Things To Do In Oahu + Road Trip Itinerary. Hawaii 2024
Oahu is the most famous island among tourists in Hawaii, perfect for first-time Hawaii visitors. Here are all the must-visit places in Oahu and the best way to visit all of them during a road trip.
We traveled to Hawaii as a group of friends last September and chose to stay in Oahu. It's named to be the most famous island among tourists, and there are a few reasons for this:
1) The capital, Honolulu, is located on this island.
You can read my article on 7 Things to Do in Honolulu, Hawaii 2024 to find out things to do in Honolulu this year ;)
2) The flight tickets to Honolulu airport are most often the cheapest.
3) It's simply the biggest island with the most things to do.
We were staying in Honolulu, and to explore the island from up close, we went on a 1-day road trip around the island. I can tell you that was just enough to enjoy most of the views & places. However, I'll also include some of the places we skipped so you can adjust your itinerary according to your personal needs.
Since the west shore is known to be more of a place for locals, we were recommended to skip that part of the island better. Going to the east coast and then returning through the middle of the island is the best way to see all the must-visit Oahu spots. Let's go through it!
1.Start in Honolulu
Get a car from one of the rentals that can be found across the capital. Let's start the trip with a TIP: when driving on any of the islands, be very patient & calm. Hawaiians are very respectful when driving, mainly because there are a lot of elderly behind the wheel. It's best to forget the car horn exists and only yell bad words when the windows are closed.
You'll be going via the Kalanianaole Highway, the main scenic route running along the island's eastern shore.
The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki
United States, Hawaii, Honolulu
In the center of Waikiki in Honolulu, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, provides a fitness center, full-service spa, on-site bakery, private section of the beach, beach activities, two outdoor pool options, and cultural activities.
Each room has an iPod docking station, a refrigerator with two bottles of water, and basic high-speed WiFi. The apartments are decorated with tropical themes and hues and have airy windows with views of the garden or ocean.
Swim at one of The Royal's two outdoor swimming pools, the Malulani Pool or the Helumoa Playground, or unwind on the beach. A hot tub and rentals for water sports are also available at the resort. Visitors can participate in daily cultural activities as well.
With one paying parent, children under 5 years old can dine for free from the kids' menu.
2.Stop at Lānaʻi & Halona Blowhole Lookouts
On your way to the very beginning of the highway, you'll find plenty of lookouts, and Lānaʻi Lookout & Halona Blowhole are some of the best ones to stop by.
Lānaʻi Lookout is known for its stunning panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding coastline and is one of the first viewpoints along the road. This spot is trendy among tourists, especially during the sunrise & sunset.
Halona Blowhole is a natural ocean blowhole formed by a narrow lava tube that extends from the ocean to a rocky cliff. When waves crash into the shore, water is forced through the tube and shoots upward through the blowhole, creating a dramatic geyser-like effect. There's also a fantastic beach right down the slope from the road (Halona Beach Cove). The waves there are huge, but the bay is incredible and definitely worth the walk down & back up.
3.Do a little hike up the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
This is one of the main attractions at Makapu'u Point. The trail leading to the lighthouse is a paved, relatively easy hike that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and the coastline. You can even see Koko Head, the islands of Molokai and Lanai, in the distance on some days.
The lighthouse itself is not open to the public, but it's a perfect spot for anyone seeking to upload that Hawaii picture on Instagram.
4.Enjoy your time at the Kailua Beach
This beach was like a fresh breath of air after the Waikiki beach. There were us and a few other people, and the vibe was entirely different and way more local. It's not only that. Kailua Beach is frequently recognized for its beauty, including being named one of the best beaches in America a few times. It could be described by all of the synonyms that ChatGPT could use to describe one - a "stunning, pristine, tranquil, with crystal-clear waters and idyllic," at the very least.
It's the perfect spot to take a dip and lay in the sun for a bit. Fun fact - we found a coconut there, so look around carefully, and you may be as lucky.
You may also want to eat something at this point, and Kailua is a perfect place to find a place of your liking.
