ALOHA!

 

Maybe you have a layover in Honolulu on your way to another Hawaiian island.

Or maybe you’re making a one day trip to Oahu from another Hawaiian island of Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.

Or maybe you have a layover in Honolulu as you’re crossing the Pacific from the US to Asia! Or Asia to the US!

And in case you haven’t thought about it for a future trip, Hawaii does make a perfect layover for a trip to Japan. 😉

 

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Or…

Maybe you’re cruising to Hawaii from California with a cruise port stop in Honolulu.

Or maybe you’re going on a Hawaii only cruise around the Hawaiian islands… and your cruise doesn’t start from Honolulu until the evening so you want to take in as much of Hawaii as you can before it starts or after you get back!

 

When you have just a few hours to explore from the Honolulu airport or from the Honolulu cruise port, there are a few top places to know about!

 

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First, the quick list of places to consider going to that are somewhat near the airport and cruise port.

Then, a sample Honolulu itinerary when you have 12 hours in Honolulu without a rental car!

 

 

🌴

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




PLUS... Oahu tour, or on your own: Can you visit Pearl Harbor without a tour?

 

So…

You’re going to the island of Oahu!

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. flying to HNL Honolulu airport, Oahu. Hawaii travel blog

 

Hawaii has 4 main tourist islands – Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

For Honolulu airport, Oahu is the name of the Hawaiian island that you will be flying into.

Technically, the whole island of Oahu is Honolulu County.

But here we will generally talk about Honolulu as downtown Honolulu only, not referring to the whole island.

 

 

Now…

Some of the best things to do during your layover that aren’t not too far from the Honolulu airport or Honolulu cruise port.

 

Another side note!

If you have extra time and don’t mind renting a car (because you’re only in Hawaii once!) then consider going to one of the beautiful beaches on the east side of Oahu or heading up to the North Shore… and then if you have time left over take a stroll on Waikiki Beach!

Also see more things to do on Oahu.

 

But otherwise…

Where to go?!

 

1. Waikiki

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The main tourist spot on the island of Oahu isn’t actually really downtown Honolulu – it’s Waikiki.

This is where you’ll find the most popular beach – Waikiki Beach – and it’s where the vast majority of Oahu’s beach resorts are located.

 

One day in Honolulu - things to do in Honolulu. sheraton waikiki beach resort with outdoor pool. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

With just a short time in Honolulu, this is definitely an area worth visiting, or at least to highly consider visiting.

The entire Waikiki Beach is around 2 miles long.

It’s possible to walk practically the whole way right along the coast, which will be on both the beach and sidewalk.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. waikiki beach. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

There may be sections that are closed off due to rough waves or something, but even that you can find a short detour that won’t keep you away from coastal views for long.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. waikiki beach sidewalk closed surf. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

For reference, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort would be the part of Waikiki that’s closest to the airport and to the cruise port.

So from the airport or cruise port, you can start your time in Waikiki on the beach along here, and then start making your way to the other end of the beach.

If you are prepared to get in the water, there is also a lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village that is public, and there’s a number of beach items you can rent too even as a non-guest.

 

One day in Honolulu - things to do in Honolulu. hilton hawaiian village beach resort waikiki. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

If you decide to walk along Waikiki Beach, you will also find various restaurants with ocean views too.

 

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You may even spot a turtle in Waikiki!

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. where to see turtles. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

Although really this is luck, but this one was spotted next to the pier in front of the Outrigger Reef hotel.

All beaches in Waikiki are public, so you can also go for a walk and choose to stop for a swim at any area!

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. swimming in waikiki beach. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

If you’re looking for a spot to go snorkeling in Waikiki, the best area would be the Waikiki marine life conservation district.

A beach to reference in this area is Queen’s Beach, and a park to reference in this area is Sans Souci Park.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. snorkeling beach. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

If you won’t have your own snorkeling gear for Hawaii, you can buy a basic snorkeling set at an ABC store.

There are tons of these convenience stores on Waikiki’s main street, Kalakaua Avenue.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. shopping main street. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

And even if you won’t be going there to buy snorkeling gear, at some point, make your way “inland” (which really isn’t inland at all) so you can find an ABC store anyway.

