5 Days on O’ahu Island Hawaii – Things To Do On Oahu Island
What you can do in 5 Days on Oahu Island Hawaii
There are many beautiful destinations in this world but only a few stand out from the crowd and stay embedded in your consciousness.
On a grey and miserable day, you can close your eyes and take yourself back there and feel fortunate to have seen it. O’ahu Island of Hawaii is such a memorable paradise for us.
We based ourselves in a hotel at Waikiki Beach and rented a silver coloured Mercedes Benz E350 Convertible to uncover the island’s true beauty.
You really have to go beyond Waikiki Beach!
Click here to see our video called “Beautiful Oahu” which is a comment free mix of many of the sights and sounds we discovered on Oahu including music from local musicians and at the end you can see the famous fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The morning of our first day we walked and enjoyed some time at Waikiki Beach. Overall the beach was good but a little too crowded for us.
In the afternoon we headed to the south of Waikiki to Kapiolani Park.
The park is named after Queen Kapiolani, the wife of King Kalākaua who was the last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawai’i in the 19th century. The park offers the perfect contrast to the busy Waikiki Beach area. You can find various green spaces to relax and get away from the crowds. There are also sporting courts inside the park and an amphitheater that is used for occasional live performances.
The beach opposite the park was also less busy than Waikiki Beach and the waves of the sea were strong enough for light surfing.
Follow this link to see our short video in which we will show you some parts of the Kapiolani Park
On the second day we headed to East O’ahu. The first stop was at the Spitting Cave of Portlock which is a real hidden gem. You really have to know where to go to find it. It is located at the end of Lumaha’i street in the Koko Head area.
We parked the car in the residential area at the end of the street and headed down a small path. You can easily miss this so if you are planning to visit the spitting caves of Portlock, have a look at our video here. You can see the entrance near the end of the video.
The walk from the residential area to the cave viewing platform takes less than 5 minutes. From there you can see the clear blue ocean water smashing into the cave and how it is then “spat” out again. This spot was great to get away from people. We were all alone. You can even sit down at the viewing platform which is formed out of volcanic rock and enjoy the view of Diamond Head.
Sadly, this viewpoint is also known for many cliff jumpers who have lost their lives there. It brings home simultaneously the true beauty, danger and raw power of nature.
Approximate address near the entrance to the Spitting Cave of Portlock: 7 Lumahai St, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
From the spitting cave of Portlock we headed further East and drove along the Kalanianaole Highway 1 (or also known as 72) to the Makapu’u Lookout. There are several viewpoints in between, however, the Makapu’u Lookout seemed to be the best as you can enjoy an amazing view of the turquoise ocean water and the sea cliffs at Makapu’u Beach. There was also a parking lot.
If you have more time to spare then you can hike up to Makapu’u Point and the Lighthouse. During the whale season, which is from mid-December to May, you might even be able to see whales from Makapu’u Point.
After the lookout we headed north. Initially wanted to visit Kailua Town but as it seemed very busy we continued our drive to the north along the Kahekili Highway (83) to the Valley of the Temples. The Valley is a big cemetery. On the one hand you can see some interesting Japanese gravestones and on the other hand you can see several temples. The best temple is the Byodo-In Temple. The independent Buddhist temple is a replica of a 950 year-old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan.
On our arrival in the valley, there was a little mist in the air which made it seem very mystical and serene. Around the temple is a lake where you can see turtles, koi fish, ducks and other creatures. This temple really stands out, especially when compared to numerous we have seen in Asia. Before you enter the temple, make sure you ring the giant bell. Apparently it is customary to do so and it brings happiness and blessings from Buddha.
There is a small entrance fee to the temple grounds. Currently (Sep 2014) USD 3.00 for adults, USD 2.00 for seniors and USD 1.00 per child.
Click here to see our video of the temple
Follow this link to visit the website of the temple
After the temple we drove further to the north and looked at the Chinaman’s Hat. You can see the Chinaman’s Hat from the mainland inside the Kualoa Beach Park.
The Chinaman’s Hat is an unpopulated offshore island that looks like the name suggest. There are various parking spots at the park, picnic tables and toilets. You can go for a swim or enjoy a barbeque like the locals on their days off.
Following the Chinaman’s Hat we continued our journey until we saw the majestic palace that turned out to be the Mormon temple called “La’ie Hawaii Temple”. You can read the entire story here.
After the Mormon temple we continued to La’ie point which is a great spot during sunset as the light beautifully highlights the nearby offshore islands. One of the islands has a giant whole inside the rock which occurred due to a big tsunami in 1946. We also witnessed some real cliff jumpers at La’ie Point.
Click here to see our video filmed at Chinaman’s Hat and La’ie Point
On the third day we headed via Highway 1 to Pearl Harbor. The initial visitor’s area at Pearl Harbor is open to the public for free, however, visitors have to pay to visit the special museums, i.e. the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. For us the free area was more than enough as you can see several exhibits. Pearl Harbor was very busy so make sure you get there early.
According to the Pearl Harbor website, there are also each day 2,000 free tickets given out, on a first come first serve basis, to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Check their website prior to your visit for any information on the prices.
Click here to see our video which gives you quick insight into the Visitor Area.
Important: They do not allow large bags like back bags on the premises. However, there are storage facilities. Never leave any valuables in your car in Oahu. There are many car break-ins as local police warned us.
Follow this link to see the website of Pearl Harbor Historic Sites
Address of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96701
From Pearl Harbor we drove to central O’ahu and stopped just after Wahiawa on Hwy 80 at the intersection Hwy 80/ Whitmore Avenue. There is a dirt path that leads into a field. We parked the car at the beginning before a barrier and walked 5 minutes until we reached our destination. It was the site of the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones.
