ALOHA!

 

So if you’re looking to take a trip to Honolulu, that means you’re looking to take a trip to Oahu!

With 3 days on Oahu, you can get a glimpse of 3 different areas of the island, one area for each day!

Each of these regions will give you a different vibe in Hawaii.

 

Oahu itinerary. 3 days in Oahu Hawaii itinerary. Best things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii. Best places to visit on Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, windward east side, North Shore. Backpacking Hawaii travel blog

 

If you have rent a car from the Honolulu airport, it will give you more flexibility, but it is not necessary to rent a car when you go to Oahu. You can take the bus!

So, is it possible to enjoy Oahu without spending a lot of money when you’re on the island?!

Some of the top things to do on Oahu can be FREE (or cheap!) so it is totally possible to have a good time in Hawaii on a budget when you’re a first-time visitor to Hawaii!

No tours necessary!

The activities listed below can be perfect for a first trip to Hawaii, as it will allow you to experience different things about Hawaii!

If you want a little more time at Oahu beaches, it will be pretty easy to adapt this itinerary by taking out an activity or 2 so you can head to the beach early afternoon to hang out. On each of the days, there are different beaches you can choose from in the area if you want to experience the different beaches of Oahu.

 

 

How to spend 3 days on Oahu

3 days in Oahu. 3 days in Hawaii. How to spend 3 days in Oahu itinerary. Hawaii on a budget. Best things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii. Best places to visit on Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, windward east side, North Shore. Backpacking Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Day 1 on Oahu: Waikiki

Oahu itinerary - Waikiki itinerary for 3 days in Oahu Hawaii. Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Quick list of things to do in/near Waikiki for day 1

 

Stay close to “home”!

Waikiki is the hot spot of Oahu, so assuming you’ll be staying in Waikiki, the first day on Oahu will keep you somewhat nearby where you’re staying so it won’t feel as exhausting.

You need to make a $5 per person reservation before you go to Diamond Head.

Here is the official Diamond Head reservation website.

It’s easier to get tickets if you don’t have a car, since parking requires an extra reservation (+ $10 parking fee) and is more limited.

More official Diamond Head information.

There is a free hula show in Waikiki on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays around sunset. (Dates can change!)

It’s located at one of the banyan trees in Waikiki.

 

How to get around on day 1

Walking can be a good way to get around Waikiki!

There are also convenient bike sharing stations that can get you from one end of Waikiki to another!

See how to do bike sharing in Waikiki.

Waikiki Beach is around 2 miles long.

Diamond Head is a bit further, but it’s still possible to walk there as long as you don’t mind the extra time on feet!

Otherwise, there are a few different ways to get from Waikiki to Diamond Head.

 

See more for your Oahu itinerary:

 

 

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Side note!
Top Oahu tours
Read the reviews at partner website Viator!*

Things you might want to pack for your Hawaii vacation
Read the reviews on Amazon! I'm an Amazon Associate.*
  • For women: Search for a rash guard for swimming and you won't have to worry as much about putting on sunscreen!
  • Water shoes for snorkeling if you won't be wearing fins, or just generally for the beach!
  • Cheapo waterproof phone case so you can capture pictures of colorful fishies swimming underwater!
    • I always have a camera float attached to my phone case that I put around my wrist
  • Snorkeling set: mask and fins
    • Fins allow you to propel further faster (aka see more in less time and energy!)
    • Go cheap if you accept that you need to come up for air frequently: regular swimming googles. They are not as fashionable but if you get swimming goggles, make them the clear kind so you won't be seeing dimmed colors of the colorful fishies!
    • If you are able, I recommend trying out the mask at your local lake (in summer) or pool so you will be good to go in Hawaii when there's actually stuff to see!
  • Travel-friendly turkish towel for the beach (lightweight compared to regular beach towels)
  • For women: Teva walking sandals (one of the best sandal brands for the outdoors, perfect for lots of walking around outside - that's not a lava field!)
  • For men: Teva sandals
  • For women: Merrell hiking shoes (one of the best outdoor shoe brands)
  • For men: Merrell hiking shoes
  • Moisture-wicking tech t-shirt for women perfect for hiking and hot days when you'll be outside a lot sweating
  • tech-t-shirt for men
  • For more ideas, do a search for hiking clothes or swimming clothes!

*As a Viator partner and Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission.


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Day 2 on Oahu: North Shore

Oahu itinerary - North Shore itinerary for 3 days in Oahu Hawaii. Hawaii travel blog

 

Quick list of things to do on the North Shore for day 2

 

The North Shore in winter is surfing season (if you’re lucky maybe you’ll catch a surf competition), and the summer months are the calmer months best for snorkeling.

