Spending 3 days in Oahu is a fantastic way to experience the Hawaiian vibes and celebrate the natural landscapes of this incredible place.
For most first-time visitors to Hawaii, this is where they will choose to stay, as it offers the most extensive accommodation options and so many things to do.
If you’re traveling to Oahu, know that the island is a fantastic destination at any time of the year and provides the perfect combination of relaxing resorts, Hawaiian culture, and natural attractions.
Today we are going to share with you our perfect 3-Day Oahu Itinerary. Of course, travel is all about enjoying the activities that make you happy, so pick and choose to fit your needs best!
We will also share tips for having a perfect vacation, a handy summary of this itinerary, and what to do after your 3 days in Oahu.
Wondering how to spend 3 days in Oahu, Hawaii? Let’s get to it!
Complete itinerary for Oahu in Hawaii
Feel free to copy this Oahu trip planning or to adjust it to your interests. While this guide is meant to people who want to experience Oahu in 3 days, you can always stretch your trip a bit and visit one of the beaches we mention at the bottom of the itinerary.
This way, you can easily spend 4 days in Oahu, having a pretty laid-back last day on the island.
Tips for having a perfect time in Oahu
- For this itinerary, we would highly recommend you rent a car. This will make traveling around the island so much easier. In case you don’t drive, no need to worry as there is public transportation available on the island.
- There are also plenty of tours online, combining many of the sites mentioned below into single-day tours. Here are some tours you might consider checking out to learn and enjoy Oahu even better:
- The Hawaiian Islands are abundant in nature and mind-blowing landscapes. To preserve that, we must respect nature, so please don’t litter and leave nothing behind but footsteps and smiles.
Oahu itinerary Day 1: An introduction to Oahu
Kick off your day at Highway Inn for breakfast with traditional Hawaiian dishes.
Then, we recommend starting your adventure with a trip to Pearl Harbor, a World War II site.
Tickets can be purchased in advance, and this is highly recommended as it’s the most visited historic site on the island. You can also go on a guided tour to learn more about the history of the place.
All tours will include a ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial program. You will be taken by a shuttle boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial, and this is the highlight of the day for most visitors.
Before your boat ride, you’ll watch an informative 23 minute documentary about the events that happened here.
Also, make sure you factor in plenty of time for walking around the site and taking in all the displays. Your visit here will last approximately 2-3 hours in total.
Make sure to take as much time as possible during your 3 days in Oahu to explore the Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital.
Some places in this area you might want to add to your itinerary are the Aloha Tower–10-story lighthouse and a Hawaiian landmark–and Iolani Palace, which was the royal residence for the previous rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
In the afternoon, head over to the Dole Plantation. This famous pineapple plantation offers lots of fun activities and is one of the best attractions to visit when traveling with kids.
It is a lot of fun riding the Pineapple Express Train and seeing more of the site. Following that, enjoy getting lost in the Pineapple Garden Maze – it’s a massive maze and fun for all ages!
Leave time at the end of your visit to try the world-famous Dole Whip. If you’ve never had one before, you’re in for a treat! It’s a pineapple soft-serve ice cream, and you can get them in many different forms and sizes here.
Their giant Country Store is perfect for picking up souvenirs for your family back home, with lots of tasty and unique treats to choose from.
As the evening comes around, catch the sunset at Magic Island near Ala Moana, then spend some time enjoying the sights and sounds of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.
Kalakaua Avenue–along Waikiki Beach–is an extensive road packed with dining venues and bars, and the shops are of really high-quality.
Take a sunset stroll along the beach walk, and then refuel yourself with a fresh and tasty dinner. We loved the food at Cheeseburger In Paradise.
It’s located on the beachfront, and everything that we ordered here was very delicious—especially their coconut shrimp and tuna steak.
If you’re also visiting either Maui or Kauai during your trip to Hawaii, which we highly recommend, then you have to click here and read more helpful information.
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Oahu itinerary Day 2: Exploring Oahu’s beautiful nature
3 days in Oahu is a solid amount of time to get a taste of the abundant nature in the region, and on day 2, we will cover more of that.
Start your day bright and early with a delicious breakfast at Koko Head Café. Koko Head is a brunch spot run by the famous chef Lee Anne Wong.
Then hike to the Diamond Head Crater, which is a volcanic crater with an old military defense post at the top.
It’s a very popular hiking trail to do for sunrise, so you should consider going just afterward, where you’ll still enjoy the amazing views but will have to deal with fewer crowds.
It’s about a one hour hike, and reasonably easy although quite uphill. The views over to the Waikiki Beach and Downtown Honolulu are well worth the climb, and it’s one of the most popular hikes on the island, which is simply a must-do.
