Aloha! If you are looking for the perfect Oahu itinerary for 7 days, you have come to the right place! If you have more or less time than 7 days on Oahu, easy tips are provided to help you adjust your itinerary accordingly.
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Updated May 2022
This detailed guide was tested by yours truly! We have enjoyed Oahu several times and just traveled to Oahu for the week as a family of five for the first time, with three children, ages 6, 6 & 9, and all activities on this Oahu itinerary were loved by kids and adults alike. This gorgeous island offers so many reasons why to visit Oahu!
For the purpose of this Oahu itinerary or 7 days, I am going to assume that you are staying in Honolulu, as the vast majority of accommodations are located there. You might need to make slight adjustments to your departure times if you are staying elsewhere, but Oahu is not a very large island, so honestly, nothing is too far away.
Hawaii is seeing a record breaking number of visitors and during the summer especially, it is best to plan to rise early and beat the crowds. It also allows you to go on hikes or other active adventures before the sun gets so hot that all you want to do is be in the water. We were up and out of our condo early almost every morning, and then would head back in the afternoon to rest, swim in the pool, shower, and get ready for a dinner out or a hula show. This was a perfect plan for our Oahu itinerary with children.
Oahu Itinerary – 7 Days
Oahu Itinerary Day 1: Arrival Day & Check-In
Your arrival time will vary considerably depending on where you are traveling from, but we have found that most flights arrive in the early to mid-afternoon. You will probably be a bit jet lagged, so this is the perfect time to explore this beautiful island near your accommodations without too much driving.
Hopefully, you will be in and out of the airport in no time, but be mentally prepared for delays as they do occur. It took us 1 hour 45 minutes to get our bags (we could have just carried them on, but had free checked bags through Southwest as well as a car seat bag, so thought, why not check them? Lesson learned.).
It took an additional hour to get our rental car, but despite this delay which is more common than the baggage delays, we ALWAYS recommend renting a car. The island has too much to offer to stay in one place most days. Tours are an option, but they are much pricier. So if you are traveling to Hawaii on a budget as we do, one tour could blow your budget out of the water. Buses are also available, but provide less flexibility and take much more time to get across the island.
We recommend stopping by the grocery store- Costco, Foodland, or Safeway are popular choices- on the way to your hotel or condo. At the minimum, you would probably like some snacks on hand, drinks, and maybe breakfast provisions. We prefer condos that allow us to have some simple dinners in and we also pack picnics, so we always stop at Costco and pick up a cart full as well as a beach umbrella (it is cheaper to buy one than to rent one for a few days). This first day is also a good time to pick up snorkel gear if you are renting it. We rented from Snorkel Bob’s and a full week rental is cheaper than two days elsewhere, so just pick it up when you first arrive so that you have it when you need it.
After checking into your hotel, take a walk down to the nearest beach immediately! Soak up those island vibes, get a cocktail, and go for a swim in the waves or in the pool. Plan a fun welcome dinner out at Duke’s or Cheeseburger in Paradise. You might want to get a hula pie at or a shave ice for dessert and sleep will probably come early this first night. Let it. Tomorrow will be an early morning and you can take advantage of it!
Oahu Itinerary Day 2: Windward (East) Side: Kailua + Lanikai Beaches
Sunrise on Lanikai Beach
Most people rise very early on their first full day of island paradise. Use this to your advantage, and head to Lanikai Beach which is arguably the most beautiful beach in the world and is definitely the best place to watch the sunrise. Check sunrise times, map it from your location, and plan to arrive about 20 minutes before.
You can then set up a blanket and breakfast picnic, your tripod, or just use your phone camera, and watch the splendor of the morning come to the life. There will be others there too, usually doing photoshoots, but the beach will be at its emptiest and you will feel like you have this little slice of paradise all to yourself. It is my very favorite way to start my trip in Hawaii and I repeat it every trip. I promise you won’t regret it!