5.Check the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout
For this one, you'll have to turn away from the main road along the coastline and drive a bit deeper into the island. It'll offer you one of the most amazing views on Oahu and an entirely new & very green view of the island.
You can drive all the way up to the top with a car. Nu'uanu Pali Lookout is not just a scenic spot, though. It has its own page in the Hawaiian history books as it was the site of the Battle of Nu'uanu, one of the main conflicts in 1795, where King Kamehameha I won a decisive victory that helped him unify the Hawaiian Islands.
Warning: it's super windy!
6.Explore the Laie Hawaii Temple
On your way to the Northern Shore, you'll pass the Laie Hawaii Temple, known for its stunning architectural design. It is one of the oldest temples built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) outside the continental US. It's the fifth oldest LDS temple still working.
Its white terracotta exterior, lush gardens, and majestic fountain make it a view not to forget. Make sure of it yourself:
7.Time for shrimps! Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Okay, I already praised this one in my Hawaiian Food: 8 Best Foods to Try in Hawaii article, but that just means you're simply lucky to be where you are/will be.
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck is a must if you're on the North Shore of Oahu. It serves shrimp that is often locally sourced, giving travelers a real taste of the island's seafood. Their garlic shrimp is so simple that it's impossible not to love. It's a simple dish – shrimp sautéed with heaps of garlic and served with rice – but it's made in a way that has earned a lot of praise.
You can find Giovanni's Shrimp Truck in Kahuku & Haleiwa, both located on Oahu island. I'm recommending stopping in Kahuku if you're coming in the evening (you can also try it in Haleiwa town, but it'll most likely be closed by the time you reach it). The food trucks are located in laid-back, outdoor places, further away from all the touristic buzz, giving you the authentic Hawaiian dining experience.
8.Meet the sunset at The Sunset Beach (A MUST!)
Okay, listen up. This is officially the most amazing sunset I've ever seen. I guess it's named The Sunset Beach, not without a reason. It's entirely different from what you can see in Honolulu, and you MUST make it in time to see it. The earlier, the better, as you'll see the whole palette of colors.
Moreover, in the wintertime, Sunset Beach is called a surfers' paradise with powerful waves. It's one of the longest-rideable surf spots in the world and a TOP location for prestigious surfing competitions, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Additional must-visit: Dole Plantation
This one's located in the middle of Oahu, and we didn't make it on our 1-day road trip. However, it seems like it's definitely worth a visit for a few reasons.
👉 You'll learn everything about pineapples in Hawaii. When, how, why, etc. All the history & details about pineapple cultivation and industry in the islands will be under your nose.
👉 You can ride the Pineapple Express - one of the main attractions at the Dole Plantation. The train ride offers a narrated tour with all the pineapple-related details. Imagine having a conversation about the coolest trains you've ever taken with someone - no one can beat something named "Pineapple Express."
👉 They have one of the world's largest outdoor mazes. The Pineapple Garden Maze stretches over three acres (!) and includes nearly two and a half miles (!!!) of paths crafted from thousands of colorful Hawaiian plants. It's fun not only for children (please, don't let them go alone) but also for the big guys.
Hope that helps to see what that island is really about.
And now, chop-chop - time to explore!
⚡ This property is a 6-minute walk from the beach. Located across from upscale shopping on Luxury Row, Aqua Oasis is a minute's walk to the Royal Hawaiian Center and a minute's walk to Waikiki Beach.
⚡ A spacious balcony, 42-inch flat-screen TV, an electronics charging station, and urban loft-style décor are included in each air-conditioned guest room. A private bathroom with an oversized deep soaking tub, hand-held shower head, and hairdryer is also provided. A small refrigerator and a coffee machine are included in each room. In addition, select suites offer a kitchenette with a full-size refrigerator, a microwave, and a rice cooker.
⚡ A continental breakfast is served daily. In addition, the GS Karaoke Studio is available for guest entertainment. An outdoor swimming pool and sauna are available for guest relaxation. An outdoor smoking area with koi ponds and a Japanese-style garden is provided.
1 swimming pool | Non-smoking rooms | Restaurant | Private Parking | Facilities for disabled guests | Parking on-site | WiFi in all areas | Bar | Breakfast