After all, there is nothing better to do in Oahu than hiking among its lush and abundant nature.
Next up, hop in the car or a bus and head over to Hanauma Bay. This is one of the most popular places to go snorkeling around Hawaii’s famous coral reefs. Take some cash with you as you have to pay for admission to the park.
The marine life here is fantastic, and we were lucky enough to see a lot of fish during our time there, snorkeling! The waters are perfectly clear, and if you arrive early in the morning after your hike, it will be less crowded.
One thing to remember is to wear reef-safe sunscreen. This is enforced throughout Hawaii and is essential for the wellbeing of the oceans and animals.
These are reef-safe sunscreen and eco-friendly products we love and are available on Amazon.
After a morning of swimming, continue driving to Kualoa Ranch. This is a private nature reserve that is best known as the site of the Jurassic World movies.
Other movies that were filmed here include Godzilla, 50 First Dates, LOST, Jurassic World, and Hawaii Five-0.
The tour options here are extensive, but our favorite has to be the Hollywood Movie Sites Tour.
The tour guides go into details about the movie sites, and you see many props and fun sets from the movies. There is an excellent café on site, so before heading out on tour, enjoy the burgers and lunch options here.
You really could spend all day at this spot, and if you have time, the ATV Raptor Tour and E-Mountain Bike Tour are other great options. You can buy different packages combining activities, and we’d definitely recommend planning and booking ahead.
After a busy day, head back to your hotel to freshen up and rest for a few hours. As the evening comes around, venture out to see a traditional Hawaiian Luau. A great option is the Paradise Cove Luau, located on the west side of Oahu in Ko Olina.
The evening starts off with interactive activities for all the family, and then the luau itself starts. A roasted pig is unveiled, and the buffet is extensive with typical Hawaii food, such as salmon, pork, poi, and many sides.
The performance is a lively event and will be a memory to remember!
The other top choice for a Luau on the island is at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The dance performances and storytelling at the Polynesian Cultural Center are fantastic, and the food is once again of high quality.
Oahu itinerary Day 3: Further exploration of the island
As you can see, there is so much to keep you entertained during your 3 days in Oahu that you could easily spend a week on this island alone.
Start off your last morning on the island by having delicious malasadas for breakfast at Leonard’s Bakery. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts that are deep-fried dough rolled in sugar.
Then, get ready for another hike, and this time it’s the Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail). This was our favorite hike on the island, with the most rewarding views at the end.
It’s a little more challenging than Diamond Head from yesterday, as it has a steep climb at the start of the trailhead.
You will witness many amazing views during the climb, including Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, and the Mokulua Islands. Depending on your fitness level, the round trip will take between 60 and 90 minutes.
While sitting on a pillbox, appreciate the military history that you are witnessing before heading back down.
Next up, drive to the Byodo-in Temple. This was an unexpected site for us on the island, as it’s a non-denominational Buddhist temple within the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park.
It commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first immigrants from Japan to Hawaii. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place to explore, and definitely worth the trip.
They will not only let you swim with sharks in open waters but, most importantly, educate you about sharks and tell you a lot of interesting facts about them. The whole activity itself took us about two hours.
They take you out to the dive spot by boat, and the clear water will afford you views of the fantastic wildlife. You’ll spend about 30 minutes swimming in the water, and groups can go together.
If you have an underwater camera, you’ll definitely want to capture this moment! Even though it’s a pricey activity, it’s definitely something that you should consider doing while in Oahu as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For those looking to stay away from the sharks, head to the North Shore for lunch today. The North Shore is well known for its surfing contest and massive waves.
Enjoy lunch in Haleiwa town, and afterward, you can browse the shops and art galleries here.
If you enjoy sweet treats, head to Waialua Bakery for an afternoon snack to take with you, and no trip to Hawaii is complete without shave ice from Matsumoto Shave Ice.
Don’t forget to try out famous Giovanni’s’ Shrimp Truck; this food truck on the North Shore is most famous for its delicious garlic shrimp. There was a long line before it even opened.
Pssst: The Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore is a massive hotel complex with restaurants, a spa, and a golf course. If you want to make it a memorable trip, you might want to find an oceanview room at this incredible resort.
If you have the energy, we’d recommend taking the last hike of your 3 days in Oahu to the Manoa Waterfall. It’s a straightforward and popular trail, so don’t worry if you are a little tired!
The whole walk will take between one to two hours, and it will depend on how muddy the trail is and how fit you are. You may want to spend some additional time cooling off near the waterfall.
