Active 3-Day Itinerary for Honolulu

Advisor - Carol Johnston
Curated By

Carol Johnston

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  • USA

  • Hawai'i

  • Oahu

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Outdoors

  • Island-Life

  • Hiking

aerial view of mountains next to body of water and city
Curator’s statement

We have always loved Hawaii as a family vacation spot but would typically be in Honolulu just long enough to catch a flight to one of the other islands. This changed after having the opportunity to live in Honolulu for several months. I now recommend Oahu to anyone planning a trip to Hawaii—even if it is just a 2-3 day stop on the way to or from the other islands. Here is a plan for 3 days in Honolulu. And if you choose to stay longer, there is plenty to do!

The Fora Difference

Book with Carol to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

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Killer perks

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay

Halekulani Hotel

Serene and elegant Waikiki accommodation with top-tier service, award-winning cuisine and unique amenities in a beautifully designed space.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort

On gorgeous grounds just outside Waikiki, this historic hotel has an award-winning restaurant and quiet stretch of beachfront.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

The Moana Surfrider

In the heart of Waikiki Beach, a low-rise original with lush oceanfront gardens and outdoor restaurants.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Advisor - Carol Johnston

Unlock perks by contacting Carol to book your trip.

Day 1: Enjoy a beach Day

aerial view of ocean and beaches with tall buildings

Waikiki is home to some of the most iconic beaches in the world. After a long flight (it is nearly a 6-hour flight from Los Angeles, one of the closest mainland USA locations), beach time will feel especially relaxing. And coming from California, I am always pleasantly surprised by the warm temperatures of the water. You can take a surf lesson, rent a paddleboard or kayak or simply relax.

For the evening, have a drink and enjoy the entertainment at “House Without a Key even if you are not staying at the Halekulani. Move to a table for dinner, or one of the other restaurants on their property (reservations required.) Orchids offers Italian-inspired dishes, with a Hawaiian flair.

Day 2: Kailua

beach and ocean during daytime

Post breakfast, take the drive around the island to Kailua Beach. Or call the night before to order croissants or other treats at The Bread Shop in Kaimuki.

In the morning, I like to take the coastal route passing Hanauma Bay (you can make a reservation to snorkel here) and the Makapu’u Lighthouse (a nice short, but somewhat steep hike up a paved road with trail options at the end of the road).

In Kailua Beach, visit the Kalapawai Market to grab sandwiches and other snacks (the coffee is great there, too!) before heading to the beach. Kailua Ocean Adventures has outrigger canoe trips to nearby small islands off the beach. We went with four adults and one guide. The weather was a bit rough that day, but the outrigger was easier than those braving the wind and waves in kayaks, and we were still able to see quite a few sea turtles during our ride.

Have dinner at Buzz’s Original Steakhouse before returning to Waikiki via one of the inland routes (Hwy 61 or 63) that cross the island.

Day 3: Morning hike and afternoon sightseeing

trail surrounded by trees during daytime

After breakfast at your hotel, head to the trailhead at Aiea Loop Trail. This 5-mile trail can be a bit muddy but offers a variety of lush tropical ecosystems and some spectacular viewpoints. For most, it is just over a 2-hour walk and is also a popular running trail.

Post-hiking, you can choose from a variety of other attractions on Waikiki, including The Bishop Museum, Iolani Palace, Pearl Harbor Memorial and USS Missouri. These choices might need to be moved to other days if you are taking a flight in the afternoon. If you are planning Pearl Harbor, you might want to head there first (with a reservation!) and then do the hike afterward.

Need to Know

Planning a trip to one or more of the Hawaiian islands? Check out Must-Do in Hawaii: Best Activities for Each Hawaiian Island.

Advisor - Carol Johnston

Travel Advisor

Carol Johnston

Get in touch with Carol

Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Hawai'i, and our continuing series on travel to Oahu.