Aloha, fellow Oahu adventurers!
I’m here to let you in on a little secret: there’s a world of paradise waiting for you just beyond your hotel room. And the best way to experience it? Day trips around the island’s must-see locations. Trust me, once you start exploring, you’ll wonder why you ever stayed inside.
I get it – with so many options available online, trying to plan your perfect Oahu day trip can feel overwhelming. But fear not! After years of visiting this heavenly island (both solo and with my lovely boyfriend), I’ve done all the research for you. So kick back and relax as we embark on a journey together through Oahu’s most exciting and cost-friendly day trips.
My love for Hawaii runs deep – from traveling there with family and friends to spending an entire month touring Oahu’s hidden gems with my boyfriend. Our countless adventures have led us to some amazing discoveries that I can’t wait to share with you!
Warning: This article might cause sudden urges to pack your bags and book a flight straight to paradise.
So grab your sunscreen, put on your favorite pair of sunglasses, and join me as we dive into the best day trips Oahu has to offer. Here’s to exploring every inch of this breathtaking island!
Oahu Grand Circle Island and Haleiwa Tour
First-time visitors to Oahu and those on a tight schedule should take a circle island tour, as you can drive by many scenic locations and enjoy short stops at famous landmarks. This Oahu Grand Circle Island tour is the perfect day trip as it takes passengers past stunning sites like the Diamond Head volcano, Hanauma Bay, the Halona Blowhole, the Byodo-In Temple and the beaches and towns of the North Shore.
The 9-hour tour sets off early in the morning and includes hotel pickups from Waikiki. You’ll start by passing Diamond Head beach park, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, home to hundreds of tropical fish species, and the Halona Blowhole, which spouts up to 30 feet of water at once.
Next, there are 10-20 minute stops at the Japanese Byodo-In temple, where you can ring the sacred bell, and the Tropical Macadamia Nut Farms to sample fresh coffee, mac-nuts and chocolates. Finally, you’ll enjoy lunch and shopping in serene Haleiwa town on the North shore before stopping at the Dole Plantation and seeing how Oahu grows its delicious golden pineapples.
My boyfriend and I loved taking this circle island tour around Oahu, as the journey was unrushed, and we could appreciate the passing sights. Here’s why we rate it as one of the best Oahu day trips:
- The tour guide is excellent and shares the history of places you pass by in interesting detail.
- The tour provides Oahu’s famous fried sweet treat – malasadas, fresh from a bakery.
- You’ll pass by the North shore’s famous surfing beaches and see expert surfers riding the waves.
North Shore Beaches and Sightseeing Trip
A trip to Oahu’s stunning North shore is a welcome break from crowded Waikiki and Honolulu, as you’ll enjoy quaint towns and secluded beaches. So take the North Shore Beaches and Sightseeing tour, which promises the perfect balance of beach time with water activities like kayaking, surfing, and paddleboarding, plus sightseeing, and stopping by the filming locations of Jurassic Park, Jumanji, Here to Eternity, and 50 First Dates.
Your sightseeing stops on this 8-hour tour will be the Halona Blowhole, the Mokoli’i island, and the Banzai Pipeline, which were the filming sites of famous movies, and where guests can take pictures of these breathtaking sights.
The first North shore beach you’ll visit is Waimea Bay for swimming or surfing on its huge waves. In addition, guests can choose to tour the Waimea Valley instead, which offers a hike through gorgeous botanical gardens. Your final stop on the North shore will be Haleiwa, where you can visit its beaches, and try your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding by taking a leisurely cruise up the Anahulu River.
We never had a dull moment on this trip and could visit all our favourite spots, making it one of the best Oahu day trips. Here’s why you have to try it:
- The tour guide is terrific, takes you to hidden gems, and explains the shore’s history in detail.
- Guests can enjoy lunch on the trip from Haleiwa’s best local restaurants and food trucks.
- On the North shore beaches, you can see the island’s marine life, like sea turtles.
Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Tour
Those wanting to relive pivotal US history should take a day trip to the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, commemorating the Japanese attack during the second world war. The guided tour of these incredible sites includes a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, seeing war exhibits at the visitor center, and learning historical facts from your guide.
Guests will see a short film at the visitor center and explore gallery exhibits such as ‘Road to War’ and ‘Attack,’ which represent moments from the morning of 7 December 1941. You can also shop for souvenirs from the on-site gift shop before taking a boat ride to the USS Arizona Monument.
