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How to Spend a Perfect One Day in Waikiki

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Do you have 24 hours in Honolulu and are trying to figure out what to do with your time?

Hawaii is a gorgeous part of the world. If you can, I recommend trying to spend at least the night in Waikiki. This will give you enough time to experience it and also be able to relax a little.

This is the perfect hotel for a one night stay. It is right near the beach, not too expensive and the hotel staff can arrange airport transport so that you don’t need to worry about missing your flight.

sunset beach at sunset on Oahu

We have spent an entire week on the island of Oahu and I’m obsessed! Having a one day layover in Honolulu is easy because there is an abundance of awesome things to do. The tricky part is narrowing your list down to what to do with only one day. In this guide, I have listed what we would do if we only had one day on Oahu.

With only 1 day, I recommend staying around the Waikiki area to get the most out of your time. This guide provides you with a full 1 day Waikiki Itinerary. It also lists the best restaurants in Waikiki, as well as some extra tips and tricks for when you get there.

Quick Tips for Planning a 24 hours layover in Waikiki, Hawaii

Are you going to be in Waikiki for 24 hours or less? Here are some quick tips to help you plan your visit.

Best Places to Stay Overnight: Budget | A Little bit fancy

Best Time of the Year to Visit: Between March and September for the best weather.

How Far is Waikiki From the Airport: Waikiki is about a 20 minute drive from Honolulu International Airport

Should you rent a car: You don’t need a car for this itinerary, but it will give you more flexibility. This is our go to for the best rental car deals ➡ Rentalcars.com

Top Waikiki Tours to do if you only have 1 day:

Things to know about Waikiki before planning your trip

🚗 How Far is Waikiki from the Airport?

Waikiki is about a 20 minute drive from Honolulu International Airport (Daniel K. Inouye International Airport).

You can either rent a car, or catch a taxi or public transport from the airport to Waikiki. For this itinerary, you can get away without a car, however, if there are things to you want to see or do that are a little further out from Waikiki, then a rental car might make it easier.

Viewpoint on Oahu

Public transport from the airport will take you around an hour. For the interest of time, I recommend getting a taxi or hotel shuttle (if you are staying the night).

If you do choose to get public transportation, you can catch bus #20 to Waikiki Beach and Hotels.

💼 Where to Store Luggage for a Layover in Honolulu

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport provides onsite luggage storage options where you can store your bags for as little as a couple of hours to as long as weeks.

view of the ocean from Oahu Hawaii

🍤 Food to try in Waikiki

There are certain foods that you NEED to try while in Hawaii. Now I know there is only so much food you can actually fit into your stomach in one day, so you will have to be a little picky.

The first is a Poke Bowl (only if you like sashimi style salmon or tuna). A Poke Bowl is a rice bowl with some sort of raw fish or protein which you then can choose from various toppings to add with a sauce. Ever since we visited Hawaii I have become OBSESSED with Poke Bowls.

Another Hawaiian dish to try is the Garlic Shrimp, which you can get from the many food trucks that are scattered all over Oahu and of course Shave Ice which is literally ice that has been shaved and served up with sugary and colourful flavouring. It’s a great snack to have on a hot day in Hawaii.

couple standing at the top of a trail in Hawaii

🛌 Best Places to Stay 1 Night in Waikiki

If you have the time, I recommend staying one night in Waikiki to get the most out of your time there. The Wayfinder Waikiki is a great hotel for 1 night as it is only 450m / 1,476ft from Waikiki Beach, it has great service, won’t break the bank, has amazing views and a pool to relax at once you have had enough of adventuring and exploring.

If you are trying to go more budget, you could stay at Castle Bamboo Waikīkī Hotel, which is a bit cheaper but still super close to the beach and has nice rooms.

The Perfect 1 Day Waikiki Itinerary

This 1 day Waikiki Itinerary gives you a plan on how to spend a full day in Waikiki from the moment you land in Honolulu. There are LOADS of things to do on Oahu but I have picked out a few of the very best for the purpose of this itinerary.

This guide is fully based on you getting around and seeing Waikiki and its’ surrounding areas by yourself, however, there are also options to join a tour which I have included after the itinerary. Sometimes a tour is the best way to see the most of a new location when you are short on time.

After arriving in Honolulu and storing your luggage, you will get to choose between visiting either Pearl Harbour or going on a hike.

Morning

Choose your own adventure – Option 1: Pearl Harbour

If you decide to visit Pearl Harbour, here is all of the information you need to plan your visit.

To get to Pearl Harbour from the airport, it is an easy 18 minute bus ride. You will need to catch bus #20 Halawa Station Via Airport-Arizona Mem and get off at Arizona Memorial. If you decide to drive or catch a taxi, it is only 8 minutes to Pearl Harbour or you could book this 1 hour tour to make your day that much easier. 😉

Visiting Pearl Harbour is definitely worth it, however it might leave you feeling quite sad.

