O’ahu is the third largest island in the Hawaiian Island chain, but you can see and do a lot if youʻre visiting the island for just a day. There are many fast and short hikes, sites, valleys, coves, and beaches to explore, all within driving distance of each other. If you’re lucky enough to spend 24 hours hours on this special island, consider yourself blessed. Read on for our ideas for how to spend 24 hours on O’ahu.
If youʻre coming from the airport, make your way towards Waikīkī, but don’t waste your time there. Drive until the highway ends, and continue your journey onto Kalaniana’ole Highway. You’ll drive through a few towns within Honolulu before heading to our first destination: Hanauma Bay.
Hanauma Bay is a snorkeler’s paradise, where shallow reefs are home to thousands of colorful fish, turtles, reef sharks, and other marine organisms. The bay is a beautiful blue color and the sand is bright white – picturesque tropical beauty. Spend a few hours soaking up the sun here, as it is open from 6am-7pm (closed on Tuesdays).
After you’ve explored the deep, continue on Kalaniana’ole Highway until you reach the town of Waimanalo. Waimanalo beach was rated #1 by Dr. Beach’s best beaches of 2015. Striking mountains on one side, and beautiful beaches on the other, what could be more perfect?
Continuing on your journey, youʻll pass through Kailua, then make your way into Kāne’ohe, home to Kaa’awa Valley, which is a popular filming site for many Hollywood movies. Take a guided horseback ride through the jungle, enjoying the tranquil sounds of birds and flowing rivers. Learn about the modern and ancient culture of the valley, which was once considered one of the most sacred places in all Hawaii.
Leaving Kāne’ohe, the next town to visit is Ka’a’awa, where youʻll want to grab lunch from a hidden local gem, a small shack restaurant called Uncle Bobo’s. Enjoy local favorites such as ribs, pulled pork, teriyaki burgers, shave ice and malasadas. The restaurant is run by real locals, who know what the true aloha spirit is.
After lunch, continue down the scenic route, where youʻll be greeted by Kahana, one of the most beautiful bays in all Hawaii. You can get panoramic views of Kahana by hiking off the beaten path on a trail known as “crouching lion”. It is very easy to get there; just park your car on the side of road in the dirt path, it is right before Trout Farm Road. The hiking trail is unmarked, but walk up the hill and you should see steps, which lead to the start of the trail head. This hike can be dangerous if done after heavy rainfall as it will be very slippery, but it is well worth it. Make sure you go hiking with a friend, always.
Haleʻiwa is the next big town on your 24 hour journey of Hawaii. Haleʻiwa, which means “home of the ʻiwa bird”, is a quiet beautiful little town filled with both locals and tourists. It has small boutiques for souvenirs, surf boards and stand-up paddle rental shops for those who want to hit the water and plenty of restaurants if you plan on working up an appetite after doing a spot of shopping.
Finish off the day with a beautiful sunset at Laniakea beach (turtle beach), and watch the sun set over the beautiful island with some new Hawaiian friends. Green sea turtles bask in the sun to warm up, and can be seen watching the sunset just like you. They love the peace and quiet, so please respect the wildlife and enjoy the beach in its natural state.