How to Spend 5 Days in Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu is a popular beach vacation destination in Hawaii. It is home to the state capital, Honolulu, gorgeous sandy beaches like Waikiki Beach, pristine nature and hiking trails like Diamond Head, bustling nightlife and vibrant culinary culture.

So, how many days do you need to see Oahu? I recommend a minimum of three days to see the highlights of Oahu. At least five days to relax at the remote beach and explore beyond Honolulu. Seven days would be even better if you want to relax and unwind on some days and go on island hopping. 

This Oahu itinerary shows how to spend five days on Oahu. This is the optimal time to go around different coasts of the island and experience the true Hawaiian island beyond Waikiki. 

Pin it for later!

Oahu Itinerary: What to Do, See and Eat in Oahu in 5 Days | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #HawaiiFood

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. If you purchase by clicking some of these links, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Click here to read full disclaimer. 

How to Get to Oahu

Oahu is the most developed, city-like island among Hawaiian islands. To get to Oahu, fly to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. Oahu is also a base camp for island hoppers to fly out to other islands. 

Oahu Itinerary: What to Do, See and Eat in Oahu in 5 Days: How to Get Around Oahu | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

How to Get Around Oahu

Renting a car is the most efficient way to explore the entire island. If your itinerary covers beyond Waikiki and Honolulu – which I strongly recommend, you will need to rent a car.

From Honolulu Airport to Hotel, take the airport shuttle or hire a private car. If you travel with a group of family/friends, get a bigger car.  

But you may only need to rent a car for part of your stay on Oahu if you are near Waikiki. Depending on your itinerary, you may rent a car only for the days when you want the flexibility to travel afar while taking advantage of various public transport available within a short distance.

The island has the most connected public transportation among all the Hawaiian islands. You can explore Waikiki and Honolulu via a city bus and a multi-line hop-on, hop-off trolley.

Best Oahu Island Tours

>> Oahu Private Tour from Waikiki: A personal guide takes you to the best spots of Oahu on a completely customizable itinerary. Best choice for families and private groups.

>> Oahu Sights and Bites Island TourAppreciate the scenic spots and local specialty snacks around the island. Best for foodies.

>> Oahu around the Island Full-Day Tour: Hop on a bus tour to explore the further north and east of Oahu. Recommended for tourists without a car.

>> Oahu Best Spots & Beaches Tour: Take this small-group (max. 5 ppl) circle-around-the-island tour to see the highlights of Oahu in six hours. Recommended for short-term vacationers.

>> Best of Oahu Tour: Spend one day hitting up all sites on your list, including Kaneohe Bay, Diamond Head, Byodo-In Temple, Dole Plantation, Halona Blowhole, Kuala Ranch & Park, etc. All admissions included. This is the ultimate 9-hour tour for the entire island. During the rest of your vacation, just sit back and sip a cocktail on the beach.

>> Sunrise & Full-Day Island Photo Tour with Small Group: Wanna capture the gorgeous Oahu on your camera? Catch a magnificent sunrise, a stunning sandy beach, and other dramatic scenes. Best for photography enthusiasts.

Where to Stay in Waikiki: Moana Surfrider #WaikikiHawaii #Waikikihotel #travelHawaii

Best Place to Stay in Oahu

Waikiki is the best area to stay in Oahu for many reasons. It is the most desirable tourist district with plenty of hotel and resort options. Tourists can easily access tours, restaurants, transportation, shopping and other establishments within walking distance. Given the limited parking space and ridiculously high costs, staying in Waikiki is the best for vacationers.

  • Moana Surfrider [Book hereis an upscale Westin Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach. This particular one stands out among many luxury resorts as the first hotel to open in Hawaii in 1901. Affectionately known as the First Lady of Waikiki, this historical landmark is worth your visit even if you don’t stay overnight.
  • Espacio The Jewel of Waikiki [Book here] is a luxury resort on Waikiki Beach. Entered through a private entrance on each floor, the suite views the emerald ocean. Each suite features a hot tub on a private balcony, an Italian marble bath and a modern full kitchen. You will feel right at home.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel [Book hereis another iconic Waikiki hotel. You can’t miss this all-pink resort from the beach.
  • Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort [Book hereis a 4-star beachfront hotel with a lovely pool. If you don’t need to be right at the beach, consider Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger [Book herejust across the street. It is a little sister hotel with much more vibrant, colorful, modern vibes.
  • The Laylow [Book hereis a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. This island-inspired modern chic hotel features airy rooms with ocean views, a swimming pool and a hip restaurant bar, called The Hideout.
  • Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club [Book hereis a contemporary hotel with an outdoor pool. Young travelers will enjoy this vintage-vibe surf hotel decorated with handcrafted furniture and pop art.
  • Shoreline Hotel Waikiki [Book here] is an upbeat, modern boutique hotel with tropical decor. I enjoyed breakfast at the downstairs restaurant, Heavenly Island Lifestyle.
  • Hotel La Croix [Book here] is a cozy and warm hotel with affordable rooms. Some rooms offer a kitchenette. While the property is a 10-min walk from Waikiki, some rooms with a terrace overlook the beach.