Parking for Lanikai Beach is just on residential streets in front of houses. Beach access points are off of Mokumanu Drive. Read signs carefully to avoid parking tickets, park respectfully to avoid driveways, and take one of the many paths to the sand between the houses quietly and peacefully.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Hiking with our kids were some of our favorite moments on our 7 day Oahu itinerary. At this point, you have the choice of whether to take the short but steep hike up to the Lanikai Pillbox. Some prefer to hike it right at sunrise, but I love experiencing the peacefulness of the beach first, and then heading up the hill.
Th trailhead is located off of Ka’elepupu Drive right across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It is easy to find, I promise! Parking is easy in the morning but extremely difficult as the day goes on.
I had read that the Lanikai Pillbox hike was one of the easiest on the island and that only the first 100 feet were steep. Well….I guess that’s true, but it was trickier than we expected! If you have young children, it will be easiest if you have a 1:1 ratio of children and adults.
My kids all made it up the hill pretty easily, but the loose dirt was slippery on the way down (even though it was completely dry) and they needed quite a bit of assistance. There are roots and ropes to assist you.
The whole hike is 1.6 miles roundtrip to the first pillbox. It took us about an hour total. The views from the top were stunning and so worth the sweat! It was hot even at 7:30 in the morning, so don’t forget your water (and camera!).
Breakfast in Kailua
Whether or not you went for the hike option, you are probably ready for breakfast, and Kailua has several great options. We loved the Bombers at Kono’s and Cinnamon’s is another popular spot. If your top priority is coffee, ChadLou’s Coffee Roasters is sure to please.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
This free botanical garden is only a few miles from Kailua and the drive gets greener and more beautiful with each mile. Ho’omaluhia is known for its instagrammable entry road, however, due to safety reasons, photos are not allowed on that road anymore.
But have no fear, the beauty in this place is around every bend! Pack your camera for sure, and a water bottle too. We didn’t have any problems with bugs when we were there, but bug spray is probably still a wise choice to bring along.
Drive about a mile into the gardens and stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a map. From here, you can walk down to the lake or take one of the other short walking trails. We chose to hop back in the car and drive through the park, stopping at each parking lot, as we only had one hour before they closed, and the humidity was out in full force that day.
Our favorite stops were the Kilonani Mauka Overlook and the view at the end of the road. Allow yourself a minimum of 15 minutes to get back to the entry gate if it is approaching closing time at 4:00pm. It is easy to lose track of the time in this magical, jungle kingdom and you don’t want to get locked in.
Don’t forget this stop on your Oahu itinerary for 7 days – it is a must see!
No day on the windward side of the island is complete without a relaxing nap or body boarding session at Kailua Beach. There is a large parking lot, which still fills up, but finding a spot isn’t too bad with a little patience. You can pick up a $22 pizza at Bob’s Pizzeria (or a slice for $6 – which is actually ¼ of the pie) or a sandwich or salad at Kalapawai Market so that you won’t get hangry while you wait for a parking spot to open up.
The turquoise waters and white sand beaches of this gorgeous spot might just turn Kailua Beach into your favorite beach on the island. Just sayin’. Our kids were in love with riding the waves and building sandcastles with their collapsible buckets.
Kailua Beach is connected to Lanikai Beach and they are equally beautiful. If you can snag a parking spot at Lanikai, you might find it quieter there, but the parking lot and restrooms at Kailua Beach make it an easy spot to land.
Stay on the beach as long as you can; plenty of shade offers a nice reprieve. If you are lucky, the clouds might sprinkle for a few minutes and then open up and offer you a beautiful rainbow. Once you are ready to head back for the night, stop by Island Snow for a delicious shave ice (starting at $5.25) before leaving Kailua. They close at 5pm on weekdays and 6pm Friday – Sunday and are well worth the stop.
Oahu Itinerary Day 3: Hanauma Bay, Halona Blowhole + Eternity Beach
Ahh..snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is at the top of most Oahu attraction lists and is a must do for many people. I fully agree that it is well worth your time. However, there are a few simple tips that will take your experience at Hanauma Bay from average to amazing.
