Circle Around the Island of Oahu on a Self-Guided Tour

We just returned to Pensacola from the beautiful island of Oahu.  I have so many blog posts running through my head and tons of pictures that I want to share with you.  I am going to give you a sneak peek of some of the things we did throughout the week with our Around the Island of Oahu self-guided tour itinerary.  I will be writing more detailed posts about the places we visited over the next few weeks.

When we were planning our trip to Oahu, several people told us that we should spend a day driving around the island.  It only takes about 4-6 hours, give or take, with your stops included.  We completed this tour on the second day of our trip and we thought that it was a good way to see things that we probably would have skipped.  It was also a good way to find out what we wanted to revisit.  It was a geat way to tick off some of the tourist hot spots we wanted to see as well.

You have several options for a guided tour if that is what you enjoy but my husband and I preferred to take a self-guided tour in our rental car.  While we were driving around, we saw lots of tour buses stopping at different stops.  We found that the advantage to doing the tour ourselves allowed us to take as much time as we wanted at each stop, skip things that we decided we didn’t want to see on this drive, and eat anytime and anywhere! 

We started our tour with a stop at the Halona Blowhole.  Be sure to watch for the lookout signs because it will come up quickly around a corner.  If it isn’t very active, wait a few minutes and it just might put on a show for you. 

Holana Blowhole

After the blowhole, continue to drive north to the Makapu’u Lighthouse lookouts.  The first lookout you will see has a beautiful view but we didn’t spot the lighthouse!  We did see it behind us further down the road! 


At this point we were ready for breakfast.  We veered a little off course to eat at a recommended restaurant called the Kalapawai Cafe.  It was worth the little detour!   

After breakfast, we headed to the Valley of the Temples to see the Byodo-In Temple.  The Byodo-In Temple is a replica of the 950 year old temple in Uji, Japan.  It is a beautiful temple in bright red and yellow at the foot of the Kualoa Mountains.

 Byodo In

We made a quick stop at the Kualoa Ranch to get information about their tours.  If you are planning a trip to Kualoa Ranch, be sure to research the tours and options available.  The tour we wanted to take was booked and we didn’t want to wait around until the next one so we headed north again!

At this point, we were hungry again so we stopped at Ted’s Bakery for lunch.  Then we decided that we were ready for some beach time.  We stopped at both Sunset Beach and the Bonzai Pipeline.  The surf wasn’t really up so the beaches were not as crowded as they were later on in the week when we returned.


The next stop was one of my favorites!  Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is the perfect place to stop if you are looking to see…you guessed it…turtles!  We lucked out and as we were sitting on the beach one turtle decided to come up for a little sunbathing.  Of course, that meant the tourists came up on the beach too!


After watching the turtle sunbathe, we were ready to get out of the sun ourselves and headed to Matsumoto Shave Ice.  There was only one more stop that I wanted to make.  Since we had driven so far up the island, I had to see YMCA Camp Erdman which is home to the little yellow cabins that the Others lived in on the television show Lost.   

At this point, you are almost at the end of the road.  The road ends and turns into a dirt service road that you are not allowed to use.  When I was planning our Around the Island trip I didn’t realize this.  We were exhausted anyway so we decided to call it a day.  We plugged in our hotel to our GPS and headed back to Waikiki.  Even though we spent almost an entire day driving up and around the island, it only took us about an hour to get to the hotel by cutting through the middle of the island on I H1!

My husband and I did this trip without our children.  By the time the trip was over, we were tired of being in the car and were ready for a long walk on the beach.  I do think that my kids, ages 4 and 6, could have handled the trip.  I might have changed the itinerary a little bit to add some extra time at one of the beaches.  I would also skip the stop at Kuoloa Ranch.  It isn’t that far from Waikiki and if you are going to visit the ranch, you will want to spend at least an hour or two.  Unless you are a diehard Lost fan, you could skip YMCA Camp Erdman and call it a day after Matsumoto Shave Ice.

Stop by Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday!

Oahu Things To Do on raveable


  1. 1

    You’re right – a trip around the island is a must. We split ours up into two separate days, which made it easier on the kiddos. And that lighthouse you couldn’t see from the lookout? The big explorer & I hiked to it! Can’t wait to read of your adventures in the coming weeks. Welcome home!

  2. 2

    What a trip! My favorite part was when you visited the turtle beach. I love those animals.

  3. 3

    Getting our of Waikiki is key for us when we go to Oahu. I love the less populated areas of the island. Just reading this made me yearn to go back!