Last Updated on September 18, 2023 by Jerardo Gomez
Are you thinking of planning a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and unsure where to start? With its pristine beaches and lush forests, Honolulu is an ideal place for people seeking out adventure or vacation. Whether it’s relaxing on magnificent white sand beaches or checking out unique cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone in Hawaii’s capital city. This travel guide will provide a 5-day Oahu itinerary packed with tips and insider recommendations on exploring Honolulu like never before — perfect for first-time visitors looking to make the absolute most out of their stay! From Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head State Monument to Iolani Palace and more, we’ll give you all the tips and tricks on how to experience Honolulu like a local. Plus, we’ll share our advice on getting around town without breaking the bank. So get ready for some fun in paradise—it’s time to discover Honolulu Hawaii!
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Tips for going to Hawaii
I recommend The Ritz-Carleton in Waikiki Beach. With its luxurious amenities and stunning views of the ocean, it’s the perfect setting for relaxation and indulgence. The hotel offers a variety of activities such as spa services, private beach access, yoga classes, and poolside dining options. Plus the location can’t be beaten with easy access to all that Waikiki has to offer including shops, restaurants, and nightlife. The only downside however is that it’s not beach front, and it’s less than a 5-minute walk to the beach. I still recommend this as you will feel very comfortable here, it’s a good location, and it’s not far from the beach
However, if you need a beachfront then I recommend the Hilton Hawaiian Village (family-friendly) to explore Waikiki.
In addition, I also advise renting your own vehicle if you want to leave the resort area to do things, it would be very convenient and cheap to do than using a Taxi or Uber. That’s why I recommend rental car agencies rentcars.com as it searches various rental companies for the lowest prices which you can pick up right at the Honolulu International Airport. You can choose from a variety of cars in different sizes and classes, including economy cars for budget-minded travelers and luxury SUVs for larger groups or those who want some extra comfort on their journey. Plus, they offer 24/7 customer service support so you’ll always have someone available to help if needed.
Sunscreen is one of the most important items to pack when traveling to Hawaii. With its near-constant sunshine, the Hawaiian Islands are a prime destination for sun worshippers looking to soak up some rays. However, it’s also important to remember that Hawaii’s beaches can be quite unforgiving with their intense UV rays. I recommend taking a reef-safe sunscreen like Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector lotion.
Also, take sunglasses as reflections from the water can make it hard to see at the beach.
Hawaii is a beautiful travel destination, but it can also be quite expensive. From airfare to accommodations and activities, the cost of visiting this paradise in the Pacific can add up quickly. However, with some careful planning and budgeting, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy your time in Hawaii. With some research and creativity, visitors can find affordable hotels and restaurants that offer delicious local cuisine without breaking their travel budget. Additionally, many attractions offer discounts for seniors or military personnel as well as free admission days throughout the year so make sure to check out all your options before making any decisions about where you want to go and what you want to do in Hawaii!
5 Day Honolulu Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival and getting settled
Arrival 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The estimated arrival time from most airlines that I have reviewed is between 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM which gives you an idea of what can actually be done in one day. After arriving, take transportation either via shuttle to your hotel, or what I prefer, to rent a car and drive to the hotel.
Optional: Go to a Luau
Luaus are quite expensive but it is an experience that is recommended and an essential part of any Hawaiian travel experience and best be done in the first day. Transportation is included from your hotel and the experience lasts several hours. Luaus are traditional Hawaiian celebrations that involve music, food, and entertainment. Most luaus will include a buffet-style dinner with local dishes such as kalua pork, poi, drinks, poke, and other delicious treats. There is also often a traditional hula performance accompanied by live music from ukuleles or drums. In addition to the meal and show, many luau venues offer activities like lei making or coconut husking for guests to enjoy before the festivities begin. A luau can be an incredible way to immerse yourself in the culture of Hawaii while having a wonderful time!
