I Live in Waikiki, Hereโ€™s My Favorite 7-Day Oahu Itinerary ๐Ÿš—๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿ–๏ธ

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Kualoa Ranch Tour Oahu Itinerary Hawaii

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My family is coming to visit and I’ve planned the perfect Oahu itinerary for them. From tours to beaches, here’s how to spend one week on Oahu.

Oahu is nicknamed “the Gathering Place” and that’s exactly what it will be later this summer when my whole immediate family comes for a visit! 

We’ve been living in Hawaii for a year now and during that time we’ve had plenty of visitors, both friends and family. But this is the first time my family is coming and I’m super excited! 

I’ve spent the past several weeks trying to nail down the most efficient itinerary for their one-week visit. An itinerary that will show them the best of the island, with enough time left unscheduled for pure relaxation.

No one wants to feel rushed on vacation, right? 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will likely blow on mai tais, poke, and shave ice.ย  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you.ย 

And when I got a message on our Facebook page recently from a reader seeking Oahu itinerary advice, I realized I should share all of this hard work with y’all!

Since my family is visiting for exactly one week, the itinerary we’ve planned is how I would recommend spending one week on Oahu.

But before I get into the specific itinerary, let’s quickly cover who I’m planning this itinerary for. You’ll want to tweak it, of course, depending on the ages and interests of your own family. 

Here’s who’s coming to visit:

My parents (in their 70’s and very active).

My sister and her husband (in their 40’s).

My niece and nephew (ages 12 and 10).

My parents have visited Hawaii several times but their most recent visit was more than 20 years ago. The primary reason for their last visit was to make sure I didn’t die when I ran the Honolulu Marathon for the first time.

After the race, we all went to Kauai for a few days while I hobbled my way around. It was a lovely trip minus all the post-race blisters. 

My sister and her husband visited Hawaii on their honeymoon 20 years ago and haven’t been able to come back since. For my niece and nephew, this will be their first visit to the Hawaiian islands.

Okay, that’s the team, here’s the game plan…let’s get to it!

The plan for our 7-day Oahu itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrival

They arrive from the mainland in the early afternoon on their first day. 

Fingers crossed for no flight delays but, just in case, we made no specific plans for this day. I suspect everyone will be exhausted early so we’ll wing it for dinner, too.

Day 2 – Waikiki Beach & Luau

It’s their first day on the island and since they’re East coasters, they’ll probably be up at 4:00am! But since we wanted to factor in any possible jet lag, we didn’t schedule anything specific for this day either. 

Instead, we planned a relaxing beach day exploring world-famous Waikiki Beach.  

We’ll hit one of my favorite breakfast spots, like Aloha Kitchen for souffle pancakes, and then head to the beach.

They want to spend some time at the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon (at the Hilton) which means it’s very likely an ice cream stop at Lappert’s will also work its way into our day.

Waikiki Beach Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii
Waikiki Beach

For dinner on Day 2, it’s luau time!

Because it’s walking distance from our place (and as a military family we’re eligible), we booked the Hale Koa Luau.

Hale Koa Luau Entertainment Hula Dancers
The Hale Koa Luau

If you’re not active duty or retired military, there are plenty of other fantastic luaus around the island. 

Two of my favorites are Germaine’s Luau and the Mauka Warriors Luau.

Day 3 – Helicopter Tour, Pearl Harbor, Duke’s, Fireworks

Their 3rd day on the island is a Friday so it’s all about the Friday Night Waikiki Fireworks! 

For that reason, we’ll leave the afternoon open. But for the morning, we have some fun activities planned.

My sister and her husband did a helicopter tour on their honeymoon and it was one of their favorite experiences ever. So they want the kids to experience a helicopter flight while they’re here.

The question of “doors on” or “doors off” was hotly debated among the four of them and they ultimately settled on doors off. 

So, I booked them the island’s top-rated Magnum PI Hughes 500 4-Passenger Doors-Off Helicopter Tour for early that morning. I can’t wait to hear what the kids think of this one!

After the helicopter tour, they’ll head over to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

We didn’t plan early enough for this one so they couldn’t get a reservation. But they can still walk in and explore the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center including the Exhibit Galleries, the waterfront memorials, and the book store. 

Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor Oahu Hawaii
Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

When they arrive, they’ll sign up at the digital standby kiosk for the Arizona Memorial boat trip and the movie. I tried it the other day to see how long it would take on standby and it was less than 30 minutes.

However, I did get there at 7:00am when they opened and they probably won’t get there until around 9:00am. So we’ll see how it goes! Either way, they’ll at least get to see a little of the memorial and that’s well worth it. 

For dinner on Day 3, I made a reservation at Duke’s more than a month in advance (essential for a group of 8 people).

Yes, Duke’s is a bit touristy.

But it’s also awesome, and they are tourists. I think everyone should go to Duke’s at least once if they’re visiting Oahu.

Even if you just stop by for a Mai Tai and some live music. It’s a Waikiki rite of passage.

Duke's Mai Tai
Duke’s Mai Tai

The Friday Night Waikiki Fireworks

After dinner, we’ll stroll down the beach to watch the Friday night fireworks from the beach in front of the Hale Koa Resort.

That’s my favorite spot to watch because the beach area is huge and it doesn’t feel crowded.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks Hawaii
Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday Night Fireworks and Rainbow Tower

Sidebar: I watched them last Friday night from the beach right in front of Steak Shack (where I just happened to be grabbing dinner because it’s one of my favorite cheap eats in Waikiki!) and that part of the beach was jam-packed for the fireworks. Like shoulder to shoulder. 

Zero stars, do not recommend.

Tip: I break down all the best places to watch the Friday night fireworks in this post: The Friday Night Waikiki Fireworks (by land, sea, or air!)

Day 4 – Diamond Head Hike, KCC Farmer’s Market

Since Day 4 is a Saturday, I’ve booked our Diamond Head Hike reservations for this day. 

Diamond Head Crater Easy Oahu Hikes
More views from the Diamond Head trail

Why? So we can hit the KCC Farmer’s Market afterward.

It runs from 7:30am – 11:00am every Saturday in the parking lot of Kapi’olani Community College, right across the street from the entrance to Diamond Head. The market has great food and local products plus live music.

It’s the perfect place to end your hike.  

I made an 8:00am reservation since we figured a 6:00am sunrise hike might be aggressive for the kiddos. An 8:00am hike will still give us plenty of time to enjoy the market before it closes.

Remember: Reservations are required for the Diamond Head hike, here’s what you need to know: Why Hiking Diamond Head Crater is an Oahu Must-Do

KCC Farmer's Market Free Things to Do Oahu Hawaii
Saturday morning at the KCC Farmer’s Market

Since we’ll be undertaking considerable physical activity that morning, we’ll spend the rest of the day relaxing on Waikiki Beach.

And after that hike, there WILL. BE. MALASADAS. on this day. A stop by Leonard’s Bakery is a must.

Read More: Why You Need Malasadas in Hawaii (& Where to Find Them)

No specific dinner plans this night so we’ll wing it. We have a new favorite pizza place in the neighborhood called San Paolo Pizzeria (near the Ilikai Hotel) so that’s a strong possibility for dinner.

Day 5  – Kualoa Ranch, Windward/South Oahu Driving Tour

Today is Jurassic Park movie adventure day and my sister and her family are headed to Kualoa Ranch.

For today and tomorrow, we’ll need an extra set of wheels, our car isn’t big enough for 8 people. So we rented a car through my favorite Hawaii rental car service, Discount Hawaii Car Rental.

MY Pick
Driving on Molokai Hawaii

Discount Hawaii Car Rental

For rental cars in Hawaii, go to the local experts. They’ll find you the best rate among all the major companies with no booking fees. And their customer support is top-notch.

For their day at Kualoa Ranch, I recommended a few tour options.

All of their tours are terrific but my favorites are the Ocean Voyage Adventure, the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, and the 2-Hour UTV Raptor Tour. They decided to go with the 2-hour Ranch UTV Raptor Tour for the morning.

My husband and I have already done this tour and her kids are the perfect age for it. 

Kualoa Ranch UTV Movie Tour
Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour

Plus they don’t mind getting super dirty (you get VERY dirty on this tour!). Let’s just say I had a few white towels that didn’t survive the post-Kualoa showers after that last visit. And now I have blue towels.

The dirty part sounded fun to them but not to my parents so they’ll skip that one. Instead, we’ll head to the Kahuku shrimp trucks and have some lunch while we wait for them to finish. 

Tip: I love booking tours with Viator to keep all my booked activities in one place. But for Kualoa Ranch tours, there’s no reason to use a 3rd party booking site. You’ll get the best deals booking directly on the Kualoa Ranch website.

Exploring Oahu’s Windward Side

After their tour, we’ll reunite and all do a driving tour of East/South Oahu (my favorite side of the island and, I think, Oahu’s most scenic drive).

We’ll make stops at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden and the Byodo-In Temple, hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (if there’s enough time), and stop by the Halona Blowhole

Oahu Things to Do Byodo In Temple
Oahu’s Byodo-In Temple

I also recently added Waimanalo Country Farms to the itinerary on this day because the sunflower fields should still be in bloom when they’re here.

Then we’ll continue past Koko Head, through beautiful Hawaii Kai, and back home. 

Dinner at Pau Hana Place

For dinner that night, we’re headed to Pau Hana Place.

Sundays are Hawaiian Night at Pau Hana Place and they have great music and hula performances. Plus there are food options to please everyone between the two food trucks and it’s BYOB (a quick stop by the ABC Store and we’re good to go!).

Pau Hana Place Fresh Breeze Band Hawaiian Night Waikiki
The Fresh Breeze Band playing on Sunday night

Tip: If a luau is out of your budget when you visit, Pau Hana Place is a great alternative! The waterfront location is gorgeous and the entertainment is always terrific. 

Read More: This Affordable Waikiki Spot has Luau Vibes & Million Dollar Views

Day 6  – Road Trip to the North Shore of Oahu 

Today, we’re devoting the entire day to Oahu’s North Shore. My husband and I have done this drive a number of times so we’ll be playing tour guide.

