Oahu 5 Day Itinerary and Travel Guide
Did you know that Oahu is home to the only official royal palace on American soil? Did you know that the record low temperature in Oahu is only 52°F? Did you know that in Oahu surfers have ridden waves 85 feet tall? Rich culture and history, warm temperatures, and beautiful beaches are just a few of the reasons to visit this beautiful island! Check out this Oahu 5 day itinerary and travel guide to learn what to do, where to stay, how to get around, and how to get discounts on it all!
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- Discounts on Oahu Attractions
- Oahu 5 Day Itinerary
- Other Things to Do in Oahu
- Where to Stay in Oahu, Hawaii
- Car Rental in Oahu, Hawaii
Discounts on Oahu Attractions
If you’re looking to save some money on your trip to Oahu, I’d take a look at the Go Oahu Card. You pay a flat fee for the pass and gain entrance to over 30 different attractions, tours, and lessons on Oahu.
If you choose to follow this itinerary exactly, I’d recommend getting the 2-day or 3-day Go Oahu Card. But wait… isn’t this a 5 day itinerary? Yes, but if you purchase the 5-day Oahu Go Card, you’ll actually spend more money than if you were to just purchase tickets to the individual attractions separately.
2-Day Go Oahu Card
If you’re on a budget, you’re better off buying the 2-day Go Oahu Card and using it on days 3 and 4. Purchasing separate tickets for all of the Pearl Harbor attractions (USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Museum, Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Pacific Aviation Museum) and the Polynesian Cultural Center general admission would cost about $141.87 USD not including tax. The 2-day Go Oahu Card is currently $129 USD, meaning you would save a little over $10 USD.
3-Day Go Oahu Card
Alternatively, if you want to do the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center instead of just General Admission (which I highly recommend because it’s one of the top rated luaus on the island), you might consider getting the 3-day Go Oahu Card for days 2, 3, and 4 of this itinerary. Separate tickets for the Polynesian Cultural Center admission and luau, plus Pearl Harbor attractions, plus Byodo-in Temple entrance would be $204.35 USD. A shuttle to the starting point of Diamond Head (because parking a car can sometimes be a pain), would be an additional $18.85 USD, bringing the total to $223.20 USD. A 3-day Go Oahu Card is currently $199 USD, saving you a little over $20 USD.
Other Go Oahu Card Options
The Go Oahu Card covers a significant number of the top things to do in Oahu, so if you find yourself deviating from this itinerary, or just have more than 5 days to spend on Oahu, I would check out the other Go Oahu Card options. Aside from the two options mentioned above, they also offer 1-day, 5-day, and 7-day Go Oahu Cards. A full list of attractions that are included in the Go Oahu Card is available on Viator’s website.
Oahu 5 Day Itinerary
Arrival and Car Rental
Thanks to the fact that Hawaii consists of several islands in the middle of the ocean, the flight to Oahu is a longer one, regardless of where you are coming from. Chances are, you’ll have at least a little bit of jet-lag (or maybe a lot of jet lag). For that reason, you’ll want to sort of hit the ground running once you arrive at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu International Airport) in order to help get you adjusted to the time change.
I suggest picking up a car from Hertz Rent-A-Car right there at the airport, as it will make getting around the island MUCH easier. Public transit isn’t too bad for the Honolulu area, but it will be quite difficult to make it to most of the attractions on Oahu without a car. (See more about this in the Car Rental in Oahu, Hawaii section)
Once you pick up your car, I recommend checking in at the hotel, if only just to make sure everything is squared away. If, for whatever reason, there was a problem with your reservation, you’ll want plenty of time to get it all squared away or find another place to stay during your time in Oahu. Once you’ve got everything settled at the hotel and confirmed your stay, then you can really begin your Oahu vacation!
Don’t know where to stay in Oahu? Check out my recommended hotel!
King Kamehameha Statue
Have you ever seen the TV show “Hawaii Five-O“? If so, you’ll likely remember the golden King Kamehameha Statue often pictured during a sort of transition shot between scenes. Luckily, you can actually see this statue in person. Even if you’re not a fan of the show (or even heard of the show), it’s still worth a visit due to the importance of King Kamehameha in Hawaii’s history.
