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The Ultimate 4 Day Oahu Adventure Itinerary

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Hawaii is the ultimate definition of paradise. A mix of white and golden sandy beaches, turquoise water, palm trees, dolphins, sea turtles, cocktails, surfing, hiking adventures.. the list could go on and on.

But if there’s SO much to do, how in the world do you choose how to spend your time there?!

Couple in the water on Lanikai Beach Oahu at sunrise

I’ve created this 4 day Oahu Itinerary to help you plan the most amazing trip to Hawaii ever! Dave and I spent about a week on Oahu and had SUCH a great time. I have taken all of the best spots and activities that we did in our week long trip and fit them into this 4 day itinerary. I have also included where to stay and where to eat for each day you that you spend on the island of Oahu.

If you love adventure travel, then this itinerary is for you!

girl standing at Crouching Lion Viewpoint on Oahu

Everything You Need to Know

Oahu 4 Day Itinerary Overview

Day 1
1. Turtle Bay Resort
2. Kuilima Cove
3. Sunset at Sunset Beach

Day 2
1. Sunrise Shack
2. Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove
3. Experience a Luau

Day 3
1. Crouching Lion Hike
2. Kualoa Ranch
3. Relax at the beach

Day 4
1. Lanikai Beach
2. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
3. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

🏝 Which Hawaiian island is this itinerary for?

This 4 day itinerary is for a trip to the island of Oahu which is the main island of Hawaii and the most popular one that people think of when planning a trip to Hawaii.

For the purpose of getting to know Oahu, I am going to split the island up into 2 parts, the North Shore and the East Coast. If you choose to follow this itinerary, I recommend spending 2 nights in each, with the option of a bonus night in Waikiki at the end of your trip (this is what we did). Alternatively, you could choose one hotel for the entire 4 days and do day trips out to different parts of the island.

Makapu'u Point on Oahu
Makapu’u Point

✈ Where to fly into

To get to Oahu, you will need to fly into Honolulu International Airport which is the main airport in Hawaii. For many of the other islands, you will need to fly into Honolulu first and get a connecting flight to the other islands, however some islands now have direct flights from certain US airports.

Getting Around the Island of Oahu

Driving

For this itinerary, I recommend renting a car from the airport so you can explore the island easily. The hardest part about driving on Oahu is when you initially leave the airport and get straight onto the highway. Once you have left the main busyness of Honolulu, the rest of the island is a bit less hectic.

Public Transport

If you choose not to rent a car, but you still want to get around the island, you can use the Oahu bus system. This will mean that you will need to plan ahead a little more to make sure that you don’t miss any buses but you can still reach many of the popular tourist destinations.

Join a Tour

Although you won’t get to follow this exact itinerary, you could join a tour to explore the island of Oahu. Some of the best Oahu tours are:

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📆 When is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii?

The “best” time to visit Hawaii will really depend on what you want to do while you are there. For this specific itinerary, the best time to visit is anytime between the months July – October or you could stretch to the months between May – November. In other words, outside of Winter so that you can enjoy the snorkeling on Oahu while the water is calmer.

Winter in Hawaii

Winter is the best time to visit to see the surfing competitions in Hawaii because this is when the swell is biggest. Winter is not ideal for snorkeling as the swell is so large, however if you know where to look, you might be able to find some good snorkeling spots during Winter. Morning is usually the best time to go snorkeling as the ocean is at its calmest.

Spring in Hawaii

Spring is a great time to visit Hawaii as this is the start of the dry season and when the temperatures begin to heat up reaching the high 70s and low 80s Fahrenheit which is 21 – 27 Celsius. There are also less crowds during Spring as opposed to Summer and you may be able to find some travel deals and save some money when booking your trip.

Summer in Hawaii

Summer is the most popular and therefore the busiest time on Oahu for tourists. This is because the weather is nice and hot and beautiful. You will find that accommodation and likely flights are most expensive during Summer.

