Want to go to visit Honolulu, the capital and largest city of the state of Hawaii, and Pearl Harbor, the naval base attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII? Follow me to find out how to explore the essentials of the island in 2 days.

ITINERARY - HAWAII: here is the full itinerary for a tour of the Hawaiian Islands.

Oahu - view of Diamond Head and Waikiki

Oahu is the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands. Over there you’ll find Honolulu, the capital of the state of Hawaii, and Pearl Harbor, the naval base that witnessed a bloody attack. These are the two most popular attractions on the island but not the only ones!

With that being said, let’s go to see the details of the schedule:

Schedule - Oahu, 2 days

Day 1: historic center and Windward Coast!

Tip: you can also click on the link down below from your smartphone, to open the itinerary to follow on google maps: « Honolulu Historic District » tour

To get started, after getting off the plane, go to pick-up your rental car, and drop off your suitcases at the hotel, before heading to the historic district of Honolulu.
When arriving in town, go to look for a parking lot because the city can be toured on foot. The cheapest parking lot is Alii Place which charges $0.75 per half hour. To start the walking tour, you can walk past Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, before heading to the State Capitol which is an open-air rotunda. On the ground floor, there is the Senate and the House of Representatives which are both normally not open to visitors. And don’t miss the statue of Father Damien. Right next to it you’ll find the Liberty Bell and in front of it, there’s the Eternal Flame.

Oahu - State Capitol - open-air design Oahu - State Capitol - Father Damien statue Oahu - State Capitol - Eternal Flame Oahu - State Capitol - House of Representatives
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After exploring the ground floor, go to the 4th floor of the building at the room #415 in order to pick up a free brochure which can be used as a self-guided tour. And finally, go to the top floor where you can enter the Executive Chambers and the Governor’s office.

Oahu - State Capitol - Executive Chambers Oahu - State Capitol - Governor's office

You can then continue the tour by visiting Iolani Palace which is located opposite the Capitol. The entrance fee is $20 but it’s clearly worth it. It was a former royal residence and there are huge banyan trees in the palace gardens.

Then across from Iolani Palace you’ll find Ali’Iolani Hale used as the home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court. In front of the building, don’t miss the statue of Kamehameha I, the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii!

Oahu - Ali’Iolani Hale - Kamehameha I statue Oahu - Ali’Iolani Hale - court Oahu - Ali’Iolani Hale - entrance hall ceiling Oahu - Ali’Iolani Hale - Hawaii flag
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Finally, head to Aloha Tower which is a 10-story lighthouse. A lift leads to the top, where you’ll have a 360° view of Honolulu. There is no admission fee either to enter the tower or to ride the lift.

Oahu - Aloha Tower - view #1 Oahu - Aloha Tower - view #2

For lunch, you can go to Chinatown. To reach the area from Aloha Tower, go straight ahead in the direction opposite to the sea. Then, turn left onto Hotel Street and you’ll be right in Chinatown. However, I prefer warning you because it’s not a good place to walk around. The neighborhood is overrun with homeless people and drug addicts. So if you are planning on eating there, just look for a restaurant but don’t stroll around the district.

Afterwards, go to pick your car back, in order to explore the Windward Coast.

Tip : you can also click on the link down below from your smartphone, to open the itinerary to follow on google maps: « Windward Coast » tour

To start, take Highway 61 in order to reach the town of Kaneohe. Along the way, don’t forget to take the small hook on the right side of the road in order to take the Nuuanu Pali Drive, a very pleasant path that passes through vegetation and trees. Once in Kaneohe, head to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. You’ll enter the garden by car and should park at the visitor center. Over there, you’ll be able to ask for information before going to visit a part of the garden on foot. You can of course visit the entire garden, but because it’s very big, it’ll take you the full day. And admission to the garden is completely free.

Oahu - Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden - a plant Oahu - Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden - tree branch Oahu - Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden - flowers Oahu - Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden - cliffs
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Not too far from the garden, you can also visit Byodo-In temple which is a scale replica of a temple located in Kyoto, Japan. Because I recently went to Japan, this visit wasn’t essential to me and I’d rather save time to visit other things. But if you’ve never been to Japan, the visit may be worth it. Admission fee is $5 per person.

Then, from Kaneohe take Highway 83 and stop at Kualoa Rock Beach. Over there, the view is awesome.

Oahu - Kualoa Rock Beach - rock Oahu - Kualoa Rock Beach - view of the cliffs

Finally, continue driving along the coast via Highway 83 until you reach Laie. You can then head to Laie Point, where you’ll have a view of the mountains and offshore islands. Not that far from there, you can also find a Mormon temple. You can park there, look at the building and even visit it. At the entrance, there will be many young girls dressed in Hawaiian dresses, ready to indoctrinate you!

