As someone who travels quite frequently, I have discovered how important it is to do your homework and gain insight from others who have experienced the destination first-hand. Don’t get me wrong, I have done many spontaneous trips where I just kind of wing it, but I can say that every time I do this I always say, “I wish I’d know that before.” There are always helpful tips you can take with you when planning a trip anywhere from others who have been there.
That all being said, here are some tips for traveling in Oahu, Hawaii:
Booking Airfare and Hotel
Do your research and plan early. I have always found that you will find the best deals when you bundle your hotel and airfare together. Now, this is not always the case, but in almost every situation I have tried booking the hotel and airfare separately for cost comparison and it is almost always more expensive that way. Get familiar with sites like Expedia and Priceline that can help you bundle your trip for the best deal. Also, try and book your trip in advance (3+ months) as prices normally always go up the closer you get to your travel dates.
Now pending where you are coming from you likely will not be able to get a direct flight to Oahu. I was fortunate that Minneapolis, MN is one of the very few airports that have direct flights to Oahu, so I am going to break down my direct flight experience and what to expect if you have a layover.
This flight was a bit long, 9 hrs and 30 minutes. I think anything over 7 hours gets to be a bit uncomfortable. For these long flights, the best thing you can do is sleep. Plan on taking some sort of sleep aide to help the hours pass as you catch some zzz’s. Also, try and get up frequently, your body will thank you. Depending on who you are flying you may have a screen on the seat in front of you so you can binge-watch movies or TV shows. If not, come prepared. Download shows and movies on your device and be ready with entertainment in case you can’t sleep on the flight.
Obviously, if it is in your budget go, first-class, as you will be beyond comfortable, but the reality is most of us cannot afford that, or we simply want to use our funds for doing fun stuff once we arrive at the destination.
As I said, you will likely have a layover – it happens. If you have a short layover anything under 2 hours plan on using the bathroom and maybe grabbing a bite on the way to your next gate, as this is not a lot of time in between flights.
If your layover is a bit longer 3+ hours, you can think about chilling at a restaurant with a beer and burger or if available, you can buy a pass to one of the all-inclusive lounges. Important note, as awesome as these lounges are they are not always available for day purchase. I am a huge fan of the lounges as you pay a fee to get in and then everything, including alcohol, is included. Remember, be smart and be at your gate when boarding starts – it can be easy to lose track of time in the lounge because it is so comfortable.
Getting Around Oahu
Getting around Oahu is going to be very tough without a car. It is possible to do if you plan on taking the bus, however, you will find that bus stops are not always where you hope to get dropped off. I would recommend renting a car while you are there for at least a one day so you can cruise around freely. You have options to rent from a car rental place or to check out local apps that allow you to rent someone’s personal car for a day or however long you like.
Booking tours are another great option for seeing the island without having to take the bus or rent a car. You can sit back and relax while someone else does the driving and planning for you.
Driving in Oahu
If you do rent a car plan for traffic. Oahu is a very busy island with a lot of tourists. You will see a lot of traffic and sit in traffic quite a bit.
What to Do
Beaches – This one is an obvious one. Oahu is known for its beaches specifically if you are into surfing. I would recommend getting to the beach early to get a spot as most of the beaches are very crowded and you will have a tough time finding parking if you come after 12pm. In my opinion you can’t really go wrong with what beach you choose, but I would advise to check few different ones out as they all offer something different.
Surfing – I unfortunately did not get to surf in Oahu as I just got out of boot with a broken ankle. Surfing is a must try when in Oahu if you are able. I would recommend paying for a lesson and having a professional help you out unless you are an experienced surfer.
Other Water Activities – If surfing is not your thing there are lots of other water activities that you can book a tour to do or rent equipment for right on the beach. Options includes paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, etc.
Hiking – If hiking is your thing plan to hit up Koko Crater Trail. It is a tough 1,000ft gain in a very short distance, but the view at the top is incredible. There are other really cool hiking destinations as well, but this one was my personal favorite.
Food – I am a total foodie and I loved all of the Asian food options. Plan to try poke, musubi, and shave ice as these are a must when in Hawaii.
Oahu is a gorgeous destination, but one of the biggest turn offs is how crowded it is. This is a very popular destination and there are tons of people. If you do well with crowds you will do just fine, but if a lot of people are not your thing you may want to consider a less popular island.