Even if you have been to Hanauma Bay before, please note, the entry requirements have changed considerably.
- RESERVATIONS REQUIRED (here)
- $25 for visitors ages 12+ (cash, MasterCard or Visa)
- $3 parking per vehicle (CASH ONLY)
- Hours: 6:45am-4pm and the latest entry is 1:30pm
- CLOSED on Mondays & Tuesdays
Reservations can be made only two days in advance starting at 7am local Hawaiian time. If you are unable to get a reservation, you can try to get a walk-in ticket on the day of by arriving at 6:45am.
We arrived at 6:45am, took our time leisurely making our way down the hill and then eating breakfast on the sand. We entered the water at about 7:45am. The water was crystal clear and the colorful fish were plentiful.
However, by 9:45am, the amount of people in the water had increased significantly and the fish population had decreased. By mid-morning, the amount of legs kicking had sent about ¾ of the fish hiding, and stirred up the sand so that the visibility was no longer clear.
Entry is allowed until 1:30pm with a reservation, however, this would not be the optimal time to visit. Also, they will start clearing the beach at 3:15pm for a 4:00 sharp closing time.
There is plenty of sand to stand on and the water is calm which makes this a wonderful place for beginning snorkelers. We pack life jackets on every trip for our children which allows them to snorkel easily and safely holding my hand. If you are a non-swimmer please be safe and stay where you can touch the ground. You should even be able to see fish in the shallow areas.
They will remind of you of this when you arrive, but I want to emphasize anyway that the coral reef is vital to the health and survival of the sea life. Do not stand on the coral (or even things that just look like rocks), because it gets significantly damaged.
We loved our time snorkeling at the beautiful Hanauma Bay. It is where one of children learned to do so and the experience was truly fantastic. But I believe that our time there was only enjoyed so fully because we planned the morning well.
Plan to rent your snorkel gear before you arrive for the best price, use a locker for $10 for your phone, wallet & keys while snorkeling, and pay a few dollars for the tram if you’d rather not walk up and down the hill. Walking down is no biggie, but you might appreciate the ride up when the sun is beating down and you are tired from snorkeling!
Pro Tips: Hanauma Bay requires reservations and we cannot stress enough that the earlier you arrive, the better. The bay is CLOSED on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do not step on the coral! Damaged coral means the fish can’t survive there.
Oahu Itinerary Na Kama Kai Ocean Clinic
You might depart Hanauma Bay around 10:30am as we did when the crowds had diminished some of its magic. Once a month Na Kama Kai, an ocean conservation organization that teaches children how to love and care for the sea, puts on a free ocean clinic at different beaches around the island. Fortunately, our trip took place during one of their clinics, and my children LOVED every minute.
I highly recommend checking out these clicnics if you will have the chance to participate! Now that we know they exist, no Oahu itinerary for a whole 7 days would be complete without it!
I have never been as amazed by blowholes as others around me and usually don’t make a huge point to visit them, but I thought our kids would be excited and I am so glad we went! We got some great shots of the blowhole this time and our children were thrilled. I would highly recommend this quick stop when you leave Hanauma Bay as it is only a few minutes away.
Don’t be deterred by the full parking lot. It is a quick stop for most people, so the turnover is quick and you should find an opening within a few minutes. Just like with other destinations on the island, leave valuables in your car at your own risk. Don’t let others see you putting things in the trunk before you walk away either.
On the right side of the blowhole parking lot, is a small path along the road that heads down to a beautiful beach. It is a bit of a steep trail, but it is short with plenty of solid steps and was easy for our whole family. Note: There is a sign that says “Do Not Go Past This Sign,” but you will see that many, many others are doing so. If you choose to proceed, it is at your own risk.
The risk here is that the water is pretty turbulent and is framed by large rocks that would cause injury should the waves knock you into them. We did not allow our children to swim here, although many others were. If you choose not to go down to the beach, the view from above is still worth the stop. Breathtaking!
