Spending three days on the island of Oahu is a wonderful way to get a taste of the laid-back Hawaiian culture and appreciate the stunning natural scenery of this fantastic location.
Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and Honolulu are all must-see destinations for any visitor to these islands in the United States, with Oahu being the most populated and urbanized of the Hawaiian islands.
When people visit Hawaii for the first time, Oahu is typically their destination of choice because of the variety of places to stay and the many available activities.
With so much to do on the island, you may not know where to even begin with planning your itinerary. That’s why we’ve made this guide to everything you can do on the island in just 3 days!
Remember though that traveling is all about doing what you want to do, whether that be exploring or relaxing, so choose the experiences from this guide that are going to be most beneficial and fun to you.
Use this Oahu trip planning as is, or feel free to modify it to add or take away anything you’d like. This is a very packed schedule, as there’s loads to see on the island. While you can do it all in 3 days, you may want to extend your vacation a little so you have more time to relax or rest at some of the amazing locations on this list.
Here is a complete guide on how to get the most out of your 3-day vacation on Oahu!
Day 1 Itinerary – All About The Island
On your first morning, you can either have breakfast at your hotel or take a trip to the Highway Inn for some traditional Hawaiian specialties. First opened in 1947, this cafe/restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients so you can really get a taste of the island.
With breakfast out of the way, it’s time to start your day!
Start your exploration of the island by taking a trip to Pearl Harbor, a site any history buff will know about. Famous for being bombed by the Japanese, which eventually led to the USA getting involved in WWII, this area has now turned into a museum/monument for this event.
For this location, you should buy tickets in advance, as this is the most popular and frequently visited historical landmark on Oahu. You can also take part in a guided tour to gain additional insight and facts into the background of the location.
While you may not want to shell out for a tour, it is worth it thanks to the ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial program that’s included in these tours.
Often called the best part of the whole experience by previous tourists, for this part of the experience you will be transported out to the USS Arizona Memorial in a shuttle boat, which you’re then able to explore.
Before you embark on your boat journey, you will get the opportunity to learn more about the history of this area by watching a quick 20-minute video.
As there’s so much to do in this location, you need to be sure that you give yourself enough time to see all of the various exhibits. Typically people spend 2-3 hours at this memorial taking it all in.
In the course of your three days in Oahu, you should make it a point to spend as much time as you can discovering and exploring the city of Honolulu, which serves as the capital of Hawaii.
The Aloha Tower, a Hawaiian landmark that stands at 10 stories tall, and the old royal residence of the previous rulers of Hawaii, Iolani Palace, are both located in and around Honolulu and should be on your list of must-see attractions.
After a packed morning, you can relax a bit in the afternoon by taking a walk around the Dole Plantation and riding the pineapple express.
If you’re traveling with younger children then this is one of the best places to visit thanks to its wide variety of entertaining activities.
Taking a ride on the Pineapple Express Train and discovering more of the area is one of the best experiences you can have on the island. After that, have some fun getting lost in the vast maze that is the Pineapple Garden Maze — it is enjoyable for people of all ages!
If you’re feeling a bit hungry, then you have to try some of the world-famous Dole Whip made on this site! This is a pineapple soft-serve ice cream, and you can get it in a wide variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes.
The site’s enormous Country Store is an excellent location for purchasing mementos for friends and family since it offers a wide variety of delectable and one-of-a-kind snacks, as well as other small trinkets from the island.
As your first magical day on the island draws to a close, head to Magic Island, which is located close to Ala Moana, to watch the sunset, and then spend some time at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu to take in the sights and sounds of the area.
Along the stretch of Waikiki Beach that’s known as Kalakaua Avenue, there is a long avenue that’s filled with places to eat and drink, and the quality of the shops there is exceptional if you’re also looking to do some retail therapy.
After watching the sun go down while strolling down the beach, recharge your body with a dinner that is both healthy and delicious. At the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant, you can eat handmade burgers made with locally sourced ingredients.
While the burgers are very tasty, the tuna steak and coconut shrimp stand out as some of the best options on the menu. This restaurant is situated directly on the beach, so you can listen to the relaxing sounds of the waves as you eat and relax after your busy day.
Head back to your hotel and get some rest.
Day 2 Itinerary – Taking In The Breathtaking Scenery
Day 2 is going to be filled with walking, as Oahu has many hiking trails that help show off the natural beauty of the island.
While you don’t have to do all of these hikes or see every one of these locations, these are known for being the most stunning areas in all of Oahu.
Before you start exploring though, you need a big breakfast to fill you with energy. Use this as a chance to try new foods by heading to the Koko Head Café.
Well-known chef Lee Anne Wong heads this cafe, so try their mouthwatering breakfast to get your day off to a great start.
