Travelers to Hawaii always face a tough question - which island should I visit? For us, it was a tough choice to decide how we wanted to spend our first family vacation in paradise. While we ended up with Maui being our primary destination, I knew we couldn’t travel all the way to Hawaii without spending a few days on iconic Oahu. Island hopping is relatively cheap and easy, but with five of us, a one way trip to Oahu on the last 3 days of our vacation seemed like the best option. We knew that Waikiki would be a bit crowded in early July, so we decided to stay in a vacation rental in laid back Kailua. The location, just 3 miles from a beautiful beach, gave us easy access to all the popular sites, and we found the highways to be pretty straightforward. It was an action packed few days, ending with fireworks on the beach in Kailua on the 4th of July. Check out some of our favorite spots that we enjoyed during our visit, and get inspired for your next trip to Hawaii!
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was top on my list & the primary reason I wanted to spend a few days on Oahu. We started at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and spent some time in the two galleries - Road to War and Attack. Make sure you book tickets for the USS Arizona tour in advance, or plan to arrive when the park first opens to try to get one of the 1300 timed-admission tickets which are distributed first-come, first-served. Just know that with the same day tickets, your admission may not be until much later in the day.
Loved our special evening at Chief’s Luau! This highly acclaimed attraction is in a fabulous location in the Makapu’u Meadows at Sea Life Park, which turned out to be a scenic 15-20 minute drive from our rental house. Watching the entertaining show with the gorgeous Hawaiian backdrop was quite memorable.
Dole Plantation and the North Shore
It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without a stop at the Dole Plantation to try the famous Dole Whip! Spent some time strolling through the beautiful gardens and gave the famous Pineapple Maze a try. Impressed that my husband and I made it out before our two daughters! After, we continued on to the North Shore, stopping to grab some garlic shrimp at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (the shrimp was so good we forgot to take a picture!) and enjoying lunch by the water. The North Shore is a place I would definitely spend more time in on our next visit to Oahu.
Makapu'u Point and Waikiki Beach
Started our last full day in Oahu with a morning hike up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse trail. Just off the Kalanianaole Highway, the 2 mile trail leads to several stunning overlooks, where during the winter months you can often spot migrating humpback whales. It’s also home to the historic Makapu‘u Lighthouse, but don’t expect to go inside, as it is off-limits. The views from the top, as captured by my husband in this panoramic photo, make you want to linger and just stare! Our plan was to also hike Diamond Head later in the morning, but we were turned away at the entrance as the parking area was at capacity. Next stop, Waikiki, where we stumbled upon Duke’s Waikiki, the perfect lunch spot with the famous Hula Pie!
It was hard to say goodbye to beautiful Hawaii, but I know that we will be back someday soon!
Do you have a favorite spot on Oahu? Feel free to share in the comments below.