Oahu — The Heart of Hawaii

Harshita Kasera
Digital Global Traveler
10 min readMar 4, 2024

Oahu is the most visited of all Hawaiian Islands. The island offers both tropical landscapes as well as an urban vibe. It is also the home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu.

In this blog post I’ll share the places me and my husband visited on our 6 day trip to Oahu in February.

Oahu Illustrative Map (Photo Credit : Shaka Guide)

Accommodation & Getting Around

Most of the hotels on Oahu are located in Waikiki, located on the south shore of the island of Oahu.

Though it can get pretty crowded, we really liked staying in this area as most of the local tours started from here and a stunning beach was just steps away from our hotel. We also rented a car to explore the rest of the island.

If you prefer a more peaceful area than Waikiki, the North Shore of Oahu is a better option though the choices there are pretty limited.

Day 1: Arrive at Oahu

We took a direct flight from Seattle to Honolulu and the flight time was roughly 6 hours.

Remember that Hawaii observes Hawaii Standard Time all year.

We picked up our rental car from the airport and headed towards our hotel, Waikiki Malia. The hotel was very clean and the service was pretty good and the best part was its location.

Our trips in Hawaii are incomplete without the Shaka Guide. This was our second time using the Shaka Guide app and we loved it! Their audio tours are so entertaining and we have learned a lot about Hawaiian culture and legends on our trips.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, I am a genuine fan of Shaka Guide.

Me and my husband in front of Shaka display in Waikiki Downtown (Photo Credit : a generous tourist)

We got the Oahu tour bundle and trust me it is worth it! Mahalo Shaka!

We started our exploration with the Shaka Guide’s Backyard Rainforest Tour. The highlights of the tour are Manoa Falls & Tantalus Lookout.

Backyard Rainforest tour by Shaka Guide (Photo Credit : Shaka Guide)

I would recommend starting this tour early in the day if you are planning to do the waterfall hike. We started this tour pretty late in the evening and also read that the waterfall didn’t have much water so we skipped the hike. If you aren’t planning on the hike then I would recommend timing this in a way that you reach the Tantalus Lookout at sunset.

Tantalus lookout is a scenic lookout featuring beautiful views of the Diamond Head volcano cone and the Waikiki skyline. The view at sunset was spectacular.

Tantalus Lookout (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

Day 2: Explore Waikiki & Honolulu

We started our day with the Shaka Guide’s Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour. It is a great way to explore Waikiki.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is a historic landmark, offering luxury accommodations, iconic Pink Palace architecture, and stunning Waikiki views.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is nicknamed as “Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

Huge Tree at Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Waikiki Beach is a stunning beach and a world-famous destination for surfing, offering something for both beginners and experienced surfers.

Waikiki Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
Statue of Duke Kahanamoku at Waikiki Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

After finishing the tour we started driving west to check out Ka’ena Point.

Ka‘ena Point is at the western tip of Oahu. The only way to get to Kaʻena Point is by hiking. There are two trailheads: from the north side, or the west side. Unfortunately the State Park was closed due to severe weather from the west side when we arrived, so we couldn’t hike to this point.

Kaʻena Bay (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

We decided to do the Pink Pillbox Hike instead.

Pink Pillbox Hike

AllTrails Link | Length 1.6 mi | Elevation 879 ft | Route Out & Back

It is an amazing hike that offers breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding landscape. ​​There are a number of bunkers at the top with the most spectacular pillbox painted a hot pink!

Pink Pillbox (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
Pink Pillbox (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
View from Pink Pillbox (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Historic Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour Shaka Guide

If you are fascinated by the history of a place like me, you would love the Historic Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour.

Statue of King Kamehameha I, Honolulu (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

This tour takes you in depth to learn about the unification of the Hawaiian islands to the overthrow of the monarchy.

Did you know? Goku’s infamous signature move in Dragon Ball Z, the “Kamehameha Wave,” is named after the first king of Hawaii, King Kamehameha I.

Day 3: Whale Watching

February falls right in the peak season for whale watching on Oahu, making it an excellent time to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Whale Watching Tour

We took the 7 am Whale watching tour by And You Creations.

Whale Watching Tour Map (Photo Credit : And You Creations)

The tour included pick up and drop off from the hotel which was very convenient.

Whale Watching Tour Shuttle (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
South Shore Waikiki on the Whale Watching Tour (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

We saw a couple of whales and a MASSIVE dolphin pod that sailed with us for quite a while!! At the end of the tour, we were surprised by the crew’s Hula Show. We had a great experience.

Dolphin Pod & Humpback Whale on the Whale Watching Tour (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

After the tour, we were dropped off at our hotel. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed towards North Shore listening to the Legendary North Shore Loop audio tour by Shaka Guide.

Green World Coffee Farm

We stopped for a quick coffee break at Green World Coffee Farm, Oahu’s first coffee visitor farm and purchased some interesting coffee beans to take back home.

Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is also known as Turtle Beach due to the presence of honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) that come to the shore to bask in the sun.

