Our Oahu Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help you plan your trip to one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii, USA. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need?

    We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips. You’ll also learn about the most popular landmarks in Oahu such as Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, and the North Shore. You’ll also learn about the most popular towns and villages on Oahu Island such as Honolulu, Kailua, Kaneohe, and Kapolei. It’s all compiled in this Oahu Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip to Oahu.

    1

    What are the main towns and villages on Oahu Island?

    Oahu is the 3rd-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is home to the state capital city, Honolulu. It covers an area of about 600 square miles and has a population of around 1 million. The island has 2 volcanoes, Wai’anae and Ko’olau, with a large valley in between. Oahu is famed for its beaches, especially Waikiki, and for being the site of Pearl Harbour. Aside from Honolulu, the main towns on Oahu are Kailua, Kaneohe, and Kapolei. 

    Honolulu 

    The capital and largest city of the state of Hawaii lies on the southeast coast of Oahu Island. It’s a major tourism, economic, and commercial hub. It’s home to famous Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbour. 

    Kailua 

    Kailua on the northeast coast of Oahu lies 12 miles from Honolulu. It’s well-known for its magnificent beaches, Kailua and Lanikai, which stretch on for nearly 5 miles. The volcanic peaks surrounding Kailua offer great hiking. 

    Kaneohe 

    Just north of Kailua, Kaneohe is home to the He’eia state park, the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden, and the Waiahole Forest reserve. It main point of attraction though, is Kaneohe Bay which is dotted with small islands. 

    Kapolei 

    Kapolei on Oahu’s south coast is a true golfers haven, with no less than 9 golf courses. It’s home to Paradise Cove Beach, Ko Olina Lagoon and beach park, as well as great dining, shopping, and nightlife. 

    2

    When is the best time to travel to Oahu?

    • Oahu is blessed with great weather year-round. Average temperatures range between 73°F and 81°F. 
    • October and March are the 2 rainiest months of the year in Oahu. You can also expect a few rainy days from November to February. The west coast is drier than the east coast due to the wind blowing westward. 
    • June–September are the warmest months in Oahu. The peak tourist season is from mid-December to April. Mid-June through August is the family travel season, so expect the island to be busy during these times. 
    • The best times to visit Hawaii Island are mid-April–early June and September–mid-December. This is when the weather's most pleasant, although it tends to be wetter later in the year. Beaches and attractions are less crowded, and you’ll find the most affordable flight and hotel prices in these periods.
    3

    Oahu basics

    • Plug type: A and B
    • Electricity: 120 V
    • Currency: United States Dollar (US$)
    • International dialling code: +1 808
    • Emergency telephone number: 911
    4

    How to get to my hotel in Oahu?

    The main arrival hub in Oahu is Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), familiarly known as Honolulu International Airport.

    Oahu Island is also home to 2 cruise ship terminals, which are located in Honolulu port at Pier 2 and Pier 11.

    Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

     With over 21 million passengers a year, Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is the busiest airport in the Hawaiian archipelago. It features 4 active runways and 3 terminals. 

    There are 4 modes of transportation available for you to get to your hotel from HNL: 

    • Public bus – routes 19, 20 and 31. Bus Stops are located on the second level roadway.
    • Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle – simply follow the signs located throughout the airport.
    • Car rental – Avis, Budget, Hertz, National, and SIXT agencies can be found on the ground level of the Terminal 2 parking garage, and Enterprise is located on Aolele Street. 
    • AMPCO Express taxicabs – drivers wear a bright yellow shirt and dispatchers can be found in front of the terminal baggage claim areas. 
    • Uber and Lyft services are allowed at HNL – the pick-up areas are located on the second level centre median outside Lobby 2, 5 and 8.
    5

    How to get around Oahu?

    Travel tips

    Oahu is the 3rd-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, covering an area of about 930 square miles. Hotel shuttle buses, public buses, tour buses, taxis, and ride-sharing apps – Uber and Lyft – are available for getting around the island, although it's most recommended to hire a car. 

    Honolulu is the capital city of the island, home to famous neighbourhoods such as Downtown, Waikiki, Kahala and Manoa. Each can easily be explored on foot. They are home to a good choice of dining, shopping and nightlife entertainment options. For longer distances throughout the city, the Waikiki Trolley also offers a convenient and affordable way to travel between Downtown and Waikiki. 

    Taking a taxi in Oahu

    Hailing a taxi is not the best way to travel around Oahu – it’s rather expensive and not the most efficient mode of transportation, especially in Honolulu’s traffic. Taxicabs can easily be found at the airport, cruise terminals, and be called from any hotel. In addition to the fare, a 15% tip is expected.

    Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft can also be used throughout the island and the Honolulu International Airport. Rates are slightly cheaper than standard cabs.

    Travelling by bus in Oahu

    “TheBus” is Honolulu’s bus system, featuring over 100 routes and a few thousand stops in Honolulu and around the island. It’s very convenient and is the cheapest way to explore Oahu. 

    There are 1-way tickets as well as 1-day and monthly passes available. The first 2 can be purchased directly on the bus, while monthly passes can be found in various locations, including 7-Eleven Stores. Check out “TheBus” website for further information. 

    Renting a car in Oahu 

    Renting a car is the most popular option for you to discover Oahu at your own pace. Conveniently, a foreign driving license can be used for up to 4 months in the states. Be aware that some rental agencies require drivers to be 25 years of age or older. A surcharge fee may apply for drivers below 25 years old. 

    Rental car agencies can be found at the airport, near the cruise ship terminals, and throughout Honolulu. In a way to save money, it’s recommended to book a car a few weeks before your departure, preferably from a local company. Note that traffic and parking can be an issue in Honolulu.

    6

    What are the main annual events in Oahu?

    The Aloha Festival

    • September 
    • Hawaii’s the largest cultural and heritage festivity that’s celebrated statewide, especially on Oahu. This weeklong celebration showcases Hawaiian music, dance and history. 
    • Where: Honolulu 

    Shinnyo Lantern Floating Festival 

    • May
    • Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii is a beautiful ceremony held annually for a personal and collective moment of reflection. It’s a day of remembrance but mainly meant to bring people together. 
    • Where:  Ala Moana Beach 

    The Honolulu Festival 

    • March 
    • The Honolulu Festival celebrates Asian, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures. Yearly held for 3 days, it features traditional music, dance and art. It ends in a grand procession through Waikiki.
    • Where: Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Shopping Center and Waikiki Beach Walk
    7

    What are the main landmarks in Oahu?

    Diamond Head

    Diamond Head is a dormant volcano that offers outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu. Hike to the outlook via a trail that takes you to the crater edge.

    Hanauma Bay 

    A stunning snorkelling spot within a former volcanic crater on the southeast coast of Oahu. It’s both a nature preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District.

    North Shore 

    Synonymous with surfing, this 28-km coastal area is home to Waimea Bay and Ehukai Beach, 2 spots highly regarded by the surfing community.

    Pearl Harbor 

    An active military base and museum that takes you through the fateful events that took place on December 7, 1941, and led to the entrance of the USA into WWII.

    Iolani Palace 

    Iolani Palace is a National Historic Landmark in Honolulu, built in 1882. It’s a living revivification of Hawaiian national identity and the only official royal residence in the USA.

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