Unmatched natural beauty, deep historical roots, modern amenities, and an immersive culture – this is all that you can expect to experience on a 5 day Honolulu itinerary.
There is something here for every type of visitor, from outdoor adventurers, city dwellers, foodies, beachgoers, and history junkies.
This itinerary for Honolulu includes the best things to see and do in this diverse city, including the best hikes, beaches, museums, and cultural destinations.
Where is Honolulu?
Honolulu is located on the southern coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, and also the largest city in the island chain.
When is the best time to visit Honolulu?
The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are the best time of year to visit Hawaii for a Honolulu trip.
Visiting at this time means that you’ll avoid most of the crowds, and also score lower lodging and airfare rates.
There isn’t really a bad month to visit if your main concern is weather, as average temperatures are balmy year round.
Even in winter, daytime highs can still hover in the upper 70s and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, it’s worth noting that Oahu does receive slightly more rain during the winter months.
5 Day Honolulu Itinerary at a glance
- Day 1: Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach
- Day 2: Diamond Head Hike and Hanauma Bay
- Day 3: Honolulu City
- Day 4: Lanikai Pillbox Hike and Lanikai Beach
- Day 5: North Shore and Dole Plantation
My top Honolulu recommendations
Before we jump into this guide, here are my top recommendations of things not to miss during your Honolulu trip!
- Visiting the historic and important memory site of Pearl Harbor is an essential stop!
- A highlight of this itinerary is the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and Snorkelling tour
- A must-visit location is the Polynesian Cultural Center
- Spending some time on the North Shore and taking a Jungle Expedition Tour is an incredible experience!
5 Day Honolulu Itinerary
Day 1: Discover Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach
Take an excusion to Pearl Harbor
A sombre yet important part of both Hawaiian and global history is located at Pearl Harbor.
A visit to this memorial will leave a lasting impression, as well as cultivate a deeper understanding of the world’s past, and how it can help change our future.
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is the final resting place of those who lost their lives on December 7th, 1941, and the U.S.S. Arizona is still visible above the water, making it the focal point of the memorial.
Visiting Pearl Harbor is free, but reservations for time slots are required for the boat tours of the U.S.S. Arizona.
It is advised to make these reservations in advance because naturally, it’s one of the most popular things to do here.
The tour of the U.S.S. Arizona lasts 45 minutes, which includes the boat shuttle to the memorial, and 15 minutes to spend at the memorial itself.
Upon returning from the memorial, you can spend additional time at the visitor centre, which includes several gallery exhibits, a bookstore, and a gift shop.
Here are three of the most highly-rated tours that usually sell out:
- Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial
- Salute to Pearl Harbor Including USS Arizona
- Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial & Battleship Missouri
Enjoy everything on offer at Waikiki Beach
The second half of Day 1 can be spent at nearby Waikiki Beach, located in the heart of Honolulu.
Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island, and there is plenty to do and see here.
Whether you prefer sunbathing, dining, refreshments, shopping, snorkelling, or people-watching, this is the place to do it!
There are also plenty of local establishments that line Waikiki Beach, if you prefer to enjoy your beach time with some food, snacks, and drinks.
Or, if you prefer to be active, then it’s also a popular surf spot.
When you’ve had your fill of lounging or people-watching, you can walk a few steps onto iconic Kalakaua Avenue for some high-end shopping, or grab your snorkelling gear and look for local fish and sea turtles amongst the waves.
Given the plethora of things to do here and its popularity among locals and visitors, it can get crowded, especially during peak summer months.
If parking becomes limited, you can hop on the Waikiki Trolley, or take advantage of free parking spots located at the nearby Honolulu Zoo and Kaplolani Regional Park.
If you are walking from nearby lodging, Waikiki Beach is located only several miles from the city centre.
Day 2: Diamond Head Hike and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Diamond Head Hike
The Diamond Head hike is an iconic Honolulu hike, located just a few minutes east of downtown.
This hike is brief but challenging, and mixes in both stunning views with a bit of historical background.
The short hike equates to a quick ascent and an increased workout, but the upside is finishing this hike with plenty of time to spend the second half of the day on another activity!
The Diamond Head crater is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the island, as it looms above Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and the southern end of Oahu.
Hiking to the summit is guaranteed to provide some of the most impressive and memorable views of your entire trip!
The Diamond Head hike is located in Diamond Head State Monument, southeast of Honolulu.
It’s open from 6AM – 6PM daily, except for Christmas and New Year Day.
Entrance fees are $25 per vehicle, or $5 per pedestrian.
Entry and parking reservations are required for non-residents.
The Diamond Head hike is 1.9 miles round trip, and climbs just over 500 feet in elevation gain.
The trail was actually initially established as part of the island’s defense system in the early 1900’s, and there are still several remaining tell-tale signs of these historical roots on display.
On this trail, not only will you have the opportunity to scale the side of this enormous crater, but you will get the chance to hike a series of metal staircases built into the side of the mountain, traverse dark tunnels on the interior of the crater, and take in the ocean views from remaining military bunkers.