If you want to stay away from touristy Waikiki, consider North Shore. This remote area is excellent for those who wish to devote time to surfing and other water activities.

  • Turtle Bay Resort [Book here] is a luxury resort spanning across 1,300 pristine acres overlooking Kuilima Cove. The property is tucked away at the tip of the secluded Turtle Bay. Turtle Bay Golf is a world-famous golf course featuring a breathtaking coastline.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore [Book here] is a relaxed hotel in Laie. This unassuming property is in pristine nature, surrounded by mountains and turquoise water.
  • Waimea Bay Cottage [Book hereis a three-bedroom vacation rental by Waimea Bay Beach. The cozy cottage house has a terrace, a living room, a full kitchen, and private parking. The location is perfect for surfers and snorkelers, only a 10-minute walk from Shark’s Cove.
  • Beach Side Studio [Book here] is a studio apartment by Shark’s Cove. This highly rated apartment features 1 bed, 2 baths, 1 living and 1 kitchenette. Perfect for surfers – single or couple.

If you are looking for Airbnb for a short vacation, you are out of luck. Oahu passed a law that requires a minimum 90-day stay for all short-term rentals. And short-term rentals are limited to designated tourist districts such as Waikiki, Turtle Bay and Ko Olina.  

READ: Heading to Hawaii soon? Don’t forget to bring your beach vacation essentials. Check out 22 Things to Pack for Hawaii >>

Pin it for later!

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days Infographic | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #HawaiiFood

Oahu Itinerary Summary

Day 1: Diamond Head KCC Farmers’ Market Pearl Harbor Iolani Palace Kaka’ako Street Art Salt at Our Kaka’ako

Day 2: Hanauma Bay Leonard’s Bakery Waikiki Sunset at Waikiki 

Day 3: North Shore: Waimea Falls Laniakea Beach Haleiwa Town Waimea Bay Beach, Shark’s Cove or Kuilima Cove Ted’s Bakery Dole Plantation

Day 4: Kailua Beach Kayaking to the Mokes Boots & Kimo’s or Cinnamon’s Options: Lanikai Pillbox Hike or Kualoa Ranch

Day 5: Kaneohe Bay Sandbar The Byodo-In Temple Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens

>> Go City Oahu: If you want to find one pass that allows you to conveniently experience the most popular activities and attractions on Oahu, consider getting this pass. It covers many things to do in/near Waikiki listed in this post.

Oahu Day 1: Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, Kaka’ako

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #19. Hike the Diamond Head | #DiamondHead #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Diamond Head

Diamond Head Crater formed 300,000 years ago during a volcano eruption. The sailors saw it sparkle from the Waikiki coastline, hence the name.

The trail to the summit is Hawaii’s most recognized historic hiking trail. It is a quick and easy hike with a beautiful view. But be aware that it gets steep and uneven as you go up. The very last part of the trail is all stairs.

The stunning coastal view from the Koko Head to Waianae at the summit is rewarding. You can also see bunkers and a lighthouse built in 1917. You may also spot humpback whales in the ocean from afar in winter.

Reservation is required: Beginning 5/12/2022, non-residents must reserve to enter. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance here. It is advised to show up within the first 30 minutes of your booking time.

Insider’s Tips: The trail is not shaded and has direct sunlight. Being the crater, it gets hot and stuffy, too. Bring a bottle of water, and wear a hatsunscreen and sunglasses. You probably don’t need hiking shoes, but do wear comfortable tennis shoes. It is a good idea to prepare performance hiking clothing.

