Oahu is home to Hawaii's capital, iconic beaches, and some of the best surfing in the world. It is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and only takes about 4 hours to drive around the entire island. If you are looking to escape Honolulu and maximize your time in Oahu, taking a road trip is the perfect option. This can be done in a day with an early start. If you prefer to travel at a slower pace, you can break it up in 2-3 separate road trips based on region.
If you are starting south, Lanai Lookout is a perfect first spot. You can catch a breathtaking view of the waves crashing on land. Behind you, you will get a perfect view of Koko Head Crater.
Halona Blowhole Lookout
This is a form of rocks down below a lookout point. When the waves hit just right, the water comes up through the rocks resembling a blowhole.
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
This is a short hike to the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse. It takes about 30 minutes uphill along a paved road. There is no shade, so make sure you put your sunscreen on! The top is supposed to be a great spot to whale watch, but unfortunately we didn't see any when we went.
Nu'uano Pali Lookout
This was one of my favorite spots we went. It was not super crowded when we were there and the view truly is incredible. Make sure you bring cash because it cost 3 USD to park and they will not take card. It's very chilly at this point, so bring a jacket, you'll want it!
Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens
These gardens feel like you are on a scene from Jurassic Park. Parts of the movie were actually filmed on Oahu on the Kualoa Ranch. The best part is, the gardens are completely free to drive and walk around at your leisure.
Valley of the Temples
This is located in the Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary. There is no charge to enter the park, but it will cost 3 USD to explore the temple. Make sure you bring cash, they will not accept card.
Kualoa Regional Park
This is a beautiful camp site and beach area that you can relax surrounded by incredible mountains. It offers a beautiful view of Mokoliʻi, also known as Chinaman's Hat.
This is a 4,000 acre private nature reserve that has been used on many film sets. They offer kayaking, four-wheeling, and zip lining tours. I wish we did one of the tours, but they are expensive, and unfortunately we did not have the budget for it at the time. I have heard really great things about this place though if you have the budget! It is a beautiful area to drive around regardless.
Polynesian Cultural Center
This is like a Disney World Epcot, but focused solely on Polynesian Culture. They offer fun souvenirs, unique things to eat, and shows. Tickets vary depending on how long you plan to stay and if you are looking for dinner and a show. You can find all the information you need for ticket packages on polynesia.com.
La'ie Point State Wayside Park
Just a few minutes up from the Polynesian Cultural Center, is Lāʻie Point State Wayside. Keep your eyes open for it because it is a little hard to spot and you might not feel like you are going the right way. You'll drive through a residential neighborhood and at the end, you will see this beautiful spot.
This is one of the most famous surfing spots in the world. I'm not a surfer at all, but it is really cool to watch people take on this giant wave!
Ka'ena Point State Park
Located along the western most tip of the island is this beautiful coastal hike. It can be accessed from two different sides. We reached it on the northern side. It is about 5 miles roundtrip and is mostly flat. There is not much shade so be sure you have sunscreen or additional clothes to cover up if you start to burn.
This is a historical pineapple plantation that has the world's largest maze. There is a train that will take you around the plantation. If you do not want to take a tour, it's a great place to stop for a tasty treat and some fun pineapple shaped souvenirs. The Dole Whip is delicious!
Driving around Oahu is an incredible experience. You can modify this road trip route with the places that most interest you and fit your time frame. It's Hawaii, you really can't go wrong with whatever route you decide!