Recently we embarked on a road trip of Hawaii’s most popular island, Oahu. We spent six days travelling around the island, exploring from north to south and east to west. From wild turtles to majestic waterfalls, here’s our extensive Oahu road trip itinerary.
Hiring a car
For us, the most cost-effective way to hire a car in Hawaii was through Turo. We were able to drive an unlimited number of kilometres without having to worry about paying anything extra. The first car we hired was a Dodge Caliber and the second (which we hired just for two days to save money) was a Ford Mustang, in red of course. Both owners met us at the airport so we didn’t have to worry about where to get the car from or where to leave it. They were friendly, understanding and very easy to communicate with.
For the first four days of our trip in Oahu we stayed in an Airbnb in the town of Aeia, just outside of Waikiki. For the final two days of our trip (while we had the Mustang) we stayed in Marina Tower Waikiki.
Planning the trip
Compared to driving around Australia, Oahu is tiny. Driving from Waikiki to the North Shore takes less time than it does for us to commute from home to work every day, so when we planned our trip, driving distances wasn’t a factor we considered. If driving isn’t something you’re used to, take the time to plan a trip with shorter driving legs so you don’t get too tired behind the wheel. To plan the places we wanted to visit, we spoke to friends who had been to Oahu before for recommendations and we did some internet research, saving the places we wanted to go to on Google Maps. We did a series of day trips, returning to our accommodation in Honolulu or Waikiki each day.
Day one: Waikiki – Honolulu
Day one was probably the longest day in terms of on-the-go travelling because we landed in Honolulu at 5am and hit the ground running. We left the airport just after 5am and drove straight to Diamond Head where we hiked to the top for beautiful views of Waikiki. From there we drove into Waikiki where we enjoyed a swim at Waikiki Beach and explored the area by foot before heading out to Manoa Falls to complete the hike, but not before stopping by Leonard’s Bakery for a malasada breakfast. We completed the Manoa Falls hike at around 2pm so we headed back into Waikiki for lunch at Duke’s where we tried the infamous Hula Pie.
Day two: Jurassic Park – East Coast
On day two we headed out to the beautiful Kualoa Ranch at 7am where we went on a ziplining tour of Jurassic Valley. The tour took two hours so at around 10am we headed for Lanikai where we enjoyed lunch at Konos and drinks at Lanikai Brewing Company. After lunch we went for a swim at Lanikai Beach and Waimānalo Beach. Then we drove back to our Airbnb along the coast, stopping at Koko Head lookout and Waikiki for a Japanese dinner and to watch the sunset on Waikiki Beach.
Day three: East Coast
Day three took us back to the east coast. This time we paced ourselves driving along 72 East, stopping at all the lookouts and blowholes along the way. We reached Makapu‘u Point at around 9am and completed the Lighthouse Trail, a 30-minute hike. Then we headed to Kailua Beach Park for a midday swim and poke for lunch before ending the day with a stroll through the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.
Day four: West Coast
On day four we started with a 7am trip to Pearl Harbour before we decided to mix things up and drive in the opposite direction we’d been and head towards the west. Our first stop was Ko Olina Beach Park. We didn’t spend much time there though because we didn’t appreciate the expensive resort vibes we were getting. So from here, we headed north along the west coast, stopping at Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave) and Keawaula Beach where we enjoyed a swim. We headed back into Waikiki for dinner because there weren’t many options along the west coast that weren’t fast food.
Days five-eight: We were in Maui (this will be completed in another blog – stay tuned!)
Day nine: Honolulu – North Shore
On day nine, we fly from Maui to Honolulu and landed at 9am. We picked up our Ford Mustang from the airport, packed the car and drove straight to the North Shore, stopping at Dole Plantation for a quick dole whip breakfast. We then stopped at Laniakea Beach where we sore many turtles both in the water and one on the beach. It wasn’t the best swimming beach so we continued on our drive and stopped at the open-air food truck food court for a Huli Huli chicken plate lunch at Mike’s Kiawe Broiled Huli Huli Chicken. Then we headed back along the North Shore to Waimea Valley and Hale’iwa Ali’i Beach Park for a swim and more turtle watching.
Day ten: East Coast
After having explored the entire island, we decided our favourite beaches were on the east coast so we went back to Kailua Beach for one last swim. We spent some time there before driving back along the coast, taking 72 East to the Aloha Stadium Markets. Following an hour of shopping and lunch, we headed to Waiola Shave Ice and Walmart for some last minute American snacks before visiting a final brewery for Dave and watching the sunset over Waikiki from our hotel room.
Definitely hire a car if you can, it makes getting around the island much easier. There’s quite a lot of free parking around the island and at most attractions. Save money by booking an Airbnb instead of a hotel. If you stay in an Airbnb on the outskirts of Honolulu, you’ll find more free parking, cheaper accommodation prices, and a more local experience. You’ll also be able to access the rest of the island much easier!
Make sure you take out travel insurance that includes car insurance, especially when hiring a car through Turo. Hawaiian roads aren’t great and you can’t trust that other drivers are always doing the right thing so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Finally, try and plan your more vigorous activities early in the morning or later in the evening. Hawaii has a tropical climate and it can get quite humid and hot during the day. Avoid hiking or laying in the sun at the beach in the middle of the day.
What do you love most about Hawaii? Let us know your favourite tropical holiday destination in the comments below!
Ash & Dave