O'ahu is world famous for Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, the amazing North Shore and shows like Hawai'i Five-0, LOST and movies such as 50 First Dates. That's no suprise since the King Kamehameha made this island the capital of the nation. It is fittingly called the Gathering Isle and you will experience the wonderful melting pot of cultures, food and people that has made this one of the must see destinations on the planet. So what are you waiting for - it's been 25 years of saving! Time to visit one of the most beautiful islands on earth.
Day 1: Arrival & Waikiki Beach
Landing in Honolulu is one of our favorite things about living here! When you do - you'll understand why. Your vacation really starts from your approach to the Oahu. It is really exciting seeing the beautiful crystal blue Pacific Ocean with the Oahu skyline, beaches and lush mountains opening up before you (hopefully you are on the right side of the plane). Nothing says "ALOHA!" like a beautiful fragrant Hawaiian lei and for your first time it's a must! If you are staying in Waikiki take a shuttle to your hotel which will save you money on the hefty hotel parking fees for your rental car (some hotels its $25/day). There are rental agencies in Waikiki that can set you with a car for those day trips out of Waikiki.
Check-in to your hotel and put on your bikini/boardshorts, spray on your sunscreen and hit the world famous Waikiki Beach! If you love the water, take a surf lesson. There are plenty of vendors on the beach with professional surf instructors to get you standing up in no time! Feel more like floating around? Pickup a $2.99 raft from any ABC Store (there's one on almost every block) and prepare to chill out in the 80 degree water. You may find the beach is crowded - but people watching is part of the fun in Waikiki! Be sure to catch a sunset before you leave!
Plan an early dinner at Top of Waikiki - Hawaii's only revolving restaurant with breathtaking views of Waikiki. Follow them on Twitter to receive discounts and sunset specials! After dinner, take a stroll around Kalakaua Avenue (the main Waikiki strip) or explore the International Marketplace - to look at the fun souvenirs. If you are a smart shopper we suggest doing your shopping later. Walmart (for chocolate covered macadamia nuts and Kona coffee) and also the Aloha Swap Meet at the Aloha Stadium - it's a bigger and cheaper version of the International Marketplace. (Please note the Aloha Swap Meet is only open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday)
Day 2: Pearl Harbor, Arizona Memorial
A "must-do" for anyone visiting Oahu, a visit to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor is one not to be forgotten. The memorial honors those whose lives were taken on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Pearl Harbor, Arizona Memorial City Tour features an early start to Pearl Harbor, and ends with a narrated tour through downtown Honolulu with more historical sights such as Iolani Palace - the only royal palace in the United States. You'll be back in Waikiki noon. After lunch, hit the beach for more sunbathing or surfing. Not in the mood for the beach? Check out the Honolulu Zoo or the Historic Waikiki Trail. For dinner head on over to the Waikki Beachcomber to Jimmy Buffet's Restaurant & Bar. The new eatery in Waikiki is a fun spot for all land sharks!
For a more comprehensive tour, check out the Home of the Brave Hawaii Victory Tour which takes you to Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Airfield , Schofield Barracks, Punchbowl Memorial and ends with a great stop at the nostalgic Home of the Brave Museum. You'll be back in Waikiki around 3 pm. The early start and long (but good!) tour might have you a bit tired, so head back to the hotel for a nap. If you're in the mood for some Hawaiian music, check out the House without a Key at the beautiful Halekulani hotel for some sunset cocktails, lovely hula dancers and the soothing sounds of the islands. For dinner head across the street to Roy's on Lewers Street. Start with some crab cakes and blackened ahi. For your entree the miso butterfish is amazing!
Day 3: North Shore & the Polynesian Cultural Center
Time to pickup your rental car and head out of Waikiki. Start your day with a drive to the North Shore. If you get an early start stop in Haleiwa town for some breakfast at Jameson's By The Sea or Haleiwa Joe's. Stop by Foodland (it's past Waimea Bay) and get a picnic lunch before you beach-hop down the coast of the North Shore and choose from some of the world's most beautiful beaches, like Waimea Beach Park, which is calm for swimming in summer but gets pounded with 30- and 40-foot waves in winter. Every time we visit the North Shore, there is a private beach that we hang out at near Foodland. It's very beautiful and secluded, the water on the North Shore is pristine so swimming is always a blast. What we love is that the beach isn't crowded at all. There are usually only a handful of people and the occasional North Shore local jogging with their dogs. If you are able to find this beach (hint: it's the beach in front of Keiki Bungalows) you'll most likely be on the North Shore all day. When you're ready to leave make sure to stop at Matsumoto's Shave Ice back in Haleiwa for some yummy shave. For dinner in Waikiki we suggest Tony Roma's for their world famous ribs. If you want to stay in Haleiwa for dinner check out Cholo's Mexican Cantina.