The contrast of the blue water with the dark rocks were amazing! We waded in the surf and soaked up the view as long as we could without going for a swim. If you turn and look opposite the ocean, in the middle of the hill, is a lava tube that goes under the street. My kids found it to be a great adventure to follow it out to the other side. Take a flashlight- it is dark in there!
Koko Crater Botanical Garden
By the time it came to visit Koko Crater Botanical Garden, our family was hot and tired, but it was still well worth a quick stop. The entry to this garden is free and easy. If you would like to walk the trails, I have heard to plan on them being dry and rocky. The landscape will be desert like with some interesting cactus varieties.
As we prefer lush, green hikes, we skipped the desert trail, and just enjoyed the gem that is only a few feet from the parking lot. The plumeria grove here is gorgeous! Rows of blooming trees offered a sweet fragrance and lovely view. Flowers covered the ground and several different varieties caught our eye. We took some photos that were postcard perfect and collected a few fallen plumeria blossoms off the ground for our hair. It was the perfect ending to our full afternoon!
Pro Tip: The flowers bloom several months out of the year, but you may not find it worth your time if you visit in the winter.
Alternative Idea: Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail and/or Baby Makapu’u
Due to the Ocean Clinic we attended, we were not able to fit this in before everyone was ready to crash, but if you have the time and energy, this paved hike leads to beautiful lighthouse views. It will take you about a half hour to reach the top and is stroller friendly.
Baby Makapu’u is a lovely spot to swim and explore the tidepools with young children. You can park in the second parking lot, which is past the entrances to the main Makkapu’u Beach parking lot and the Oceanic Institute. Go to the left after entering the parking lot and head to the end by the lava tidepools.
Oahu Itinerary Day 4: Waikiki: Dining, Shopping, Culture + Beaches
Beach Front Breakfast
After a couple full days out and about, this is the perfect day to explore Waikiki. Reserve a breakfast reservation online at Duke’s Canoe Club for 7:00am (right when they open) and request a table on the rail. This will give you a perfect view of Waikiki with its gorgeous blue water and hardly-ever-this-empty beaches.
We typically enjoy simple breakfasts in our accommodations so we can stretch the budget and get out exploring earlier, but we always take the time for a breakfast or two with a view and we never regret it.
Enjoy omelets made to order, pancakes, cinnamon French toast, bacon, two kinds of sausage, steamed and fried rice, eggs benedict, fried potatoes, fresh fruit, and other simple addons like cereal and toast.
Our children proclaimed this “the best breakfast ever!” and we all fully enjoyed seconds (and maybe thirds…). The price tag was super reasonable at $21.50 for adults and discounted for keiki (children).
Explore Waikiki’s Culture + Shopping
With satisfied appetites, you can then begin your day exploring Waikiki Beach. The options are endless and it is easy to create a plan based on your interests.
We spent the day experiencing some cultural activities, like free hula lessons and lei making at the Royal Hawaiian Center and Hyatt Regency, as this was our daughter’s top priority on this trip. New post coming soon with many more free family activities on Oahu to fit into your itinerary.
Take a stroll around the International Marketplace, Waikiki Beach Walk, or Ala Moana Center ready to fill your shopping bags because the opportunities are plentiful! Stop by Honolulu Cookie Company to sample for free before you buy or Island Vintage Shave Ice for a cool treat.
Our children loved the tree house and splash pad at the International Marketplace. Ala Moana Center also has a fun wave play structure that is perfect for entertaining little ones during shopping breaks.
Pick up an ornament as the perfect vacation souvenir at the Waikiki Christmas Store located at the Moana Surfrider. The ABC Stores are plentiful and perfect for picking up any extra sunscreen, forgotten sandals, prepared sandwiches and salads, or Hawaiian apparel.
Lastly, you will want to spend most of your time on the actual beach! Waikiki Beach will be full of people but also full of fun! Spread out a towel and relax or schedule an outrigger canoe ride with Aloha Beach Services for some exhilarating time out on the water.
