At about 600 square miles, Oahu is bigger than any visitor might expect, which makes it trickier for tourists to plan their trip if they want to see everything within a short period of time. In order to become entirely familiar with the stunning island of Oahu, many tourists choose to rent a car from Honolulu. Doing this gives you the freedom to drive the full loop around the island and to take in all of its natural beauty. But the important question is, how long does it take to drive around Oahu?
It should take you about 4 hours to complete the full loop and to cover most places of interest on the island. This estimated time doesn’t include stops, but it is a long enough duration for you to get a good feel for what Oahu has to offer. Due to its (in)famous cluster of restaurants and hotels, most visitors choose to base themselves around Waikiki Beach. This makes for a perfect starting point to drive around Oahu.
Below is a detailed description of the main famous attractions you can stop at when driving around Oahu:
What to see on your Oahu road trip
Maunalua Bay Beach Park - Situated close to Honolulu itself, Maunalua Bay Beach Park is worth visiting for its extensive grassy park located right by a long beach. The park offers free parking spaces and picnic tables, making it a perfect spot for an outdoor lunch. On top of that, you will have an amazing view of the Diamond Head.
Spitting Caves – Located further to the eastern side of the island, the Spitting Caves are a range of cliffs tucked away in a residential neighborhood. The cliffs will give you beautiful photo ops. Even if you're a daredevil, don’t attempt to jump from any of these cliffs. The high winds, sharp rocks, and other hazards make it very dangerous.
Hanauma Bay - One of the most beautiful spots on the island, Hanauma Bay is a must-see place if you don’t care how long does it take to drive around Oahu. The bay boasts crystal-clear blue water along a beautiful narrow stretch of sand that glistens under the sun. If you have a lot of time, rent snorkeling gear and enjoy what’s underneath.
Top tip: To avoid crowded snorkeling areas and be sure not to miss any of the fascinating marine life you can spot at Hanauma Bay, we recommend booking this top-rated Hanauma Bay Guided Snorkel Tour! This is a fantastic way to get away from the crowds and see more underwater creatures. Thanks to your certified guide, you will swim with over 400 species of fish and discover all the best secret spots in search of the famous Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
Kualoa Regional Park – Continuing toward the northern part, Kualoa Regional Park is a huge beach with a spectacular sight of the Chinaman's Hat Island. If you happen to visit during a calm day, you can ride a kayak here.
Waimea Bay Beach Park – This place is another expansive, unspoiled beach with beautiful clear water and long lines of palm trees. Here you will find the Waimea Bay jumping rock. It’s free to park at Waimea Bay, but note that it is usually crowded on a pleasant day.
Mokuleia Beach Park - Located on the west coast, Mokuleia Beach Park is a very windy place that has gained a reputation as one of the best kite-flying destinations on the island. It is very common to see the sky full of colorful streamers and kites, which makes this an amazing destination for families.
Ko Olina Marina - Situated in Ko Olina itself, the Marina showcases a different side of Oahu. You will not find nice beaches here, but you might enjoy the sight of boats and yachts. Many boat tours depart from here.
No matter what your interests are, and as long as you're not too bothered by how long does it take to drive around Oahu, driving around the island will reward you with spectacular sights, both on the coast and inland. It will also give you the opportunity to enjoy everything the island has to offer at your own pace.
Make the most of Oahu on one of our favorite tours!
Things to remember when driving in Oahu
Now that we've answered the question "How long does it take to drive around Oahu?", there are a few more useful considerations to bear in mind.
Driving in Oahu, especially during peak season, can be pretty frustrating due to the heavy traffic. Because of this, there are some precautions you should be aware of in order to avoid road rage on your vacation. Here are some tips to make your Oahu road trip more fun and less stressful.
Consider whether you need a rental car
A good transportation option in Oahu is the bus. The local transport system is very safe, clean, and passes by a lot of attractions in Oahu. Furthermore, a lot of tours provide transportation to and from Waikiki when you take their packaged tours.
On the other hand, renting a car is great if you want to be independent and in control of your own time and schedule. We recommend booking a car from Honolulu in advance through Discover Cars, our favorite platform to secure good-value and reliable car rentals. They often have fantastic deals on early bookings, so you can make significant savings by taking care of this ahead of your trip.
Plan out your parking early
Finding a parking space is not the easiest thing to do when driving around Oahu, especially in peak season, so it’s best to pre-plan before you get there. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
-If you’re staying at a hotel, do they have a parking space? Is it free? If not, how much does it cost?
-Do you know where to park near the places you are planning to go?
Spending a couple of minutes planning the parking for your trip will save you a lot of time and trouble while driving in Oahu.
Familiarize yourself with Google Maps or any map app of your choice
You can use maps.google.com to create customized directions for every spot you're planning to hit. Once you have the app, familiarize yourself with how to use it. This will make it easier for you to drive around knowing where to go next.
All in all, in order to drive around Oahu safely and enjoyably, it’s important to prepare yourself for things to expect, and to drive carefully. Local residents hate it when other drivers, especially tourists, are driving too fast and recklessly. Remember, Hawaii is known for its laid-back lifestyle, so you need to blend in. You must also prepare yourself for possible traffic jams and delays.
Planning your trip to Oahu
After reading this, you might be tempted to book your trip to Oahu... and we won't blame you! Here are our top tips and tools to help you plan a great stay:
Getting to Oahu
The international airport to reach Oahu is in Honolulu. Find your flight using one of our favorite search platforms, Kiwi.com or Skyscanner.
Accommodation on Oahu
Honolulu and other parts of Oahu offer a range of enchanting accommodation...as you might expect from a Hawaiian island! From charming, affordable guesthouses to luxury beach resorts, find the perfect place to stay.
Car rental to drive around Oahu
If you do decide to get your own rental car to drive around Oahu, we highly recommend booking one in advance through Discover Cars. They have great offers on early bookings and reliable 24/7 customer support. Handily, they have 4 different pickup locations on Oahu (including at the airport, Downtown, and from Waikiki Beach).
Granted, this is not the most exciting part of travel planning. But we've heard too many horror stories to ever travel abroad without reliable travel medical coverage. We use SafetyWing, a flexible and affordable provider that can protect you against mishaps from just $1.32 per day. If you ask us, it's a steal to be able to enjoy your holiday with greater peace of mind!
If you're looking for more extensive coverage that also protects you against theft of your electronics and belongings and covers you for all types of sports and activities, World Nomads is a pricier but more comprehensive option used by many global travelers.
We hope you find this article helpful and that it answered the question, “How long does it take to drive around Oahu?”. If you have other questions on this topic, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comment box below!