All before reaching the most stellar summit on the island!
Although this is a short trail, be sure to carry recommended day hiking essentials, including sun protection, proper layers, reliable footwear, and plenty of water and snacks.
This is a moderately rated hike due to the steady elevation gain, and there is also minimal shade of protection from the elements.
Explore Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
One of the most serene spots in Honolulu is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
This destination is a top snorkelling spot, with a chance to witness many forms of local wildlife up close and personal.
Snorkelling tours like this Hanauma Bay Snorkelling one are super popular if you prefer everything to be organized for you.
You can expect to see numerous species of tropical fish, as well as sea turtles, octopus, crabs, and eels!
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is located approximately 10 miles east of Honolulu, and about 20 minutes driving from Diamond Head State Monument.
It is nestled inside a cove, which offers protection from the elements, as well as a calm environment for the droves of local sea life that call Hanauma Bay home.
To reach Hanauma Bay, you can self-drive or Uber, and it costs $3 to park and entrance fees are $25.
Reservations are required in advance to purchase tickets and enter the preserve.
Check prices: Hanauma Bay Snorkelling
Day 3: See the sites of Honolulu City
After exploring around Honolulu itself, Day 3 is reserved for enjoying the city life of Honolulu.
There are many cultural activities to experience inside the city itself, including museums, historical buildings, zoos, and aquariums.
Pick and choose (or sample them all) from this list below.
Visit the Bishop Museum
Founded in 1889, the Bishop Museum is home to exhibits on Hawaii’s history and culture, as well as a planetarium.
Check prices: Bishop Museum Tickets
Check out the Ala Moana Center
Located in the heart of Honolulu, this large, open-air shopping centre is one of the best places to shop in the city and search out those perfect souvenirs.
The offerings of shops are extensive, including high-end stores like Chanel, as well as small mom and pop shops.
There are plenty of dining options as well, and an evening hula show.
Be amazed by the Polynesian Cultural Center
This cultural center provides an authentic glimpse into replicated Polynesian villages, where you can experience traditional dancing, music, art, food, and architecture.
There is also an authentic luau dinner show offered, which is a visitor favourite.
There are a bunch of companies that offer a visit to the Polynesian Culture Centre as part of a wider tour if you’d prefer to check it out that way.
Check prices: Polynesian Cultural Center Tours and Tickets
Swing by Honolulu Zoo
While much of the attention of local wildlife is focused on Honolulu’s underwater scene, the Honolulu Zoo is an opportunity to appreciate some of its above-ground dwellers.
Check out Iolani Palace
The Iolani Palace is the only official state royal residence in the United States.
It was built in 1882 as the home to Hawaii’s last monarchs, King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani.
Visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is dedicated to the military men and women who fought in the Pacific throughout World War II, as well as the Korean War and Vietnam War.
There are several moving tributes located here, as well as the resting places of several notable military veterans.
The Cemetery is open daily, with free admission and free parking.
Day 4: Lanikai Pillbox Hike and Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
What better way to spend day 4 of your 5 day Honolulu itinerary than with an invigorating hike, followed up by a relaxing afternoon on the beach?
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a popular hike located on Oahu’s eastern shore, approximately 25 minutes drive from downtown Honolulu.
It offers unbeatable views of Lanikai Beach below, as well as neighboring Kailua Beach.
While it is similar in length to the Diamond Head hike, it is rated harder with slightly more elevation gain.
However, with its relatively short distance of 1.6 miles roundtrip, it is easily doable in a matter of a couple hours, leaving plenty of time for the second half of day 4 to be spent relaxing.
It is important to note that there are some steeper portions of the trail, as well as some parts of the trail that require some minor scrambling.
After finishing the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, drive just a few short minutes away to one of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in Honolulu, Lanikai Beach, and enjoy a much-deserved break on this beach with unbeatable views.
This beach located at the base of the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, contains still, tranquil waters, and is a favourite for families with children, and those looking to experience a favourite Oahu beach slightly removed from Honolulu city center.
Lanikai Beach is open daily, 24 hours a day.
Day 5: Discover the incredible North Shore
On the final day of your Honolulu 5 day itinerary, you’ll be exploring the northern counterpart to Honolulu, the North Shore.
A visit here is a great opportunity to witness another side of Oahu, while still being relatively close to your home base in Honolulu.
The North Shore is located approximately 30 minutes north from the centre of Honolulu.
There are several standouts on the North Shore, most notably, the Dole Plantation.
I’d recommend visiting this and then selecting 1 or two of the attractions that follow to complete your 5th day on the North Shore.
The Dole Plantation
The Dole Plantation is one of the biggest attractions on the North Shore.
And if you happen to be a pineapple lover, there is no better place in the world to be – because this plantation is home to all things pineapple!
There’s the Pineapple Express Train, paved walks through the gardens, hands-on pineapple demonstrations, and even a Pineapple Maze!
