Explore 'The Gathering Place' in a Day
Oahu 1-Day Itinerary Suggestions
Known as the heart of Hawaii, Oahu is one of the eight main islands in the Hawaiian chain and home to five regions: Honolulu, the state capital, Central Oahu, Leeward Coast, North Shore, and Windward Coast. Whether you want to soak up the sun or shop ‘til you drop, Oahu offers a wide range of things to do. From seaside seekers to history buffs, the island is open for exploration.
With the nickname “The Gathering Place,” Oahu strikes the perfect balance between surf ‘n’ sand and city life. Bringing together people of all types, who share a love for the outdoors, the island engages locals, tourists, and travelers alike. At the top of the list, its beautiful backdrop is a fit for your next family trip, couples retreat, or solo getaway. For those on the clock, check out the following ways to make the most of your time away.
How to use our Oahu itineraries for your trip
Oahu 'Pack-and-Go' Wayfinder Guides for daily excursions
Ultimately, we’ve designed our Oahu itineraries around a set number of on-island Oahu days: offering one (this page), two, three, four, five, six, and seven-day itineraries for exploring the island, soaking in the best sights, and ensuring your precious time (and potentially money) on Oahu are used wisely. We’ve tried to balance our itineraries between those who seek adventure and those looking to find a good beach and relax. Overall, we want your experience to be exactly what you’ve dreamed of when planning your Oahu trip.
For each island, including Oahu, we’ve attempted to split up the itinerary days by sorting attractions according to their geographic proximity; i.e., on East (Windward) Oahu day, you’d explore the best of west Oahu’s attractions, beaches, and activities. Our itineraries are not meant to be followed consecutively necessarily, which would probably be exhausting, but instead as a grab-and-go resource for ‘mapping’ your trip - think of us as a Wayfinder’s guide to Oahu. We always like to travel by making day-by-day plans, putting the most important attractions and activities (the must-see and do) upfront, and if the weather doesn’t cooperate one of those days, we switch that day with another. That way, we always get to the important stuff first, and if we have to skip anything, it’s ideally the minor attractions only.
Must See Oahu Sights & Attractions
Pearl Harbor (USS Arizona & Missouri)
Still an active U.S. naval base, Pearl Harbor is a National Historic Landmark that tells the story of one of the most memorable (and deadliest) attacks in the history of the country. From beginning to end, the landmark re-lives December 7, 1941: “a day that will live in infamy,” sheds light on the tragic events of World War II and reminds us of all of the lives lost.
Made up of five different sites, Pearl Harbor offers a glimpse back through film, first-hand stories from survivors, a scarred airplane hangar and the sunken hull of the USS Arizona. While it’s possible to take in all of the sites in several hours, it’s best not to rush and make a full day of it. Located 30 minutes away, a long list of guided tours is available with pick-up and drop-off in Waikiki. A few things to keep in mind, while planning your visit: parking, admission, hours, storage fees and reservations.
Our Pearl Harbor Suggestions
Punchbowl National Cemetary
Located in a long-extinct volcano called the Punchbowl Crater, “The Punchbowl” is a military resting place for close to 53,000 veterans. Honoring those who have proudly served their country, the memorial features “the sacrifices and achievements of the American Armed Forces and commemorates the soldiers of the 20th-century wars, including those who were lost during the attack at Pearl Harbor.”
Described as serene and poignant, with lush shades of green, The National Cemetery of the Pacific provides visitors daily entrance, free admission, a memorial pathway, a natural setting to give thanks and reflect and a panoramic view of Honolulu.
Diamond Head Crater
One of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks, Diamond Head is an iconic state monument and more than a 100,000-year-old crater. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968, it’s a top feature of the Honolulu skyline.
The Byodo-In Temple is a UN World Heritage Site celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants landing in Hawaii. Situated at the bottom of the Ko’olau Mountains, this is a stunning piece of architecture you won’t want to miss. As a non-denominational temple, they welcome people of all faith to enjoy. With lush, beautiful landscaping, and exquisite details, this is a popular spot for Japanese tourists as well as people from all walks of life. It’s also a popular spot for destination weddings thanks, in part, to its peaceful ambiance and gorgeous surroundings.
Must See Oahu Beaches
For travelers and tourists seeking a little more adventure, head to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling and scuba diving. Those hitting the water with experienced instructors can expect to see schools of colorful tropical fish and over 350 species of marine life. With more than 50 green sea turtles calling Hanauma Bay home, keep an eye out for at least one of the friendly creatures.
For a more relaxed day at the beach, make your way to Lanikai Beach. Located in the town of Kailua, on the east coast of the island, its white sand and crystal clear water overlook the Mokulua Islands. A favorite among locals, the mile-long and family-friendly beach is known to attract kayakers and sunbathers.
Must Do Oahu Hike
Diamond Head Hiking Trail
One of the most accessible hiking trails in Oahu. Only a short drive from Waikiki, getting to the top of Diamond Head involves taking on two sets of stairs, underground tunnels, and old military bunkers. However, the snap-worthy view from the top will quickly make up for your breaking a sweat and aching muscles.
Whether your style of travel is laidback or on the go, Oahu provides visitors with the best of both of worlds. Balance a history lesson in the morning with some fun in the sun in the afternoon and leave the island with a one-of-a-kind experience.