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O’ahu in 5 days: what to see

Oahu in 5 days: what to see | The Italian Wanderer
O’ahu in 5 days. Is it possible to visit the island in so little time? Let’s discover it!

Let me tell you straight away: yes and also no. 
In 5 days you’ll have enough time to visit some of the island best spots, but you’ll need some more to add a couple of other not-to-be-missed places and also balance the time you spend around with some relaxing beach time. 

I will share with you what we have seen and done and some tips to organize a better stay. 


We arrived in O’ahu after dinner around 9pm from Los Angeles and by the time we got our luggages and our rental car, we reached our Waikiki hotel between 11pm-midnight. SUGGESTION: if you can, catch an earlier flight in order to gain if not a whole day, at least another afternoon.


Our exploring therefore started the morning after our arrival. That day also happened to be my 30th birthday so, selfishly, I planned two activities I wanted to do the most. We started the day visiting Ho’omaluia Botanical Gardens taking some amazing photos and spent the afternoon at Lanikai beach where we enjoyed being only few people and seeing wild turtles.

Along the road we wanted to stop at Nu’Uanu Pali Lookout, but it was cloudy and rainy so we have decided to head directly to our other two destinations. We got back at the hotel to change for a special dinner at NOBU Honolulu and finished the day walking around Waikiki.


Second day we planned to stop again along the road to visit the Byodo-In temple before reaching Polynesian Cultural Center and spending the whole day there. The temple is itself a beautiful smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan. The place is peaceful and idyllic as you roam around the gardens, ponds and the temple.

Polynesian Cultural Center is quite demanding to visit as it opens at 11.30 am and the visit ends around 9pm after the show in the theater. Here you can join lots of students from the different islands of the Pacific in some interesting activities and shows. I don’t want to spoiler but the center is divided into 6 areas each representing a different territory of Polynesia: Fiji, Hawai’i, Samoa, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and Tonga with their own activities, traditions and shows. Organize your time wisely as there is so much to see and do that you will have to run in order not to miss much.


Our third day on the island starts with a drive on the same road of the day before but with destination a Hollywood movie set tour at Kualoa Ranch. The tour lasts 90 minutes more or less and allows you to see some of the sets of famous movies such as Jurassic Park and its sequels, LOST, 50 first days amongst the others as well as a visit of a WWII army bunker inside the mountain. Kualoa Ranch is a private Ranch still used that offers also other tours on ATVs and horseback rides.

After the tour we headed towards North Shore and stopped at Shark’s Cove and Three Table beaches. That afternoon hasn’t been at its best with several rain showers, making us regret not to stop at Dole Plantation or at Waimea Valley.


Our last full day in O’ahu started with a visit at Pearl Harbor. A touching morning remembering history and exploring a WWII historical site. We took the free video and tour of Arizona Memorial and explored USS Bowfin Submarine & Museum. We decided to skip the visit to USS Missouri visit for two reasons: we didn’t want to spend at least 6 hours there and the cost if you visit all Pearl Harbor sites will increase noticeably.

We spent the afternoon snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and we wish we had stayed more! The bay is stunning full of marine life and it really deserves more than few hours. If you don’t bring your own snorkeling gear there is the possibility to rent it there. Be careful and follow the bay’s rules as there are some dangerous spots. The bay has lifeguards but be careful anyway. Most important thing, the environment of the coral reef is delicate so do not touch corals or animals, just be an observant guest and respect nature.


During our last morning we decided to enjoy the beautiful resort where we stayed: The Kahala Hotel and Resort and then sadly left towards the airport and our flight to San Francisco and our last part of this tour. 

O’ahu stole our hearts and we truly wished to stay more time. We suggest you to spend at least a week on the island to truly enjoy its stunning beaches and landscapes. We wish we switched two days from our San Francisco stay to add to see more of the island. We wish to go back soon as Hawaii truly conquered us and there is mo much more and so many other islands to visit.


Arrival after dinner. Evening around Waikiki
Day 1: Botanical Garden Ho’omaluhia & Lainikai Beach (stop at Nu’Uanu Pali Lookout if weather is nice).
Both are free to visit.
Day 2: Byodo-In temple  ($ 5,00 per adult) & Polynesian Cultural Center (basic package including buffet dinner and final show is $ 89.95 per adult, with a 10% discount if you book at least 10 days in advance).
Day 3: Kualoa Ranch & North Shore (free). Hollywood movie tour at Kualoa costs $ 45,95 per adult.
Day 4: Pearl Harbor & Hanauma Bay (free). Arizona memorial is free, USS Bowfin costed us $ 21,00 per two persons.
Day 5: Morning at the resort before flight around midday.

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