Getting the Most Out of 3 Days in Oahu

This past Valentine's Day, my friend Yuting surprised me with a 3-day trip to Oahu - unbelievable right!? I was so excited to start the weekend early and visit a place I'd heard so much about, but never been to before. The two of us aren't used to 'vacation-style' traveling though, and weren't sure if 3 days would be enough time.

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Thanks to a few travel tips we've learned over the years though, and Yuting's careful planning, we had one of our best trips yet! In this article, I'll share with you our 3-day Oahu itinerary, as well as some basic tips to help you get the most out of your time on the island.

Oahu travel tips

Rent a car

Renting a car is the ultimate game-changer. Instead of having to wait for the bus or constantly call an Uber, you suddenly have the freedom to come and go as you please. For the 3 days we were in Oahu, we rented a car from our Airbnb host on a platform called Turo.

Turo is a car-sharing site that allows you to rent a car from regular people instead of a rental company. We liked Turo because there were no hidden fees, and we didn't have to stand in line at a rental agency.

TIP: You only have to be 21 in Hawaii to rent a car. Make sure and bring your license and insurance card though if you plan on driving.

Get up early or stay out late

The earlier you wake up, the sooner your day begins, and the more of Oahu you get to explore! If you're not a morning person, stay up late instead and enjoy the nightlife at Waikiki.

Read more: The Ultimate Sayulita Travel Guide

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Plan a basic itinerary

While I usually find it best not to plan an itinerary for longer trips, it's a good idea for shorter ones. Especially when you're limited to 3 or so days, the last thing you want to be doing on vacation is researching 'things to do in Oahu.' That being said, try to plan out a basic itinerary ahead of time with ideas for what you hope to do and see each day.

Do a variety of activities

One thing which made our trip feel more complete was doing a variety of activities. Instead of spending our whole time on the beach, we snorkeled, hiked, learned about Polynesian culture, and even spotted a few whales. By mixing up the types of activities we did, we were able to have a relaxing vacation without feeling like we'd missed anything. 

Read more: 12 Things You Need to Experience in the Philippines

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Group things by location

Before your trip, take a look at the map of Oahu and familiarize yourself with the locations of the spots you want to check out. By grouping your itinerary by location, you'll increase your efficiency and spend less time driving across the island.

In the sample itinerary I listed below, day 1 and 3 are grouped around the southeastern tip of Oahu, while day 2 focuses on the North Shore.

3-Day Oahu itinerary

Below is sample, 3-day itinerary to help you plan your trip to Oahu. It includes suggestions on where to eat and where to go, broken down by day and time of day. This itinerary is almost identical to how my friend and I spent our time in Oahu.

One thing you might notice is we did not try to cram as much as possible into each day. Instead, we gave ourselves plenty of time to stop and relax at each location, as well as a solid amount of sleep each night. If that's not your style, you can easily fit a few more activities into your trip.

Day 1 - Beach time and whale watching

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Morning

  • Rent a car
  • Head to a grocery store and get snacks, sunscreen, a beach towel, etc.
  • Chill at Kailua Beach

Afternoon

Evening


Day 2 - North Shore + Polynesian culture

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Morning

  • Breakfast at Cafe Haleiwa on the north shore of the island
  • Watch people surf (or join them) at Sunset Beach

Afternoon

Evening

  • Dinner and a show at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Day 3 - Snorkeling + crater hiking

 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Morning

Afternoon

  • Lunch at Kona Brewing Co.
  • Let your food settle at Lanai Lookout
  • Hike the Koko Crater Railway Trail  

Evening

Read more: 6 reasons why Oahu should be your next vacation


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 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu
 Getting the most out of 3 days in Oahu

Have you ever been to Hawaii?

Let me know in the comments below!