Oahu - Laie Point - mountain view Oahu - Laie Point - view on the sea Oahu - Laie Point - rock Oahu - Laie - mormon temple
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And for the end of the day, go back to Honolulu where you can stroll through the very large Ala Moana Mall. You can even dine there. For example, you can try Bubba Gump restaurant which is a seafood restaurant chain inspired by the movie Forrest Gump.

Tip: Bubba Gump is a restaurant chain you can find all over the United States and even in some other countries. The special thing in those restaurants is that if you order certain cocktails (specified on the menu), at the end of the meal, you’ll be given a voucher that allows you to go to the restaurant shop in order to pick up a cocktail glass with « Honolulu, Hawaii » written on it. And it also works like that for the other cities in the United States. So you could start a collection!

Day 2: south-east shore

Tip: you can also click on the link down below from your smartphone, to open the itinerary to follow on google maps: « south-east shore » tour

To start this second day, you should wake up quite early in order to go climbing Diamond Head, which is a volcanic tuff cone. The park opens at 6 a.m. and I highly recommend going there for the opening, because later in the day the temperature will be way too high and the climb very difficult. Along the trail to the summit, on the sides, there will be some viewpoints. And at the summit, you’ll see bunkers and can enjoy a 360° view of the south of the island.
The visit is completely free, there is only a $6 parking fee.

Oahu - Diamond Head - sign Oahu - Diamond Head - view from a viewpoint along the climb Oahu - Diamond Head - view from the top of the crater
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Once the hike over, go back to pick up your car and drive Highway 72 which runs along the south shore. First stop will be Lanai Lookout where you can enjoy the view.

Oahu - Lanai Lookout - view of the rocks Oahu - Lanai Lookout - mountain view Oahu - Lanai Lookout - view #1 Oahu - Lanai Lookout - view #2
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Then continue driving on Highway 72 and you’ll arrive at Halona Blowhole Lookout.

Oahu - Halona Blowhole Lookout - view of the rocks Oahu - Halona Blowhole Lookout - bay view

If you have some time left, you can continue for about 3 miles on Highway 72 in order to reach Makapuʻu Lookout. From there, you’ll have a wonderful view of a small lush green setting on the edge of turquoise blue water.

Then it’ll be time to go to visit the famous Pearl Harbor naval base. First of all, try not to arrive there too late because the parking lot fills up quickly. Back then I’d been there by 10 a.m. and it began to be difficult finding a place to park.

Oahu - Pearl Harbor - sign

About the visits, some of them are free:

  • exhibits along the harbor
  • two museums: « Road to War » and « Attack Gallery »
  • USS Arizona Memorial: USS Arizona is a battleship sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers during the attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII. A memorial was built above the wreckage and marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the attack. However, even if admission is free, you’ll need a ticket. To get one, you have two options: or you book one in advance for $1 at www.recreation.gov, or you can directly pick up your ticket on-site at the visitor center. Reservations are not necessary, but they are recommended especially for busy periods. Back then, I’d taken the second option and got a ticket for 10:15 a.m. The 75-minute program for the USS Arizona Memorial begins at the theater. It includes an introduction, a 23-minute documentary film, a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial, time to experience the memorial itself, and finally, a boat ride back to the visitor center.
Oahu - Pearl Harbor - USS Arizona Memorial Oahu - Pearl Harbor - part of the wreckage of the USS Arizona Oahu - Pearl Harbor - petrol leaking from the tank
Oahu - Pearl Harbor - model of the USS Arizona and its memorial
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All these free tours have been enough for me and the visit will take you a few hours. But if you want to deepen your discovery of Pearl Harbor, you can also visit:

  • USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park
  • Battleship Missouri Memorial
  • Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

These visits have admission fees, about twenty dollars each.

Oahu - Pearl Harbor - USS Bowfin Submarine Oahu - Pearl Harbor - USS Bowfin Submarine Park Oahu - Pearl Harbor - USS Missouri
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Tip: bags are not allowed at the park, but can be stored on-site.

Once the tour is over, go to have lunch before going to climb Puu Ualakaa State Park in order to reach Tantalus Lookout. But don’t worry, the climb is done by car! From the top, you’ll have a 360° view of Honolulu and Waikiki.

