aerial of surfer walking alongside waves

Spend a blissful week in Oahu. (Photo: Getty Images)


What to Do on Oahu (And How to Fit It All Into a 1-Week Trip)

For a Pacific island measuring less than 600 square miles, Oahu is chockablock with offerings. From bamboo forests to luxe shopping, from sugar-soft beaches to technicolor local art, there’s so much to see and do. Here’s how to pack it all into a seven-day itinerary. And as smart travelers know, always check for any local restrictions or closures prior to your trip.

Day 1: Waikiki

Take advantage of your jet lag by rising early for a private surfing lesson here in the cradle of modern surfing. Then spend the afternoon browsing in the tropical ambience of Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air shopping center in the world.

cocktail in a pineapple
Sip a fruity cocktail in the sun at the Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar. (Photo: Marriott International)

Take in a multihued sunset and equally colorful drink at the Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar. The mai tai menu includes options such as the original Trader Vic’s 1944 recipe, as well as modern twists on the classic cocktail featuring local Maui rum. For a truly special night, reserve a private cabana.

Day 2: Makapuu Point

Stroll the two-mile Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail to check out the quaint historic lighthouse. November through May, keep tabs on the humpback whales spouting offshore.

Swing by Kalapawai Market, an area fixture since 1932, for picnic fixings and enjoy a feast at Kailua Beach. When you picture a postcard Hawaiian beach — brown-sugar sands, turquoise waters, green mountains — this is the place.

Day 3: Honolulu

Ali Iolani palace
Visit the Iolani Palace. (Photo: Getty Images)

Did you know the only official royal residence in the U.S. is in Hawaii? Tour Iolani Palace, built in 1882 for King Kalakaua, and learn about the Hawaiian monarchy. Then go on the hunt for contemporary-art royalty in Kakaako, an artsy district where colorful murals adorn the sides of buildings thanks to the annual Pow! Wow! festival.

Trek to a 150-foot waterfall on the Manoa Falls Trail, which takes about two hours round-trip. Along the way you’ll be rewarded with an impossibly lush landscape. Insider’s tip: The trail is often muddy, so leave the new white shoes at home.

Day 4: North Shore

sharks cove hawaii
Make a splash at Shark’s Cove. (Photo: Getty Images)

In the winter, you can watch world-class surfers taking on monster waves off Sunset Beach or Banzai Pipeline. In the summer the water is much calmer and beckons with snorkeling and scuba opportunities at Shark’s Cove and Three Tables.

Once dry, step off the beaten path and back in time with a visit to Puu o Mahuka Heiau, the remains of a temple built by Hawaiians in the 1600s. It gives a glimpse into their society, and the view alone is worth the drive up.

For dinner, try the Haleiwa Beach House. It has an excellent wine and beer list and a decadent kalua-pork grilled cheese appetizer.

Day 5: Kahuku

More laid-back than Haleiwa, but still on the North Shore, Kahuku is worth a poke around. Malaekahana Beach is stunning and often quite deserted. Explore Gunstock Ranch on horseback and plant a native tree as part of a reforestation effort.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy Kahuku’s status as the shrimp-truck capital of the world. Locals have their favorite trucks, but it’s hard to go wrong since all the trucks serve roughly the same delicious thing: plump shrimp dripping with garlic and butter or spicy sauce, two scoops of white rice and a little salad. Grab some napkins and get in there. So good.

Day 6: Pearl Harbor

children at pearl harbor memorial
Pay your respects at Pearl Harbor. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spend the day at Pearl Harbor historic sites, which includes the Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Even if you aren’t a WWII history buff, it’s surprisingly moving and helps put previous generations into better context.

Day 7: Ko Olina

Spend your last day in true luxury on Oahu’s west side where it’s nearly always sunny. Beach hop along Ko Olina’s four ocean lagoons connected by a mile and a half of seaside paths. The easy stroll showcases some of the island’s loveliest waterfront settings, whetting your appetite to start planning your next trip.