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Oahu is the busiest of the Hawaiian Islands. After over 10 visits to Hawaii, I recommend 3-4 days for a visit to Oahu combined with a visit to one of the other islands. While Oahu is busy and exhibits many skyscrapers and high rise hotels; other islands have a more serene feel to them.
I highly recommend a rental car when arriving in Honolulu.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, I am a frugal but definitely not cheap. Oahu is expensive; so even the least expensive hotels are pricey on this island.
In order to save money, if you are trying to do that; stay somewhere like the Aston Waikiki and for the last night splurge on the Hilton Hawaiian Village (where you leave the Aston early in the morning and spend all day at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; experience the night activities and the next morning until departure. There are shows, luaus, fireworks, private beach, private lagoon, swim areas, etc. It is worth the cost for at least a night.
Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Hilton Hawaiian Village has a mall area and parking lots; self park or valet. The shopping area is extremely nice and the shops give away samples. Check out the times of Luaus and Fireworks (even if you decide not to stay here). Highly Recommended.
Aston Waikiki Beach
Is about a mile down the road; on Waikiki Beach. It is conveniently located to a lot of shops and restaurants. Highly Recommended.
When you first arrive, you will be a bit tired (especially if this is your first stop in the Hawaiian islands), but if staying at either the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel or Hilton Hawaiian Village; park your car and walk Waikiki Beach and grab lunch or dinner watching the surfers, there are a lot of shops on the strip, check them out, and go for a swim at the beach or back at the hotel.
Get up early and be at Pearl Harbor by 7:15 AM. From Waikiki it around a 45 minute drive and can be longer if it is during the work week. Grab breakfast on the way. Pearl Harbor tickets are handed out first come, first serve. If you get there early, you will be in the first or second tour groups and it is well worth it to get in within 45 minutes of arrival. If you arrive later in the day, you may not get a ticket or you may get a ticket for mid-afternoon and will have to time your day accordingly.
Pearl Harbor (just dress appropriately) You can wear shorts and t-shirt, but halter tops and short shorts will be turned away. There is 40 minute video when you arrive about what happened at Pearl Harbor (Bring some tissues), followed by a boat ride out to the USS Arizona and a return trip. The whole experience will take until about 10:30 AM if you arrive at 7:15 AM.
The afternoon is really up for grabs. I suggest going to the Dole Plantation for an afternoon snack! The drive is beautiful and if you go to the Dole Plantation; there is a fun train ride and Dole Whip when you finish!
Take a trip around the Island. Start early in the morning with the intention of driving all the way around. It will be filled with many spots and picture taking opportunities. Check out the links below as they may help you decide your stopping points.
Hanauma Bay State Park is a conservation park with a $7.50 charge. There are package deals to this park and also to the Banzai Pipeline on a tour or shuttles from Waikiki. Just remember that the park is always closed on Tuesdays.
End of Day 3 or Day 4: Departure
Spend the morning at the pool, eat breakfast on the beach, go for a stroll, or some morning shopping…before heading off to the airport.
Things You Should Know:
- If you are going to do a helicopter tour; do it over the Big Island or Kauai, but not Oahu (or Maui)
- Snorkeling is great at Hanamuau Bay (depending on the time of the year; you can see whales breach)
- Remember to rent a car for the entire trip
- Driving around the island is beautiful; stop often and take pictures
- Make sure to get Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation
- Stay on Waikiki Beach – save money on other islands with hotel accommodations
- Stay here a few days, but make sure to visit another island