Fall in Hawaii

The water temperature is warmest in September and October in Hawaii and the overall temperature outside is still warm too. The crowds start to die off after the crazy Summer period. In other words, after reading up on it, Fall seems like a wonderful time to visit Hawaii. We visited Hawaii in Summer so were able to experience to crazy crowds but I’m thinking next time we might try Fall.

You may still get some rainfall during Fall/Autumn in Hawaii but it’s a tropical part of the world so can only be expected.

💁‍♀️ How Many Days to Spend on Oahu

There is a lot to see and do on Oahu and of course you probably want to spend a bit of time relaxing as well. I think that 5 or 6 days on Oahu would be perfect but 4 days is definitely doable too!

🛌 Where to Stay

I want to start by saying that there are more places to stay on Oahu besides Waikiki.

During your 4 days on Oahu, if you decide to use this itinerary, I recommend staying 2 nights on the North Shore and 2 nights on the East Coast in the town of Kailua. There are loads of short term apartment rental options in Kailua but not really any actual hotels or resorts!

Hopefully, you then have time for 1 additional night in Waikiki to enable you to spend 1 day in Waikiki.

North Shore Accommodation

Kailua (East Coast) Accommodation

🎒 4 Day Oahu Packing List

When planning a trip to Oahu, you are going to want to make sure you bring along everything you need to make the most out of your trip. This means the right walking shoes, swimsuit, adventure clothes and nice clothes to eat out in and even your snorkel set if you have your own.

I have put together the below list to help you pack your bags for your 4 Day Oahu Trip!

  • Sun dress
  • Comfy shorts
  • Comfy tops
  • Summer Pjs
  • Comfy Pants

How to Spend 4 Days on Oahu

Are you ready to road trip around Oahu?!

This sample Hawaii itinerary involves adventurous activities such as hiking and snorkeling, as well as cocktails and beach time. Your flight time may vary from ours slightly so you might need to adjust the itinerary timing. When Dave and I flew into Honolulu, we landed in the morning so I am basing day 1 off of this timing.

Day 1

Day 1 will be nice and relaxing because you are bound to be exhausting after your flight. I know we were!

Morning – Airport to Turtle Bay Resort (1 hour drive)

After you have picked up your rental car from the airport, it’s time to head straight up to the North Shore. The drive from Honolulu International Airport to Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore is about 1 hour. Dave and I found this drive pretty brutal as we had just got off a red eye flight from Australia which neither of us slept on.

We actually ended up stopping along the way at the Polynesian Cultural Centre to get some food and have a little nap in the carpark.

Midday – Check out Turtle Bay and relax on the beach

Turtle Bay Resort

Once you arrive at Turtle Bay Resort, you can either have lunch here or if you are a fan of the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” just pop in and have a look. This is the hotel where the movie was filmed and the only resort on the North Shore of Oahu.

Turtle Bay Resort view from window
View from reception of Turtle Bay Resort
Lunch at Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi

There is  a beach bar called Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi where you can get food and drinks. This is the first place that we ate at and it made us feel like we were suddenly on a tropical vacation.

Beach House by Roy Yamaguchi
Relax and swim at Kuilima Cove

Once you have filled up on delicious food and cocktails, grab your swimsuit and a towel and head down to the beach at Kuilima Cove. Here you will find a nice grassy area underneath some palm trees in the shade to chill out and relax at. This is where Dave and I had our second nap and it was such a good one.

After recovering from the food, you can take a dip in the water to cool off. The heat in Hawaii is no joke so you will definitely need it!

Depending on where in the world you are travelling from, you may or may not be completely exhausted like we were. Take your time to relax and recuperate your energy for day 2.

Afternoon – Dinner and Sunset

You can choose to do these either way around depending on how hungry you are. In Hawaii, the sun sets at around 7pm in Summer so we found it pretty hard to decide whether to have dinner before or after.

Dinner

There are not many restaurants located up on the North Shore itself, except for some food trucks near Shark’s Cove and the restaurants at Turtle Bay Resort.

Instead, I recommend driving down East a little to Kahuku. Here, you will find some great restaurants such as the Kahuku Grill, which serves American/Hawaiian Food and Seven Brothers, which has incredible ratings, serves American and is vegetarian friendly.

