What to Do in Hawaii for a Week: A First-timer's Guide

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Advisor - Ali Hamdany
Curated By

Ali Hamdany

  • USA

  • Hawai'i

  • Oahu

  • Family Travel

  • Outdoor & Nature

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

stack of surfboards on a beach with a palm tree
Curator’s statement

Aloha! If you're headed to Oahu or Hawaii in general for the first time, get ready for an unforgettable experience. The island is brimming with stunning natural beauty, from the turquoise waters of Waikiki to the lush greenery of the rainforest. And when it comes to luxury, Honolulu has got it all. World-class resorts offer everything from beachfront yoga to Michelin-starred dining, private beachfront bungalows and indulgent spa treatments.

When planning what to do in Hawaii for a week, Oahu is the perfect destination, especially for families seeking a luxurious vacation that offers something for everyone. Families with children of all ages will find plenty to do and see, with activities ranging from snorkeling and surfing to learning about Hawaiian culture at museums and historic sites. Explore Oahu's natural beauty, including the famous North Shore beaches, lush rainforests and stunning hiking trails. You're in for a real treat.

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What to do in Hawaii for a week: culture, nature, adventure & relaxation

aerial view of a beach dotted with people and palm trees

Let's start with some important dates when planning what to do in Hawaii for a week.

The peak season in Honolulu is generally from mid-December to mid-April, which coincides with the winter months in North America, when many people are looking to escape the cold weather and enjoy a tropical vacation in Hawaii.

The off-season in Honolulu is generally from mid-April to mid-June, and from September to mid-December. During these months, the weather is still warm and pleasant, but there are fewer tourists, and prices for accommodations and activities tend to be lower. This period is also known as the shoulder season, and it is an excellent time to visit Honolulu if you're looking for a more relaxed and affordable vacation experience. The beaches and attractions are less crowded, and you can enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the island without the hustle and bustle of peak season. However, it's important to note that the weather can be more unpredictable during the off-season, with occasional rain and higher humidity levels.

The hurricane season in Honolulu and Hawaii generally runs from June 1st to November 30th each year. During this time, the Pacific Ocean is most active, and there is a greater chance of tropical storms and hurricanes forming and affecting the islands. The peak of the hurricane season is typically in August and September. However, it's important to note that while there is always some risk of severe weather during the hurricane season, the Hawaiian Islands are typically not directly hit by hurricanes due to their location in the Pacific and the influence of the trade winds. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to stay informed about any potential storms or weather warnings, and to follow the advice of local authorities to stay safe.

Relax on Waikiki Beach

Soak up the sun, swim in the turquoise waters and take in the iconic view of Diamond Head at one of Hawaii's most famous beaches. Right behind the beach is an array of eateries and shops. Go here early so you can rent an umbrella before they run out. If you are staying at a hotel that faces the beach, the hotel might provide you with the chairs and umbrellas.

Explore Diamond Head State Monument

A hike is always a good option when wondering what to do in Hawaii for a week. Hike to the top of this iconic volcanic crater for stunning panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. Go all he way up. It’s worth it. The views are amazing.

Go snorkeling or scuba diving

Explore the vibrant underwater world of Hawaii's coral reefs and marine life with guided tours or on your own.

Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center

Immerse yourself in the cultures and traditions of Polynesia through authentic performances, demonstrations and hands-on activities.

Enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau

Feast on delicious Hawaiian cuisine, watch hula dancing and fire knife performances and experience the spirit of aloha at a luau. These you can usually find at the hotel. If you have the right room, you can enjoy the performances right from your balcony, like I did. Since we weren’t interested in the food due to dietary restrictions, we just grabbed a drink and enjoyed the performances from our balcony.

Kuala Ranch ATV tour

When planning what to do in Hawaii for a week, this is a must-do, in my opinion. It’s so much fun. You can take the kids over five along with you. It’s a majestic experience off-roading through the magical landscapes of the ranch. You also stop at the various sites where movies like Jurassic Park and Finding 'Ohana were shot.

Dole Pineapple Plantation

Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this plantation is a must-do for both kids and adults. Definitely take the train ride, which takes you through the whole plantation with a guide narrating the history of the plantation and talking about the different species of plants. It's an extremely refreshing and calming train ride.

Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls is also located on the North Shore. You can do this on the way back from the plantation. Waimea Falls is a stunning 45-foot waterfall that you can reach via a scenic 1.5-mile hike through botanical gardens. You can swim right up to the waterfall. Once you hike back down, there is a restaurant if you are hungry, as well as stalls where you can change into dry clothes.

Helicopter Tour

These tours are always a good idea to when planning what to do in Hawaii for a week. They offer the opportunity to get a good view of the landscape you are surrounded by. The minimum age to do this is seven, so this can be a great experience with older kids.

Take a scenic drive around Oahu

Rent a car or join a guided tour to explore the natural beauty, cultural landmarks and hidden gems of the island of Oahu.

Places to eat & drink during your week in Hawaii

whimsical Hawaiian shave ice shack

Leonard's Bakery: This is the most popular place for malasadas (Portuguese donuts) in Honolulu. The first time I had this, I didn’t realize the size and ordered 60 of them for a party of 12. Thankfully for us, they got the order wrong and gave us six.

Maguro Brothers Hawaii: This family-owned business in Chinatown is known for its high-quality, sushi-grade fish and creative poke bowls.

Tamashiro Market: This longtime local favorite is a market and seafood counter that also serves up some of the best poke on the island, with a variety of flavors and preparations to choose from.

Ono Seafood: This spot is a local favorite for its fresh, flavorful poke made with locally-caught fish.

7-Eleven: Believe it or not, 7-Eleven stores in Hawaii are known for their delicious Spam musubi, which is a popular snack or meal on the go. They are available at most locations throughout Honolulu.

Mana Musubi: This small, family-owned shop in Wahiawa is known for its delicious Spam musubi, which is made fresh to order and features crispy, flavorful Spam and perfectly seasoned rice.

Aloha Kitchen: This casual eatery in Moiliili serves up tasty Hawaiian comfort food, including Spam musubi that's a local favorite for its generous portions and homemade teriyaki sauce.

Matsumoto Shave Ice: This iconic spot on the North Shore of Oahu is a must-visit for shave ice lovers, with a wide variety of flavors and generous portions.

Aoki's Shave Ice: This family-owned shop in Haleiwa on the North Shore is known for its traditional Hawaiian shave ice, with homemade syrups and a variety of toppings to choose from.

Rainbow Drive-In: This iconic spot in Kapahulu is a must-visit for plate lunch, with generous portions of classic Hawaiian dishes like loco moco, mixed plate and chili frank.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel tips? Also check out my guide to Washington DC's top historical gems.

Advisor - Ali Hamdany

Travel Advisor

Ali Hamdany

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Oahu.