This is the perfect spot to find some Hawaii souvenirs! You can find some quick eats here too, and it’ll be cheaper than going to a restaurant.

 

You can get a direct bus to Waikiki from the airport.

 

If you have time to head outside of Waikiki during your one day in Honolulu, then maybe first go to one of the other places, and then you can spend your remaining time in Waikiki before you need to catch your flight or cruise.

 

 

2. Diamond Head

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This is the most famous hike on Oahu, and it will give you sweeping views of Waikiki Beach.

From the airport, it’ll take a little over an hour to reach by bus, and likely with a transfer.

From the cruise port, it’s about a 40 minute bus ride.

You’ll want to consider whether or not you don’t mind returning to the airport or cruise port all sweaty! 

Hawaii is hot, Diamond Head is an uphill hike, and these things mean that you will definitely be sweating!

Be sure to bring water if you do decide to do this hike.

 

 

3. Pearl Harbor

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. to pearl harbor. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

Pearl Harbor is of great historic significance to US (and global) history, and it can be a reasonable to visit Pearl Harbor on your own if you have a few hours in Honolulu.

From the airport, it’s about a 20-30 minute bus ride.

From the cruise port, it’s more like an hour.

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. national park site as a national memorial.

You could spend 1-2 hours wandering around the grounds, or you could easily spend all day here if you want to do it all. It just really depends on your interests.

See more about visiting Pearl Harbor.

 

 

4. Downtown Honolulu

Unless you have a special interest in one of the museums or cultural history, with just one day in Honolulu, I would say skip downtown Honolulu – Waikiki is far better, I think!

One of the notable attractions in Honolulu is the Iolani Palace – this is where you’ll find the only official royal palace on US soil, as they say.

 

One day in Honolulu - things to do in Honolulu. to iolani palace. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

Another notable attraction if you are a big fan of the Hawaii Five-0 TV show is the King Kamehameha Statue.

 

One day in Honolulu - things to do in Honolulu. to king kamehameha statue. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

You probably have seen it a ton if you watch Hawaii Five-0!

Outside of Honolulu, in Waikiki, another place to go to is the Hilton Hawaiian Village – the show has been frequently filmed there too.

 

 

Now…

What to do with 12 hours in Honolulu

For this sample itinerary, we’ll say you have an airport layover with a flight that arrives in the morning!

  • Hand off your bags to luggage storage
  • Take the bus from the airport to Diamond Head (allow 2 hours to be safe)
  • Hike Diamond Head! (allow 2 hours to be safe)
  • Walk to ABC store in Waikiki (30-40 minutes)
  • Buy snorkel set and snacks
  • Walk to Queen’s Beach
  • Go snorkeling!!
  • Take shower
  • Take bus back to airport (allow 2 hours to be safe)

 

 

Arrive in Honolulu!

One day in Honolulu itinerary - hours layover HNL honolulu airport. what to do with little time. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

 

Luggage storage at Honolulu Airport

If you’ve done carry-on for your flight and you need to leave the airport with your luggage…

There seems to be this professional looking baggage storage service counter at the Honolulu airport.

But in 2017 I went with a man named Dr. Bob. I called him once I reached Honolulu airport and he came and met me at baggage claim.

It felt quite casual and very island life like. 😉

I don’t remember how I learned about him, but the e-mail address I used to contact him is the same one as listed in this very old tripadvisor post. He takes cash only.

I used this luggage storage to hold an empty bike box at the airport for 10 days. (I flew into Honolulu with a bike.) That was $5 a day, so I would expect a one-day suitcase hold to be a bit more than that.

You can e-mail him to find out current rates.

There is also this thing called Waikiki Luggage Storage. I haven’t tried it, but maybe it’s something you want to look into. This would be in Waikiki, not at the airport.

 

 

Take the bus from the airport to Diamond Head

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As soon as your plane lands at Honolulu Airport and you get data service, check Google Maps directions with the “leave now” option from the airport (or current location) to Diamond Head to look at the listed bus timings.

This can help you determine how fast you should move along or if you can take your time in getting to the bus stop.

The bus stop is at the airport itself, and you can ask airport employees if you have trouble locating it. Look for the signs.