Sunset at Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach lives up to its name! It is one of the best places to watch the sunset on Oahu Hawaii. From Turtle Bay Resort, the drive to Sunset Beach is about 10 minutes.

Once you get there, you can park in the Sunset Beach Parking lot which also has a bathroom. The beach itself is super popular at sunset so don’t expect to have it to yourself, especially not during the busy Summer months.

sunset beach at sunset on Oahu

Day 2

On day 2, you will get to go snorkeling, experience a Luau AND check out some of the famous food trucks of Oahu. If you try anything while you are in Hawaii, let it be the Garlic Shrimp from one of the food trucks because me oh my it is delicious!

Morning – Breakfast and snorkeling

Breakfast at the Sunrise Shack

Get all of your snorkeling gear ready to go and head over to your breakfast spot, which just so happens to be right next to your snorkeling spot.

One of the most popular and Insta-famous breakfast spots on the North Shore of Oahu is the Sunrise Shack. Located at Shark’s Cove, it is super convenient because you will be snorkeling at Shark’s Cove! Don’t worry though, it’s not called Shark’s Cove because there are sharks.

At the Sunrise Shack, you can get really interesting coffees (just check out their menu!) healthy shots, smoothies and superfood smoothie bowls.

Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove is one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu. If you don’t have your own snorkeling gear (mask and fins), you can rent some from Surf N Sea which is not too far away from Shark’s Cove. While you are snorkeling, look out for sea turtles! This Oahu snorkeling spot does get pretty busy, so I recommend trying to get there as early as possible.

Girl snorkeling with a sea turtle in Hawaii

Midday – Lunch at the food trucks

For lunch, you can head across the road to the food trucks. There is lots of different types of food available but I highly recommend trying the Garlic Shrimp because you can’t go to Hawaii without having the Garlic Shrimp at least once.

Afternoon / Evening – Luau

Experiencing a Luau while you are in Hawaii, is something that you can’t miss! This Luau starts at 5pm where you will be immersed in Hawaiian culture with dance performances, dinner, and entrance to Waimea Valley.

Couple at a Luau in Hawaii

Day 3

Day 3 will have you moving onto the East side of Oahu. Along the way, you will get to do an incredible but short hike where you will get absolutely stunning views of the mountains and the blue ocean. You will also be visiting Kualoa Ranch.

Morning – Breakfast and Crouching Lion Hike

Breakfast at the Farm To Barn Cafe & Juicery in Haleiwa

Unless you are super keen to have breakfast at the Sunrise Shack again, which, if you are I don’t blame you, you could try the Farm to Barn Café and Juicery. This café has a lovely outdoor seating area and amazing food such as bagels, waffles, avocado on toast and more!

Crouching Lion Hike (from Farm to Barn Cafe: 1 hour drive)

Distance: 0.8km / 0.5 miles Time: 1-2 hours Elevation: 90m / 300 ft

Couple sitting at the top of the Crouching Lion Hike on Oahu

The Crouching Lion Hike is a classic, with absolutely awesome views overlooking the Hawaiian mountains and ocean, although the trail is technically “closed.” From the Farm to Barn Café to the Crouching Lion trailhead, it is about a 1 hour drive.

The trail is extremely short, but steep. I recommend wearing enclosed shoes with some grip if you have some.

Midday – Kualoa Ranch (from Crouching Lion: 7 mins drive)

Visiting Kualoa Ranch is one of the best things to do on Oahu and I still have the biggest regrets that we didn’t visit. Kualoa Ranch is one of the filming sites for many blockbuster movies such as Jurassic Park and King Kong!

Some of the things you can do in the park include:

Afternoon – Arrive in Kailua and relax on the beach (from Kualoa Ranch: 35 mins drive)

Once you arrive in Kailua, if you haven’t already had lunch, definitely go grab something to eat from the town first. Kailua is very residential so the town has plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes.

Go check out Kailua Beach Park or Kalama Beach Park. These parks are right next to each other and have lovely still water which you can swim in and a sandy beach to relax on.

