As a major transportation hub for the Pacific, Oahu and Honolulu see a lot of traffic. For some, this “gathering place” is a mere stopover to some other faraway destination, while others will travel around Oahu for a few days before moving on to another Hawaiian island or two. And a lot of tourists choose to spend their entire vacation on this island.
There's a lot to do on Oahu, no matter what your agenda, and in this section you'll find a few ideas for how you might spend one, three, or even five days here. They're just suggestions, of course. With some of the information in this book, you can make your own plan to suit your own likings!
If you only have one day to spend on Oahu, you can do several things to capture a bit of that island's experience. First, you might choose to spend much of your day focused around Waikiki, one of the world's most famous beaches. Enjoy some sun, test out the water, have a nice lunch, and sip some cool drinks.
If you like shopping, Waikiki is full of great shopping venues, such as the International Marketplace, the Royal Hawaiian Marketplace, and the Waikiki Shopping Plaza, all on Kalakaua Avenue. If you've got an extra-big desire or need to shop, you might also consider riding the bus out to the Ala Moana Center ( 1450 Ala Moana Blvd.), Aloha Tower Marketplace ( 1 Aloha Tower Dr.), or you might prefer to take the shuttle bus out to Hilo Hattie's ( 700 N. Nimitz Hwy.) for one-stop Hawaiian purchases.
Another possibility is to divide your day between Waikiki and one of the important historical or cultural sites. Consider a morning or afternoon trip out to Pearl Harbor to visit the USS Arizona Memorial ( 422-0561). An excursion to the Bishop Museum ( 847-3511) might likewise be a good choice for those who like exploring Hawaii's natural and human history.
To get a glimpse of what the greater island might have to offer, a circle-island tour might fill the bill. Companies such as Roberts Hawaii ( 539-9400), Polynesian Adventure Tours ( 833-3000) or Enoa Tours ( 591-2561) will provide the transportation and the commentary. If you plan to drive yourself, you might consider driving counterclockwise from Honolulu toward Diamond Head on H1 and circle around the island along the windward and North Shore beaches and returning via Hwy. 99. (Or try it the opposite way.) From Honolulu you can take a shortcut through the Ko'olau mountains to the windward side via the Pali Hwy., with all its stunning views. You can stop at the Byodo-In Temple ( 47-200 Kahekili Hwy.) in the beautiful “Valley of the Temples” and perhaps make an appearance in the renowned surfing town of Haleiwa.
No matter how you choose to spend the day, get an early start and afterwards reward yourself with a delicious dinner at one of the island's many excellent dining establishments.
Day One: Spend the day at Waikiki. Enjoy the beach, food, and shopping. And don't forget the sunscreen!
Day Two: Visit Pearl Harbor and spend some time at the Bishop Museum. Consider attending a luau such as those put on by Germaine's ( 949-6626) or Paradise Cove ( 842-5911).
Day Three: Dedicate this day to the sea. Drive out from Waikiki past Diamond Head and neighboring Koko Heat to Hanaumu Bay ( 396-4229) for some fantastic swimming and snorkeling in the morning — but make sure it's not Tuesday, when the facilities are closed. Then put some dry clothes on and continue on to Waimanalo to Sea Life Park ( 259-8974) for some great family fun.
Day One: Orient yourself to Waikiki and its vicinity. Beach, shop, dine, and relax.
Day Two: Visit Pearl Harbor in the morning. While you're there, try a tour of the USS Missouri ( 423-2263) and/or the USS Bowfin ( 423-1341). Drive up to Punchbowl Crater to the national cemetery, and don't forget to check out the panoramic view of Honolulu. After taking in such somber and profound sites, take the rest of the day off to relax. Go for a swim and perhaps attend a show at one of the hotels.
Day Three: Take a trip to the island's windward and north shores and the Polynesian Cultural Center at La'ie ( 1-800-367-7060), but be aware that the center is closed on Sundays. Go with a day tour or drive your own car. Take the long way around the coast past Diamond Head or take one of the several routes that cut right across the island. The Polynesian Cultural Center opens at 12:30 P.M., so the morning can be spent enjoying the trip there. Admire the scenery and stop at the Byodo-In Temple on the way, if you like. There is plenty to do at the PCC and it can keep you busy for hours. They also have a good luau that you might consider for dining and entertainment.
Day Four: Exercise your intellectual and aesthetic sides with a day spent at the Bishop Museum and one or more of the botanical gardens. Consider a downtown Honolulu visit to the United States's only royal residence, the 'Iolani Palace ( 522-0832) or perhaps the Mission Houses Museum ( 531-0481). Or how about engaging in some of those special activities listed in this book? Take a surf lesson, visit the zoo, or go on a hike.
Day Five: If this is your last day on the island, you might want to take it easy again, with a leisurely day at Waikiki. Do whatever strikes your fancy, and don't forget to enjoy a magnificent Hawaiian sunset.
Lahaina & Kaanapali — North
Lahaina & Kaanapali — South
Honokowai to Kapalua — North
Honokowai to Kapalua — South
Kihei to Wailea — North
Kihei to Wailea — South