Admission: $5 per person, Free: Age 3 and under or Hawaii residents

Parking: $10 per vehicle, Free with Hawaii ID

Hours: 6 am – 4 pm (Gates close at 6 pm)

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> I encourage you to get up there. But if hiking is not for you, I will share another way to enjoy Diamond Head. Cruise onboard a sailing catamaran and see it glittering along the breathtaking Waikiki coastline, just as the sailors had witnessed hundreds of years ago. For sure, you will understand how the name came about.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 1 KCC Farmer’s Market | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

KCC Farmers’ Market 

Swing by the KCC farmers’ market near the trail if you can schedule the hiking on Saturday. The lively farmers’ market opens every Saturday. You can grab a quick bite for lunch and shop for local produce.

For public transportation, check out bus routes #3, 22 and 58. Check the schedule here.

Hours: Saturdays only, 7:30 am – 11 am

Location: Parking Lot B inside the Kapi’olani Community College [Open Google Map]

Monsarrat Avenue

Monsarrat Avenue is a quaint neighborhood dotted with casual cafes and brunch spots. It is another great place to stop by following the hiking. Enjoy your brunch or chill at a restaurant. Some popular locations include Bogart’s Cafe [Open Google Map], ARS Cafe and Gelato [Open Google Map], and Diamond Head Market & Grill [Open Google Map].

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #20. Pearl Harbor | #PearlHarbor #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii

Image Credit: Robert L from Unsplash

Pearl Harbor: USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a war museum commemorating the service members and civilians killed during Japan’s 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. The site consists of USS Arizona Memorial, a museum, galleries, and a historic battleship.

Reservation is required: The admission is free. But tickets ($1 service charge) should be reserved here for the USS Arizona Memorial program. All sales are final. The site no longer accepts same-day reservations or walk-ins. (Don’t wait as I did. I had to miss it as I “planned” for a walk-in on my last day.) If you can’t book the time you wish to, check with the organized tours below [Pearl Harbor Tours].

Admission: Free ($1 booking fee).

Hours: 7 am – 5 pm (Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Best Pearl Harbor Tours

>> Pearl Harbor Round-Trip Shuttle: Just want a ride? Schedule a hotel pickup and visit Pearl Harbor at your own pace.

>> Salute to Pearl Harbor: This guided tour provides a ride to Pearl Harbor. Once there, you will ride the Navy to the USS Arizona Memorial, and learn history from films and stories by a certified guide.

>> Pearl Harbor & City Tour: As part of a 5-hour city tour, visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as the USS Missouri and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to honor those who served the country.

>> Oahu Historic Tour with Pearl Harbor: Relive the island’s historic moments. This tour brings you to historical landmarks, from Ionic Palace to Pearl Harbor.

>> Pearl Harbor Premium Tour: For a history buff, this full-day tour explores historic sites on Oahu. Explore the USS Missouri battleship on a docent-lead tour, board a Navy vessel to the USS Arizona Memorial, visit the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific, and drive through downtown, passing sites like Kamehameha Statue and Kawaiahao Church.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Iolani Palace | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

​Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is the residence of Hawaii’s last monarchs. The 19th-century building was turned into a museum for its cultural and historical significance. It is a registered National Historic Landmark.

This site also exhibits exotic furniture and decor made of Hawaiian Koa wood. In ancient times, the native trees were only harvested and used for the royal and noble classes. So pay attention to them as well.

The place is considered sacred. Dress appropriately to show respect; shirts and footwear are required.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Iolani Palace | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Insider’s Tips: For summer vacationers, I recommend visiting the palace in the afternoon. You will appreciate a break from the blazing sun in the air-conditioned space.

Admission: $25 audio tours

Hours: Tues – Sat 9 am – 4 pm (Last admission at 3 pm)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Kaka’ako Street Arts | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

This is the coolest murals I have seen. When I was standing in front of it, I was not sure what it was. But when I stepped back, I realized it was a tiger!