Girl in Kailua

Dinner – Buzz’s Original Steakhouse

Buzz’s Original Steakhouse is one of the best cocktail bars in Kailua. It is located right next to Kailua beach and is ALWAYS busy. I remember waiting about 30 minutes to get in to just have a drink. Worth it thought! The vibes are fun and the cocktails were yum!

I recommend booking a table if you want to go there for dinner. To make a reservation and to check out their menu, click here!

Day 4

On day 4, you will be doing a classic Hawaiian ridgeline hike and visiting the famous botanical gardens that you have probably seen all over social media. From the top of the hiking trail, you will be able to see all of the way out to Waikiki and the ocean!

The day we did this hike and visited the botanical and visited the botanical garden, Dave and I had just gotten engaged on Lanikai Beach that morning at sunrise. It was absolutely magical and we were both on a high for the entire day.

Morning – Lanikai Beach

Visit Lanikai Beach in the morning. I highly recommend sunrise because it is stunning and a real event. We were surprised at how many people were there walking along the beach that early in the morning. Everyone stopped what they were doing at the moment the sun rose over the horizon to watch. If you are not a sunrise person, no worries! You can still enjoy Lanikai Beach later in the morning.

💍 Fun Fact: Dave proposed to me on Lanikai Beach at sunrise and this is the itinerary we followed for that entire day.

Couple in the water on Lanikai Beach Oahu at sunrise

Another Fun Fact: Lanikai Beach was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and it is extremely popular amongst wedding photographers and for to people to elope.

There are two little islands out from the shore of Lanikai called the Molikai Islands. You can actually rent a kayak to paddle to these islands or join a tour but they also make a great photo from the shore.

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Midday – Brunch and Hike

Brunch and coffee at Morning Brew

If you feel like going out for brunch before your hike, I recommend going to Morning Brew. I have a water bottle from there which I’ve been using for years now!

They have great coffee and a range of different breakfast options such as bagels, breakfast burritos, eggs on toast and pancakes.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Distance: 7.6km / 4.7 miles | Time: 3 hours | Elevation: 493m / 1,617 ft

Once you have finish your brunch, it’s time to grab your hiking gear and drive to the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trailhead. The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail is one of the best beginner ridge hikes on Oahu.

Tips

  • Don’t wear your favourite white shoes. It is a muddy trail.
  • Download offline maps. The trail is pretty easy to follow but it’s always best to have a back-up map.
  • Watch the weather. Hawaii can have sudden crazy storms and lots of rain. I highly recommend avoiding this trail during or after rain as it is very muddy and will be quite slippery.
  • Have fun!

Afternoon – Botanical Garden

On your way back from the trail, you can stop off at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. This garden has been very popular on Instagram over the past few years.

So much so, that they have actually banned taking photos where you drive in. The first photo pictured below is of the iconic IG photo spot, which I took from our moving car. You can no longer take photos here as it is illegal.

Entrance to the gardens is free and you can walk around for as little or as long as you like.

Road into Hoomaluhia botanical garden
Road into Hoomaluhia botanical garden
Girl standing next to the mountains in the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden.

Dinner – Tokoname Japanese Restuarant

If you like Japanese food, Dave and I finished our engagement adventure day with dinner at Tokoname and it was delicious! If you don’t like Japanese, there are plenty of other restaurants in Kailua to choose from.

Bonus day in Waikiki

If you are able to spend 1 more day / night in Waikiki, I recommend it! There are lots of different ways you could spend your last day in Waikiki. You could just chill out on the beach and try out different restaurants or you could go hiking and explore more. We stayed at the Waikiki Resort Hotel which was the perfect combination of not too expensive / nice and close to Waikiki Beach and it had a rooftop pool.

Here is a 1 day in Waikiki Itinerary to help you decide what to do.

💭 Our Thoughts

Hawaii and Oahu in particular is one place that we could happily go back to more than once. I will say that a lot of the hikes in Hawaii are on another level of scary, but the ones that I have listed in this itinerary are not too bad.

Enjoy the beauty Hawaii has to offer and happy adventuring!

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