You could see several big rocks set on the red soil within a square like area. Around the square were some palm trees. Some stones even had some Hawaiian flowers on them.
The site is the most sacred place for the Hawaiian people. In ancient Hawaii, the royals would come here to give birth and nowadays Hawaiians come here to pray and chant.
We were there on a weekday and again there was no one else around which made it even more special.
Follow this link to see our video filmed at the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones
Not many tourists get out here and most only visit the centre to see the nearby Dole Plantation. From the Birthing Stones it is only a short drive to the Dole Plantation. You just have to head north and eventually join Hwy 99. We reached the Dole Plantation around midday.
Our first stop at the Plantation was the World’s Largest Maze. Unlike a traditional maze where you would enter at one side and try to find your exit point, this one is set up in a way that one has to find several stations in different sections. We did not find it as exciting as a traditional maze but it probably is great fun to do with kids. Just don’t go there during the height of the day, because it can get very hot. At the plantation you can also visit an open area where you can see various pineapple plants and you can pay to take the pineapple express around the plantation. You can see our video filmed at the Dole Plantation here.
Follow this link to visit the website of the Dole Plantation
Address of the Dole Plantation: 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786
After the Dole Plantation we drove further north to the Banzai Pipeline. The Banzai Pipeline is a surfer’s paradise. The waves are really big there especially in the winter. The location of the Pipeline is across the street from the Sunset Beach Elementary School on Hwy 83.
From the Banzai Pipeline we drove back south and before heading back to Honolulu, we stopped at Turtle Beach. The Beach is located midway between Waimea Bay and the town called Hale’iwa.
We parked on the other side of the street and walked to it from there. As the name suggests, it is famous for turtles. You can see giant turtles there. You can also see one at the end of our North Shore Video here.
Address near turtle beach: 61-635 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712 (if you are heading into the direction of Hale’iwa then the beach is just before the address – there are usually some cars parked across the street from there)
The fourth day we drove to East O’ahu to visit the Koko Crater Botanical Garden which is a big outdoor botanical garden located inside the crater. It houses various species of plants and some flowers. You can hike around the entire garden. The entire hike is approximately 2 miles long.
Follow this link to see our video of the Botanical Garden
The garden is located at the end of Kokonani St., Honolulu, HI 96825, Oahu
Note: Don’t visit during the height of the day because it can be very hot.
In the late afternoon we drove in about 20 minutes from Waikiki to the Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park. The state Park has an amazing viewpoint that is very romantic during sunset. Once the pink sky starts to set an end to the day, you can see how the lights are being light in Honolulu. From the viewpoint you can even see all the way to Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor.
The state park is located along the Tantalus/Round Top Drive which is one of the most scenic drives on the island. We did not actually do the entire drive on the fourth day as we enjoyed the sunset and thereafter drove back down to the city.
In the morning we headed back to do the entire Tantalus/Round Top Drive starting off Makiki Street all the way to the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery.
We also stopped at Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park to see the view in the morning and at this time we were actually able to clearly see Pearl Harbor which was a little burned out by the sun during sunset.
The drive is actually best done in the morning because the light is better. You are being transported from the city up into the mountains and suddenly drive through the rainforest which is pretty cool.
Driving into the cemetery at the end felt weird. It wasn’t like the drive into the Valley of the Temples. It left you rather sad because these graves were the ones of fallen soldiers rather than someone dying from a natural death.
After the Cemetery we headed to the West. We found the west of the island less scenic. It also seemed to be a poorer area. Near the westernmost tip of the island, called Ka’ena Point a friendly police officer warned us not to leave any valuables in the car which, as mentioned earlier, is true for the entire island.
The police officer also said that tourists often head out on their last day before they fly back home and that is when the cars often get broken into. As the tourists have little time left, it is unlikely that they stick around to file a proper report/press charges. So watch your stuff in O’ahu.
Other than the westernmost point of O’ahu our destination in the West was a little known beach called ‘Ohiki-lolo Beach. We parked the car opposite the entry point of the Makua Cave and then walked down towards the beach. There was a trail before the shoreline and we walked to the left and reached the beach in about 10 minutes. The beach was beautiful and there were various rock pools where you could see colourful fish swimming through the crystal clear water. There was only one local lady who warned us again about the car break ins.
This beach (see last image on this page) is definitely worth seeing you just have to make sure that you drive there with someone to watch the car.
Address of the Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave): Farrington Hwy, HI 96792. You have to walk towards the sea when you see the stone with the inscription Kaneana.
Having said all that about car break-ins, we generally found the Hawaiians very friendly.
At the end of the day I (Kristin) headed to the Hilton Hawaiian Village to see the Polynesian show whilst Paul changed our convertible into a vehicle that was more suitable for our entire luggage for the run back to the airport. The show starts every Friday at the Super Pool at 7.00 pm. If you want to see the show, make sure you are there a bit earlier to get a good spot because the hotel had the poolside seating area fenced off. You can still see the entire show behind the barrier but you have to stand.
If you would rather sit then you can purchase a ticket for the poolside seating area on the day from 6.00 pm (currently USD 20.00). If you are a hotel guest then you can actually purchase the ticket earlier.
Whilst I was waiting for the show to begin, I got to speak with some people from Yorkshire in England and a Chinese lady that now lives in the US. The good folk of Yorkshire are known for being careful with their money and understandably they did not like the fenced off bit around the pool. They were there many years ago and at that time they did not charge for the special seats in front of the pool. Everything used to be open to the public. On top of that they had to pay a daily resort fee at the Hilton Hawaiian Hotel… The Chinese lady chipped in that for her the shopping was the best part of Hawaii.
When I watched the approx. 5 minute firework display after the show at the beach near the Super Pool, I thought to myself how lucky we have been to being able see all these sights and hidden places without the normal masses and without a resort fee.