Kaka’ako Street Art

Near the Iolani Palace, Kakaako Street is a fun area full of colorful murals. Walk around to find arts you like and snap photos for your gram.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Kaka’ako Street Arts | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: Street meter parking is available. But I recommend parking your car at Salt at Our Kaka’ako. Walk around the neighborhood and return to the complex to enjoy more. Be sure to ask for parking credit for any purchase.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Salt at Our Kaka’ako | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Salt at Our Kaka’ako 

In the Kaka’ako neighborhood, I recommend swinging by Salt at Our Kaka’ako. It is an outdoor shopping complex with fashion stores, restaurants and cute cafes. If you are looking for high-end Hawaiian shirts, check out Kahala [Open Google Map]. Grab an outdoor seat for a coffee at Arvo Cafe [Open Google Map]. And you might as well get a Hawaiian-tasting plate (the kale pig, pork or chicken laulau) at Highway Inn Kaka’ako [Open Google Map] for dinner. Redfish Poke Bar [Open Google Map] is another excellent place to swing by for a poke bowl.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Helicopter Tours

Helicopter tours are one of the most popular activities in Hawaii. Imagine getting a bird-eye view of beautiful Oahu from the sky! Here are some options to choose from:

Oahu Day 2: Hanauma Bay, Waikiki, Sunset at Waikiki 

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 2 Hanauma Bay | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach  #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Hanauma Bay 

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the most popular snorkeling beach in Hawaii. This beach boasts turquoise water and white sand. Between the crevices and caves of the coral reef in clear water, you will find the most fish in one place on the entire island.

Besides its diverse ecology, the calm shallow water also makes it an excellent place for beginners and children to snorkel. (Lifeguards are on duty.)

Oahu 5 Days Itinerary: Day 2 Hanauma Bay | #OahuItinerary  #Snorkeling #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Reservations: Unfortunately, it has become too popular and too crowded in recent years. Now you must reserve your tickets hereThe reservation opens at 7 am HST two days in advance. Tickets are sold out so quickly! You may purchase a walk-in ticket at the park if you cannot make an online reservation. Be there before the office opens at 6:45 am.

The Bay is open from 6:45 am to 4 pm, with the last entry at 1:30 pm. No late entries are allowed. Although they limit the number of daily visitors, it can be crowded and hectic as you have to fight for limited parking spots. So you can be there early in the morning or aim for the last entry.

Facility: You can rent snorkel gears. Showers and lockers are provided. A concession stand offers food and drinks.

Admission: $7.50 per person over 12 years old (2.35% service fee for credit card payments)

Parking: $3 for non-residents. Cash only. Limited, first-come-first-serve basis.

Hours: Wed-Sun 6:45 am – 4 pm daily (last entry at 1:30 pm), closed Monday – Tuesday for fish feeding.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: It can be chilly in the morning when the wind blows, even in the middle of summer. I recommend wearing a rash guard.

10 Must-Eat Oahu Food: Leonard's Bakery Malasadas | #WhattoEatinOahu #HawaiiFood #OahuFood #TravelHawaii

Leonard’s Bakery Malasada Truck

Leonard’s Malasada is one of the treats you must try in Hawaii. With its popularity, the stores get super packed all day long. The truck is a less crowded option if you don’t need a sit-down service.

And since its truck is conveniently located on our route to Hanauma Bay, let’s make a pit stop on the way back. Leonard’s Bakery Malasada Truck is located in Koko Marina Center. For hungry souls, this is a small outdoor shopping area with some restaurant options such as Fat Boy’s.

Hours: 7:30 am – 6 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Siesta or Water Activities

Hanauma Bay does have an outdoor shower stand to wash off sand and stickiness; however, it is not a full shower where you can use soap and change clothes. Inevitably, you have to be back to the hotel to freshen up.

And you could take a quick nap. I am super energetic, especially when I travel; therefore, it is rare for me to include nap time in the itinerary. But waking up early and playing in the water will exhaust anyone, no matter how charged s/he is!

No nap? You can head directly to Waikiki. I don’t recommend swimming at Waikiki Beach as it is super crowded. On the other hand, whatever water activities you have on your list, Waikiki has it. Here are some activities you can consider:

>> Surfing Lessons: I recommend 2-hour lessons as one hour is not enough! Private Surf LessonGroup SurfingBeginners GroupPair and Kids Surfing

>> Scuba Diving: Lessons for BeginnersShallow Reef Diving for Certified Divers

>> Submarine Undersea AdventureThis is a fun family activity to meet and learn about the fascinating underwater creatures.

>> Snorkeling: Select turtle canyons snorkel excursion or Private Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling

>> Whale Watching: This eco-friendly tour cruise to spot humpback whales. If no whales, you get another cruise for free.

20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: #5. Waikiki Sunset | #WaikikiHawaii #WaikikiHawaiiThingstoDo #travelHawaii


Hope the quick siesta refreshed you! Because it’s time to hit the famous Waikiki.

Waikiki is a lively beachfront neighborhood and the most famous district in Hawaii. Many upscale hotels, boutique shops, restaurants and shopping centers call Waikiki home. I don’t disagree that it is super commercialized and touristy. I don’t recommend only staying in this area as you won’t see true Hawaii. Nevertheless, don’t skip it just because you want to avoid tourist traps. 

There are so many things to do in Waikiki, from beach activities to shopping to eating and drinking, etc. For a more thorough guide, read more details on 20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki Day & Night >> 


  • Explore Kalakaua Avenue to imbibe the Waikiki vibes. See if you can find anything you like to bring home.
  • Watch a romantic sunset from Waikiki. On Fridays, you can also see Hilton fireworks around 7:45 pm. Join this BYOB Friday Fireworks Cruise to see the Waikiki night sky come alive with colorful fireworks. But it doesn’t have to be Friday to raise a glass to the Waikiki sunset on a cruise.
  • For dinner and drinks, I highly recommend Buho Cocina y Cantina [Open Google Map] and Hideout at the Laylow [Open Google Map]. Both places have delicious food, drinks and a chic, festive atmosphere.
  • More entertainment options, International Market Place hosts Queens Waikiki Luau Show on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 5 pm. During the 2.5-hour show, you can get hula lessons, eat Hawaiian food and watch an authentic Polynesian show.

Insider’s Tip: Parking in Waikiki is difficult and expensive. If you have to drive, you can park at Honolulu Zoo to walk a bit or at shopping centers where you expect to spend money (e.g., Nordstrom Rack or Ross). It will still be expensive, but you can minimize the damage. 

Oahu Day 3: North Shore – Waimea Falls, Laniakea Beach, Haleiwa Town, Snorkeling

The North Shore is the most remote and beautiful area on Oahu. It is the opposite tip of the island from Honolulu. And this is where you truly feel the island vibe.

Ok, before you get there, I want to give you a heads-up. Before coming to Oahu, you probably imagined a tropical island with gorgeous beaches and rainbows. There is definitely that side of Hawaii. But you are about to experience the worst traffic of your life!

The traffic from Honolulu to the North Shore is worse than in LA. Once in the area, the main artery, HI-83, gets congested so bad that you may get stuck. So please leave as early as possible in the morning, and be patient.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 North Shore - Waimea Valley | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSouvenirs

Waimea Waterfall

Let’s hike up the Waimea Valley. It is one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu. The scenic trail on the wide paved path through the botanical gardens is super easy and all-age friendly. You can check out native Hawaiian flora and fauna. In the end, you may swim in a pool with a waterfall.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 North Shore - Waimea Valley | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSouvenirs

This was supposed to be a waterfall.

I happened to visit during the drought. So I did not get to see the waterfall, nor did I get to swim. (In this case, the ticket office will inform you.) If you have any open wounds, don’t swim here, as there was a warning about some bacteria in the water.

Admission: $20

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm

Location: [Open Google Map

>> This full-day Oahu Island Tour takes you to the island’s famous landmarks, including the Waimea Botanical Garden/Waterfall and other gems on the North Shore.

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach) | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

You can see turtles basking in the sun.

Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)

Laniakea Beach – not to be confused with Lanikai Beach – is another famous beach on the North Shore. During the prime surfing season in winter, you can spot surfers riding giant waves. But it can also get crowded in summer.

Laniakea is also called Turtle Beach. As you may have guessed, you can spot turtles basking in the sand around noon – 1 pm. You may watch and take photos at a distance – behind the rope. You are not permitted to touch or get closer to take a selfie. 

I personally don’t think Laniakea is the best spot for swimming. Turtles eat seagrass and algae around coral reefs. That means you can expect lots of coral reefs in the water.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 North Shore - Haleiwa Town | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSouvenirs

Haleiwa Town

Haleiwa is a historic surf town with lots of food, cool surf shops and boutiques. Let’s grab a bite to fill your hungry stomach and shop around here. I’d say, shops in Haleiwa Town have more unique and authentic souvenirs than the mass-produced ones you find at ABC stores in Waikiki. So be ready to do some shopping here.

  • Hale’iwa Bowls [Open Google Map] is THE place for Acai Bowl and smoothies. I fell in love with the Acai bowl in Hawaii, but this shack has one of the best.
  • Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck [Open Google Map] serves the famous shrimp plates and a garlic hot dog. (Cash only!) There are many food trucks in the lot if you want to try a bit of everything. While waiting in a long line, I walked over to Jenny’s Shrimp Truck [Open Google Map] for a spicy garlic shrimp plate. I liked the taste of sauce at Jenny’s better, but Giovanni’s shrimp seemed to be fresher.
  • Haleiwa Store Lots [Open Google Map] is a shopping center where you can park and walk around.
  • Matsumoto Shave Ice [Open Google Map]: I am not a fan of artificial flavoring, so I skipped it, but you can try the famous shave ice. The store also sells unique T-shirts and other souvenirs.
  • Island Vintage Coffee [Open Google Map]: Sip a Kona coffee if you’d like. But be aware it closes super early, like 3 pm.
  • The Haleiwa Fruit Stand/Whalers General Store [Open Google Map] has excellent local gifts, from handmade soaps to witty signs. Be sure to stop by.
  • North Shore Marketplace [Open Google Map] is another outdoor shopping area with many galleries, boutiques, cafes and more.

After eating lunch and exploring Haleiwa Town, let’s head out to one of the best beaches on the North Shore. I have three suggestions for you to choose from.

Insider’s Tip: The bathrooms at shopping malls are locked. When you purchase at any of the stores, ask for the key.

Oahu 5 Day itinerary: Waimea Beach, one of the best snorkeling beach in Oahu | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Beach Option 1: Waimea Bay Beach

Waimea Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the North Shore for swimming, snorkeling and surfing. The beach features a fine sandy beach with no rocks and crystal clear blue water! There is a huge rock where you can dive into the water. I highly recommend Waimea Bay!  

Be aware of waves. In winter, Waimea is more appropriate for surfing as waves can get big. (The movie Point Break was filmed here.) But even in summer, I felt the power of waves sucking me into the bottomless ocean. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: As popular as it is, the tiny parking lot fills up quickly. There are some paid parking lots across the street towards Waimea Valley.

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Shark’s Cove | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Beach Option 2: Shark’s Cove 

Pupukea Beach is a vast park with multiple beaches and coves. Shark’s Cove is a coral beach with shallow pools protected by a natural breakwater. It is named one of the Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World by Scuba Diving Magazine.

The waves are tamed in summer. Nevertheless, it is recommended for intermediate snorkelers. The entrance can be a bit tricky as it is rocky. The water gets deeper as you head out.

Therefore, if the wave is choppy on your travel day, or if you want a serene bay suitable for beginners, alternatively, check out Kuilima Cove below.

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> By the way, you are unlikely to encounter sharks at Shark’s Cove but may be able to see green sea turtles and fish. If you want to safely see sharks up close and personal, shark cage diving is a popular activity in the North Shore.

Beach Option 3: Kuilima Cove

Kuilima Cove is the most sheltered and serene snorkeling spot on Oahu. This beach is tucked near the Turtle Bay Resort in the North Shore, only a 15-minute drive away from Shark’s Cove.

While the North Shore is famous for its big waves, especially during the winter, the water here is still calm and clean thanks to the natural rock barriers surrounding the cove.

It is an ideal snorkeling spot for beginners and children. The calm pool is also only neck-deep. But still, keep your eyes on your children, as there is no lifeguard on duty. Showers and restrooms are available. Look for the Kuilima Cove parking lot at the Turtle Bay Resort.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Popular Activities on North Shore

>> North Shore Snorkeling Tour from Haleiwa

>> Paddleboard at Haleiwa

>> Private & Group Surfing Lessons

10 Must-Eat Oahu Food: #9. Chocolate Haupia Pie | #WhattoEatinOahu #HawaiiFood #OahuFood #TravelHawaii

Haupia Chocolate Pie

When in North Shore, do NOT miss Ted’s Bakery. This bakery has the best Haupia Chocolate Pie! 

Haupia Chocolate Pie is Hawaii’s well-known dessert. It is a rich yet fluffy chocolate pie with a coconut (haupia) layer and topped with whip cream. And it was my favorite dessert I had in Hawaii!!! 

According to my local friends, Ted’s Bakery used to sell these amazing Haupia pies at local grocery stores. But as of 2022, you can only get them at their bakery in North Shore. So don’t forget to pick one up before you travel back south.

