Are you looking to plan your next Hawaiian getaway? Look no further! Oahu is the most visited island in Hawaii, and a destination you definitely won’t want to miss. If you are traveling to other Hawaiian Islands, be sure to also check out my full Kauai itinerary. Exciting adventures await, and are wrapped up neatly into this complete guide featuring the best things to do in Oahu. Click the itinerary below for a version that you can save and print:


Day 1

Snorkeling With Sea Turtles

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Green sea turtles, known as honu, are native to Hawaii. They are an endangered and protected species, but this doesn’t mean you can’t share the warm Hawaiian waters with them! Kick your vacation off in style with an amazing snorkeling experience at Turtle Canyon. You can choose to book a 2-3 hour catamaran cruise and snorkel or skip the cruise and get straight to the 2 hour snorkeling tour. Whatever you choose, I highly recommend this excursion. Swimming amongst these beautiful sea turtles was one of my best experiences in Hawaii. However, be sure to admire them from a distance – do not pet or touch these animals. They are a federally protected species, and touching or feeding sea turtles is a misdemeanor criminal offense which carries hefty fines and possible jail time.

While green sea turtles are plentiful at Turtle Canyon, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other marine animals. The water is home to so many species of beautiful tropical fish. You may even get lucky and see a pod of spinner dolphins, or humpback whales if you visit between December through April.

Surfin’ USA

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What better way to embrace island life than with a surfing lesson? Don’t let any fears of the ocean deter you. I never grew up with the ocean and am not a strong swimmer, so I was incredibly nervous to book a surfing lesson. However, I had the best and most patient surfing instructor — he really held my hand through all of it, and made sure I had a safe and enjoyable experience. Highly recommended. My only regret is that I booked my surfing lesson at the tail end of my trip. Waikiki is a great place to learn because the waves are typically 2-4 feet, which is perfect for beginners. Be sure to book your surfing lesson early on so you can use and practice those skills throughout the remainder of your trip!

Places to Stay (Days 1, 2, and 3)

Best Luxury hotels

The Ritz-Carlton, Waikiki Beach
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $570 – $660+ per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Spa | Kitchen | Laundry | Gym | Restaurant | Bar | Wifi | Business Center
  • Extras: Stunning beach and sunset views | Nearby snorkeling/scuba/surfing/boating | Outdoor lanai
  • Additional Charges: Extra fee for valet and self parking | Daily service fee
Halepuna Waikiki
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $340 – $500 per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Hot Tub | Spa | Gym | Restaurant | Bar | Wifi | Laundry | Business Center
  • Extras: Infinity Pool | Beautiful ocean views
  • Additional Charges: Extra fee for valet and self parking | Daily service fee

Best budget Hotels

Vive Hotel Waikiki
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $160 – $180+ per night
  • Amenities: Laundry | Restaurant | Wifi | Breakfast included | Air Conditioning | Parking | Business Center
Aston at the Executive Centre Hotel
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $199 – $220+ per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Laundry | Air Conditioning | Wifi | Gym | Parking available
  • There are several great affordable options available on airbnb and VRBO.

*Note: If you are staying overnight on Day 7, choose from these hotels, as they are closest to Day 7 activities and conveniently places you close to the airport for your return flight.

Book your hotel with the lowest pricing options

Day 2

Pali Puka Hike (Ko’olau Summit Trail)

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One of my favorite ways to start the morning is with a beautiful hike. The Pali Puka Hike (Ko’olau Summit) is a short but challenging trail. Although it is only 0.7 miles out and back, it is technically difficult. There is a 485 foot elevation gain, with a steep uphill hike to the viewpoint, and a steep downhill hike back. Skip this trail if you have a fear of heights. There is a fair amount of rock scrambling and areas in which you walk along the edge of the cliff. However, if you are up for the adventure, this hike has one of the best views of Oahu. Be sure to use the trail ropes to help you rappel down.

*The trail can get very windy, so if at any point you feel uncomfortable, there is no shame in turning around. This can be a very sketchy hike. Trust your gut. Safety first.

Reef and Wreck Dives

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No trip to Hawaii would be complete without booking a dive to explore the beautiful Hawaiian marine life. This is one of the best things to do in Oahu! Depending on your comfort and certification, several diving options are available to you. Shallow reef tours are a great option if you want to dive but have no prior scuba experience. If you are uncomfortable with using a regulator or other diving gear, submarine scooters are a fun way to explore underneath the ocean. Additionally, if you are a certified diver, Oahu has tons of great shallow reef and deep shipwreck diving adventures. Whatever option you choose, be sure not to miss out on booking an underwater dive!

