Photos: The heart of Hawaii

loading photos...
  1. Honolulu daze

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Hawaii's largest city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Lei a Mai Tai on me

    Colorful umbrellas block out the sun for visitors to the beachside Mai Tai Bar at the popular Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Aerobic fun & sun

    Seniors exercise in the waters of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. National treasure

    The Ionlani Palace stands among banyan and palm tress behind guilded gates decorated with a royal seal in Honolulu. The Iolani palace is America's only official royal residence. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Bathing beauties

    Sunbathers on the beach. (Craig Aurness / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. To honor thy wife

    Waterfalls flow in the gardens of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Undersea awe

    Elani Mousos, 4, of Calgary, Canada, looks at the "Hunters of the Reef" at the Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu. The Aquarium is built along side the shoreline next to a living reef. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Remember Arizona

    A U.S. flag flies at half mast aboard the USS Arizona Memorial during the ceremony honoring the 64th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 2005 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Marco Garcia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Manic manini

    A school of manini fish swim over the coral reef at Hanauma Bay, near Honolulu. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Paradise found

    The sun sets on Waikiki. (Lucy Pemoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

updated 6/26/2006 12:26:11 PM ET 2006-06-26T16:26:11

The island of Oahu is so stunning that the alii, the kings of Hawaii, made it the capital of the island nation. You can see all of Oahu's highlights in 1 week, presuming that you're staying in Waikiki; if you're in another location, be sure to factor in travel time. In this itinerary, I've included the all-star things to do and see on this island: Waikiki Beach, Waikiki Aquarium, Pearl Harbor Memorial, Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay, Sea Life Park, Bishop Museum, historic downtown Honolulu, Kailua Bay, shopping, art galleries, and a few surprises.

Day 1: Arrive in Hawaii & Head for Waikiki Beach
Lather up in sunscreen, put on your sunglasses and a hat, and plop down on the most famous beach in the world. If you have kids in tow, or if an hour in Hawaii's intense sun is all you can handle, consider checking out Hawaii's water world by dropping by the Waikiki Aquarium, or learning about Hawaii's unique culture at the Bishop Museum Kalia, the Waikiki branch of the main Bishop Museum, or take the children to the Honolulu Zoo. For insight into Waikiki's past, take the Waikiki Historic Trail, a 2-mile trail, marked with bronzed surf boards. Try to see the sunset on your first day (just sit anywhere on Waikiki Beach; if you'd like a liquid libation, all the hotels on the beach can accommodate you) and get an early dinner.

Day 2: Pearl Harbor
Most likely you'll be awake early, so take advantage of it: Drive or take a tour bus to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Entry is free. The best time to go is early in the morning; by the afternoon, the lines are 2 hours long. Next, stop by the USS Missouri Memorial, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. On your way back, either head for the beach at Ala Moana Beach Park or embark on a shopping spree across the street at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Plan a dinner in Honolulu or surrounding areas.

Day 3: Polynesian Cultural Center
You might want to sleep late today. Around or after noon, head for the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. Allow at least 2 hours (if not the entire afternoon) to tour this mini-glimpse of the Pacific, where you'll walk through various "villages" filled with interactive activities, entertainment, and cultural events. Continue driving down the coast road to the small town of Kailua, and stay here for dinner to avoid heavy traffic over the Pali back to Waikiki.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Day 4: Snorkel in Hanauma Bay & Watch Marine Life at Sea Life Park
If it's not Tuesday (when the park is closed), head out in the morning for spectacular snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. You could spend the entire day here, but remember that Hawaii's sun is intense and you don't want sunburn to ruin your vacation. After a couple of hours, wander down the coast to Sea Life Park. If you have kids, this is a must-stop. Otherwise, you can continue "beach hopping" along the coastline with stops at Sandy Beach, Makapuu Point and Makapuu Beach Park, and Waimanalo Beach, before turning back to take the Pali Highway. Be sure to stop at the Pali Lookout on your way back to Waikiki.

Day 5: Historic Honolulu & Hawaiian Culture
Head to downtown Honolulu for a historic hike around the old town, and try to visit: Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church, Mission Houses Museum, and the Hawaii Maritime Center. For a view of where you've been, go to the top of the Aloha Tower, at the Aloha Tower Marketplace, for a bird's-eye view of Honolulu. Stop for lunch either at the Marketplace or one of the nearby restaurants. Spend the afternoon at the Bishop Museum, to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture. Plan dinner outside of Waikiki.

Day 6: Beach Day at Kailua Beach Park
On your last full day on Oahu, travel over the Pali Highway, to the Windward side of the island, to spend a day at the Kailua Beach Park. Pick up a picnic lunch at Good to Go. This is the perfect beach to relax or snorkel or try something different like kayaking or windsurfing. You can spend the entire day here, take an afternoon hike at the Hoomaluhia Gardens, or venture to another beach park like Kahana Bay or the Malaekahana Bay State Recreation Area.

Day 7: Relax, Seek Adventure, Look at Art, or Shop
What you do today depends on how much time you have on your last day here -- and how much energy. You might just hang out in Waikiki and perhaps taking a surfing lesson, or ride a surfing canoe, or venture underwater in Atlantis Submarine. For the energetic, get up early and climb Diamond Head. Art lovers should definitely check out the Honolulu Academy of Art; the Contemporary Museum, where you should have lunch; and the Hawaii State Art Museum. Shoppers can head to Waikiki for the Ala Moana Shopping Center, the DFS Galleria, and the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center; bargain hunters should make the 45-minute drive out to the Waikele Premium Outlets. On your way back to the airport, be sure to stop on Maunakea Street in Chinatown and buy a lei from one of the numerous lei makers along the street to take back as a sweet-smelling memory of your trip.

For more on what to see and do in Oahu, visit our complete guide online at http://www.frommers.com/destinations/oahu.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments