Day 2 is your first real, full day on Oahu.
General: DIY / How-To
|Guide Series: Oahu Vacation Itinerary
Assuming you're coming to Oahu from a place located to the east (like the U.S. mainland), then you have a big time zone advantage on this day.
Let's say you flew from California to Hawaii on Day 1 and normally wake up around 7:00 AM in California. Your body will still be wanting to get up around that time, which will be more like 4:00-5:00 AM in Hawaii (since we're 2-3 hours behind California depending on Daylight Savings Time which we don't follow in Hawaii, and lightyears ahead on everything else...hahaha...just a joke...mostly). For more on time in Hawaii, see What Time Is It In Hawaii?.
Use this timezone change to your advantage on Day 2 to get an early start without much trouble. Do it now because by Day 3 you'll have lost all or most of that advantage. What can you do before the sun comes out to play? Go on a sunrise hike of course! Don't worry, these are more like walks with elevation changes than hardcore hikes. Still, you'll want to grab a small breakfast first and bring plenty of water.
Image courtesy of Member Stephen F.
I say "these" because I'm going to offer up two options. The first option is Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail and it's a paved hike and not all that difficult for most people. We're talking about a distance of 1.25 miles that winds its way up and adds 500+ feet in elevation. The views from the top are incredible but note that the parking lot doesn't open here until well after sunrise so if you're doing this hike for the sunrise you'll be parking along the street here. If you do that, don't leave any valuables in the car as break-ins are a little too common out here on the street.
If that worries you, another option would be to simply watch the sunrise from Makapuu Lookout or anywhere near this area and Makapu'u Beach Park. Then, right after the sun has finished it's morning dance, drive over to Diamond Head State Monument for the Diamond Head Summit Trail. This Diamond Head Hike is one of the most popular attractions on the entire island. It's only 0.8 miles to get to the top but has a 560 foot elevation gain. You'll pay $5 per car (or $1 per person if you walk in) and it's cash only.
Whichever you choose for today will be a great choice and you'll hopefully have an amazing sunrise either way. Maybe you'll even spot the elusive Green Flash. We'll save the hike you didn't pick for another day because they're both worth doing. As in all hiking scenarios, be sure to read and follow our Hiking Safety & Essentials. For an early hike, remember that it's going to be dark and you'll likely be on unfamiliar roads. Go slow and take it easy.
Now you're probably a little warm so how about we cool off at the beach and do some snorkeling. But not just any snorkeling beach, let's go to nearby Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Beach Park which is the most popular spot for snorkeling in Oahu and usually a great place for beginners. Since it's so popular and the parking lot does fill up, it's good that you'll be getting here early.
First up, note that this place is completely closed on Tuesdays as sort of a day to "let the reef heal" itself. If it's a Tuesday on your Day 2 then you'll need to swap this with another day but still give it a shot.
You'll pay $1 to park and then $7.50 per person to get in and you'll need some gear so let's cover that since it applies from this point out. You'll want some snorkel gear and maybe you're asking, Should I Bring My Own Snorkel Gear To Hawaii? If you've never done it before, you may want to learn How To Snorkel which is very easy. Finally, it's incredibly important to Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer by using plenty of sunscreen and consider buying and wearing a long sleeve rash guard. You'll be floating on your stomach a lot when snorkeling so you'll easily get a full neck and back burn if you're not careful. The sun is no joke out here.
By now you should be hungry so click Oahu Restaurants Nearby Me (when you're actually out there) on your iThing to find plenty of food options around here. Avoid the chains and look for something local.
After a fun lunch, head to Waikiki and let's tour the Waikiki Aquarium. Chances are good you're staying in Waikiki since most people who come to Oahu stay in Waikiki (if not the Ko Olina Resort or the Turtle Bay Resort). If you are staying nearby, parking at your hotel might be easier (and cheaper) than parking on the street here (metered parking, bring coins). If you can't park near the aquarium you can find other Free & Cheap Waikiki Parking.
Visiting the aquarium after Hanauma Bay will be a little more fun since you can now learn a bit about some of the marine life you just saw in the wild. It's not a large aquarium but it's relatively inexpensive and pretty well done. Kids will enjoy it a lot. Plus, it will likely be warm now that it's afternoon so good to get inside for a bit.
As you leave the aquarium, walk next door to the War Memorial Natatorium and you can witness one of our greatest embarrassments. Yes, what should be a magnificent memorial to those who served in WWI is a rundown and closed down mess that's taking up some incredibly expensive real estate. I wouldn't normally suggest you come here, but you're right next door. It's neat to peek in and see how neat this salt water swimming pool once was.
Since you're already here and because Waikiki is such a huge part of Oahu, it's time to go explore the Waikiki area a bit. If you're staying here this will also help you get your bearings early on. The main thing to know is that Waikiki is a small section within the city of Honolulu. Waikiki Beach is a set of several beaches all in a row, rather than just a single beach as most people think. The main street of Waikiki, that runs parallel to the ocean, is Kalakaua Avenue with another street, Kuhio Avenue, that mostly runs parallel to it but a block inland.
Check our Waikiki Guide for a lot more information on this area and then be prepared to walk around and explore. It's not all that large so you actually can walk it if you're up to it. If the hiking and snorkeling took its toll on your legs, you can use TheBus to get yourself from one end to the other if needed or even call an Uber. My preferred method is to walk from one hotel to the next at a time, stopping in for Mai Tai as needed.
It's also time to think about food so you can once again click on Oahu Restaurants Nearby Me on your smartphone and find plenty of options. Of course, this is Waikiki and you can also probably view a zillion options just by looking around right in front of you. That is the magic of Waikiki, it's all right here.
If you happened to be in Waikiki on a Friday, then work your way somewhere near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort to watch the Friday Night Fireworks In Waikiki.
Now go soak those sore muscles in your hotel's hot tub and get some sleep for a fun Day 3.
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