Hawaiian Luau

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If you didn’t go to a luau, did you really visit Hawaii? There is nothing that screams Hawaii more than an authentic Hawaiian Luau. The night begins with a traditional Polynesian welcoming ceremony, a lei greeting, and a complimentary Mai Tai. This is your opportunity to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture – learn to hula dance, weave traditional headbands from coconut leaves, and much more. Treat yourself to a fun night of hula dancing, fire dancers, great music, and delicious Hawaiian luau food. For additional information on activities and ticketing, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a great resource to help plan your visit.

Day 3

Helicopter Ride Over Oahu

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With its lush landscape and stunning topography, the best way to take in the full beauty of Oahu is with a helicopter ride. Booking a doors off helicopter tour over Hawaii is one of the best things to do in Oahu. The images from my helicopter ride will forever be burned into my memories. Nothing can capture the beauty of Oahu quite like experiencing everything from a bird’s eye aerial viewpoint. If you are worried about flying with the doors off, the company also offers helicopter rides with the doors on. However, I highly recommend the doors off experience for unobstructed views of the island!

Diamond Head State Monument

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Diamond Head crater is a volcanic cone that sits on the southern coast on the outskirts of Honolulu. About 300,000 years ago, a large eruption filled the air with ashes and particles, which eventually settled and formed the crater you see today. The natural crater sits in stark contrast to the built up high-rises that make up the city of Honolulu. The hike to the summit of Diamond Head looks more difficult than it actually is. It is 1.8 miles out and back, rises to 452 feet, and leads to panoramic 360 degree views of the ocean and Oahu. Stretch your legs and check out the view at the top.

Sunset Dinner Cruise

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Hawaii has some of the most vibrant sunsets, and the colors draw visitors from all over the world. It is also one of the best places to view the green flash when the sun crosses the horizon and dips behind the water. The day began with spectacular views soaring over Oahu; end it with a relaxing sunset and Polynesian dinner show while cruising the southern coast of Oahu.

Day 4

Aloha Food Tour

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Exotic fruit salad served in half a dragon fruit

Hawaii is home to some of the freshest and most exotic foods in the United States. Hawaiian cuisine has the best of both worlds – sweet treats and savory delicacies. When I think back to my memories of Hawaii, my senses are immediately flooded with the smell of fresh pineapple, refreshing coconut water, and savory roasted Kalua pig. If you are a foodie (or just like great food in general), be sure to check out this local Hawaiian food tour. Your taste buds and stomach will thank you!

Pearl Harbor

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On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy Air Service launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor military base in Honolulu. Several of the United States Navy battle ships were damaged, destroyed, or sunk. 2,403 Americans lost their lives, and another 1,178 were wounded. This attack is regarded as the tipping point that launched the entry of the United States into World War II. If you are a history buff, or simply want to pay your respects to the lives that were forever changed that day, take a moment to swing by Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial (the only battleship that suffered irreparable damage and whose wreck lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor). The bodies of about 900 crewman still remain trapped within the sunken ship. Rest In Peace.

Unfortunately, the tours that are available are not very well organized, and are quite overpriced. If you are interested in visiting, you may be better off going on your own and following along with a self-guided audio narration about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sunset Beach

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Make your way from the southern Honolulu and Waikiki area up to your hotel on the North Shore. You will spend the next few days exploring the other side of the island. Take this evening to relax and enjoy watching the sun dip below the horizon at Sunset Beach. You might even see the elusive green flash! Sunset Beach is also famous for its massive ocean waves. It is in the rotation for the annual World Cup Surfing Competition, and draws surfers from all around the world. Sit back, relax, and check out the surfers as they ride the waves.

Places to Stay (Days 4, 5, and 6)

Best Luxury hotels

Turtle Bay Resort
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $690 – $850+ per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Spa | Laundry | Gym | Restaurant | Bar | Wifi | Business Center
  • Extras: Stunning beach and sunset views | Tennis Courts | Golf Course | Yoga / Aerobics classes
  • Additional Charges: Extra fee for valet parking | Daily service fee

Best budget Hotels

Paradise Bay Resort
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $160 – $180+ per night
  • Amenities: Hot tub | Pool | Kitchen | Laundry | Wifi | Gym | Business Center
  • Additional Charges: Extra fee for self parking | Daily service fee
Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $310 – $400+ per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Laundry | Restaurant | Wifi | Gym
  • Additional Charges: Extra fee for self parking | Daily service fee
  • There are several great affordable options in the North Shore area available on airbnb and VRBO.

PRO TIP: Tripadvisor has the most up-to-date lowest pricing options, with the cheapest dates highlighted in yellow. Convenient and easy! Book your Oahu hotel here.

Day 5

Shark Cage

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Sharks are one of the most feared predators of the ocean. It is no wonder that adventurers and curious tourists are drawn to these incredible animals. Diving in a shark cage is one of the most awesome experiences in Hawaii! You go out on a boat into the middle of the ocean and staff chum the waters to attract sharks. The species most prevalent in Oahu are Galapagos and Sandbar sharks. Neither of these types of sharks are aggressive, and they have no interest in humans.