Choose your own adventure – Option 2: Hike Diamond Head

If you choose to do a hike, the Diamond Crater Trailhead is about a 25 minute drive from the airport. To get there, you can either get a taxi, a shuttle bus or a bus. I don’t recommend the bus because it takes over an hour and is an extremely painful as you will be stopping constantly at Every. Single. Stop.

Diamond Head Hiking Tour
Credit: Kaimana Tours (via Viator)

Alternatively, you could join a tour group which starts from Waikiki.

Distance: 1.9 miles / 3.1km | Elevation Gain: 515ft / 156m | Time: 1-1.5 hours

The Diamond Head hike is one of the best things to do on Oahu and best views around! From the top you can see the ocean, Diamond Head Crater and the Ko’olau Mountains as well as the coastline all of the way from Waikiki to Waianae.

The hike itself will take you around 1-1.5 hours and is fairly short but a little steep as expected to get such insane views.

Lunch

Grab some lunch back in Waikiki

Once you have finished learning about the history of Pearl Harbour or soaking up the views from Diamond Head, you will probably be pretty hungry so it’s time for some lunch!

Now is your chance to try a Poke Bowl! Some of the best Poke can be found at Fish Hook Café in the Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites, Barefoot Beach Café which is on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki so a great choice if you choose to hike to Diamond Head and the Maguro Brothers in the Pearl Waikiki Hotel.

Flower in Hawaii

Afternoon

Take a Surfing Lesson on Waikiki Beach

After your hike or tour at Pearl Harbour, getting in the water is a perfect way to cool down and potentially try something new by taking a surfing lesson.

You can choose between a group surfing lesson and a private one-on-one surfing lesson. Lessons can range from 1-2 hours.

Late Afternoon

Cocktails and dinner

After spending all day in the hot Hawaiian sun and the salt water, you will definitely have worked up an appetite for some yummy dinner and maybe a sneaky cocktail or 2.

Beach at sunset on Oahu

There are a bunch of great bars and restaurants along the front of Waikiki Beach. I can recommend Cheeseburger in Paradise for a casual dinner and drinks. This is where Dave and I went on our last night in Waikiki. 😊

Best Waikiki Tours

A tour is the perfect way to experience Hawaii in only 1 day. Here are some of the best day tours that start in Waikiki for you to consider.

Makapu'u Point on Oahu
Makapu’u Point

Oahu Island Tour

The Oahu Island Tour is a perfect 9 hour tour where you will explore the island, including must see places such as:

  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
  • Kualoa Ranch
  • Banzai Pipeline (one of the most famous surf spots on the North Shore)
  • Shark’s Cove
  • Dole Plantation
  • and more!

All Inclusive Ultimate Circle Island Day Tour and Waimea Falls

Ultimate Circle Tour Oahu
Credit: Oahu Nature Tours (via Viator)

The All-inclusive Ultimate Circle Island Tour is a great choice of tour to see the island if you also really want to visit Waimea Falls and Diamond Head. You will also get to see:

  • Halona Blowhole
  • Sandy Beach Park
  • Makapu’u Point
  • Nu’uanu Pali
  • Sunset Beach
  • Dole Plantation
  • and more!

Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion from Waikiki, Hawaii

The Turtle Canyons Snorkel Tour is only a 2 hour long tour but it is a must do in Waikiki!

On this tour, you will snorkel with green sea turtles, tropical fish, and more with all of the snorkelling gear provided. Oh and look out for flying fish and spinner dolphins! Flying Fish are really crazy to see!

FAQs

What is the Difference between Waikiki and Honolulu?

Waikiki and Honolulu are often confused. The easiest way to remember is that Waikiki is a smaller district located in HonoluluHonolulu is bigger than Waikiki and is a city on the island of Oahu.

Is it easy to walk around Waikiki?

If you are staying in Waikiki, yes, it is super easy to walk around the area to explore the restaurants and bars and to the beach. Dave and I spent 1 night in Waikiki for our last night on Oahu and we found it super easy to walk around.

You will only feel the need for a car if you want to travel further out to see more things on the island.

Is there good shopping in Waikiki?

The best place for shopping in Waikiki is the famous Kalakaua Avenue which is a street lined with palm trees and shops like Prada, Vera Wang, Gucci and so much more!

Alternatively, there is the Ala Moana Centre which is the 8th largest shopping mall in the USA AND the largest open air shopping centre in the world!

💭 Our Thoughts

Dave and I only had one day in Waikiki and I feel like we didn’t really make the most of it. If you have a chance to experience 24 hours or so in Waikiki, try to do as much as you can, or as little as you can if you would much prefer to relax on the beach. 😁

Happy adventuring! 🥾

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