Oahu was one of the three islands that we decided to visit in Hawaii because it has a contrast between the ancient like Kauai and the modern like Maui. To maximize our vacation, we flew right before Thanksgiving and stayed until the first week of December. Right away, we were surprised with Christmas decorations in 80-degree weather and a Santa in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Oahu is the third-largest Hawaiian island with tons of different activities and food to pick from.
Diamond Head is about 30 minutes from downtown Hawaii. The hike itself takes about an hour and once you reached the top, the panoramic view made that hike worth it. We decided to go to Diamond Head for sunrise so we left the hotel while it was dark out and bought our flashlight as there are no lights on the hike. However, there were a lot of people when we arrived so we pretty much follow the group. There are narrow staircases up so it may take a little longer to get to the top with the congestion.
What Have I Learned: If you’re doing the hike on Saturday, head to KCC Farmers’ Market (next to Diamond Head) between 7:00 AM to 11:30 AM for some local Hawaiian food after the Diamond Head sunrise hike.
Cost: 5 USD entrance fee. 10 USD Parking Fee.
Hour: Thurs to Tues: 6 AM to 4 PM (Closed Wednesday)
Over a thousand years ago, a violent eruption blew out one side of the crater, creating the crescent moon-shaped beach that exists today. It’s famous for snorkeling and anyone desiring to see more than 400 species of Hawaiian fishes including Hawaii’s state fish the humuhumunukunukuapua. We had so much fun here that we lost track of time… and missed our flight back to New York City so make sure you allocate more time here.
What Have I Learned: You can rent snorkel equipment for 25 USD for a standard set or 40 USD for a premium set at the park snorkel rental booth. However, we brought our own snorkel gears because we were planning to snorkel at multiple beaches in Hawaii and it felt cleaner to have our own. Check out our snorkeling gear.
Cost: Adult: 12 USD. 3 USD Parking Fee.
Hour: Wed to Sun: 6:45 AM to 4:00 PM (No entry after 2:00 PM)
Dole Plantation originally started as a fruit stand back in 1950. You can check out the Pineapple Express Train 20 minutes tour to learn about the history of pineapple, the Plantation Garden Tour to view pineapple, banana, coffee, cacao, mango, papaya, and many other plants, and the world largest Pineapple Garden Maze.
What Have I Learned: DoleWhip® is a pineapple-flavored soft-serve frozen dessert sold only at certain Disney parks and Dole Plantation in Hawaii.
Cost: Pineapple Express Train Tour (Adult: 12.00 USD), the Plantation Garden Tour (Adult: 7.25 USD), and the Pineapple Garden Maze (Adult: 8.25 USD)
Hour: Thurs to Tues: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Closed Wednesday)
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a cultural theme park that features 6 island villages representing the island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. There are a lot of hands-on activities such as pole fishing, paddle a canoe, throwing a spear at a coconut, hula lessons, learn to weave a fish, etc. They have a popular award-winning Ali’i Luau dining option. Lastly, there’s an action-packed evening show called “Ha: Breath of Life” that includes song, dance, fire, and over 100 Polynesian performers.
What Have I Learned: You can save 10% off if you book the ticket 10 days before. Also, you can save an additional 7% if you click through Rakuten.
Cost: 139.95 USD (Adult ticket – Self-guided experience through 6 island villages, Gateway Buffet & General-level seating at “HA: Breath of Life” show)
Hour: Mon to Sun: 8 AM to 11 PM
The famous beautiful Waikiki beach is a two-mile stretch of white sand. You can do everything from surfing, canoe paddling, snorkeling, swimming, tanning, people watching, or catching a beautiful Waikiki sunset. Legendary Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing, grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki and you can see his statue at the Waikiki beach.
What Have I Learned: If you happen to be in Honolulu on a Friday, don’t miss the free fireworks show held at Hilton Hawaiian Village over Waikiki Beach at 7:45 PM.
Hour: Open 24 hours
This Buddhist temple is a replica of the temple in Kyoto, Japan. There are also gardens, ponds with hundreds of Japanese koi, an 18-foot gold leaf-covered Buddha statue, and a five-foot and three-ton bell.