The tour also passes by the Punchbowl Crater, honouring the men and women from the armed forces who served during the war.
My boyfriend and I loved taking this immersive trip through history, and you shouldn’t miss it as it’s one of the best Oahu day trips.
- The guides offer a well-detailed history of the sites you pass.
- Tickets for taking the boat ride and hotel pickups are part of your trip.
- You’ll also see downtown Honolulu and its famous landmarks like the Iolani Palace, Aloha Tower, and King Kamehameha’s Statue.
Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay
If you want to see Oahu’s thriving marine life, take a day trip to Hanauma Bay, which offers hours of snorkelling, lounging on the Bay and spotting the island’s native sea creatures up close. The tour includes round-trip transportation from your hotels and hassle-free entrance to the Bay, so you won’t have to wait in any lines.
Since Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area, you’ll see more than 450 species of tropical fish, vibrant coral reefs, and Hawaiian green sea turtles (called Honu) from snorkelling in the waters. You can also lounge on the golden-sand beach and enjoy the incredible view of calm azure waters lapping against the shore.
In addition, the Bay has a calm body of water for snorkelling, which makes it ideal for beginners and families with younger children learning to snorkel.
My boyfriend and I always come to Hanuma Bay for uninterrupted snorkelling, as it’s one of the best Oahu day trips. Here’s why you’ll agree:
- The trip provides good quality snorkelling equipment, so you won’t have to rent any.
- You’ll be with a small group of 10 people and enjoy a private trip.
- The admission fee is waived for children 13 years and under.
Oahu Sights and Bites Tour
There’s no fun sightseeing on an empty stomach, so you should take this Oahu Sights and Bites Tour, which passes by the island’s best landmarks and includes stops at much-loved local food joints. The trip includes pickups from select hotels and lunch from a famous food truck in Haleiwa.
You’ll start by driving past the scenic Diamond Head lookout point before stopping at the popular Kamehameha Bakery for its delicious poi-filled donuts. Next, you’ll see the Halona Blowhole and the lush Ko’olau Mountain Range before stopping by the Macadamia Nut Farms to sample freshly grown mac-nuts and rich local coffee.
The trip continues to the North shore, where you’ll inhale a meal from the irresistible North Shore Shrimp Trucks, one of the best seafood trucks in Hawaii. Have fun exploring Haleiwa town after your meal before stopping by the Dole Plantation for their DoleWhip – a dairy-free pineapple dessert.
We loved sampling local cuisine and fresh island flavours on this tour, and you will, too, as it’s one of the best Oahu day trips.
- A guide narrates interesting history and facts about Oahu on the trip.
- You’ll also try locally grown island fruits from farms and the Dole Plantation.
- The trip includes all the food mentioned, and guests can purchase more.
Diamond Head Crater Tour
The dormant Diamond Head volcano towers over Oahu and pulls visitors in to explore its lush greenery and vast mountainscape. So the Diamond Head crater is one of the island’s most-loved hikes, which you can experience through a self-guided tour.
Although most people can drive to the crater and hike it themselves, this self-guided tour covers round-trip transportation, an entrance fee and an early morning drop-off before the late afternoon crowds pack the trails.
The hike is fairly easy, and there’s a well-defined path you can take to go around the 760-foot summit. In addition, visitors can take panoramic views of Oahu’s cityscape and the Pacific Ocean from the crater and get excellent photos from many scenic overlooks on the way.
My boyfriend and I loved taking this hike and enjoying the fresh morning air, and so should you, as it’s one of the best day trips in Oahu.
- The bus driver is friendly and gives excellent information on the crater and hike.
- You’ll receive a map of the crater and bottled water for the hike.
- There’s a visitor center on the crater where you can purchase souvenirs.
Dole Plantation Pineapple Farm Tour
The Dole Plantation is a historic site in Oahu as it’s one of the oldest pineapple plantations in Hawaii, which now attracts tourists for a train ride through its massive grounds and farms. However, this tour is a one-of-a-kind experience that takes you into Dole’s pineapple fields, showcasing the process of harvesting the golden fruit.
The guided tour takes guests on and off the bus to see how Dole plants, harvests, and packs their pineapples for supply in Hawaii and nationwide. You’ll also see and taste pineapples through their different growing stages, giving off sweet and tangy flavours.
