I love Oahu! My family vacations there every year for a month. My parents lived here back when they first got married, so we come back to visit. (I say here, because I’m actually in Oahu right now lol!)
For starters, I would recommend renting a car- there is so much to do all over the island, it would really help you maximize your trip. We rent a house when we stay, and rent our car from JN Cars- they’re always in excellent condition. Last year we were even given a brand new car!
When we stay, we typically stay on the Windward side, in an area of Kailua called Lanikai.If you make it over to Kailua, definitely go to the beach in Lanikai- it has a GORGEOUS view of the Mokolua mountains-breathtaking! And it’s really very quiet, not crowded at all. One of the best things to do is to rent a Kayak for the day and Kayak out to the Mok’s- they’re bird sanctuaries, but you can bring a lunch and eat it on the shore. If you go at just the right time, you can see the birds (Wedgetailed Shearwaters) nesting- very sweet! In my opinion, the BEST shave ice on the island (shave ice is a MUST) is Island Snow, in Kailua. Forget what the tour books say about Matsumoto’s Shave Ice (North Shore)- you’ll wait in line half an hour and it isn’t as good. In Kailua, there is a wonderful (but somewhat $$) restaurant called Buzz’s or a cute Deli/Market called Kalapawai. In the mornings, my family (I have a foot problem, but would join them if I could!), hikes up the mountain in Lanikai. It gives them the opportunity to hike without taking up a whole day.
On the North Shore, there is a small beach in Haleiwa called Turtle Beach or Laniakea Beach. During the day, GIANT sea turtles come up and bask on the shore. You can walk right up to them and take pictures, or you can go snorkle in the water and swim by the ones that do not come to shore. In Haleiwa, there is a great burger place called Kua ‘Aina. They have great normal burgers as well as mahi mahi burgers. One thing I would HIGHLY recommend is to go see the sunset in Haleiwa- it’s incredible. There is a delicious restaurant called Jameson’s that you can eat at and watch it from, or there are many spots on the beach you can watch the sunset from. Jameson’s makes a mean Mai Tai! For lunch, we always pick up shrimp from one of the (many) shrimp trucks. Another fun thing to do is when you drive around, you’ll often see locals on the side of the road selling various fruits. Stop and get some! They’re really yummy treats on a warm day. Oh! And Haleiwa Joe’s! There is NO restaurant in Hawaii with better views. Make sure you go to the one in Kaneohe if you want the views.
Waikiki is actually the part of the island I am least familiar with- it is REALLY crowded. However, it is a long stretch of beach, and different sections of the beach have been “unofficially” dubbed different types of beach. There is a “gay beach” a “skimpy bikini” beach, and many more. I love to eat at Cheeseburger in Paradise there.
Hanauma Bay and Pearl Harbor are both too good to pass up. My recommendation is the get to both right when they open. Hanauma Bay will fill up the parking lot QUICKLY and once that happens, you cannot get in. My recommendation would be to get there RIGHT as it opens, stay a few hours, and then do something else with the rest of your day. Hanauma is great, but it’s important to try and maximize your time.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is fun, I’m going tomorrow actually. It’s a (teeny tiny) bit cheesy, but if you go, I agree with PP- stay for the evening!
This is turning into a REALLY long post, I’m sorry! There are so many rock formations off the water and islands (like Chinaman’s hat) that make for some beautiful pictures! If you want more information on those, PM me and I can give you specific directions to some of the unnamed rock formations and pictures, so you can see what I’m talking about. (ex: we went to one yesterday we call Papa’s Rock, because when my parents lived here, my grandpa came to visit them and was driving through various neighborhoods when he discovered it. It’s a long stretch of black rock with a hole in the middle that waves can splash through at certain times of the day)
Oh! And how could I forget Waimea Bay?! If you’re a thrill seeker, there is a giant rock you can jump off. It’s REALLY an adrenaline rush.
Here are a few pictures of some of what I was talking about: (sorry SO and I are in them, I don’t have any without me on this computer) Feel free to PM me for more pictures.
Kayaking in Lanikai. The Mok’s are in the background. It’s such a quiet, non-crowded beach. It’s my favorite part of Hawaii.
Sunset in the North Shore (taken at a beach somewhat near Jameson’s.)
And the view from the hike in Lanikai:
Again, feel free to PM me (or heck, if you want, I can give more info/pictures on this thread if you want them). Hope I helped! I love Oahu and will be honeymooning here too in two years!