Once you get on the bus, just make sure you’re getting on a bus going in the correct direction by asking the bus driver.

Again, it will take you a little over one hour to get to the bus stop near Diamond Head, likely with a bus transfer.

But when you’re on a limited time schedule, you’ll also want to consider waiting time at the bus stop. So it could be good to think that it will take you 2 hours to get to Diamond Head.

The bus stop near Diamond Head is actually outside the crater, while the start of the trail is well inside the crater. So even from the bus stop, it might be an extra 10-15 minute walk to start the trail itself.

When you get on the bus, ask for a single day bus pass since you’ll be taking more than one bus ride. This is $5.50 per person. If you decide to only go by bus one way and only to Waikiki, a single bus ride is $2.75. Confirm the prices.

You’ll need cash and exact change for the bus.

Here is more about taking the bus on Oahu.

 

 

Hike to the Diamond Head crater summit!

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This hike is basically all uphill as you are hiking up to the summit.

Although there are parts that you’ll probably be breathing hard, in general it’s not considered a hard hike.

The hike might take you 1-1.5 hours, but again, it’ll be good to plan at least 2 hours in your schedule when you are limited on time just in case.

 

 

Walk to Waikiki

As long as you’re not too tired, now walk to Waikiki!

This will be a nice 30-40 minute walk in Hawaii.

Or, if that seems like a lot for you after a hike, walk to the nearest bike share station (maybe 20 minutes) and then bike the rest of the way to Waikiki for another unique Hawaii experience!

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. biking in waikiki. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

Biki bike sharing costs $3.50 per 30 minutes, and you can pick up and drop off the bike at different stations. It’s designed for one-way rides!

Here is more about biking sharing in Waikiki.

When you get to Waikiki, locate an ABC store. There are tons of these convenience stores all over Waikiki.

There, you can buy a snorkel set if you don’t have one with you. It’s a good place to load up on water and snacks too.

 

 

Go snorkeling at Queen’s Beach!

Then, you can walk a few minutes to get to the Oahu marine life conservation district area that’s in Waikiki.

You can use lifeguard tower 2F as a reference point.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. snorkeling in waikiki. lifeguard beach. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

There’s a good chance you’ll be swimming with tropical fish around here!

At Sans Souci park, you can find bathrooms where you can change, along with basic showers.

 

 

Hang out around Waikiki

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If you have a little extra time left over, there are plenty of areas on the coast that you can just hang out!

Maybe you want to grab snacks at a convenience store, or maybe you want to go for some food at a restaurant.

You can also just find a spot along the coast to sit and enjoy the views!

Maybe maybe on the grass, maybe at a picnic table, or maybe on the pier!

 

 

Starting to walk from Queen’s Beach (away from Diamond Head – you’ll know which direction that is when you’re there!) is a good area to find a spot to rest.

Another reference point can be around Kuhio Beach, which can also be considered to be a kid-friendly beach as there’s a bit of a wave breaker here.

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. how to spend time in waikiki. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

Kuhio Beach is also near where you can find the Duke Kahanamoku Statue…

 

One day in Honolulu itinerary - things to do in Honolulu. duke kahanamoku statue in waikiki. Oahu Hawaii travel blog

 

And if you’ll be in Waikiki with time on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday evening, there’s usually a free hula show here too!

 

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Take the bus back to the airport

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Once again, it could be good to allow for 2 hours.

Or if you’re ready to get back to the airport immediately, you can call an Uber too!

 

 

And there’s your one day near the Honolulu airport or near the Honolulu cruise port!

 

 

And if you want more ideas for exploring around Honolulu in one day (some spots will be better with a rental car), be sure to see…

 

If you want to choose just ONE activity to do with your one day on Oahu without a car, then you may also want to look at this list of where you can go by bus on Oahu. Because you don’t have a lot of time and because it takes longer to get around by bus, going to just one spot may be the safer option! But those are some more options in case you’re looking! Allow extra time on either end (start and end of day) just in case! And remember there’s uber as a back-up plan if you must!

 

Looking for more ideas in Hawaii? Also see…!

 

HAPPY ONE DAY IN HONOLULU!

 

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Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!

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Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
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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!
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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.

ALOHA!