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 . 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 , and the USS . 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.
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.
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