your 7-day oahu, hawaii travel itinerary
Hawaii = one of my favorite places on Earth. Throughout middle school and high school, I used to travel to Kauai and Oahu with my childhood best friends Cortney & Lindsay. Their uncle owns land on Kauai and we would live the true local life: run around like little heathens in our bathing suits, catch frogs, ride dirtbikes and live at the beach. My trips there are some of my fondest memories with the best people. Do you ever look back at yourself as a kid and realize the cool things you did? This is one of those moments, ha! It's been about 8 years since I've been back, and this past February I was lucky enough to head to Oahu with Nathan to visit and stay with some of his family. There's something about the island and life there that creeps in under your skin and sticks - it infects your energy in the best possible way. Even when you get off the plane, that first breath of Hawaiian air is like a warm hug of aloha.
This itinerary is giving you a dose of things you can do + eat while on Oahu. Most of these things are pretty well known and available to the public. While we were lucky to experience some local fun, we've omitted those activities out of respect for the land and locals.
Covid Restrictions + How We Got There
When we went in February, restrictions were tighter but we were able to do everything completely hassle-free. To read up on current travel restrictions, head to gohawaii.com
First thing's first, you'll need to create a profile on Hawaii's Government Travel website and upload all of your trip details there. At the time we were visiting, all travelers could only arrive if they had taken a Covid test within 72 hours of departure from a trusted partner and have received a negative test result. Think you can get around it? You can't. Please do this to protect the island and to keep your trip smooooooth sailing. You can find a list of trusted partners HERE. We took our test within 72 hours of leaving at our local Walgreens and received the result back in about a day. After you receive your results, you have to upload the results to your profile you created and then they'll approve you.
You'll receive a QR code that you can keep on your phone or print out and that will allow you entry onto the island. After you land, you will go through a screening process, your QR code will be scanned, and you are freeeee.
Please note: This is a quick summary of our experience and what we did to safely travel to the islands, BUT we all know things can change in an instant due to Covid. Please check the Hawaii travel website before solely relying on what we shared. Please also keep in mind that inter-island travel has its own set of restrictions, so be sure to check that before you go around hopping islands.
ITINERARY AT A GLANCE
Day 1: Arrive & Relax at Waikiki
Day 2: Explore North Shore
Day 3: Hike Lanikai Pillboxes & Explore the East Side
Day 4: Half Day at Kualoa Nature Reserve + More Swimming
Day 5: Hike Koko Head, + Surf Waikiki + Luau
Day 6: Shark Diving + Nutridge Luau
Day 7: Brunch + bounce
Day 1: We have arrived!
When we landed, we rented a car. I highly suggest doing this if you want to see the entire Island and head up to the north shore. I took the bus at 18 and while it's a great way to get around, it took us 2.5 hours to get to North Shore instead of a 45-minute car ride, ha! Nathan and I stopped ASAP for lunch (you know we love foo) at Nico's Fish Market. Their plate lunch and mac salad is da bomb and they also have a poke counter if you want something quick.
If you have time on your way to wherever you're staying, I highly suggest picking up malasadas from Leonards.
We settled in with family and went for an afternoon swim at a local's beach. If you're close to Waikiki, I would walk around Chinatown, the shops and familiarize yourself with the area. There is plenty to explore on the main strip and then you can spend the rest of your time exploring other areas of the island on other days :)
After a swim, we had happy hour cocktails at Hula Grill. You can't go wrong with the Mai Tai, Pina Colada or Honey Mac Nut Shrimp. Cocktails were followed by dinner and a sunset at Duke's (Had to be a tourist for one night!). If the line is long, put your name in, then walk around to kill time. Be sure to order the Hula Pie for dessert.
Day 2: North Shore Pt. 1
We were staying super close to Brew & Foam, so we grabbed some coffee and a pastry here before hitting the road to North shore. Their Haupia Mocha was super good!
It took us about 45 minutes to get to North Shore and find our way to Shark's Cove. We snorkeled there for most of the morning. It is a SUPER fun and cool spot that we definitely suggest going to, especially if you have littles since they are somewhat protected by the lagoon. Note: Since we were visiting in winter, North Shore surf gets big, so keep an eye out on all surf and for beach signs to make sure you're good to go before getting in the water. After all that swimming, lunch naturally followed. We walked across the way to the small shops and food trucks to grab some food. Nathan and I, along with Oliva (one of our new friends!) all tried some garlic shrimp along with some good 'ol POG. If you want something lighter, try grabbing an acai bowl at Haleiwa Bowls
After lunch, we headed to North shore's pipeline to check the surf and for a quick nap on the sand. It was quickly followed by a trip to Laniakea beach to hang in the sun, get our feet wet and check out the turtle scene. We were lucky to see two huge beauties lounging on the beach and get some shots before all of our stuff almost got washed away thanks to a wave (rooky move, hehe). Our afternoon snack consisted of the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice. A must in my book! I love getting vanilla with ice cream and mochi. *Chefs kiss*. For dinner, we had our second round of garlic shrimp from the Thai Bo truck (we were obsessed) and then drove home and settled in for the night.
