Top Driving Tours and Walking Tours on Oahu

Caucasian woman relaxing in convertible on beach in Hawaii

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Most travelers to Oahu who book their stay at one of the great hotels or resorts in Waikiki never venture further than the beach or shops along Kalakaua Avenue. Without question, Waikiki is fantastic and some of the best resorts in Hawaii are located along within a few blocks of the two miles of Waikiki Beach. But Oahu as a whole is highly underrated; it's a beautiful island with so much to see and do. Visitors just need to get out and explore the island.

There are three principal ways to get around on Oahu - as part of a paid tour, by rental car, or by using Oahu's excellent public transportation system, TheBus, and then doing a bit of walking.

This feature will look at the latter two ways to explore the island - by rental car or by using TheBus. Here are some of the best driving and walking tours on Oahu.

01 of 05

Walking Tour of Historic Honolulu

King Kamehameha statue in front of Aliiolani Hale (Hawaii State Supreme Court), Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, United States of America, Pacific
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This walking tour can cost you as little as the bus fare to get from Waikiki to downtown Honolulu. Just ask the concierge at your hotel which bus to take that stops closest to your hotel or plug your destination into a map app on your phone.

Honolulu's historic district is very compact and is an easy walk for almost everyone. It's highly recommended that you take a docent-guided tour of 'Iolani Palace. It is a unique opportunity to visit the only royal palace in the United States.

Other stops that you should make include the King Kamehameha I Statue, the King Lunalilo Mausoleum, Kawaiaha'o Church and Mission Cemetery, and Mission Houses Museum which offers guided tours of the houses.

02 of 05

Driving Tour of the Southeast Shore

Hawaii, Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserves.
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One of the most popular drives on Oahu is to head east from Waikiki, past Diamond Head towards the southeastern corner of the island.

The first part of the drive is through primarily residential areas of the island, including the Kahala neighborhood which includes some of the most expensive homes in Hawaii.

The first stop on your drive should be at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve for some of the best snorkeling on the island. Parking lot fills up early in the day, so get there early. After Hanauma Bay, there is a quick succession of stops along this very scenic and in many parts rocky coast. The formations in the sea cliffs along this coast are unlike any you have ever seen.

Be sure to stop at Sandy Beach Park to watch some great boogie boarding, especially if the waves are high.

Your drive culminates at Kailua and Lanikai, two of the world's ​top-rated beaches and two of the islands major residential communities. From there you'll head back to Waikiki.

03 of 05

Daytrip to Windward

Kualoa Ranch

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

One of the best drives on Oahu is a relatively easy drive to Windward Oahu, the eastern shore of the island.

The drive takes you across the Pali Highway with a brief stop at the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout where you will have wonderful views of much of the eastern shore of the island.

Following your stop at the lookout, it's back down the other side of the 34 miles long Koolau Mountain Range which spans the length of the island’s eastern coast from Kahuku in the north to Makapu'u in the south.

As you head north, you'll want to stop at the Byodo-In Temple which has recently been made famous in the TV series LOST. From there you should head north to Kualoa Ranch which offers multiple activities and tours into two of the most beautiful valleys on Oahu.

If you didn't stop in Kailua and Lanikai as mentioned in the prior drive, be sure to stop there on your return trip to Waikiki after your visit to Kualoa Ranch.

04 of 05

Driving Tour of the North Shore

Polynesian Cultural Center

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

One of the most popular drives not only on Oahu but in all of Hawaii is the drive along Oahu's world famous North Shore.

While most folks tend to do this drive from west to east, beginning with a drive through Central Oahu, you may find less traffic by making this drive from the opposite direction.

In order to do that, just follow the directions for the last drive, but instead of making the stops drive straight through past Kualoa Ranch to the town of Laie, considered the gateway to Oahu's North Shore and home to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Since the Center does not open until noon, it will likely be closed as you pass by. It's recommended that you schedule a visit on another day. They offer great package tours which include bus transportation from many locations in Waikiki.

The North Shore of Oahu is the surfing capital of the world and you'll surely want to stop at several of the beaches along the way, especially if you're making the drive during the winter months when the surf is high. In that case, a stop at the Banzai Pipeline is a must.

If you plan your trip right, be sure to stop for lunch and do some shopping in the town of Haleiwa.

You can head back to Waikiki through Central Oahu, making a brief stop at the Dole Plantation, home to the world's largest pineapple maze.

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

Driving Tour of the Leeward Coast

Aerial View of Leeward Coast

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

This final driving tour on Oahu will take you to an area of the island which over 90% of travelers never visit, the Leeward or Western Coast.

Depending on traffic, it's a long drive to reach the Leeward Coast, likely about an hour from Waikiki on H1 West.

This area of Oahu is a primarily residential area of the island as you'll quickly see if you head there in the early morning and notice traffic backed up almost the entire way heading into Honolulu and Waikiki. There's a good chance that if ask a hotel or restaurant employee where they live, many will say that they live on this side of the island.

Once again, it's that you go against the norm and drive all the way north until the road ends and then begin your exploration heading south. This is a strikingly beautiful part of the island with beautiful beaches and deep valleys that will take your breath away.