Hours: 8 am – 6:30 pm 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Dole Plantation

I reluctantly include Dole Plantation in this itinerary because it is way too touristy, in my opinion. But their dole whip is pretty good. So if you would like, swing by on your way back to Honolulu. 

Don’t sweat if you can’t make it before they close. I also saw the Dole Whip ice cream shop in the middle of Waikiki. 

Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Day 4: East Oahu – Kayaking, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, Lanikai Pillbox Hike, Kualoa Ranch

Today, we will explore East Oahu. Kailua Town lies beneath the breathtaking Ko’olau mountain range. It is a quiet residential neighborhood with a strong sense of community. (Read: if you park in the residential area, your car will be towed.)

Two gorgeous beaches along the east shore are Kailua and Lanikai. They are known as the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, featuring pristine white sand and clear turquoise water. No wonder why Former President Obama is frequent here. 

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 Kayaking to the Mokes from Kailua Beach | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

The view of the Mokes from Kailua Beach. It looks close, but it takes about an hour on Kayak.

Kayaking: Kailua Beach & Lanikai Beach

You may see twin islands a mile away from Kailua Beach. The Mokulua Islands – affectionately called the Mokes – are tiny, volcanic islets with the Hawaii Seabird Sanctuary.

While you can throw a beach blanket on the Kailua or Lanikai Beach to remotely enjoy the view, the best way to enjoy the beauty of the Mokes is to venture out by kayak or paddle boards. Another perk is that you don’t have to fight for a parking space at the beach.

Let’s first head over to Kailua Beach Park for a kayak rental. Try to book as early as 8 am for the view and avoid the crowds. The waves are also calmer in the morning.

Park your car at the tour office. (See how easy it is to resolve the parking issue?) After checking in, you must drag your kayak on the wheel to the water. Then, you will start paddling off the Kailua Beach, pass through the Lanikai Beach and Lanikai Pillbox off to the Mokes. One stone, three birds. Easy-peasy.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 Kayaking to the Mokes from Kailua Beach | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Our local friend is leading us on the kayaking journey to the Mokes.

Unless you are a local, I recommend joining the guided kayak tour instead of renting one yourself. As a rule of thumb, you should never travel by yourself for safety. (I saw one kayak flipped over!) It is recommended to take the L-shape route to avoid heavy waves instead of going straight line. But would you have known what that really meant without the group leader?

Kayak Tour

Hours: 8 am – 5:30 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: When kayaking, you will notice that some parts of the coral reefs are close to the bottom of your kayak. You can safely ride over most of them. Watch out for the shallow water as you may get stuck or scrape the coral reef. Although it may look like a rock, the coral is alive; it only can grow 10-15 cm a year. 

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 Kayaking to the Mokes from Kailua Beach | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

The Mokulua Islands

From Kailua Beach Park, kayaking should take about an hour to the Mokes.

Kayak rental comes with a permit to land on the Mokes. On your left is the larger one, Moku Nui, and on your right is Moku Iki. Land on the Moku Nui. (Moku Iki is closed to the public.) As it is the seabird sanctuary, respect their habitat and bring your trash back.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 Kayaking to the Mokes from Kailua Beach | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

The rocky island may look like something other than inviting to be further explored. But go up the rock and walk around the island clockwise. It is not a clear path, and the rocks are super sharp. (Thank God, I was wearing thick-soled water shoes!) Fight off your self-doubt and walk a bit; you will get to the part where you can jump off the cliff.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 4 Kayaking to the Mokes from Kailua Beach | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Be very careful when you jump. You need to know the timing – when the water comes in – to avoid hitting rocks. Big O touched the bottom, proving the pool was shallow.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Itinerary: What to Do, See and Eat in Oahu in 5 Days | #oahuitinerary #HawaiiFood #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach

Lunch: Cinnamon’s Restaurant 

After the heavy labor of paddling, it is time to refuel. My local friend recommended this homey restaurant called Cinnamon’s [Open Google Map]. It offers Hawaiian-American breakfast & lunch menus. You gotta try loco moco and Macademia cinnamon buns! 

Another option is Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen [Open Google Map]. It is a casual brunch place with Macadamia Nut Banana Pancake.

Option 1: Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Lanikai Pillbox, officially known as the Kaiwa Ridge trail, runs above Lanikai Beach. The top of the track has two military pillboxes, hence the name.

This easy hiking course boasts picturesque scenery overlooking the beach. The first 5 minutes are tough on the muddy hill and require some roping. But it gets easier to reach the first bunker, which takes about 30 minutes. 