Wait, did I just say KING Kamahameha? There was a KING in the United States? Not quite. During the late 1700’s, various chiefs often fought for power, until Kamehameha the first united them all under one monarchy. This unification not only opened up possibilities for trading among the islands as well as internationally, but also prevented the islands from being torn apart by war and competing western interests. However, the Kingdom of Hawaii was eventually overthrown and replaced by the Republic of Hawaii before becoming a territory of the United States ultimately a new state.
Stop by Iolani Palace, the only official royal palace on American soil, and get a guided or self-guided tour of the grounds, and learn everything about Hawaii’s history that doesn’t get included in the school history books.
If you’re not overly interested in the history of Hawaii or the TV show Hawaii Five-O, or if you just have more daylight to burn, you can check out the many local shops and restaurants.
Most of the hotels in the area have many souvenir and jewelry shops within the hotel lobby. The surrounding area has even more options. It’s a great place to get some Hawaii souvenirs, but you’ll also find some of the more expensive, name brand stores such as Louis Vitton, Coach, Christian Dior, and more.
If you are a fan of Hawaii Five-O, check out Wini’s Jewlery in the Diamond Head Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s a jewelry store, but tucked away in a corner is some Hawaii Five-O merchandise that you can get as souvenirs.
For those who have never heard of Diamond Head, Wikipedia describes it as a “volcanic tuff cone.” It used to be home to the military fort, Fort Ruger, and is still used for various military purposes. However, it is also a state monument and open for visitors, allowing them to climb to the top of the cone.
The climb up Diamond Head is an intense one, with narrow paths, steep inclines, and lots of steps. The one saving grace of this path is that it is incredibly short. It is only 0.8 miles (one-way), which is way shorter than most hikes. Plus, it’s one of the best hikes in Oahu, so you won’t want to miss it. It gets busy and hot during the day, so you’re best off getting there first thing in the morning (think 8:00 AM or earlier).
From the top of Diamond Head, you can see down into the crater, which is mostly grass now, but parts of it are still used for military operations. You can also see out over the ocean and Waikiki Beach. You just can’t help but smile when you look out and see the bright blue of the ocean, shining sand of the beach, and the towering buildings of Honolulu. It’s absolutely priceless.
The Byodo-in Temple in Oahu, Hawaii is actually a replica, the original being in Kyoto, Japan. I’ve been to the one in Kyoto, and was excited to find that the Byodo-in temple in Oahu was almost a perfect replica, not just a makeshift or downsized version. If you’ve been to the original one, it may not be worth it to visit the one in Oahu. However, if you’ve never been to Japan, it’s a great way to get a glimpse into Japanese culture without going all the way to Japan.
There are a lot of beautiful beaches in Hawaii, and you’ll find that each of them have their own unique features. I personally enjoyed the light blue color of the water at Lanikai Beach, lighter than many other beaches around Oahu. It’s also not quite as busy, making it easy to find a place to lounge around and not feel overly crowded. It makes for a great place to get pictures if you wanted to get some shots of the beach and ocean without worrying about people being in your photo.
As I’ve stated multiple times over throughout this travel blog, I’m not a history buff. However, I do have an infinity for Japan, so the attack on Pearl Harbor has always been of more interest to me than other events in American history. It’s what brought us into World War II and President Franklin Roosevelt called it “a day that will live in infamy.” For this reason, it’s definitely worth visiting the memorial.
Here, you can visit the memorial which commemorates those who died when the USS Arizona exploded, killing over 1,000 people. At the memorial, you can actually see parts of the original USS Arizona under the water. In the area, you can also find several other museums and tours related to World War II, including the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.
The USS Arizona is free to visit, but due to the attractions popularity, only so many people are permitted entrance per day. Some tickets are available for reservation in advance. However, if you aren’t able to get tickets in advance, 1,300 walk-up tickets are given out each day on a first-come-first served basis.
When my mom and I were planning a trip to Hawaii, many friends who had been there before recommended that we visit the Dole Plantation. I’ll admit that visiting what I considered to be nothing more than a pineapple farm didn’t sound overly interesting. However, I found that Dole Plantation is so much more than that.
If you are interested in the plantation, you can take a train tour and see the plantation itself, which features the different stages of pineapples, and you also learn about agricultural history as well as the life of James Dole. If you’re like me and not a history buff, you can skip the train tour and check out the gardens, which contains all sorts of different tropical plants and produce such as pineapples, bananas, and more. You can also try to make your way through the world’s largest maze!
When you’re done, head into the store and catch a demonstration of how to cut a pineapple the quick and easy way as well as make it presentable for guests. They also have plenty of souvenirs and food for you to take home as well.