After breakfast, go on a climb up to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater, which is an extinct volcano with an old military lookout post at the top.
This is a popular hiking trail to do at sunrise because of the stunning views that it gives of the whole island.
Because it’s so busy though, it might be best to go after breakfast when there’ll be fewer tourists. Don’t worry though, you’ll still get amazing views of the whole island even if it’s later in the day.
The hike takes around an hour and is not too difficult, though be prepared to walk uphill the entire time. Saying that trekking across Oahu’s verdant and bountiful landscape is one of the most enjoyable activities that the island has to offer.
This is one of the most highly recommended trails to hike in all of Oahu because it rewards hikers with breathtaking views of Waikiki Beach and Downtown Honolulu.
After a few hours of hiking, you probably want to cool off, so how about a quick dip in the sea?
As Hawaii is an island chain, there are almost endless options when it comes to what beach or bay you visit, but one of the very best to go to is Hanauma Bay.
Snorkeling around Hawaii’s well-known coral reefs may be done at this bay, making it a very popular spot for both tourists and locals to experience marine life.
If you do visit this area, be sure to bring some cash with you as there’s a fee for entering the bay and car park.
If you want to see some rare and beautiful marine life, then this is the perfect experience for you. The water is crystal clear, and you should see many different species of tropical fish.
One important thing to keep in mind when visiting this spot is to choose a reef-safe sunscreen.
This is something that is strictly enforced across the entire state of Hawaii, and it’s necessary for the health of the waters and the wildlife in them.
Do you love movies? You may be surprised to learn just how many movies have been filmed in Hawaii, especially in and around Oahu.
This private nature reserve has been the filming location for some of the biggest films from the last 30 years, including Godzilla, 50 First Dates, LOST, Jurassic World, and Hawaii Five-0, just to name a few.
Because so much has been filmed here, the area offers many different kinds of tours. If you want the full experience though, we recommend taking the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour.
The tour guides provide interesting information about the filming locations, and you get to see a lot of cool objects and sets from the movies.
Before embarking on your tour, take advantage of the high-quality café that is located on-site and dine here on delicious burgers and other lunch options.
You can choose from a variety of packages that combine different types of activities, and we strongly advise that you plan and book in advance so you can make the most out of this experience.
After another long and busy day, head to your hotel to rest and freshen up before we begin the fun nighttime activities.
Get your evening started off right by attending a traditional Hawaiian Luau. The Paradise Cove Luau, which can be found near Ko Olina on the western coast of Oahu, is an excellent option to go for.
The evening kicks off with fun games that everyone in the family may participate in, and then the actual luau festivities begin.
A massive roasted pig is served to guests, and the buffet features various dishes that are traditional in Hawaii, such as salmon, pork, poi, and a variety of side dishes.
While food is mouthwatering and will leave you wanting more, the entertainment is what you’ll remember most from the night.
Though you don’t have to stay for the whole thing, during the 5-hour event you’ll witness fire twirlers, hula dancers, and Hawaiian musicians show off their craft against a backdrop of the stunning Oahu sunset.
The Polynesian Cultural Center offers another excellent option for anyone looking to attend a luau while they’re on the island.
At the Polynesian Cultural Center, not only is the food of exceptionally high quality but the dance acts and stories that are shown there are also super fun and interesting to watch and take part in.
Day 3 Itinerary – A Last Explore
So it’s your last day, so let’s make the most of it! Begin your final morning in this tropical paradise by heading to Leonard’s Bakery for breakfast.
This small spot serves mouthwatering malasadas for breakfast, which is a type of donut that is popular in Portugal. They are made by frying dough and rolling it in sugar.
With breakfast done, it’s time for a packed day of exploring!
Starting off strong we have another morning hike. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike on the Kaiwa Ridge Trail offers some of the most spectacular views of the island on the route, but especially at the end.
While the views are amazing, this hike is a touch more difficult than the Diamond Head hike from yesterday thanks to a pretty steep ascent right at the start.
During the ascent, you will be treated to many breathtaking panoramas, some of which include Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, and the Mokulua Islands.
It will take between sixty and ninety minutes to do the hike, but the exact time will depend on your fitness level.
At the end of the hike you’ll see the pillbox to rest by, so appreciate the military history of the area on the break and then make your way back down the mountain.
After your hike, make your way to the Byodo-in Temple. It’s very odd to find a non-denominational Buddhist temple within Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, but that’s what makes this location the best on the whole island.
This temple celebrates the arrival of the very first people from Japan to the Hawaiian islands over 100 hundred years ago. This is a beautiful and serene spot to explore and is the perfect place to stop and rest after your busy few days.