On your first day in Waikiki, you can spend some time relaxing on the beach or exploring the local area. If you are looking for an exciting activity, there are plenty of water sports such as surfing or stand-up paddling available along with other activities like snorkeling or kayaking. And don’t forget about all the amazing restaurants and bars that will give you a taste of Hawaiian culture!
In the evening, walking in Waikiki is a great way to experience all that this vibrant city has to offer. From the beautiful beaches and lush parks to the bustling nightlife and unique shopping districts, there’s something for everyone in Waikiki. Whether you’re looking for some time alone or an adventure with friends, walking around Waikiki will let you take it all in at your own pace. Enjoy the sights of Diamond Head or browse through Hawaii’s many boutiques as you stroll along Kalakaua Avenue. Its the best place for nightlife and shopping as there are many shops around, restaurants, bars, malls, and more.
Day 2 – Hiking and eating like a local
9:00 AM Off the Hook Poke Market
It takes about 16 minutes to drive here from the Waikiki area as its only 3.5 miles away. Off the Hook Poke Market is a famous Hawaiian restaurant located on the island of Oahu. Established in 2012, this popular eatery is well-known for its fresh, vibrant poke bowls and authentic Hawaiian cuisine. The menu features a variety of poke bowls made with fresh fish that’s caught from local waters, as well as other dishes.
10:00 AM Ualaka’a Trail and Manoa Falls Trail
You can do either or both as I did as a half a day trip.
Ualaka’a Trail is a popular hiking trail located on Oahu, Hawaii. It offers stunning views of the Waianae Range and the Pacific Ocean from its peak. The trail is easy to complete and it’s a short loop which is why I choose this trail. Anyone can do it, and its not far from the city.
Manoa Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail situated in the lush tropical rainforest of Manoa Valley, Honolulu. This trail provides visitors with spectacular views of the surrounding mountain range and abundant flora and fauna. The trail is about 1.6 miles long and leads to a 150-foot waterfall. It’s not difficult and it’s rated as a moderate-difficulty trail.
2:00 PM Diamond Head Hike
One of the must-see spots is Diamond Head, an iconic volcanic tuff cone located on the island of Oahu. Rising 760 feet above sea level, it offers unparalleled views of Waikiki Beach, Oahu hotels, and the Pacific ocean. To hike diamond head the 1.6-mile (2.5 km) round-trip hike to the summit takes about 1-2 hours to complete and features an impressive array of flora, fauna, and geological formations. You’ll travel through tunnels and staircases before reaching the diamond head summit trail which leads you up around a staircase filled with switchbacks that wind their way through lush vegetation before finally coming out on top! Here you will be rewarded with breathtaking 360° views of Honolulu below including iconic landmarks such as Waikiki Beach, hotels, condominiums, hiking trails leading down into alligator ponds in Manoa Valley, Koko Head, and other volcanic eruptions stretching back in time millions of years.
Hiking Diamond Head trail may be considered relatively easy to moderately compared to some of the other hikes on Oahu. It is a 1.6-mile (2.5 km) round-trip hike with an elevation gain of around 350 feet and takes about 1-2 hours to complete.
5:00 PM Waiola Shave Ice
Waiola Shave Ice is a must-visit spot for anyone on Oahu Island. Located in the heart of Waikiki, this iconic Hawaiian shave ice stand has been serving up delicious treats since 1953. The shop offers an amazing selection of flavors ranging from classic favorites like mango and pineapple to more unique options such as Lychee and POG (passion fruit, orange and guava). Every order comes with two scoops of their signature soft serve ice cream that’s made fresh daily. But what really sets Waiola apart from the rest is their famous “rainbow” shave ice—a multi-colored treat topped with condensed milk or coconut syrup. Whether you prefer something fruity or creamy, there’s sure to be something here that will satisfy your sweet tooth!