Aloha Tower and Marketplace
I’ll admit, I was actually a little bit disappointed with our visit to the Aloha Tower and Marketplace. So, then why am I including it on this Oahu 5 day itinerary?
Unfortunately, the “Marketplace” of the “Aloha Tower and Marketplace” is mostly dead. There are a few shops, but the buildings that haven’t been taken over by the nearby university have all been closed. It was more of a ghost-town than a marketplace. However, the Aloha Tower has an observatory at the top. It’s definitely not the tallest observatory I’ve ever been to, but it’s completely free and can give a decent view of the nearby area as well as the ocean.
Lanikai beach was great for photography and finding a less crowded area to lounge around. Laniakea Beach, on the other hand, it well known for being a great place to sport turtles. It’s not uncommon to see them bathing in the sun or swimming close to shore. For that reason, it’s also a great place to go snorkeling!
Polynesian Cultural Center
This was probably the highlight of our Oahu 5 day itinerary. The mission of the Polynesian Cultural Center is to “preserve and portray the cultures, arts and crafts of Polynesia.” Visitors can watch various performances and demonstrations, participate in games, take a boat tour, and more. Plus, you can also partake in the top rated luau on the island as well as catch a spectacular theater show at the end of the night.
Find out what it’s like to spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center!
While exploring and delving into local culture can be an amazing experience, sometimes it’s nice to just lay around on the beach. Thankfully, the Outrigger Reef Resort is located right on Waikiki Beach, meaning that you can literally step out onto the beach from the hotel restaurant. Grab a hotel towel and lay it out on the sand, or rent one of the beach chairs with an umbrella. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could also rent a standup paddleboard or an aqua cycle (three-wheeled paddleboat).
One of the things that makes Hawaii so unique from other states is its deep rooted cultural traditions and customs. Most of the resorts in the area offer various activities to help guests learn more about these traditions and customs. At the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, you can learn to make a lei, take hula lessons, make a nut or tea leaf bracelet, do wood carving, and learn how to play a ukulele. Best of all, it’s all free!
Fireworks on the Beach
The Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a fireworks show over Waikiki Beach for free EVERY Friday. Pretty much anywhere on the beach will make for a great viewing location, but Go Visit Hawaii particularly recommends the concrete pier in front of the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. You can also catch a cruise at that time so you can see the fireworks from the water.
Other Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii
Want to maybe switch out one of my recommendations on this Oahu 5 day itinerary? Got more than 5 days in Oahu? Consider checking out some of the less touristy places like Kapolei or do some awesome guided Oahu tours and activities:
- Kualoa Ranch Zipline Tour
- Kualoa Ranch ATV Tour
- Manoa Waterfall Small Group Adventure
- Oahu Submarine Scooter Adventure
- Oahu Parasailing Tour from Honolulu
- Atlantis Submarine Tour
- Sunset Horseback Ride
- Oahu Volcanic Rainforest Hiking Adventure
- Waikiki Sunset Cocktail Cruise
- Oahu Shark Dive
- Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling Excursion
- Surf Lessons: Private or Group
- Stand-up Paddleboard Lesson and Tour
- Helicopter Tour
Where to Stay in Oahu, Hawaii
During out trip to Oahu, my mom and I chose to stay at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. I typically don’t stay in 4 star hotels (or 5 star for that matter), simply because it’s usually more than I need. Most times I’m just looking for a comfy and clean place to sleep, not a whole bunch of fancy amenities or perks. However, we chose to stay at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort for a few reasons. Most importantly, we were able to get a room during off-season for almost a 3-star hotel price (typically around $200 USD per night). Secondly, it was right on the beach and relatively close to most of the major attractions in Honolulu.
Car Rental in Oahu, Hawaii
When my mom and I were first putting together our Oahu 5 day itinerary, we had planned on just using the public transit system, which is amusingly called “TheBus.” However, as we continued to do more research, we realized that it was going to take twice as long to get to some of our destinations than it would be to just drive there. In the end, we decided that the money spent on a rental car would be worth the time saved getting between the various attractions and our hotel.
The best place for a car rental in Oahu is most likely at the airport when you first land. There are some rental car companies within the airport, including Advantage, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. Others are right outside the airport offer a shuttle between the airport and the car rental facilities. Some of the nearby car rental options include A-1, Alamo, Dollar, and Thrifty.