What Have I Learned: It is customary for visitors to ring the bell before entering the temple for happiness and longevity.
Cost: 5 USD entrance fee. FREE Parking.
Hour: Mon to Sun: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
More Sightseeing Recommendations:
Pearl Harbor – At Pearl Harbor, you can visit the site where the US involvement in WWII and pay respects to the fallen sailors and brave heroes of December 7, 1941. Visit the Battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered and ended the war. Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a free site, although there is a $1 service charge collected by recreation.gov to reserve tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial program.
Nuuanu Pali Lookout – The Nuuanu Pali State Wayside is a lookout above the Pali Highway tunnels where you’re treated to a panoramic view of Oahu’s Windward side with sweeping views of Kaneohe, Kaneohe Bay and Kailua. It’s also well known for its strong and howling winds.
Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden – You probably have seen photos of its famous Instagrammable entrance. Beside the entrance, this is a 400-acre plot of land with a variety of different gardens with plants from all over the world including, Sri Lanka and India, the Philippines and Malaysia, Africa, Tropical America, Hawaii, Melanesia and Polynesia.
Makapu’u Tidepools – It’s a 2.19 miles hike including scrambling down to the tide pools. You can get to the Makapu’u Tide Pools by climbing down the cliffs off the Mkakapu’u Lighthouse Trail. There’s an unmarked path about halfway up to the lighthouse at the scenic spot with a whale-watching sign. Be careful if you do go in the tide pool because large waves can sweep over rocks flooding the tides pools.
Marugame Udon – Try the Curry Nikutama (Udon served with seasoned sweet beef, soft egg in a curry sauce) and the variety of delicious tempuras (sweet potato, chicken, shrimp, squid, and more). Mon to Sun: 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Waiola Shave Ice – Best shave ice on the island with the best variety of flavored syrups & you can get azuki beans. Mon to Sun: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Famous for their shrimp scampi and garlic shrimp. Mon to Sun: 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Ono Seafood – This hole-in-the-wall has amazing poke bowl such as shoyu ahi, spicy ahi poke, Hawaiian style tako, miso ahi, and many more. Mon to Sun: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Musubi Cafe Iyasume – If you’re a SPAM lover, this place specialize in SPAM musubi and riceball. They have everything from avocada, bacon, egg, spam musubi to EEL Egg & Shiso SPAM musubi to spicy fried chicken mayo riceball. Check out their menu online. Mon to Sun: 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Helena’s Hawaiian Food – This family owned business have served traditional, local Hawaiian food since 1946. This place is great because they do small plates so you can try more dishes including Kalua pig, Haupia, Lomi Salmon, LauLau and many more. Tues to Fri: 10:30 AM to 7:00 PM
Leonard’s Bakery – I feel like everyone that’s been to Hawaii lately has tried this donut shop. It opened in 1952 and is known for Malasadas Puffs® (1.80 USD), a Portuguese doughnut without a hole coated in sugar and filled with a filling of your choice. Mon to Sun: 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM
How many days do you need in Oahu? 3 days
What is your main transportation in Oahu? Car
How long did it take to get to Oahu? 11 hours direct flight from New York, NY (JFK)
Where did you stay? Downtown
Is Oahu expensive? $$$
When did you go to Oahu? December 2014
I have never been to Hawaii, but I’m interested in going someday! My neighborhood in Los Angeles has a notable Japanese and Hawaiian community, so I have access to delicious Hawaiian food. But I’d definitely like to go to the state itself to have favorites like spam musubi and poke. The spam musubi you had looks LOADED! Perhaps one day…
Yeah hopefully once things are better, you’ll be able to go. I have seen random flight deals flying from LA to Hawaii for super cheap. Yeah, I love loco moco and miss it. I haven’t been able to find a good NYC spot for Hawaiian food besides poke.
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Wow, Oahu looks amazing and I am glad to hear you had a fun time explore it it. It is one of the best Hawaiian islands for photographers because it has such a variety of beautiful backdrops and amazing Oahu attractions. Would love to visit one day. Aiva 🙂 xxx
Thanks! Yes I loved it there. I felt like I was in paradise with both the scenery and food.
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Thanks for sharing..this makes want to return.
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Thanks! I am hoping I can go back too.
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