Keep walking for 10 minutes, and you will reach the second bunker. The scenery doesn’t change much. Since the trail does not loop, most stop at the first bunker to walk back to return.

Hours: 6 am – 7 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Option 2: Kuala Ranch

Kuala Ranch is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Oahu. Ancient Hawaiians considered it one of the island’s most sacred places. But nowadays, the property got its fame as the Hollywood movies such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and Pearl Harbor were filmed here.

It is private property, and you must sign up for tours. The most popular one is a UTV Raptor tour. But you may opt for another tour to explore this gigantic ranch, including e-bike, horseback rides, zipline, jungle expedition or movie tours.

If you haven’t rented a car, they also offer roundtrip transportation from Waikiki for an additional $15 per person. For a list of departure times and pickup locations, click here. You can also find city bus instructions there.

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Day 5: North East Oahu – Kaneohe Bay Sandbar, Byodo-In Temple, Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens

7 Best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling: Kaneohe Sandbar | #HawaiiSnorkeling #HawaiiBeach #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Kaneohe Bay Sandbar & Snorkeling

Today, we are about to explore Oahu’s best-kept secret on the North East shore. Hop on Captain Bob’s boat to reach Kaneohe Sandbar, the world’s largest saltwater sandbar surrounded by coral reefs.

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 5 Kaneohe Sandbar - swim, snorkel, beach volleyball, BBQ lunch on boat | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

During the 4-hour tour, enjoy swimming, snorkeling, sandbar volleyball and turtle watching with the scenic background of the Ko’olau Mountains, Gilligan’s Island and Chinamans Hat (Mokoli’i).

The tour includes snorkeling gear, barbecue lunch and non-alcoholic beverages, so no need to bring anything except a swimsuit and sunscreen. If you stay in Waikiki hotels, you can also request free roundtrip transportation.

I had a lot of fun. The program is for all ages, and many families with young kids joined the adventure. I recommend it, especially for a group of friends and family. For more information and sign up here.

Hours: 10:30 am – 2:30 pm (no tours on Sundays & public holidays)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Oahu Itinerary 5 Days: Day 5 The Byodo-In Temple | #oahuitinerary #OahuHawaii #travelHawaii

Image Credit: Ashley Hajimirsadeghi from Unsplash

The Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is a miniature replica of a UNESCO World Heritage Japanese temple in Uji, Japan. It was built in Kaneohe to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. 

The serene Japanese temple at the foot of Ko’olau Mountains is a great photo spot. Its vivid red color makes it picturesque in contrast to the lush green mountain in the background. 

Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Insider’s Tip: To save time, you may put your name down at Haleiwa Joe’s first, then quickly visit the temple while you wait for the table.

13 Best Places to Eat in Oahu: Haleiwa Joe’s at the Haiku Gardens | #WheretoEatinOahu #HawaiiFood #OahuFood #FoodTravel

Haleiwa Joe’s Haiku Gardens

Haleiwa Joe’s at Haiku Garden is a popular dinner spot on Oahu, highly recommended by locals and tourists. The main attraction is the Haiku Garden, so make sure you go to the Kaneohe location.

Usually, there is a long wait. Once you arrive, put your name in for a table. You can walk around the gardens until the table is ready. You can also grab a spot in the bar area for appetizers and cocktails. But don’t fill your stomach too much, as you cannot order their famous (and humongous) prime rib at the bar table.

13 Best Places to Eat in Oahu: Haleiwa Joe’s at the Haiku Gardens | #WheretoEatinOahu #HawaiiFood #OahuFood #FoodTravel

The dining experience here is all worth it despite being remote and touristy. It is actually one of a few touristy restaurants locals also dine at. That says a lot! I recommend this restaurant not only for the view but also for the food, service and ambiance. Enjoy your last evening on Oahu!

Hours: 4–9 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Where to Go Next in Hawaii

>> Hawaii Packing List: Include a FREE PRINTABLE checklist

>> 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen for Hawaii & Beach Vacations

>> 7 Best Beaches in Oahu for Snorkeling from beginners to experts

>> 20 Fun Things to Do in Waikiki: Who says Waikiki is overrated?

>> Oahu Food Guide: What to Eat in Oahu & Where to Find the Best

>> Oahu 5-Day ItinerarySee how to spend fabulous 5 days on your vacation  

Bon Voyage!