Surf lessons are also available and a popular activity during all seasons. Another fun option for children of all ages is to rent an Fun Island Float for $20 from Koa Beach Service down by the Hale Koa.
If you would like to escape the crowds a bit, head down the beach closer to the Diamond Head for a quieter experience. The Waikiki Marine Conservation District also offers a great place for snorkeling. Kuhio Beach and Ft. De Russy Beach Park are also beautiful options for beaches with a few less people.
Our children spent their time digging in the wet sand and getting crashed by waves repeatedly. They passed on activities we offered and just wanted to play freely. It was a great reminder of how sometimes simplicity is just better – and hey! It saved us some cash too!Fireworks, Sunsets + Hula Shows
If it is a Friday night, you may want to head down to the beach in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village or to Magic Island to watch the weekly fireworks at about 7:45pm (currently still suspended as of 5/2022). They only last four minutes but are a beautiful display reflected on the ocean and offer great photo ops. Sunset catamaran tours are also a great way to see the sunset from Waikiki.
Free Hula Shows are also offered at Kuhio Beach near the statue of Duke at 6:30pm on Saturdays (6pm in winter). Aloha Friday is also a wonderful event that sometimes takes place at the Hyatt Regency from 4:30-6:00pm on Fridays. Expect exceptional hula shows, fire dancers, live music, and free lei making – it was a highlight for us!
Oahu Itinerary Day 5: North Shore: Snorkeling, Botanical Gardens + Tasty Treats
Traveling to the North Shore is an experience that you do not want to miss! Leaving behind the fast pace of Waikiki and arriving in a relaxed, surfer town an hour later will leave you excited at all the North Shore has to offer.
In the summer, the North Shore offers calm waters and beautiful opportunities for swimming. In the winter (roughly November – April), the waves are too rough for swimming, but you just might see some amazing surf competitions instead!
We recommend leaving Honolulu between 7:00-8:00am in order to make the most of your North Shore activities. If the water is calm (check surfline.com to check for wave heights under 2 feet), you will want to head straight to Three Tables for snorkeling. Three Tables shares a small parking lot with Sharks Cove which is also a great snorkel spot (Three Tables on the left and Sharks Cove on the right).
Crowds will fill the parking lots later in the morning, so in the summer, it is best to arrive before 9:00 to get easy parking. We chose to venture to Three Tables on this trip as its shoreline is sandier and more kid-friendly than the rockier Sharks Cove.
When we walked down the path to Three Tables, I literally could not stop staring. You guys. It is phenomenally gorgeous. The water is an indescribable color of blue, and the snorkeling was aquarium-like. It was easier to snorkel here even than Hanauma Bay. The waves were a bit rougher, but we were super cautious and stayed close to shore. The water, however, was much deeper so it was easier to swim over the coral without worrying about bumping it, and we therefore were able to see even more sea life.
My daughter counted about 200 fish in 15 minutes of snorkeling and loved seeing the world under the sea. This experience was one of our favorite activities in our entire 7 day itinerary!
Trees offered plenty of shade so we didn’t even need our umbrella here. The sand was HOT though so don’t try to run back and forth from your towel in the shade to the water without shoes. Due to the small parking lot, there were a handful of other families there, but it was definitely not crowded. We spent a few hours here and I could have spent all day. It was a paradise heaven.
Haleiwa Town: Shrimp Trucks, Shave Ice + Cheeseburgers
Shrimp Trucks in Haleiwa are the popular spot to grab lunch, and my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the garlic shrimp plates on our last trip. Giovanni’s is perhaps the most popular and therefore the most crowded. Lines are long in the hot sun, so you might consider stopping by one of the other less crowded trucks instead. We pulled a few up on yelp and found that the positive reviews were pretty consistent among them.
