Is 4 days enough time in O’ahu? When Southwest had a great sale on tickets from California to Hawaii, we decided to add a long weekend in O’ahu to our 2022 Spring Break trip. Although O’ahu isn’t a big island, there IS a lot to do, so we were worried 4 days wouldn’t be enough time.
I knew there were a few things to do that we absolutely wanted to include in our O’ahu itinerary, and then there were a few things that were just “if we have time”. So, if you want to maximize your time in O’ahu and enjoy the must-do attractions, here is a 4-days in O’ahu itinerary perfect for you!
Where to stay for your 4 days in O’ahu
We chose to stay at the Disney Aulani resort (mostly because we are DVC members so we could use points), and it was perfect. The location did require a little driving to get around, but the resort itself offered everything we needed to relax and more.
What to look for in your accommodations
If you are only spending four days (so probably five nights) in Hawaii, splurge for the ocean view. It was lovely to wake up every morning with the sound of the waves and the fresh ocean air! Having a balcony is also important if you enjoy eating breakfast outside or having drinks in the evening while taking in the view.
Our accommodations had a full kitchen, but as long as you have a microwave, small fridge, and coffee maker you should be fine. Food is EXPENSIVE in Hawaii, so stop at a grocery store when you arrive and stock up on good coffee, drinks, and snacks. Add in granola bars and quick breakfast on the go items for the days you get up early and you’ll save a bunch.
A resort or hotel with a few restaurants on-site or within walking distance is smart too. Several of the days on this itinerary are FULL, so not having to go back out in the evening is lovely. So is the ability to just enjoy the resort without leaving on your beach days.
Aulani has several restaurants, a coffee shop, and a quick market, so it was simple to grab something there when we didn’t feel like leaving. Even better, across the street were several cute shops, restaurants, and a wonderful local chain coffee shop!
Make sure your room has a beach area – this is key for your beach day and makes it MUCH more relaxing!
👉 Ready to book your accommodations? Check out Booking.com for ease and affordability!
Do you need to rent a car for your 4 days in O’ahu?
I would definitely say yes. You COULD take tours to get to most of the locations, but you’ll waste a lot of time sitting on buses waiting for other passengers. Uber would be pretty expensive, and it would be a challenge to do some of the recommended things on this 4 days in O’ahu itinerary via Uber.
O’ahu is quite easy to drive around, and aside from a few times near Honolulu, traffic wasn’t bad at all. Having a car allowed us to pack a lot more into our short visit.
Insider tip: Rent your car through Costco Travel. I’ve always found the best rates there AND you get a second driver at no additional cost.
Spend the first of your 4 days in O’ahu at Pearl Harbor
Coming from California, it was easy to get up early that first day, and getting to Pearl Harbor early makes all the difference in how your day goes.
How to plan your trip to Pearl Harbor
Originally I attempted to book a tour to Pearl Harbor, but the ones I found were either full or didn’t give us much time there, so after a little research, I determined that it would be simple enough for us to just drive there ourselves and buy tickets on-site. Pearl Harbor is a part of the National Park Service (NPS), and while the visitor center itself is free, I can’t imagine not buying tickets and visiting everything the park has to offer.
As long as you arrive early (definitely before 8), you won’t have to spend too much time waiting. We purchased the combination tickets which included the ferry ride to the USS Arizona memorial, all the museums, and the visit to the Battleship Missouri.
It is possible to book a time (for free) on the ferry to the memorial, but I wasn’t successful doing it on the website, nor were several of the other folks I spoke to while waiting in line. So, after we purchased our tickets, we headed straight to the ferry. The line looks quite long, but once the passengers with reservations were on the boat, quite a few standby folks were able to join. We had to wait through just one boat, so our wait was about thirty minutes. Had we arrived even earlier than 8 I don’t think we would have waited at all.
What is there to do at Pearl Harbor?