DAY 3: Hike Lanikai Pillboxes & Explore the East Side
We started the day with a sunrise hike to the Lanikai Pillboxes. I cannot suggest getting an early start to any hike here because it gets hot, fast. Also, hiking in HI feels 10x worse than on the mainland because of the lovely humidity, haha! This 1.8 mile out and back trail is short but steep and gets a good amount of traffic. Once you pass the first pillbox, the views are insane.
After that, Nathan and I had lunch, naturally. As you can see, so much of our travel revolves around food, hahha. No shame here. We stopped at The Hibachi for poke and damn, some of the best poke I've had in my life. We also grabbed coffee and the absolute best lilikoi scone from Bits & Bites Cafe.
Next, more swimming. We headed over to Lanikai beach to snorkel, swim and spend most of our day out on the sand. It was heaven. The best part was you got a view of the ridge we had just hiked to the pillboxes - so rad to see! This is also a great beach for kayaking and stand-up paddling.
For dinner, we met up with family at Haleiwa Joe's. This is another staple that is a must-visit for a beautiful walk through their gardens, quintessential Hawaiian feels and good food. Make sure you go to the location in Kaneohe for the gorg garden views. Order their ceviche, sizzling mushrooms, and SHARE the prime rib.
Day 4: Half Day at Kualoa Nature Reserve + More Swimming
Another great coffee spot in the Courtyard hotel, called Alii Coffee. I got their Sweet & Creamy because anything with mac nuts and coconuts = my jam. After that, we headed northeast to the Kualoa Nature Reserve. This is a MUST visit, especially if you're really into movies and badass views. Kualoa Ranch is an amazing area and nature reserve that is managed by the eighth-generation descendants of Dr. Gerritt P. Judd. Kualoa’s mission is to enrich people’s lives by preserving Kualoa’s sacred lands and celebrating its history.
Any of their tours are amazing, but we opted in for the 2-hour ATV Raptor tour. You get to drive around the entire property, get a fun information tour and get to snap tons of gorgeous pictures. It was SO fun.
After spending a morning driving around, we grabbed lunch at a local spot and picnicked at a beach across the street. I would suggest Yelping lunch when you get out of Kualoa to help you find the spot :) If you want a sweet snack, check out Island Snow.
After lunch, we headed to a secret beach spot nearby. You can easily head back to Lanikai if you loved it, Kailua Beach or Makapuu Beach,
DAY 5: Hike KOKO HEAD + SURF WAIKIKI
One of my favorite days, for sure. Hiking Koko head for both of us was challenging but so freaking worth it and fun. You'll start at the bottom of the Koko Crate Tramway and then go up to the top of the crater by hiking and climbing up the old railroad, rounding out at 1.8 miles.
It's such a cool experience and most of the time we were spent in awe of the locals who were running up and down the trail like it absolutely nothing, haha! The locals are also trying to preserve the trail, so if you're there, try taking up a bag of gravel to help keep it intact.
After that, we grabbed a quick nosh at Island Brew Coffeehouse. Their Haupia Latte was hands down my favorite and they had a delicious Loco Moco. After that we headed back to Honolulu and headed out to surf Waikiki. No pictures but it was amazing nonetheless! We rounded out the day with dinner at Marugame Udon - SO GOOD and just a walking distance from the beach. If you don't want udon, try Vons Chicken - an utterly delicious Korean fried chicken joint.
Day 6: Shark Diving + Nutridge Luau
This wasn't my first time shark diving - I LOVE BEING IN THE WATER. My first time was actually in a cage and this time we went freediving. There was absolutely nothing scary about it and our instructors made us feel completely at ease. Huuuge thanks to Hawaii Adventure Diving. While she mentioned they were being shy, we still saw a good amount and even had the chance to see a few whales breaching off in the distance as we made our way back to land. If you love getting up close and personal with wildlife, this is a great way to do that.
Do you know what happened after that? Hahaha, if you guessed lunch you are 100% correct. This time we went for the OG garlic shrimp from Giovanni's and it did not disappoint. Do not forget to get a side of their mac salad. If you're not a fan of shrimp, there are 4-5 other food trucks right next to it serving up everything from kalbi to fresh fruit for your lunch fix. There's also another poke spot a short walk away called Poke for the People.
From there, we headed back home to refresh and then headed up to the best luau ever at a property called Nutridge located in Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park. This was truly an intimate and special luau that was filled with fun for littles, information about the land & heritage and some amazing food. I highhhhly recommend this for anyone going (shoutout to our cousin Kim for the rec!)
DAY 7: Brunch + bounce!
That's all she wrote folks. We were so, so sad to leave, but ended the note on a delicious brunch at Over Easy before heading to the airport. Nothing is worse than leaving the islands (boo) but it made us appreciate our time there even more.
WOOOH, that was a long one. If you made it to the bottom, thanks for going on a Hawaiian adventure with us! We hope you're inspired to fly over to the island and respectively visit, lend to the tourism and have a great time. Until next time!