It’s considered to have the fluffiest and best-shaved ice on the Hawaiian island
6:00 PM (Sunset) Walking Waikiki Beach
Walk down Waikiki beach (there is a pavement sidewalk) the whole way, starting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Not only is it one of the most famous beaches but also one of the best beaches in Oahu. Not only romantic but it’s a sight to behold.
7:00 PM Dinner
I recommend using this day to reward yourself with a great dinner at any of the amazing restaurants in Waikiki and even the restaurants in the hotel. If you want an exclusive sushi dinner then try Sushi Sho in The Ritz-Carlton as you need to reserve far in advance by calling (808) 729-9717 from 2 to 10:30 p.m. If that’s not your thing then there are plenty of other options around.
Day 3 – Beach Day
On your third day in Hawaii, I recommend doing water sports such as kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, or snorkeling. There are various places to do this and companies that will do rentals, tours, and classes. To sum this up these are some of the companies and locations to do this.
has various rentals and classes to do some of the watersports if you don’t want to go far and stay in the Waikiki area.
A drive away Oahu’s North Shore there is SBS Hawaii where you can do surf lessons, kayak, and tour where you can get your own snorkel gear to sea the sea turtles. Some of the places you can go here in the North Shore Oahu include Sunset beach, shark’s cove, laniakea beach, and Turtle bay.
In East Oahu there is also Kama’aina Kayak and Snorkel Eco-eventures a one-of-a-kind company located on the east side of Oahu that offers several different kayaking and snorkeling tours throughout the area. The company specializes in providing safe, informative, and enjoyable experiences to customers of all ages.
Day 4 – Honolulu choose-your-own-adventure
When visiting Oahu on the 4th day, Dole Plantation is a fantastic place to start. Dole Plantation offers so much to do; you can wander through the Pineapple Garden Maze, experience a self-guided walking tour through Dole’s natural rainforest and waterfalls, take a train ride, or take part in Dole’s pineapple cutting demonstration. Try their famous Dole whip. It’ll undoubtedly be an amazing place to learn more about Dole Plantation’s history and production of one of its most recognizable products—pineapple.
Don’t forget about the Iolani Palace Museum where you can experience some of Hawaii’s best storytelling with guided tours that provide insight into Queen Liliuokalani’s overthrown government, hostile overthrow attempts during 1898, as well as her legacy today. This historical site will teach visitors about Hawaiian culture and history.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is another great place worth visiting; it provides incredible exhibitions from World War II with an extensive collection of aircraft set up inside the museum itself. As well as a memorial section dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack 81 years ago. You can also view guided audio tours in multimedia displays that give visitors insightful information about the event itself which occurred at this historical site all those years ago.
For some outdoor fun, consider going ziplining while in Oahu! Experience an adrenaline-filled journey high above tropical forests with guides available every step of your exhilarating trip!
There is also Kona Coffee tour which takes places deeper in the Island if you are interested in that.
There will be plenty of thrilling takes along the way but also enough romantic views providing breathtaking panoramas of beautiful sceneries located throughout the island itself. Whether you’re looking for something adventurous or just want to explore and view sites from above, there’s sure to be something for everyone here at Oahu Zipline Tours.
Day 5 – Departure
On the last day of your 5 day Ultimate Oahu Itinerary, you’ll want to savor every moment while making sure you don’t forget anything. Start by grabbing a bite to eat at one of Oahu’s local eateries – you can find famous Hawaiian dishes like Poke or Kalua Pork. You’ll want to be sure to buy souvenirs for yourself and those back home, so don’t forget to check out some of Oahu’s renowned shopping spots like Ala Moana Center, Kakaako Shopping District, and Waikiki Beach Walk just to name a few.
If you have time for one last swim, consider taking a dip at the luxurious lagoons located at many of the resorts in Honolulu such as The Kahala Hotel & Resort with its tranquil lagoon pool framed by lush tropical landscaping or the Grand Wailea Maui Resort & Spa where you can explore nine different pool experiences including a waterslide park and sandy beaches.