You are enclosed in a cage (though, fair warning, there are two openings in the front and back that are quite large) and you can watch as the sharks peacefully swim around you. Additionally, you don’t have to be a strong swimmer. You can keep your snorkel above water and hold on to one of the bars of the cage. Don’t let irrational fears deter you. This is your chance for an up close and personal interaction with sharks in their natural habitat, and the experience is nothing short of amazing! Also, if you happen to not see any sharks, the company will issue a full refund.

Snorkeling in Shark’s Cove

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Shark’s Cove is located about 6 miles north of the Haleiwa boat docks. After your shark cage dive, drive less than 15 minutes to Shark’s Cove. Although the name may produce some anxiety, this is actually a wonderful snorkel spot. It is unlikely that you will swim past a shark here; the outline of the reef looks like a shark from above, and is how this popular spot got its name. You are more likely to see tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, and an octopus if you’re lucky! However, avoid snorkeling here in the winter months (November – February) as the waves can be large and there is no lifeguard on duty. All other times of the year the water is calm, clear, and perfect for snorkeling. Also be sure to pack some water shoes, as the cove is surrounded by a very rocky shoreline.

Bike Tour

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While you are at Shark’s Cove, check out the local shops and rent a bicycle from North Shore Bike Rentals (next to Foodland). It is located right across Shark’s Cove. This area has a 3.5 mile bike path that passes through the famous big wave surf beaches – Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. Enjoy this leisurely bike ride along the Ke Ala Pupukea path, while soaking in the beautiful beach views.

Day 6

Swimming With Dolphins

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Begin your morning by interacting with some of the friendliest and most playful animals in the deep blue sea – dolphins! The best place to swim locally with wild dolphins is on the Leeward Coast in Waianae. This area is located on the western shore of Oahu, which will be about an hour drive from your hotel on the North Shore. The drive is definitely worth the experience. Dolphins are social animals and swim together in pods. If you have never seen dolphins in their natural habitat, you are in for a treat! It is an awe-inspiring experience watching dozens of these beautiful creatures jump, play, and swim gracefully through the ocean. They are also incredibly smart and curious; you may encounter these gentle animals up close and personal, as they sometimes swim up to snorkelers to explore.

Waimea Falls

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After an incredible morning swimming with the dolphins, continue your afternoon with a leisurely nature walk and a swim in beautiful Waimea Falls. The trail is 1.9 miles out and back, paved, and relatively flat most of the way. This is an easy, peaceful walk and is appropriate for all skill levels. It follows a path through stunning botanical gardens, which host a unique collection of tropical Hawaiian flora. Take a refreshing afternoon dip when you reach the waterfall. Life jackets are required to swim at Waimea Falls, and are provided by lifeguards that are on duty at the Falls.

Banzai Pipeline

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Oahu is known for its huge ocean waves, and surfers from all over the world come to surf both recreationally and competitively. Banzai Pipeline is a wonderful beach for people watching. Watch surfers ride huge waves as you spend the evening relaxing on the beach and reflecting on the beauty of the day’s activities.

Day 7


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Oahu’s rugged topography is best seen from high above. If you were unable to book the helicopter tour, zip lining is a great alternative. Adventure junkies around the world are drawn to zip lining. The activity allows you to experience great views of ordinary things from an extraordinary vantage point, and adds the exhilarating elements of speed and adrenaline. This is a wonderful way to sneak in one last view of the island before you fly on to your next destination.

Paddle Boarding

paddle boarding Kailua Beach sunset beach

Kailua Beach has some of the calmest waters in all of Oahu. This makes it the perfect spot for paddle boarding. Paddle boarding offers a great full body workout, and is a wonderful option if you want to enjoy the water without swimming or having to deal with the waves. The skill is pretty easy to pick up, however if it is your first time and you would like some guidance, you can always take a lesson. If you are comfortable paddle boarding on your own, you can simple rent a paddle board from Kailua Beach Adventures. You can literally park and walk to the beach. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

If paddle boarding is not for you, and you feel more stable in a kayak, this is also a great alternative. You can either choose to explore on your own or join a guided kayak tour. In either case, don’t miss out on enjoying the beautiful calm, clear waters of Kailua Beach.

These activities planned for day 7 are situated conveniently close to the Honolulu airport. If you have a later flight, be sure to enjoy one or both of these activities in the morning. If you don’t leave until the following day and happen to have a full day, be sure to choose a hotel from the recommendations from days 1-3, as this will put you closest to the airport for your return flight. Mahalo!

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*Disclosure: I only recommend products and experiences that I personally own and love! All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that help me earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!