In addition, the trip makes a stop at the Green World Coffee Farms to sample teas and coffees prepared from coffee beans grown on the farm’s 3000+ Arabica trees. Other great stops include the famous North Shore beaches, the old Waialua Sugar Mill, which is now a soap factory, and Haleiwa town in North Oahu.
My boyfriend and I loved this immersive tour of Oahu’s pineapple and coffee plantations, and you shouldn’t miss it as it’s the best day trip in Oahu.
- Guests will receive a complimentary Dole Royal Hawaiian Gold Pineapple, packaged and airport-ready.
- The tour also includes lunch from a food truck and a stop at a macadamia nut shop.
- The guide is terrific and narrates the plantation’s history throughout.
East Shore Tour: Kualoa Ranch, Beaches, and Chocolate Tasting
Take a whirlwind tour of Oahu’s East shore on this all-in-on trip which combines sightseeing from the gorgeous Kualoa Ranch, a tour of a chocolate factory and lounging on secluded beaches in East Oahu with stunning views. In addition, this day trip is ideal for small groups or those looking for some privacy, as the tour only takes ten people at a time.
Your trip begins with scenic stops on the East side, like the Halona Blowhole and Makapu’u Lighthouse, for taking pictures before heading to Manoa Chocolates in Kailua. Here, you can learn about the factory’s sustainable chocolate-making practices and sample the delicious flavors.
Next, you’ll visit the Kualoa Ranch, which sits between the ocean and the Ko’olau Mountain Range, making for some breathtaking views, before stopping at the adjacent Kualoa Regional Park. This secluded beach offers views of the infamous Chinaman’s Hat, and you can swim and snorkel in its clear waters or lounge on the sands to take in the views.
We had the most fun on this tour and enjoyed seeing new sides of the East shore. Here’s why it’s one of the best day trips in Oahu:
- Guests will enjoy lunch at the Ranch that’s made from organic meats and seafood.
- Other great stops include the Macadamia Nut Farms and the Tantalus Lookout for incredible views.
- Your tour guide briefs you well on the sights and keeps the group entertained.
West Shore Tour: Dolphins, Rum Tasting and Caves
Oahu’s rugged and less-visited West shore needs to be a stop on your trip, as it has incredible secluded beaches, hidden caves, and incredible marine life. You can tour the West shore to see all these things and more on a guided day trip, with a stop at a locally-run distillery for a rum tasting.
Your first stop will be the quaint Electric Beach, where you’ll see dolphins jumping in and out of the waters, making for a stunning photo op. Next, you’ll explore the huge Makua Caves and hear the locals’ eerie stories and legends of them.
The trip also includes a stop at Ko Olina Beach Park, where guests can enjoy water sports like paddle boarding and snorkelling in the many coves. Finally, the tour heads to Kunia, where one of the island’s largest rum distilleries showcases the sugar cane produced in Oahu and how KoHana rum processes it to make the purest beverage.
My boyfriend and I loved taking this in-depth tour of the East side, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best day trips in Oahu. Here’s why you’ll agree:
- Guests can order lunch right on Ko Olina beach from the nearby resort.
- You’ll enjoy tasting the rum from its many production stages.
- The excellent guide briefs you about the history and significance of the sites.
Can you drive around Oahu in one day?
Oahu is the third largest island in Hawaii, so you can’t cover it on a one-day drive. However, you can take a circle island tour, which is a single-day trip that goes around famous spots in Oahu, stopping for pictures, at beaches, and for meals, on comfortable vehicles.
What is the most beautiful place in Oahu?
Oahu has plenty of breathtaking sights on its shores, the most beautiful being the Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe Sandbar, Hanauma Bay, and the Diamond Head crater, among many more.
How many days is enough for Oahu?
If you want to explore Oahu fully, spend at least 7-10 days on the island, giving you enough time to take full-day and half-day tours, go sightseeing and wander on your own.
Can you explore Oahu without a car?
Waikiki and downtown Honolulu have a terrific bus system, so you can travel between most places without a car. However, if you want to visit some far-off places on the West, East and North shores, it’s best to take guided tours or book a rental car.
Winding Up The Best Oahu Day Trips
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you know that Oahu is more than just a crowded tourist trap, rather the island is steeped in history, with terrific landmarks, secluded beaches, stunning valleys and local plantations.
So make sure you visit the island and explore its many wonders through day trips, guaranteeing the best views and getting expert insights from locals.
Last Updated on March 30, 2023 by Brigitte