If you want to add a thrilling and daring experience to your itinerary, then swimming with sharks is the perfect activity for you!
One Ocean Diving is the most reputable business for carrying out this activity on the island, and when it comes to swimming with sharks you’ll only want to go with the best!
Not only will they allow you to swim with sharks in open seas, but they will also educate you about sharks and tell you a lot of fun facts about the various species in the area.
Over 2 hours you’ll be able to witness these majestic (but very scary-looking) creatures as they swim around you.
One Ocean Diving takes you out to the dive area in a boat, and once you’re there you’ll be able to see all of the incredible species that live in the crystal clear waters around Hawaii.
If you have an underwater camera you’re free to bring this along with you. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is definitely something that you should try to do, as while it’s quite expensive, who else can say they’ve swam with sharks?
If you want a hassle-free lunch with no sharks around to bother you, then the North Shore is the place to go.
The North Shore is famous for its annual surfing competition thanks to its extremely large waves, but it’s also one of the best places to go for food and shopping on the whole island.
After you’ve had lunch in Haleiwa town, you can spend the rest of your time here shopping and visiting the various art galleries.
Don’t forget to try out the world-famous garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. This food truck is so popular that people begin to line up before it’s even opened for the day, but the wait will defiantly be worth it!
After a very busy few days, you may just want to go back to your hotel and rest by the pool. But if you have a bit of energy left, we highly recommend ending your trip with a climb to the Manoa Waterfall.
It’s a simple and well-traveled path, so if you feel a little weary along the way, don’t worry about it as there are plenty of places to rest.
This hike may take you up to 2 hours if the path is muddy, but it’s not very steep and the walk shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re of standard fitness.
The path that leads up to the waterfall is quite beautiful, and along the way, you will be surrounded by distinctive Hawaiian vegetation. Once you get to the waterfall you can stop and rest here for a while as you take in the beautiful view.
If you’ve got a bit of extra time or you don’t fancy doing another hike, then you could visit the Polynesian Cultural Center instead for a very enjoyable time.
This is an excellent location to learn about the history and culture of Polynesia as well as how the islands fit into that history.
The location spans an area of 42 acres and offers a wide variety of engaging and interactive activities, both for children and adults.
You may spend the better part of the day or possibly the whole day here learning about the history of the Pacific Islands, so you may want to dedicate a lot of time to this spot.
As you make your way through the six distinct villages, you will have the opportunity to meet locals who will teach you about their heritage through song and dance.
Since this is also one of the locations we suggested for a luau, you may extend your trip today if you didn’t get a chance to attend one the night before.
As well as the luau, there’s an exciting nightly entertainment show called HA: Breath of Life. Here nearly 100 performers will put on a show for you, and the whole show is filled with impressive fire stunts.
Check out their website before you go to ensure you receive the best deal possible on your tickets, as they offer many different entrance packages that include various shows and activities.
On your last night in Hawaii, treat yourself to a delicious meal and some downtime in Waikiki or your resort. Because there are so many fantastic restaurants and pubs spread out around the island, you will be spoiled for choice whenever you go.
Top Tips For Visiting Oahu
If you’re visiting Oahu for the first time, here’s what you should know:
Get A Car
We strongly advise that you get a rental car for your vacation, even if you’re only visiting for a few days. Getting around the island is a lot easier with a car, and if you’re short on time it will also make getting places a lot quicker as well.
As well as being easier, Oahu also has many beautiful drives that you can take that give you the best views of the island.
Saying that though, there are a variety of public transit options on Oahu, so there is no need for panic if you don’t drive or you can’t get a car.. Just be sure that you work out the routes to various places in advance.
Keep It Clean
The Hawaiian Islands are home to a stunning variety of natural features and breathtaking views, as well as many animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
All of this can only be appreciated if people keep the area clean, and people and locals are very strict on this mentality.
When doing any sort of hike or exploration of the islands, the only things that you should leave behind are footprints and smiles, not trash.
Check Out Other Tours
Loads of excursions can be found online. These trips pack a number of the locations described above into a single day. If you want to learn more about Oahu and have a better time while you’re here, try going on one of these tours:
We hope that this schedule will help you plan a wonderful trip to Hawaii. On Oahu, three days is just enough time to get a taste of all the island has to offer, but with so much to do, you could very easily spend a week on just this island alone.
If you’re planning a longer vacation, your trip to Oahu can be easily combined with trips to other Hawaiian islands like Maui and Kauai, and the island offers excellent flight connections to many cities across the United States.
There’s an almost infinite selection of places to stay on Oahu, including apartments, Airbnb, and hotels, and there are a wide variety of resort regions to choose from.
You will never run out of things to do in Oahu, and the moment you leave this beautiful island, you will want to come back as soon as possible!
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