ll thank me later – and take your food to Sunset Beach to watch the sunset, the perfect way to end a day in the North Shore.
Day 4: Eggs n’ Things, Iolani Palace, Ala Moana Park, Waikiki Beach
Start your last day the right way with a delicious breakfast at Eggs n’ Things. They have multiple locations in Oahu so find the one closest to you and enjoy! If there is a long wait, power through. You don’t want to miss breakfast from here. Then, depending on how comfortable you are, rent a bike or scooter and make your way down to Iolani Palace. Depending on Covid regulations, it may only be possible to go inside by booking a tour (a great way to learn about the Hawaiian monarchy) or you can always sightsee from outside and get a good pic with the King Kamehameha statue for the ‘gram. After, head over to Ala Moana Regional Park. The park has tennis courts, places to picnic, a beautiful beach, and plenty of grassy areas for activities. Make your way to Ala Moana Center, a huge outdoor mall, to shop and have lunch. Wrap up your final day back in Waikiki with ramen from Marugame Udon (it’s busy, but worth it) and watch the sunset at Waikiki Beach.
I hope this itinerary helps you plan your next trip to Oahu! It’s an absolutely beautiful island and there are so many things to do! Don’t forget to check the websites for more things you want to do as establishments are constantly making adjustments to Covid regulations.