The ferry ride to the memorial is lovely – it’s a great way to enjoy the island from the water, and the memorial itself is quite interesting. Allow yourself about 20 minutes to check it out, plus another 20 minutes or so for the ride there and back.
After you visit the memorial, you can either visit the museums located there or take the bus (included with your tickets) over to the Battleship Missouri and the Aviation Museum. We chose to walk through the museums near the ferry as well as explore the grounds.
The other two sites to see are the Battleship Missouri and the Aviation Museum. The Battleship Missouri was amazing! I’ve been on battleships before but never seen one this well done. It was fascinating to explore and there was so much information available.
The Aviation Museum would be super intriguing to someone who loved planes, and we enjoyed looking at them but definitely spent more time in the other museum areas.
Is there food at Pearl Harbor?
As huge history buffs, we spent over five hours exploring Pearl Harbor. Most of the upfront research I did suggests 3 to 4 hours, so plan according to your family’s ability to visit historical sites.
Being there so long, we got quite hungry around lunchtime and luckily in addition to a few food stands at each location, we found a wonderful food truck! We split an order of shrimp and rice and it was really good – I was pleasantly surprised.
Other tips for visiting Pearl Harbor
When we visited you weren’t allowed to bring in bags (aside from very small clutches). I carry a small purse when I travel and it was still too big although my daughter’s wristlet was fine. We (along with many others) had to make the trek back to the car to leave purses and bags in the trunk, so don’t make that mistake and plan ahead accordingly.
Water bottles are allowed, and I also was able to bring my coffee in its disposable cup. Since we spent so much time walking around it was nice to have the water bottles and we could easily refill them at the water fountains.
Spend the rest of day 1 of your 4 days in O’ahu in Honolulu or Waikiki
Even if you started out early at Pearl Harbor, after checking it all out and enjoying a bite to eat, it’s probably late afternoon.
Head over to Honolulu or Waikiki to check out the larger cities on the island. We opted to visit the world’s largest open-air shopping mall, Ala Moana Center, just north of Waikiki. Normally I wouldn’t push a mall as a must-do, but it started raining, and I had my teenage daughter with me.
This mall is HUGE! We enjoyed an afternoon treat of gelato and then strictly shopped at the stores that we didn’t have at home. This still took us several hours. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.
After driving around Honolulu a bit to get a feel for it, we headed back to the resort to rest and relax. Another great reason to ensure your hotel has dining options on it or within walking distance!
Spend the 2nd of your 4 days in O’ahu in the water!
After a busy day of walking and sightseeing, day 2 is the perfect day to soak up some sun and enjoy what Hawaii is well known for – the ocean!
Find a place to snorkel
With crystal clear water and plentiful sea life, you really can’t visit Hawaii without snorkeling. There are dozens of options for snorkeling excursions, but we chose to just rent gear at our resort and snorkel there in the cove as well as the dedicated snorkeling reef.
👉 Looking for a snorkeling excursion? Book one here via Viator!
Drive the North Shore
Whether you choose to snorkel at your resort or by booking an excursion, spend the afternoon driving along the North Shore.
With breathtaking beaches, hidden coves, and food trucks galore, it’s a beautiful and unique drive. Take your time and stop often to check out the various scenic spots or to grab a snack.
This is where you’ll find the legendary surf spots and get a chance to watch amazing surfers in action. It’s truly inspiring! The beaches stretch about 7 miles, and the area itself is about an hour from Waikiki.
Having your own car makes it simple to spend as little or as much time as you’d like exploring this scenic part of O’ahu.
Spend the 3rd of your 4 days in Oahu hiking and sightseeing
After yesterday’s relaxing day, spend day 3 out and about again! We found that by alternating between beach days and active sightseeing days we enjoyed the optimal mix of relaxation and adventure!
Start day 3 early by hiking Diamond Head
As an O’ahu must do, if you want to enjoy beautiful views and check out a volcanic crater, Diamond Head is the hike for you. Because it’s such a popular tourist destination, it’s imperative to get there EARLY. Arriving by 7 is ideal, but as long as you are there before 8 you should be okay.