If your plan is a half day on the North Shore, in the afternoon, head for the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. Allow at least a couple of hours to experience this glimpse of the Polynesias, Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and Maori cultures. Stay for the Ali'i Luau and the new "Ha - Breath of Life" show. The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most visited places in Hawai'i.
Day 4: Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay & Play with Dolphins, Sea Lions and more marine life at Sea Life Park
Get up early and grab some breakfast at the Wailana Cafe (across the street from Fort DeRussy - near the Hilton Hawaiian Village). Then head out to the East side of Oahu for the spectacular snorkeling at Hanauma Bay (closed on Tuesdays). With a diverse population of marine life and a large, rich coral reef, it is the best protected cove for newcomers to snorkeling or even experienced snorkelers.
After swimming with the fishes for a couple of hours, cruise down the coast and stop at one of the several lookouts. We suggest stopping at the Halona Blowhole lookout to take some pictures. There is also the famous From Here To Eternity beach on the right side of the lookout. You'll next stop by Sandy Beach - one of the rougest breaks on the island. This is where Barack Obama went bodysurfing when he was vacationing here. Next visit Makapu'u Lookout, to take more pictures with Rabbit Island in the background. If you have kids, Sea Life Park is a must-stop. There are alot of activities to do from swimming with dolphins, sea lions and manta rays. This is also a location you might remember from the movie 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.
On your way back into Waikiki be sure to stop at the Pali Lookout. For dinner how about some eatertainment at Benihana Japanese Steak House. David Beckham and Los Angeles Galaxy team members dined at Benihana three times when they were in Hawaii. David Beckham dined on Benihana Jumbo Shrimp, Garlic Fried Rice and Cranberry Juice.
Day 5: Diamond Head, Kapahulu Avenue and Sunset Dinner Cruise
Get up early and head up to Diamond Head State Park. This is a "must-do" if you are in moderate shape. You won't be disappointed! Incredible 360-degree views of Waikiki and the turquoise blue Pacific Ocean await you. Travel through the old World War II 100-foot tunnel up to the summit for a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, Waikiki Beach and Honolulu. You may enounter Guides of Oahu owner Mitch Berger who will answer any questions you may have about this famous landmark. Be sure to take a bottle of water and comfortable shoes, although we've seen Japanese tourists with heels walking up the trail.
After your hike why not check out Kapahulu Avenue for lunch. There's Rainbow Drive-In for some serious local plate lunches. For more authentic Hawaiian food you can check out Ono's Hawaiian Food and for dessert stop by Leonard's Bakery for some malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). You most likely have seen or read about this bakery on some travel shows or magazines.
For your evening, take off on a Sunset Dinner Cruise on the Star of Honolulu Hawaii's premier cruise ship. Enjoy casual elegance with a 3-course crab and beef dinner plus "My Hawaii – Lei of Memories®"! Explore four panoramic decks for breathtaking views of the Hawaiian sunset and coastline, and complete your evening with our magical "My Hawaii" show and dancing! After the cruise take a stroll down Waikiki Beach.
Day 6: Lanikai Beach & Kayak to Mokulua Island
On your last full day on Oahu, cruise over the Pali Highway to the windward side of the island and spend a day at Lanikai Beach in Kailua. Before you leave Waikiki, drop by an ABC Store and pick up a picnic lunch. This small 0.5 mile beach has been constantly ranked among the best beaches in world. Lanikai is the perfect beach to just relax or kayak to Mokulua Island. You can spend the entire day here, or you can head back to Honolulu for some shopping at Ala Moana Shopping Center - the largest open air shopping mall in the United States. Walmart is also nearby so you can pickup some gifts and souvenirs at great prices.
For dinner how about Cheeseburger in Paradise on Waikiki Beachwalk. Afterward stroll around the Beachwalk to check out the shops and art galleries.
Day 7: Final Day: Say Goodbye to Waikiki Beach
It's sad but your final day has arrived and unfortunately you have fallen in love with Hawaii and don't want to go home. There are many people who come to visit and never leave! We suggest you spend your last day on Waikiki Beach, hanging out on your raft, taking one more surf lesson and basking in the beauty that Mark Twain called "most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world."
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