I have hesitated to write this post. Really, who only goes to Oahu for one day? It turns out more than you would think. I went to Oahu for a week as a child with my parents. But since then I have explored the island more than a dozen times, all one day at a time. I have gone many times for work and arrive a day early or leave a day late. For others though, it is a great mid-way point if traveling slowly from the United States to or from Asia. It is also the hub if your destination is one of the other seven major islands.
Based on my many trips to the island when I only have a single day to explore; here are my top recommendations for a balanced day:
Arizona Memorial is an outdoor memorial dedicated to the lives lost and memory of WWII and the Japanese attack 7 Dec 1941. I recommend going early in the day in order to avoid some of the crowds and in order to pack in a full day of activities. Or if early morning does not work with your schedule, you can reserve tickets on line up to 60 days in advance. Also limit the items with bring with you. The last time I was there, security has been tightened up and you were not allowed to carry anything larger than a wallet inside. I am not exaggerating, my cross-body purse was not allowed.
If there on a Saturday, go to the KCC Farmers Market near Waikiki. Do some shopping, hear some music, eat some local food …
Hike Diamond Head for some marvelous views or drive along the North coast. This also helps with jet lag if going to or from Asia.
If not going to another island, while busy, Hanauma bay is a beautiful location to go snorkeling and enjoy the water. If you didn’t go to the Arizona Memorial first thing in the morning, this is a great first stop.
Dinner on Waikiki. Yes, it is touristy. It is also beautiful and if you are only there one day, worth the crowds and extra costs. I love Dukes Canoe Club, it is right on the beach, has a great salad bar, and awesome meal choices. But frankly there are dozens of great options. I do recommend doing some planning and making a reservation so you can make the most of your time.
After dinner walk on the beach and stop at a club for a drink before heading back to your hotel.