We grabbed a quick cup of coffee at the coffee shop across the street from our resort (Island Vintage Coffee has the BEST cup of Kona around) and headed straight to Diamond Head. Because we arrived just after 7, we were able to get a parking spot at the base of the hike. By the time we left at 8:30ish, there was a line of cars waiting to park and dozens of people walking in from across the street.
It costs $10 to park in the lot and another $5 per person to hike the trail. The hike itself isn’t long or challenging except that it’s all uphill. And there are quite a few stairs. It’s well-groomed and quite busy too – even that early in the morning.
We knew what we were getting into, so we just powered through the uphill climb so that we could enjoy the views at the top. Just like our trip last year to Gatlinburg when we hiked Rainbow Falls (which was also all uphill), the trip up took twice as long as the trip down!
The views at the top are gorgeous. Definitely take your time up there, take lots of pictures and enjoy the view from a variety of angles.
Insider tip: bring a water bottle – even early in the morning the hike can be hot and there isn’t a lot of shade. There is a water refill station at the beginning of the hike near the restrooms.
After a great hike, brunch is a must!
There are dozens of lovely places for brunch near Diamond Head, but we chose Sweet E’s Cafe and it was an excellent choice! It’s a very popular spot for brunch (we waited about forty minutes for a table), but the food was delicious and plentiful, and the atmosphere was fun!
My favorite part was all the locals (or travelers in the know) who brought their own bottles of prosecco. Add a few different juices from the restaurant and you’ve got a tasty mimosa to accompany your breakfast!
Round out day 3 with a visit to the Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is another spot that I investigated beforehand and determined that although we could do a tour since we had a car there was no need.
👉 If you don’t have a car, book your tour to the Dole Plantation via Viator!
Is the Dole Plantation touristy? Yes, it is. But, if you love pineapple and like to learn a little with your touristy fun it’s quite enjoyable.
We purchased the combo ticket with the train ride and the garden tour. There is a maze too, but since we’d already hiked all morning we didn’t feel the need to run around a maze – plus, I live in Indiana. We have corn mazes galore in the fall.
The train ride was fun and educational. It reminded me a bit of the Living with the Land Tour at Disney – not sure why but that’s where my mind went. It was pretty interesting to see how pineapples are grown and learn some facts about them.
Walking through the garden was lovely. It is FULL of gorgeous tropical flowers and bright colors. If you want to take some fun Instagram pictures, this is definitely a place to do it! We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the gardens and taking in all the beauty.
Of course, enjoying pineapple treats is a must before you leave the Dole Plantation. You can indulge in fresh chocolate-covered pineapple, pineapple juice, authentic Dole Whip, and more. Yum!
You can also load up on pineapple candy at the gift shop – a perfect consumable souvenir.
Spend your last day in O’ahu relaxing on the beach
After such a busy and active 3 days in O’ahu enjoying all the best things to do, it’s nice to spend your last day just relaxing.
Grab a cup of Kona and start the day with an easy walk by the ocean. If it’s early enough you’ll get some amazing early morning pictures. After that, it’s reading and relaxing!
👉 If you like reading outside, I highly recommend picking up a Kindle Paperwhite here – you can easily read it in bright sunlight and the battery will last all day long!
Whether you choose to chill poolside with fancy drinks or enjoy the soft sands and clear water of the ocean, a lazy relaxation day is a perfect way to end your trip to Hawaii. We bounced back and forth between the pool, hot tub, and ocean and then ended the day with a lovely dinner al fresco at a nearby local restaurant.
The verdict, is 4 days in O’ahu enough time?
Absolutely! With four full days, we were able to explore the highlights of the island as well as spend some quality time at the beach. We visited all the top things to do in O’ahu AND had time to relax and unwind.
Could you spend more time on O’ahu? Of course, but you’ll have a lovely and memorable trip following this 4 days in O’ahu itinerary!
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