This activity is more about the journey itself rather than the destination. The trail leading up to the waterfall is stunning, and you’ll be surrounded by unique Hawaiian nature.
In the afternoon, head over to the Polynesian Cultural Center. This is a fantastic place to learn about Polynesian culture and history and its relation to the islands.
You can spend most of the afternoon or even a day here, exploring the Pacific Islands’ heritage. The site is 42 acres in size, and there are many fun hands-on activities for kids and adults.
Travel between the six different villages and meet natives who will share with you their culture through music and dance. This is also one of the spots we mentioned for a Luau, so if you missed one last night, you could extend your visit today.
On-site, there is also an exciting evening show called HA: Breath of Life. It features over 100 performers and fire stunts.
There are various packages combining admissions and presentations, so check out their website before arriving to get the best prices on tickets. In our opinion, watching this evening show is a MUST.
For your final night, enjoy a nice dinner and time to unwind in Waikiki or your resort area. There are so many great bars and dining options throughout the island, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
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Summary of 3 days in Oahu, Hawaii
- Breakfast at Highway Inn
- Take a tour at Pearl Harbor
- Explore Downtown Honolulu, including Aloha Tower and Iolani Palace
- Ride the Pineapple Express Train at Dole Plantation
- Buy your family souvenirs at Country Store
- Catch the sunset at Magic Island
- Dine in one of the beachfront restaurants at Waikiki Beach–we loved the Cheeseburger in Paradise
- Breakfast at Koko Head Café
- Hike the Diamond Head Crater
- Snorkel in Hanauma Bay
- Take a tour at Kualoa Ranch
- Experience a Hawaiian Luau in Paradise Cove Luau
- Breakfast at Leonard’s Bakery
- Hike the Lanikai Pillbox (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)
- Take in the Byodo-in Temple
- Dive with sharks (Prefer something less adventurous? Have a late lunch in the North Shore)
- Have shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice
- Try the garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s’ Shrimp Truck
- Unwind at Manoa Waterfall
- Have a cultural afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Beaches to visit on the island
Your 3 days in Oahu would not be complete without spending some time at one of the many beaches.
If you are staying for longer on the island, consider spreading out the above itinerary to factor in more beach and rest time by your hotel’s pool. Here are our top Oahu beaches:
- Lanikai Beach – located in the town of Kailua, it’s one of the most famous beaches of Oahu. The waters are really calm here, so it’s perfect for swimming.
- Waikiki Beach – the most iconic beach on the island, and one of the most well-known beaches in the world. We loved strolling along the Waikiki Beach and enjoying the nightlife and the views out to Diamond Head.
- Kailua Beach – just thirty minutes away from Honolulu, this public park on the East coast offers plenty of facilities for an enjoyable day out. It’s tranquil, especially on weekdays, and there are many water activities such as sailing, swimming, and snorkeling on offer.
- Waimea Bay – located on the North Shore near the Sunset Beach, this beach is famous for its 25-foot waves from October through April each year. There are many surf competitions held here during the year, including the Vans Triple Crown Surfing competition. In the summer months, this is an excellent location for swimming and scuba diving. While here, you might want to check out Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp and fruit smoothie–it’s delicious!
Got some extra time on the island? Then, check out some other popular attractions in the Honolulu area, such as the Punchbowl Crater, a site of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the Ala Moana Center, an open-air shopping mall.
What to do after your 3 days in Oahu
- Explore the Big Island with its fantastic beaches, resorts, coffee farms, and rainforests.
- Discover the green hills from Kauai and its magical waterfalls.
- Unwind in Maui, a low-key island with forest reserves, incredible hiking trails, and pristine beaches.
Wrapping up on the 3 days in Oahu
While 3 days is just enough to get a taste of Oahu, we hope this itinerary will help you plan a perfect trip to Hawaii.
Your trip to Oahu can easily be paired with other islands such as Maui and Kauai and has excellent links with many cities in the US by air.
The hotel, Airbnb, and apartment options here are endless, with many varied resort areas to stay in.
Remember, travel is all about enjoying a new destination, so tailor the above itinerary to fit your needs and interests. One thing for sure, you’ll never run out of things to do on Oahu, and you’ll be wanting to return the minute you leave this gorgeous island!
About the author
Hello there, my name is Diana! I’m a Travel Blogger at Travelling with Diana, and I’m busy exploring our beautiful world and building my home in Bulgaria. I share travel guides and very helpful tips to inspire you to travel more. My goal is to show you that you don’t need a travel agency to explore our magical planet. You can follow more of my adventures in real-time on my Instagram.
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