Cheeseburgers were the crowd favorite with kids on this trip so we headed to Kua Aina for tasty and budget-friendly burgers. $43 later and we were all satisfied with two big cheeseburgers, three kiddie burgers, and a large basket of fries. The air conditioning was also welcome instead of sitting outside by the shrimp trucks. *humidity is no joke*
No North Shore visit is complete without a stop for shave ice! Matsumoto’s is the hot spot in Haleiwa, but the lines are crazy long. We headed to Anahulu’s instead and were not disappointed! But they have now closed down, sadly.
Laniakea Beach is also known as Turtle Beach (not to be confused with Turtle Bay). It is quite common for the sea turtles to some ashore here and bask in the sun. Rumor has it that between 11:00am and 1:00pm is the most likely time to find them there. We weren’t so lucky to see them, but if you can snag a parking spot in the small lot across the street from the beach, do stop and take a peek. Remember: the turtles are a protected species, so stay back, don’t touch, and use the zoom on your camera if you want a close-up.
Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens are lush and inviting. There is an entrance fee, unlike some other gardens on the island, but most visitors agree that it is well worth the price. Check out this post for how we saved on our admission fees here. Open entering, you will receive a map that outlines the main path as well as short offshoots into the deeper plants and trees of the gardens.
The path is mostly shaded leaving the temperature comfortable. Unique flowers are sprinkled throughout the many plant varieties, but green is definitely the dominant color here. Our children especially enjoyed the Living History dwellings from long ago. Craft projects are also often available for children at the start of the path, as well as a Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons.
The main event at Waimea Valley is the waterfall at the end of the park (.8 miles from the entrance on a paved path). This waterfall offers free life jackets and lifeguards so that visitors can achieve their dream of swimming under a waterfall. A tram is available for $14 round trip and wagons are also available to rent.
Keep in mind though that you should not swim with any open scratches or cuts, as the leptospirosis bacteria can be present in fresh water and can cause illness. Signs warn visitors of this, but the waterfall pool was filled with families. My children, however, were sporting a cut toe from exploring tidepools, a scraped leg from slipping on the path coming down from Lanikai Pillboxes, and a scraped face and hand from tripping in the dark lava tube at Eternity Beach. We play too hard to stay scratch-free on vacation! So…needless to say, we skipped swimming on this day, which was disclosed to the kids before we began, but left everyone a little bummed anyway. In hindsight, we had enjoyed Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kailua so much that we would probably not go to Waimea Valley again unless we could fully enjoy the waterfall.
The lovely beach across the street from Waimea Valley is Waimea Bay, and though it provides a large parking lot, parking spots can still be hard to come by. After leaving Waimea Valley, you can choose to leave your car there and run across the highway to the beach, but it isn’t super close or super safe, so do so at your own risk. If it is later in the day, you may get lucky and find others leaving and vacating spot.
Waimea Bay is a lovely swimming beach in the summer and you can also watch others jump off of the famous black rock into the ocean. If you choose to join them, make sure you know what you are doing, as we saw someone injured the last time we were there. In the winter, you cannot even stick in your toe in the water, as the waves are fierce. But the views will be incredible either way.
If you decide to head back to your accommodations before sunset, you can make it for a quick stop at the Dole Plantation on your way back. We literally pulled into the parking lot 10 minutes before their 5:30pm closing time. We hustled in and ordered a Dole Whip with fresh pineapple with no time to spare. We then literally inhaled the delicious dessert in three minutes (not because we were rushed, but because it was so incredibly delicious), leaving us a few minutes to wander the pineapple gardens and stick our faces in the photo props.
I’ve heard many visitors plan their days around visiting Dole Plantation which I think is unnecessary as the best of it can be experienced in a very short time. But on your way to and from the North Shore, it is an easy stopover as you will drive right past it anyway. You can never have too much pineapple in Hawaii – so devour a Dole Whip or two and enjoy the cute gift shop too if you have time.
Alternative Idea: Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach is appropriately named as one of the best spots on the island to see the sunset. If you have energy left after your long day, grab dinner to eat on the beach and watch the sun go down before you head back.