But if this is your first visit to Oahu, I highly recommend the Shaka Guide App for exploring the North Shore. It’s super fun to listen to and provides essential tips (like where to park and where not to park!). 

BEST DIY Tour APP
Shaka Guide App Hawaii

The Shaka Guide App

If you’re a DIY kind of traveler like I am, this is the perfect app to download for your Hawaii vacation. These GPS-guided audio tours are fun, easy to follow, and a super affordable way to explore the islands. I bought the whole Hawaii package when we moved here but you can also purchase individual tours.

I chose Monday for this because locals often head up to the North Shore on weekends and I wanted to pick a day that would be less crowded. 

Note: If you’re visiting in the winter months, Waimea Falls is closed on Mondays so if that’s an important stop to you, schedule your North Shore trip for a different day. 

We’ll start with a swing by the Dole Plantation even though my niece swears she hates pineapples (the horror!). I’m convinced she’ll love a Dole Whip. No one could hate a Dole Whip. 

Dole Plantation Oahu
Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation Oahu

From there, we’ll do a drive around Haleiwa Town but since we have plans to snorkel at Shark’s Cove and do the Waimea Falls hike, we’ll have to keep it to a shorter visit than it deserves.

We will have just had a Dole Whip so we’ll probably skip Matsumoto shave ice but it’s a great stop if you have time.  

Haleiwa North Shore Oahu Hawaii
Hale’iwa – North Shore, Oahu

After Haleiwa Town, we’ll make a quick stop at Laniakea Beach and hope to spot some sea turtles basking on the sand (fingers crossed, I have promised these kids some sea turtles and Aunt Jenny always delivers). 

Next stop, snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

We went back and forth about whether to try for reservations at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve or just snorkel at Shark’s Cove.

You can only make reservations for Hanauma Bay 48 hours in advance and though I’m pretty confident in my foolproof strategy for nabbing a primo reservation time, we decided to skip the “7am-by-the-computer” drama and just do Shark’s Cove instead.

It’s free and no reservations are required.

The kids are new to snorkeling and we aren’t sure if they’ll be super into it anyway. Hanauma Bay is incredible, but it’s much more of a time commitment.

Shark's Cove Snorkeling North Shore Oahu Hawaii
Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Because we’re not doing Hanauma Bay – where they have rentals available – we’ll bring our own snorkel gear. The tide pools at Shark’s Cove are filled with marine life and offer an easy snorkeling experience (note that water shoes are a must here!).

Depending on how long we stay there, lunch will probably be at the food truck park across from Shark’s Cove. 

Waimea Falls Hike

After snorkeling, we’ll cruise by Sunset Beach (one of the best beaches on the North Shore) and then head straight for Waimea Valley to do the Waimea Falls hike and waterfall swim.

This is my favorite easy hike on Oahu because it’s fully paved and great for kids. The trail winds through lush botanical gardens on the way to a lovely waterfall. 

Waimea Falls is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu. It’s also the only waterfall on the island where you can legally and safely swim and I think the kids will be all-in for that.  

Waimea Falls Swimming Oahu Hawaii
Swimming in the falls

After the swim, we’ll keep going past Waimea Bay to the Kahuku fruit stands and food trucks. If it’s getting close to dinner time by then, the shrimp trucks are the perfect spot to stop before heading home. 

We’ll drive back to downtown Honolulu via the gorgeous H-3 highway, Oahu’s most scenic highway. And that’s a wrap on the North Shore. 

Note: There’s plenty more to see on the North Shore but since we’re planning long stops at Shark’s Cove and Waimea Falls, I doubt we’ll have time for much more. If you only have one day, you really have to narrow it down to the few stops that are most important to you.

Day 7 – Free Day to Relax

I left their last day free just in case they discovered anything else they wanted to do after they got here.

For example, the kids might want to take a surf lesson or we may decide to take a drive over to the Ko Olina lagoons.

Ko Olina Lagoon 4 Best Free Things to Do Oahu Hawaii
Ko Olina Lagoon 4

Or my niece might spend the entire afternoon souvenir shopping at the ABC Store. Who can tell?

I think on any Oahu itinerary it’s important to not feel too overscheduled. Vacations should be relaxing after all!

There’s a lot to see and do on the island of Oahu and you can’t expect to see it all on one visit. We’ve been here a year now and I’m still discovering new things to do. 

For their last night on the island, I made dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen

Tip: Monkeypod Kitchen is also home to my favorite Mai Tai on the island. Don’t miss it when you visit!

Next day, departure!

So, that’s the plan for our one-week Oahu itinerary. The next day they all fly back to the mainland. 

I think the itinerary includes a good mix of Oahu’s best free things to do and more expensive experiences (like the helicopter tour and the luau).

I also think it secures my favorite aunt status for at least another year.

How will my master plan for island domination work out? And more importantly, will we survive a full week with 8 people in a 2-bedroom condo? 

Stay tuned!

I’ll be sure to update this post after their visit with all of my hits, misses, and anything I would have done differently.   

In the meantime, I hope our itinerary helps you make some decisions for your own visit! 

One Week Oahu Itinerary Hawaii Vacation
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