Oahu Itinerary - Day 3

Your third day on Oahu, let's make it special.

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Matt Anderson's Take
Guide Series: Oahu Vacation Itinerary
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Many people find that Day 3 is when they really start settling in and getting into their Oahu and overall Hawaii vacation groove. Your body is (hopefully) fully adjusted to Hawaii Time now. Maybe you're even getting into the slower pace of life that we call Island Time (see Hawaii Living: Island Time). There's still so much you want to do and see but taking it slow is the only way to go here.


Start your day with a good breakfast because we've got a big day planned. Then head out to Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial as soon as they open because this is one of Oahu's top attractions and something everyone who comes here should experience.

I won't go into a ton of detail on what Pearl Harbor offers as you can read all about that in our guide to Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial. But know that this is actually multiple activities in one place. First up will be the actual USS Arizona Memorial which includes a small museum area, a short movie, and a boat ride to the memorial itself and all of that is completely free to see and do. Free I say! If you only do one thing here it should be that.

If you want more (and you should), you'll want to check out the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, then the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and then finish up with the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. All of those will cost you and various packages are offered based on which you want to see and do.


How long will all of that take? Some people do it all in just a few hours, others spend half a day here, and some even spend a full day or two here. Unless you're writing a book on WWII you won't need two days here, probably not even 1 full day here. It's just all about how much of a WWII history buff you are I suppose. If you get hungry you will find some quick serve options to avoid grumpy kids but this isn't exactly a dining destination.


Assuming you aren't a history fanatic that wants a full day at Pearl Harbor, you should still have lots of time left in the day. In that case, head on up to the Dole Plantation. Yes, this is an incredibly touristy place that wants to sell you a bunch of pineapple themed souvenirs. But it's still a fun thing to see and do, especially with kids.


The big attraction here is the giant maze that you get to get lost in which kids just love. The other big item here is a train ride through the pineapple fields. If you need a bite to eat there is some food here but otherwise you'll want to hold off until our next location. I would suggest grabbing a Dole Whip while you're here though, they're tasty!


Next up is a trip to Haleiwa on Oahu's north shore. This tiny town is a popular tourist spot as well and offers plenty of shopping and dining options. It's a small town so grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping.


Let's continue heading east along the north shore and make a quick stop at Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach). You're not here to swim or snorkel but to see Honu - The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. This is a classic stop for every bus tour that comes through because you're almost guaranteed to see some sea turtles here. They come right up on the beach and just hang out. Hope you brought your camera! Just remember, don't get close to the turtles, don't touch them, and generally just leave them alone.


Continuing on in the same direction, let's head over to Waimea Valley. This is a nice botanical garden with nature walks and even a small waterfall to see. On most days you can even swim by the waterfall but that part isn't as great as it sounds as it's a tiny waterfall and there's always the risk of Leptospirosis. If you're a fan of the TV show Lost you may recognize the waterfall here.


Your next move depends on how much time you have left in the day and what time of year it is. Right across the street is world famous Waimea Bay Beach Park, home to the equally famous The Quiksilver In Memory Of Eddie Aikau surf competition and general big wave surfing. If it's winter time and the waves are big then this is a fun place to watch the pro surfers. If it's summer and the ocean is calm it's a fun place to swim. Either way, if it's busy (and it usually is) parking is a pain but you've already parked at Waimea Valley so just walk across the street.


Another nearby option if you're into the cultural side of Hawaii is the Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site which includes an ancient Heiau as well as an amazing lookout point of Waimea Bay Beach Park below. Do be careful at the lookout (which requires a short walk), you're up quite high so not a place for little kids to run around. The heiau area itself is perfectly safe.


Another winter time big wave surfing spot is world famous Banzai Pipeline / 'Ehukai Beach Park, or "pipe" as the locals call it. It usually only generates big waves in the winter. If it's not winter then you'll be better off heading further down to Pupukea Beach Park / Shark's Cove Beach if you want to snorkel or to Sunset Beach if you want to swim. Sunset Beach is also a great place, as the name implies, to watch the sunset.

When you're all done just head back to your hotel which, if you're staying at Turtle Bay Resort will just be a short drive east down the road. If you're staying in Ko Olina you need to turn around and head back the way you came. If you're staying in Waikiki you'll also likely want to turn around as continuing east (clockwise) around the island looks like a sound option but likely won't be. Head back to the H2 and H1 freeways which is almost always much faster.
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