ALOHA!

 

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

 

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

 

In simple terms, you can generally think of Honolulu as the name of the city (and county), and you can think of Oahu as the name of the island.

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!

 

 

Oahu itinerary for a first trip to 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

 

 

 

Below is a mini Oahu travel guide and ideas for traveling to Hawaii and ideas on things to do in Oahu.

These activities on the list below can also 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 Oahu beach time, 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.

 

Below you will first find the quick list of some of the top things to do on Oahu.

Then there will be a bit more on how to plan the days, including getting around Oahu on a budget from place to place by using Honolulu public transportation.

 

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

 

 

Is 3 days enough for Oahu?

No, 3 days is not enough for Oahu, because more time is always better. 😉

But 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!

Hopefully below can give you a better idea on how you can plan out your time for these activities during your days on Oahu!

For this plan, you’ll need 3 FULL days in Oahu.

 

 

Now…

11 best things to do in Oahu in 3 days

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

 

 

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
One of the best snorkeling spots in Waikiki

 

 

3. Cycling 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

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Waikiki shopping, Kalakaua Avenue. 3 day Oahu itinerary Waikiki. Hawaii travel blog
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

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - North Shore food truck. 3 day Oahu itinerary North Shore. Hawaii travel blog
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

Oahu itinerary. Best things to do in Oahu Hawaii - Makapuu point lighthouse trail hike, windward Oahu. 3 day Oahu itinerary east Oahu. Hawaii travel blog
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

 

 

And if you’ll be spending more time on Oahu, or you’re just looking for more ideas… also see more things to do on Oahu and how to spend 2 weeks on Oahu without a car!

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!

 

 

Now more below about planning out your days on Oahu!

 

 

🌴

 
More photos/info below, but first...
Side note!
Here's some info on Oahu trip prep!

There are affiliate links on this page.
You can read reviews for the best Oahu tours at getyourguide.


If you can't see the video directly above, save the Oahu video playlist to watch on youtube later!

IMPORTANT!!! If you have plans to do the Diamond Head hike, be sure to check the Hawaii State Parks website before you go. As of May 2022, you must make reservations for Diamond Head.

OAHU TOP 3


UNFORGETTABLE OAHU



 

 

Also…

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’ve probably 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! 

 

 

 

Now…

A few more details on how to further plan your 3 days on Oahu to see if you’ll want to follow this itinerary for your first trip to Hawaii!

 

 

So…

How to put these things into a 3 day Hawaii itinerary?!

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

Waikiki itinerary

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 and Saturdays around sunset.

 

 

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 bike sharing works here. (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:

 

 

Day 2 on Oahu: North Shore

North Shore itinerary

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 Oahu

Windward Oahu (east side)

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

 

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.

Here is the official Hanauma Bay reservation website.

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.

More official Hanauma Bay information.

 

See more for your Oahu itinerary:
 

 

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.

 

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 for your Oahu itinerary: 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 for your Oahu itinerary: 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

 

 

Are you headed to another island in Hawaii from Oahu? More of the best things to do in Hawaii:

There are affiliate links on this page. Among other partners, as an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from this.

Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!

The ultimate beach towel for travel?!
Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phone
You can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!
Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!
Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.

More for your Oahu packing list



ALOHA!