You can sample various pineapple-inspired cuisine, including pineapple ice cream!
Visit the Kualoa Ranch
Just east of North Shore is Kualoa Ranch, home to the Jurassic Park filming sights, as well as hundreds of other films.
You can enjoy tours through the ranch, as well as ziplining, biking, and other outdoor activities.
Top sell-out tours:
Wander to Waimea Falls
Hike the 3.5 mile long Waimea Valley Trail to Waimea Falls, a beautiful 45 foot waterfall.
Relax at Waimea Bay Beach
Located just down the road from the falls is Waimea Bay Beach.
This idyllic cove is home to fantastic swimming and snorkeling.
Visit Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens
Appreciate the beautiful flora and fauna of the area at Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens, located close by the other above mentioned favorites.
What To Do In Honolulu If You Have More Than 5 Days?
If you have more than 5 days to spend in Honolulu, here are some additional recommendations of things to do and see.
Explore even more epic trails
There are so many incredible hikes to embark on across the island and I’ve included some of my favourites in this guide already.
However, if you have extra time of you’re a particularly keen hiker, then here are a few others that are great.
Koko Crater Hike
The Koko Crater trail certainly isn’t an easy hike with it’s challenging accent, but the reward is well worth every drop of sweat.
If you can push on up the trail that leads along an abonded railway, then you’ll be met by stunning panoramtic views in every direction, including that of Hanauma Bay.
If you’re able to get yourself out of bed early enough, then sunrise is the perfect time to witness the scenary here – just be sure to take a headlamp for the way up!
Stroll to Manoa Falls Trail
If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous then Manoa Falls hike is the one to go for.
It’s relatively flat and follows a trail that surrounded by lush greeny all the way to one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island.
It’s just a short 1.6 mile round trip to visit the 150-foot fall, making it great one to do with the whole family in around an hour.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Hike
And last but not least, you have Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Hike.
It’s a relatively easy hike at just 2 miles long with a steady incline and needless to say, the star of the show is the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse.
The entire trail offers stunning coastal views and a great opportunity to spot seabirds and even whales during the winter months (December to April)!
Visit the local Beaches
It comes as no suprise that you won’t be short of beaches near Honoulu and I’ve already mentioned many of the best ones.
However, here are some more to take note of and visit if you have the time.
- Sunset Beach
- Waimanalo Beach
- Ala Moana Beach
- Kahana Bay Beach
Explore the local Museums
If you’re more of a museum person or you’re looking to take a break from the heat, then some of the best ones to visit are:
- Hawaii State Art Museum
- Honolulu Museum of Art
- U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii
- Battleship Missouri Memorial
Where to Stay During Your 5 Day Honolulu Itinerary
There are unlimited lodging options available in Honolulu, including resorts, major hotel chains, small boutique hotels, and vacation rentals.
You can even find some vacation rentals in the smaller towns right outside of Honolulu, if you prefer a more “off the beaten path” accommodation.
But obviously, lodging and dining expenses are more expensive in the heart of Honolulu, versus on the outskirts.
Here are some recommended places to stay depending on your budget.
Is 5 Days Enough to Spend in Honolulu?
Yes, you can accomplish a lot on a 5 day Honolulu itinerary, thanks to the relatively small size of Oahu, short distances between destinations, and accessible infrastructure.
However, if you prefer to take things at a slower pace or you’re wondering whether there is enough to do if you were looking to stay longer than 5 days, then you won’t be short of choice.
Is Hawaii Very Expensive?
Hawaii can be expensive, depending on what time of year you visit.
Airfare to Hawaii and lodging expenses will be much greater during the busiest times of the year, which are primarily summer and the holiday season.
Is Oahu in Honolulu?
No, Honolulu is in Oahu.
Explore beyond Honolulu in Hawaii
Stay Wild Travels.
Hawaii Essentials list
Having been a full-time traveller for years, these are my go-to platforms for booking everything I need when exploring:
🏨Hotels: I never use anything but booking.com as they have epic deals and free cancellation policy!
🛌Hostels: the most trustworthy platform for hostels is Hostelworld
🏥Travel Insurance: SafetyWing are a favourite among travellers as they’re super affordable whilst still offering great cover. When I switched to them, I saved a whopping 80%!
🎫 Tours: for experiences, GetYourGuide or Viator are the platforms I love and trust the most!
🚗 Car rental: I always check two platforms for the best prices: DiscoverCars and Rentalcars.com
📱E-sim: I never visit a new country without making sure I have an e-sim installed and my number 1 favourite platform is Airalo – you can also get a discount with code: AMELIA2423 🙂
Author: Kristen from Yonderlust Ramblings.
Disclosure: just a heads up that some of the links within this post may be affiliated. This means that Stay Wild Travels may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Hopefully, if you’ve been here a while, you know that we only recommend things that we truly believe in. If you use any of these links, it really helps support us to keep bringing you free content – so thank you!