Once you’ve had your fill of swimming, it’s time to start packing up all your belongings from your trip. Be sure to go through each room and make sure nothing is left behind – travel-sized containers are a great way to minimize space and make any remaining liquids travel-friendly. Don’t forget to double-check that no items were left behind.
Last but not least, be sure to give yourself plenty of time before heading off to the airport so any unexpected delays don’t put a damper on your holiday travel plans. Enjoy your last few moments exploring Hawaii until the next time!
Alternative things to do
- USS Arizona Memorial
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- Polynesian Cultural Center Check out my blog about this here.
- Day trips to other Hawaiian Islands
- Downtown Honolulu / Chinatown
- Windward Coast
- Jurassic Park
- Visit Pearl Harbor
- Trying food trucks
- Sandy Beach
- Turtle Bay Resort
- Pacific Fleet submarine museum
- Leeward coast
- Ford Island
- Battleship Missouri Memorial
- Royal Hawaiian Center
- Haleiwa Beach house
- Lanikai Pillbox Hike
- South Shore
I hope you find this helpful
We hope that this blog post gave you a great understanding of what to expect when visiting Hawaii. Picking the perfect hotel, packing efficiently and properly, arriving safely, and making plans for hiking and beach days make all the difference between an okay trip and one that will stand out! Before you know it, your Hawaii experience will be here so get to planning right away. Make time for a hike up Diamond Head or Mauna Loa and schedule in some precious beach time! With these helpful tips in mind, you’re ready to craft the perfect Hawaiian getaway. What are you waiting for? Book your ticket today!
1. What are the must-see attractions in Oahu?
One of the must-see attractions in Oahu is definitely Dole Plantation. The plantation offers plenty of activities for all ages, such as its iconic Pineapple Garden Maze, a self-guided walking tour through its natural rainforest and waterfalls, a train ride, and even pineapple-cutting demonstration.
2. What are the best beaches in Oahu?
- Waikiki Beach
- Hanauma Bay
- Lanikai Beach
- Sunset Beach
- Shark’s Cove
- Kailua Beach Park
- Waimanalo Bay State Park
- Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail & Lookout
- Papailoa Beach
- Kahala beach
3. What are the best restaurants in Oahu?
- Alan Wong’s
- Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas
- La Mer
- The Pig & The Lady
- Kaena Oyster Bar & Seafood
- Roy’s Waikiki Beach
- Azure Restaurant
- Orchids at Halekulani Hotel
- La Cucina Italian Restaurant
- Nobu Honolulu
4. What is the best time of year to visit Oahu?
Visiting Oahu is a treat for the senses and one of the best times to experience it is during the lower tourist months – typically March to May, or September to November. The main advantage of visiting during these months is that there are fewer other tourists, which makes it easier to get around the island and not compete with crowds at popular spots. Additionally, you can benefit from lower prices on accommodation as well as often longer opening hours in stores so you can take your time shopping around.
In terms of weather, springtime (March to May) has some of the most pleasant temperatures, usually ranging from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity. This season also offers plenty of sunshine for outdoor activities such as hiking or taking in world-class beaches like Waikiki Beach or Kailua Beach Park. For those seeking activities such as surfing greater waves tend to arrive in between summer and fall months such as September and October. Showcasing cooler temperatures in the Upper 70’s Fahrenheit.
6. What should I pack for a trip to Oahu?
- A light jacket or cardigan
- Comfortable shoes for walking and hiking
- Sunglasses/ polarized sunglasses
- Camera and extra SD cards
- Reusable water bottle
- Insect repellent
- Portable charger
8. What are some safety tips for traveling to Oahu?
It is important to pack proper sunscreen and insect repellent as the Hawaiian climate can be intense. Swimming in the ocean is a popular activity in Hawaii; however, it is essential to be aware of any signs posted near beaches about rip currents and other dangerous waterside conditions. Furthermore, visitors should look out for natural features such as poisonous plants and volcanic areas that could be hazards.