32 Hours in Oahu

32 Hours in Oahu

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Our last trip to The Big Island (The Ultimate 6-Day Road Trip Around Hawaii’s Big Island) included a visit to the island of Oahu. We only had 32 hours, not enough time to truly experience all that Oahu has to offer, but it was enough time to visit some of the most known places including Pearl Harbor and the famous north beaches. Our first evening was spent in the Waikiki Beach area. The second full day we explored by car, the total drive time for the day was about 3 hours.

Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

We landed in Honolulu late afternoon and headed to our hotel in Waikiki. We choose to spend our first night in Waikiki because it was close to the airport and tourist areas. After dropping off our stuff at the hotel we headed out to explore the Waikiki beach. For dinner, we went to Tiki’s Grill & Bar. The food was amazing, the view unbelievable and purple bread dinner rolls with banana butter were to die for!

Enjoying our first evening Waikiki.

Shaka Guide

We tried something different on this trip and downloaded a GPS Driving tour. Shaka Guide Oahu offers two self driving tours around the Oahu island. You will learn about Hawaii history and culture along the way. It is available for download to your iphone (iOs App Store) or Android (Google Play). No cellphone connection is needed as the maps are downloaded offline. The App is connected by GPS so all you have to do is click play. This was our first time to try something like this and found we really enjoyed it. Gives you freedom to move around however you like, with the benefits of a personal travel guide.

We did a modified version of the Circle Island Driving Tour starting at stop 107 – Pearl Harbor (following the path backwards cause that’s how we roll).

Note: Traffic in Oahu is awful, not at all what we expected on a tropical island. Be prepared to be patient.

Pearl Harbor

We started our day at Pearl Harbor, the site of an event that changed world history. On December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting Pearl Harbor base. The offensive sank 18 ships and left 2,403 dead and over 1,000 wounded. This forced USA to join World War II efforts and eventually lead to Allied forces to win the war. Today the site is a floating museum.

We took a boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial, built above the USS Arizona battleship where 1,177 service members lost their lives. The Memorial was built to honor all of the Americans who died here.

USS Arizona Memorial built on top of sunk USS Arizona battleship.
Marine life is slowly claiming the USS Arizona’s wreckage.

One of the most sombering views at the USS Arizona Memorial is the continuing oil slick that still escapes daily from the ship resting beneath and creates a reflective surface on the bay waters. The oil is called black tears by survivors.

Remnants of one of the battleships with oil slick on water’s surface.

The Byodo-In Temple, Kaneohe

After Pearl Harbor, we headed to the east side of the island stopping at the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. This is a replica of a 950-year old historic Japanese Buddhist temple that is a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan. This non-functioning temple is a great place to walk around and features large manicured gardens and meditation sites. This was a great stop after the reflective visit to Pearl Harbor.

Tropical Farms

The Macademia Nut Outlet is a great stop along the way.

Fill up on macadamia nuts, coffee and chocolate at this great little stop along the way.

Mokoli’i / Chinaman’s Hat

Our first beach stop was Mokoli’i, commonly called the Chinaman’s Hat.

View of the Chinaman’s Hat.

Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai Beach Park

‘Ehukai Beach, or “sea spray”, a small, 1.2-acre beach park on Ke Nui Road. From October to April this area is a surfer’s paradise. You can get great surfing shots with the emerald waters, white waves and blue skies.    

Sharks Cove, Pupukea

Smooth as glass in summer, churned by crashing waves in winter, Sharks Cove changes dramatically with seasons. Cove’s beautiful emerald waters, rocky shores, tropical green plants and palm trees make for some spectacular pictures.

Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is a common hang out for the Hawaii green sea turtle. They come to Laniakea to bask in the sun. We met two, Wooley-Bully (270 pound 42-year old male) and his companion, Punahele (225 pound 39-year old female). The sea turtles are protected by Malala na Honu. Their mission is to protect the Hawaiian sea turtles trough education, public awareness and conservation. The Honu Guardian volunteers with Malama na Honu take shifts watching the sea turtles. Remember to observe the sea turtles from a distance of at least 10 feet and never try to touch them. We all have a responsibility to protect them. 

Wooley-Bully and Punahele basking in the sun on the Laniakea beach.

Food Trucks

The Shaka Guide recommend several food trucks along our route. We stopped at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck for some great shrimp plates. Very tasty, definitely worth checking out.


32 hours wasn’t enough time to do everything we wanted to do. However, even with that said I wouldn’t spend more than a couple of days in Oahu. To experience all the beauty that Hawaii has to offer I would spend more time on the other islands.

Also check out our  Ultimate 6-Day Road Trip Around Hawaii’s Big Island.

7 thoughts on “32 Hours in Oahu

  1. Hawaii is one of the last states in the US I haven’t visited – it looks beautiful! Road trips, beaches & food trucks seem like a pretty perfect vacation. Thanks for sharing helpful tips!!

    1. Hawaii is amazing and really does have it all. One of those few destinations that I can go back to again and again.

  2. I had only about 2-3 days when I was in Oahu and felt the same way about the traffic! It was much more than I expected and prevented me from doing all that I wanted to do. The Shaka Guide looks like an awesome experience… I love that it’s self-guided and can be used offline. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. The Shaka Guide was a lot of fun. I keep looking for similar options to other destinations but haven’t found anything yet.

    2. The Shaka Guide was a lot of fun! I keep looking for similar options at other destinations but haven’t found anything yet.

  3. You’re so lucky to see those green sea turtles! What a dream 🙂 I’ve never known much at all about Oahu so thanks for sharing so much information about it!

  4. Looking forward to my first visit. Probably be our only trip there so thanks for the information.

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