Some North Shore food spots you might want to check out:

 

How to get around on day 2

As a bit of a distance from Waikiki to the North Shore, renting a car can be the most convenient way to get to the North Shore.

This will be about a one hour drive.

Otherwise, you can get a bus from Waikiki to the North Shore, but expect it to take at least 2 hours one way with a possible bus transfer necessary.

If you’re going by bus, once you get on the North Shore, be prepared to walk a lot, or you can rent a bicycle ($25).

You can find a bicycle rental shop near the food trucks in front of Shark’s Cove.

 

See more for your Oahu itinerary:

 

 

Day 3 on Oahu: East side of Oahu

Oahu itinerary - East windward Oahu itinerary for 3 days in Oahu Hawaii. Hawaii travel blog



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Quick list of things to do on east side of Oahu for day 3

 

If you’ll be on Oahu during whale season (generally speaking November to May), then the Makapuu Point Lighthouse trail is said to be a good spot for a chance to see whales from shore! (There are free binoculars on the trail, but bring your own too!)

Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu.

Hanauma Bay is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Lanikai Beach is one of the famous picture-perfect beaches on Oahu.

 

How to get around on day 3

Once again, as a bit of a distance from Waikiki, renting a car can be the most convenient way to get to the east side of Oahu.

But it’s also possible to get to this part of the island by bus as well.

If bus will be your mode of transportation, then you’ll want to minimize the number of activities for the day, or choose just 1 or 2 main areas.

The bus frequency isn’t the best when trying to get to windward Oahu, so you’ll also want to be prepared for potential waiting time for the bus.

There used to be a direct bus to Hanauma Bay.

You can still get from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay by bus if you don’t mind a lot of walking with your beach gear. It’s a 20 minute walk from the bus stop to Hanauma Bay.

But there’s local food near the bus stop to make up for your effort!

The bus stop you’ll get off for Hanauma Bay is near Koko Marina Center, which is where you can find local food like malasadas at the Leonard’s Bakery food truck or a Hawaiian plate lunch at Fatboy’s. (map)

You will want to make a $25 per person reservation before you go to Hanauma Bay.

You can only buy tickets 2 days before, and they go quick. (If you look at recent tickets that have been sold, it tells you when they sold out.)

Hanuama Bay is closed Monday and Tuesday.

See more about how to make reservations for Hanauma Bay.

 

See more for your Oahu itinerary:

 

 

Iconic hotels on Oahu

  • Royal Hawaiian pink hotel – The pink hotel you can spot from a plane as you’re flying into Honolulu airport! There’s the Royal Hawaiian bakery here if you want to stop in. You can also go to the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai bar that is a beachfront bar along Waikiki Beach!
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village – There’s a beachfront lagoon in front of the resort with beach rentals. They also do Friday night fireworks that anyone can watch every Friday. If you watch Hawaii Five-0, you have seen this hotel a lot on TV!
  • Moana Surfrider – Called the “First Lady of Waikiki,” it’s on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. You can admire the architecture of this heritage hotel as you’re walking on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki! You can also go to the Moana Surfrider beach bar that is a beachfront bar along Waikiki Beach! 

 

 

11 best things to do in Oahu in 3 days

The quick list!

 

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1. Diamond Head hike

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki. 3 day Oahu itinerary Waikiki. Hawaii travel blog
Do the Diamond Head hike for the best views of Waikiki!

 

 

 

2. Snorkeling at Queen’s Beach

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Waikiki snorkeling spot, Queen's Beach. 3 day Oahu itinerary Waikiki. Hawaii travel blog
Go to Queens Beach for one of the best snorkeling spots in Waikiki!

 

 

3. Biking on Biki bikes

Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Waikiki biking, biki bikesharing bicycle rental. 3 day Oahu itinerary Waikiki. Hawaii travel blog
Bike sharing in Waikiki and Honolulu

 

 

 

4. Shopping on Kalakaua Avenue

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Main street in Waikiki

 

 

5. Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Shark's Cove, North Shore snorkeling spot. 3 day Oahu itinerary North Shore. Hawaii travel blog
One of the best snorkeling spots on the North Shore

 

 

6. Eating at North Shore food truck

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A North Shore classic

 

 

7. Beach lazing at Sunset Beach

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Sunset Beach. 3 day Oahu itinerary North Shore. Hawaii travel blog
In winter, this area of the North Shore can be a top spot for watching surfers catch world-class waves

 

 

8. Turtle spotting at Laniakea Beach

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Laniakea Beach to see turtles on North Shore. 3 day Oahu itinerary North Shore. Hawaii travel blog
Turtles are wildlife so they do what they want, but this can be a reliable spot to see turtles

 

 

9. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Hanauma Bay, snorkeling spot on windward Oahu. 3 day Oahu itinerary east Oahu. Hawaii travel blog



 



One of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu

 

 

10. Hiking the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail

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Possible chances of spotting whales from shore during whale season

 

 

11. Beach lazing at Lanikai Beach

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Lanikai Beach, windward Oahu. 3 day Oahu itinerary east Oahu. Hawaii travel blog
Amazing beach on Oahu with famous views of twin islands

 

 

Notably, the above list is missing a few “very Hawaii” activities. A little bit about some of them below, but in short, you may also want to make time for:

 

For a different type of Hawaii itinerary on other Hawaiian islands you can choose:

You’ll want a car for at least a part of the time on each of these islands. If you’re still figuring out which Hawaiian island to visit, you can see the comparisons for 2 of the islands!

 

 

Is 3 days enough for Oahu?

3 days in Oahu is enough to get a taste for different parts of the island.

You can experience 3 different areas of the island that will each give you a different vibe!

Immerse yourself in Waikiki on one day, on the North Shore on the second day, and then the east side of Oahu on the third day!

This means that 3 days can actually be a perfect amount of time to spend on Oahu.

You can experience a little bit of different parts of Oahu in just a few days!

You can do hiking, snorkeling, and of course go to beaches!

 

 

What’s missing from this Oahu itinerary?!

Or more activities if you have 4 or 5 days in Oahu

I think there are 3 notable top things to do missing from this Oahu itinerary that you might want to fit in.

 

1. Pearl Harbor

4 or 5 day Oahu itinerary with Pearl Harbor. Hawaii travel blog

 

You can make Pearl Harbor a trip of a couple hours, half day, or even a full day.

Pearl Harbor is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, an official national memorial. It can be worth visiting Pearl Harbor to get a deeper understanding of the tragedy that occurred here that could be said to have had a global impact.

It’s possible to visit Pearl Harbor without a tour.

 

See more about planning a trip to Pearl Harbor on your own.

 

 

2. Oahu waterfalls

4 or 5 day Oahu itinerary with waterfalls. Hawaii travel blog

 

Another thing Hawaii is known for is waterfalls! And there are waterfalls that you can see on Oahu.

The 2 most popular waterfalls for tourists to visit can be added into your 3 day Oahu itinerary if you want to make time for it. Both of these are waterfall hikes, and it could be good to maybe give yourself 2 hours or so for each.

Manoa Falls is kind of near Waikiki so you could do it as a morning activity on one of your days.

Waimea Falls is on the North Shore so you could go on the day of your trip to the North Shore. This is a part of the Waimea Valley botanical gardens park and there’s an entry fee.

See more about planning a trip to Oahu waterfalls.

 

 

3. Hawaiian luau

4 or 5 day Oahu itinerary with luau. Hawaii travel blog

 

For a Hawaiian luau (aka Hawaiian food and entertainment), you can make it a full day thing with a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center that comes with hands-on activities, or you can make it a thing of a couple of hours by attending an evening luau.

This is a bit further away from the main tourist areas of Oahu. If you want to stay closer to “home” (if you’re staying in Waikiki!), or you don’t want to spend all day on this, then you can find an evening luau in Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the Royal Hawaiian too.

There is also the Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park, which is right near the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail.

Oh, and there’s a fun little free Waikiki hula show on the beach a few nights a week too! (Not comparable to a luau, but another activity to consider!)

 

So these 3 things are top activities on Oahu and are also very much worth considering.

It will just require you to replace one of the activities in your day, so it will depend on your priorities for what you find to be the most important!

But really, I think you can also have a perfect Oahu vacation even if you don’t manage to do these things during your short 3 days on Oahu.

 

And there are some ideas on how to spend 3 days on your trip to Honolulu!

 

Once you ride the bus 1 or 2 times, you’ll feel like a pro! Have a look at how to take the bus on Oahu and things to do by bus from Waikiki.

 

For a Hawaii itinerary for the other Hawaiian islands WITH a car:

 

HAPPY 3 DAYS IN HAWAII!

 

3 days in Oahu itinerary. 3 days in Hawaii. Hawaii on a budget. Best things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii. Best places to visit on Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, windward east side, North Shore. Backpacking Oahu Hawaii travel blog

3 days in Oahu Hawaii itinerary. How to get around Oahu on a budget. Hawaii travel blog

Oahu itinerary. How to spend 3 days in Oahu Hawaii itinerary. Hawaii on a budget. Best things to do on Oahu for first trip to Hawaii. Best places to visit on Oahu. Waikiki, Honolulu, windward east side, North Shore. Backpacking Oahu Hawaii travel blog