Oahu Itinerary Day 6: Diamond Head, Ko’Olina + Pearl Harbor
On the morning of our Pearl Harbor visit, we planned to do a morning activity and then visit Pearl Harbor in the afternoon. There are a few options here that would fit nicely geographically. If you wish to hike Diamond Head, this would be the perfect time to do. Diamond Head is very popular, and it also very dry and hot. If you wish to do this hike (significant incline, about 1.6 miles roundtrip, and beautiful views), we highly recommend doing this first thing in the morning to beat the heat and the crowds. The parking lot opens at 6:00am and there is a charge of $5 per car.
We decided to head west to Ko’Olina Lagoons instead of hiking Diamond Head as the beach was calling our names louder than a hot hike. This area of the island is much drier than the east side, but the resorts and manmade lagoons are lovely. We arrived by 9am and found parking easily, but it appeared by the digital parking signs, that parking availability would fill up by mid-morning. We visited a small unnamed lagoon between Paradise Cove and Lagoon 1 and loved the peacefulness of the morning!
We hoped to see turtles here but weren’t so fortunate. However, we put on our snorkel gear and saw many beautiful fish. The tidepools on the left hand side also offered many hours of exploration and discovery for our kiddos. Pack a lunch or visit any of the tasty restaurants nearby. A walk through Aulani’s Disney Resort and a character breakfast would also be a fun treat when exploring this part of the island!Pearl Harbor
After visiting Ko’Olina Lagoons for several hours of relaxing beach play, we headed to Pearl Harbor. My husband and I had visited before so hadn’t planned on returning for this trip, but our nine year old daughter had expressed interest.
For this particular visit, we chose to only visit the Visitor’s Center and free Museum area as we were not sure how the devastation of the day would affect our children. Our six year old boys were enthralled with all they learned, but our daughter expressed that it was much more emotional than she expected, even after preparing with a few books she had read. She was ready to leave within a few minutes. We spent about an hour learning, exploring, and discussing, but were glad that we had not booked any tours for this trip. I would encourage you to keep this in mind when planning your visit, as your children may or may not react as you expect.
When visiting Pearl Harbor, there are many options for how to prepare your day. This will depend on how long you would like to spend there and whether you would like to visit the Visitor’s Center and Arizona Memorial only, or if you would like to add on tours of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, or USS Bowfin Submarine.
Entrance to Pearl Harbor is free. You may tour the Visitor Center, museums, and outside statues and memorials at your leisure. Visiting the Arizona Memorial is also free, however requires a ticket. Ticket are available in advance for a small convenience fee of $1.00 each here.
Tickets can be reserved 8 weeks in advance at 3pm HST. It is recommended that you are ready to book right when they go live, as they go fast. You can also reserve tickets the day before your visiting day at 3pm HST.
Same day walk-in tickets are no longer available.
Tours of the Bowfin, Missouri, and Aviation Museum all require an additional fee. Advance reservations are not required.
Pro tip: Bags are not allowed into Pearl Harbor. Clear plastic bags, very small fanny packs or clutches, and strollers without a removable bag are all permitted at this time. Lockers are also available for storing other bags.
Oahu Itinerary Day 7: Windward (East) Side: Kualoa Ranch + Cultural Activities
We have reached the last day of our Oahu itinerary for 7 days, and this is one of our favorite days!
Kualoa Ranch: Ocean Voyage Catamaran Tour
Kualoa Ranch is one of the most popular places to visit on Oahu and rightfully so. It is nestled in the gorgeous green valley of the Ko’olau Mountains and is perfectly amazing. Kualoa Ranch is probably the only activity that you need to be sure to book before leaving home, as their tours book up a few weeks in advance. The options are extensive and many people choose to book more than one tour. Their Jurassic Park Hawaii Movie Tours are the most popular as many famous scenes were filmed on the property. We booked our tour in the first time slot of the morning to avoid heat, crowds, and well, just because everything is so beautiful in the morning! Our reservation was for 8:45am and we were advised to arrive by 8:00. We were in line by 8:10am which was just barely early enough. The check in line was very long and we only made it through with a few minutes to spare, which was not long enough to use the restroom with its long line before our tour! So, please do heed the suggested arrival time! It is a wonderful but very busy place!
