This has been a long time coming, but I have finally compiled the ultimate detailed Oahu itinerary! In these Hawaii posts, I will go over the generalities of the trip, such as what I did exactly in that given day. I will have future posts about the food, my favorite beaches, and my favorite activities in more detail. So keep your eyes peeled for those!
There is never a bad time to go to Hawaii! The temperatures are always perfect for a beach day. In the end, we picked September, because kids were back in school (less crowded), prices were supposedly cheaper (for airfare and hotel), and it had the lowest chance of rainfall. Unfortunately for us, it rained for a fair amount of our trip. Luckily, it did not rain when we had outdoor activities planned, and it did not last long. The sun would come back out as if nothing happened. Also, the locals were unfazed by it. If anything, they embraced the rain, enjoying the moment to cool down and take a break from the sun.
Overall, this is my favorite vacation to date. I felt completely at peace with the warm tropical breeze and happy sun beaming on us. Everyone there was unbelievably friendly – just when I thought you couldn’t get nicer than “Minnesota nice.” I believe that the locals are incapable of being angry. They do NOT honk their horns, and they exude the chillest of the chillest island vibe.
I highly recommend this trip to everyone. Oahu has a little bit of everything and able to satisfy a group of people with different interests. There are beaches for bumming, hikes and activities for the adventurous, and the most amazing snacks for those foodies. I was in heaven. How could a place like this exist on earth? Never mind in our own country!
Before you read, here are some background information:
- We rented out a car, because there were many hidden gems that locals love to go to. These locations were not accessible by public transportation. I highly recommend you rent a car!
- We grouped the activities by regions. For example, if there was anything we wanted to do in the North Shore, we made sure that we packed that day with North Shore activities. That way our trip would not be wasted on driving time.
- We used the Oahu GoCard, which is a huge saver if it has activities that you want to do. We picked the 3 day package.
- Waikiki was our home base. Whenever we finished exploring a particular region that day, we would go back and play tourists on the strip.
If you have any questions in particular, feel free to comment! And now time for ultimate Oahu itinerary.
Day 1 : We finally landed in paradise! Time to enjoy Honolulu.
On the agenda:
- Check in at Park Shore Waikiki Hotel
- Grab legendary malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery
- Soak up what’s left of the sun at Magic Island Beach
- Stock up on supplies at Costco (Steven and I love Costco okay? Water in bulk anyone?)
- Sushi dinner at Doraku
Well actually, we had half a day left, because we landed in Honolulu at about 2:30pm. But that was NOT going to stop us from doing as much as possible in Oahu! After we picked up our rental car, we headed straight to our hotel to change into our bathing suits. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were greeted with “Aloha!” by the nicest staff I have ever met. What I love about Park Shore Waikiki is that it let’s you experience the energy of Waikiki with WAY less traffic since it is at the end of the Waikiki strip. Also, our hotel view was beautiful. We had the view of the Waikiki beach and Diamond Head.
When we finally finished changing out of our airplane attire to our bathing suits, we drove to Leonard’s, which was just around the block from where we stayed. I will have a post about these amazing Portuguese doughnuts (and among many snacks) in the near future. However, I will say for now that they are amazing and you will always get them fresh and hot.
Once we got our snacks, we went to Magic Island Beach. The sand was not the white powdery sand that Hawaii is known for. They were more like the pebbly sand that I’m used to in New England, which added to the charm of this beach. We stayed until the sun started to set on the horizon and then it started to lightly drizzle some rain – our cue to leave.
After the sun had set, we went to the Costco that’s closest t0 the airport to pick up supplies. The main reason why I am mentioning Costco is because they sell poke (I really love Costco/Kirkland brand food okay?) and they have a HUGE variety of Hawaiian treats and Kona coffee to bring back for souvenirs! Also, this is probably the busiest Costco I have ever seen. It was absolutely chaotic, but the locals did not care that the lines were all back up into the aisles. I wish I had their calm demeanor!
Day 2: Exploring the eastern side of the North Shore and Luau day
On the agenda:
- Catamaran tour of the North Shore with Kualoa Ranch
- Mike Huli Huli Chicken for lunch
- Eating fresh macadamia nuts at Tropical Farms
- Rest stop at Kualoa Beach Park
- Polynesian Cultural Center for activities, luau, and a show
Just when I thought Oahu could not get any prettier, the North Shore completely took our breath away. I love how it is so green and that the rain forests are well-preserved. This morning, our day began with a catamaran tour on the eastern side of the North Shore, which started off with a small boat ride to a secret island in Kaneohe Bay. Once it docked, we walked through the most interesting forest to get from one side of the island to the other. You knew that you reached the other side, when you saw a gateway naturally formed by the trees and their long, willowy branches. From there, the catamaran took us around the bay with our extremely friendly tour guide pointing out all the fun facts about Oahu. You might be lucky enough to see sea turtles swimming around the boat!
After the tour was over, we went to Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken for lunch. When I saw it on Diners, Drives-In, and Dives, I knew that I had to try it. But more on this later. I will disclose that their char siu was one of the best char sius I have ever had. Steven LOVED his chicken. Man, I wish we could go back. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
The next thing on our agenda was actually the Polynesian Cultural Center, but as we were driving towards it, we saw a macadamia nut farm and knew that we had to make a detour. When else in our lives would we see a macadamia nut farm? Not only did they sell all the macadamia nut products you could think of (DO try their macadamia nut flavored Kona coffee. Taste bud explosion.), but they also let you crack open your own fresh nut! Watch out for the chickens that roam around the farm though. They wait for you to drop the nuts, so that they can snipe a freebie, which is actually pretty funny.
Oh yeah, there are a lot wild chickens walking about in the North Shore. Who would’ve thought? Not this girl.
After we had our fair share of macadamia nut treats, we were heading towards the Polynesian Cultural Center (take 2), but then we caught a glimpse of Kualoa Beach Park and said “yolo.” We needed to take this detour. It was absolutely beautiful. We got to see the Chinaman’s Hat up close and nurse our food babies. After all, we had some more eating to do at the luau later that evening.
Finally, after some R&R on the shores, we went back on the road to the cultural center (take 3), and this time, we made it – third time’s the charm! The Polynesian Cultural Center is ran by the BYU of Hawaii, so all of the performers and workers are students! I’m really glad that we picked this place for the luau, because it had so many educational activities, providing information on the culture of the Polynesian natives. I will say that my favorite activity was at the island of Tongo. Just go. Trust me. Finally, dinner rolled around and we got to feast at the luau, and following the luau was a show, that was put together by the students, called the Ha: Breath of Life. It was an amazing way to end our day. The show was so moving that I am pretty sure I shed a tear.
In hindsight, I am very glad we did the luau and explored the North Shore on our first full day in Oahu. It really put us in the aloha spirit and gave us an appreciation of Hawaii. The locals are extremely prideful in their culture and work so hard to preserve it. So in conclusion, do the luau first!
Part 2 will be up shortly!
Thanks for reading 🙂