Remember: It is important to be respectful of these endangered animals and maintain a safe distance if you encounter them on the beach.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on Laniakea Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

North Shore Food Trucks

Haleiwa is widely recognized as the surfing capital of the world, attracting surfers of all levels with its diverse waves. Beyond the waves, Haleiwa boasts a charming town atmosphere and a foodie haven.

We stopped by the Haleiwa city to enjoy the unique and delicious offerings of food trucks. I highly recommend stopping by Haleiwa fruit shack. The coconut and the sugar cane juice was yummy!

Haleiwa fruit shack (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Be sure to checkout this cute little cafe called the Sunrise Shack on the way.

Sunrise Shack (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

Lāʻie Point State Wayside

This was our favorite spot on the tour. It offers breathtaking coastal views, dramatic rock formations, and a great spot for whale watching in the winter season.

We saw a whale breaching right from the parking lot!!

Lāʻie Point State Wayside (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Kualoa Ranch

If you are into Jurassic Park movies, Kualoa Ranch offers some great tours as this was a major set for filming the movie. We didn’t do any tours and just stopped by the visitor center to click some pictures.

Kualoa Ranch (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Hilton Fireworks

Did you know? You can enjoy a free fireworks display every Friday evening on the shores of Waikiki Beach, courtesy of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The fireworks can be viewed from various different locations. We enjoyed the show from the Fort DeRussy Beach

Hilton Fireworks (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

Day 4: Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, located on the southern coast of Oahu, Hawaii, is a historic landmark and active U.S. naval base. A surprise attack by the Japanese military at this base, thrust the United States into World War II.

Pearl Harbor Memorial (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Today, Pearl Harbor is a popular tourist destination, home to the USS Arizona Memorial, a national memorial built above the sunken battleship USS Arizona, where over 1,100 sailors are entombed.

As it is one of the must do things on the island, it gets pretty crowded. Though you can also purchase the tickets on the site, we preferred to book the early morning 8:00 am tour.

Tours can be booked in advanced at recreation.gov.

After the tour, we head towards the Oahu North shore to do the Kaena Point Hike.

We stopped by Dole Plantation farm as we were excited to try the famous dole whip and the pineapple farm train ride. Both of them didn’t disappoint.

Dole Plantation Tour (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Ka‘ena Point State Park Hike

We tried our luck from the north side and fortunately the park was open today.

AllTrails Link | Length 5.6 mi | Elevation 213 ft | Route Out & Back

The coastal trail is very beautiful and offers so many opportunities for wildlife sightings. The albatross nesting colony near the Kaena point was definitely a highlight. We also saw Hawaiian monk seals chilling on the rocks.

Ka’ena Point State Park Hike (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Day 5: Hanumana Bay

Hanumana Bay offers pristine snorkeling in a protected underwater world with vibrant coral reefs. Reservations are required for entering this bay and you can reserve it online at the official parks website.

Tip: Getting a reservation is tough. We got lucky! If you don’t get a reservation, you can also book a snorkeling tour which includes the bay reservation.

Snorkeling at Hanumana Bay

Since we already had the reservation, we easily entered the bay. We highly recommend renting good quality Snorkel gear from Snorkel Bob’s.

Hanumana Bay (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

East Oahu Shoreline

Oahu’s eastern shoreline is one of the most scenic roadways in Hawaii. We enjoyed East Oahu Shoreline Drive audio tour by Shaka Guide.

Lānaʻi Lookout (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Makapuu Lighthouse Hike

AllTrails Link | Length 2.5 mi | Elevation gain 649 ft | Route type Out & back

The Makapuu Point trail offers outstanding views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. It is a paved trail that provides breathtaking views along the way and at the top. It is a popular trail so it was quite crowded.

Makapuu Lighthouse Hike (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
Makapuu Lighthouse Hike (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden

It is a beautiful botanical garden, offering eight distinct gardens and a lake showcasing diverse flora from different regions of the world.

Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)
Goldfishes in the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden lake (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

Byodo-In Temple

Oahu’s Byodo-In Temple is a serene replica of a 1,000-year-old Japanese temple.

Byodo-In Temple (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout Point

It offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, and the iconic Pali Highway below.

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout Point (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)

Day 6: Diamond Head & Flight Back

Sunrise hike at Diamond Head Summit Hike

AllTrails Link | Length 1.9 mi | Elevation gain 515 ft | Route type Out & back

This hike requires reservation from the official park website.

It was a challenging sunrise hike that rewarded us with breathtaking panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.

Diamond Head Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by author on Pixel 7)
Diamond Head Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Antriksh Saxena on Pixel 8 Pro)

This was the last day of our trip and we flew back to Seattle in the afternoon.

📸 Photos

P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more travel inspiration (@hkasera).

Happy Travels!

Oahu is a vibrant island paradise offering stunning beaches, lush rainforests, diverse culture, and iconic landmarks, all embraced by the warm spirit of Aloha. I hope you enjoyed this travel guide to Oahu!

If you are planning a trip to other Hawaiian islands, checkout my itinerary to Maui and Kauai.

Have a fantastic sunny holiday!