Due to our family’s ages and interests, we booked the Ocean Voyage Tour and would highly recommend it. It is described as being different than all of the other tours, as you spend the majority of the trip on the water viewing the gorgeous mountains from the ocean rather than the valley. We spotted a few sea turtles, rode the waves out to sea, and then calmly sailed back in to get a nice slow view of Chinaman’s Hat. This tour also takes you across their ancient fish pond in a canoe and gives a brief walk through Secret Island as well.
Tropical Macadamia Nut Farm
This hidden gem is right next to Kualoa Ranch and is a popular stop for macadamia nuts as their packages are half the price of those at Longs (really, we double checked!). Most visitors sample some nuts, buy some for the munching on, and then leave. However, I think you all are missing the best part!
Tropical Macadamia Nut Farm offers their Ali’i Tour with Chief Sielu to give you an overview of their farm, a comedic and educational show, and some tasty treats. The tour begins as you load the green open buses after receiving a fresh flower lei. The lush grounds grow bananas, pineapple, macadamia nuts, medicinal plants, and macadamia nuts, of course. You’ll receive some interesting information about their farm and growing practices as you ride through the beautiful, green farm. Movies have also been filmed on the property and their locations are clearly marked and pointed out to you as well.
Upon arriving at a small stage, you will take a seat for the entertainment portion of the tour. The chief will demonstrate how to make fire and perform a brief but impressive fire dancing show. He will then show you how to easily open a coconut and provide everyone with tastes of coconut water and fresh shredded coconut. You will also be presented with freshly woven leaf crowns at the end of the show and a bunch of apple bananas. Should the sky open up and start to pour on you during the show as it did for us, you will be given ponchos too!
This tour was well worth our time and money and was one of the highlights of our trip. Tours are offered daily at 11 am and 1 pm. To purchase your ticket, arrive a half hour in advance, make your way through the shop and out to the booth outside. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for keiki. While you wait for the tour to begin, children will love the opportunity to crack open their own macadamias with rocks and feed them to the chickens – seriously one of my children’s favorite activities of the trip!
*Please call ahead to ensure the tour is happening on the day of your visit*
You may have already been to Kailua Beach, but just in case you missed it, or if you are like us and love it so much that you need more than one day there, this would be the perfect time to head there to cool off and play in the waves again. Those white sands and turquoise waters will always beckon you until you return!
Alternative Idea: Polynesian Cultural Center
We debated visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center as it is one of the most popular activities on the island and very highly rated. It offers multiple island villages to experience the different cultural activities, as well as a luau and evening show that is often described as the best. We chose not to visit on this trip, as we had other cultural activities on our list that were a bit easier on the wallet. We also dreaded spending all day in the hot summer sun without an opportunity to cool off at the beach. However, if you would like to visit PCC, it opens daily at 12pm (closed on Sundays), so would fit in perfectly on this day after a morning at Kualoa Ranch.
Pro Tip: Hire a Professional Photographer
Have you ever considered hiring a photographer to capture your family on vacations with beautiful photos? They are our very favorite souvenir! We loved our experience on Kailua Beach with Tara with Flytographer. Flytographer offers vacation photo shoots in over 200 cities worldwide. Use our discount code for $25 off your first photo shoot! (You can even buy a gift card at $25 off to use later – no expiration!)
We hope our favorite Oahu itinerary for 7 days provided you with some great tips to help you plan your trip! If you have more than a week, and need some more suggestions for your final days, leave me a note and I’d be happy to share more! More adventurous hiking trails, beautiful vistas, historic museums, hula shows, dessert sampling, or just lounging at the resort pool would be perfect additions to your week.
Mahalo for reading and enjoy your trip in paradise!