Oahu - Tantalus Lookout - view of Diamond Head and Waikiki Oahu - Tantalus Lookout - Honolulu view Oahu - Tantalus Lookout - airport view
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Then, when going back down from Tantalus Lookout, by turning left, you can continue on the Scenic Round Top Drive. This road is a loop of 17km and allows you to see some bamboo, gingers, taros and eucalyptus.

Afterwards, if you still have some energy left, you can try the Manoa Falls Trail. It is a 2.4 km round trip which leads to a waterfall. It’ll take you about 1 hour and the parking fee is $5.

For the end of the day, you can chill out on Waikiki Beach. You can go to swim or even stroll along the beach. There are many statues and buildings to look at, and not far from the beach, there are also shopping districts.

Oahu - Waikiki Beach

If you stay there until sunset, don’t miss the torch-lighting ceremony on the beach, near the « Duke » statue. And there is also a free hula show (Hawaiian music and dance).

Oahu - Waikiki Beach - « Duke » statue Oahu - Waikiki Beach - Hawaiian dancers

Tip: if you are following the route I took for a visit to the Hawaiian Islands, the next morning you should take a flight that will take you to Big Island where you can visit the Volcanoes National Park which contains the most active volcano in the world.



American dollars

When going to Hawaii, in order to get American dollars, I think that the best solution is to change money before leaving. Because on the island, finding a currency exchange office won’t be easy and withdrawing cash will make you pay taxes and fees. And it’s the same thing for payments by credit card.

Note: throughout the Hawaiian Islands you’ll only find Hawaiian banks, there are no American banks over there.



In Hawaii, like in the U.S., all stores display prices without tax. The tax is approximately 4% in Hawaii. So you just need to know that prices will be higher at checkout. However there is an exception on all unprocessed food because the tax doesn’t apply.


If you are planning on going to the restaurant, be aware that the bill can quickly become very expensive because on top of the price of the meal is added the 4% tax and you also have to add 15% tip.


In the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll see « Foodland » supermarkets almost everywhere, you’ll find everything there. In particular they have a « catering » section, where you can create your own poke bowls. They have various marinated tuna recipes, but also octopus, scallops, mussels… They put the seafood in a small plastic pot and in addition, you can also order small pots of rice. So that will make a good meal to take away! Just remember to bring cooler bags.

Tip: I also recommend getting a loyalty card at Foodland because it’ll save you a bit of money. Some products are on sale, but only for cardholders. The first hotel where I stayed gave a loyalty card to all hotel guests. But you can also request one at the front desk of any store.


To me, booking a hotel in Waikiki is pretty convenient. Even if it’s a bit pricey, it’s a quite central position in regard to the sightseeing places, and it’s also a busy area. In addition, I recommend finding a hotel that offers free parking because in Waikiki all parkings are generally chargeable. So being able to park for free at your hotel will be a significant advantage.

For example, you might be able to find a cheaper hotel outside of Waikiki, but for sightseeing you’ll have to travel a bigger distance and then you’ll also have to look for a place to park. So the location of the hotel you’ll choose to book is all up to your preferences.

In Waikiki, prices start at about $80 and can go up to several hundred dollars.

Back then, I stayed at Hilton Garden Inn because I had loyalty points. But parking was chargeable and valet parking was mandatory. So I recommend exploring other options, such as the Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites which offers free parking.



In order to visit the Hawaiian Islands you’ll need a car, except maybe for Oahu because the bus network is pretty well developed. However it’s quite restrictive, so renting a car on each of the different islands from the airport is the best solution. Moreover, you won’t need an international drivers licence for a trip up to 3 months. Just remember to take out CDW (included into Gold Mastercards and Visa Premier cards) and LIS insurance when renting a car.

Tip: for car rentals in Hawaii airports, you’ll always need to take shuttle buses in order to reach the car rental agency whom you made your booking with, because they are all located outside the airports. There is a shuttle for each company, so don’t get the wrong one in order to avoid being yelled at.


To be able to find your way when driving the car, there are several options available:

  • Google MAPS: it works even without any connection, it’s just that there won’t be traffic information. All you have to do is to save the maps before going or even once there, as long as you have an internet connection. To do so, on your smartphone, in the application, click on your profile picture at the top right of the screen, then click on « offline maps ». And then click on « select your own map » and zoom out the map until you see the area you want to save. You have to repeat the operation several times if the area to be saved is too large.
  • GPS rental from the rental car company: you can rent an optional GPS from the rental car company, but it’s pretty expensive and you won’t have traffic information either. In my opinion, this is not an option to consider. However, if you are renting a high-end car, there is frequently a GPS already available in the car, so without extra charge. But you won’t know it until you get on board, because no one will tell you, either at booking or when getting the keys.

Thanks for reading :)