How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Oahu? Full Guide

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Are you curious about how much time it takes to traverse Oahu by car? As an island with a diverse range of attractions, planning your road trip in Oahu requires careful consideration.

The time taken can vary greatly depending on traffic conditions and the number of stops you plan to make. In this post, we will delve into details about scenic routes like the Kamehameha Highway and key considerations for avoiding heavy traffic or traffic jams.

We'll also highlight must-see stops such as Waimanalo Beach and Lanikai Pillbox hike that add charm to your Oahu road trip. Furthermore, we will provide practical tips for ensuring a smooth journey across this amazing destination.

Beyond natural beauty, there's more to explore in Oahu; from luxury yachts at Ko Olina Marina to feasting Hawaiian style at Paradise Cove Luau. Lastly, don't miss out on understanding the historical significance of Pearl Harbor National Memorial during your visit.

For those seeking to know the duration of a drive around Oahu, read on for further details!


How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Oahu - Overview

Driving around the third-largest island in Hawaii, Oahu, is an amazing destination for a road trip. A non-stop drive takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.

However, with stops at various attractions along the way and possible heavy traffic jams, it can take between 4 to 6 hours. This journey covers about 600 square miles of stunning landscapes such as Spitting Cave and Hanauma Bay.

Kamehameha Highway: A picturesque route looping around Oahu

This highway offers a long beach stretch that winds through small towns, past huge beaches like Mokuleia Beach Park and Waimea Bay Beach Park where you might find nice beaches to relax or even spot famous Hawaiian green sea turtles. The scenic Kamehameha Highway provides an unspoiled beach view on one side while mountain ranges tower on the other.

Traffic considerations when planning your drive

While driving around Oahu safely is usually straightforward, there are some things to keep in mind. First off, Honolulu airport arrivals often lead to increased traffic near Maunalua Bay Beach Park, so plan accordingly by parking early and finding spaces nearby if possible.

Also remember that weekends typically see more visitors, leading to heavier traffic, especially towards popular destinations like Waimea Bay Jumping Rock or Hanauma Bay, which are also kite-flying destinations apart from being known for their natural beauty.

A good transportation option would be renting a car from companies like Discover Cars, who offer reliable service ensuring smooth travel throughout your stay on this beautiful island. Remember though - always drive carefully.

If you want something more organized without worrying about navigating yourself through potential traffic jams, then boat tours depart regularly from Ko Olina Marina, providing guided tours with experienced local guides who know how best to avoid busy times and ensure maximum enjoyment during your visit here.


Driving around Oahu, the third-largest Hawaiian island, takes about 3.5 hours non-stop but can extend to 4-6 hours with stops and traffic. The journey includes picturesque routes like the Kamehameha Highway, offering stunning beach and mountain views. Increased traffic near popular destinations and during weekends is common. Consider renting a car for convenience or taking a guided boat tour for a more organized trip.


Must-See Stops on Your Road Trip Around Oahu

When planning a road trip around Oahu, be sure to include some of the must-see stops on your itinerary. From stunning beaches to cultural landmarks and epic surf spots, this Hawaiian Island has it all.

Waimanalo Beach

First up is Waimanalo Beach. Escape the tourist crowds and bask in the serene vibes of this hidden gem. The turquoise waters are perfect for swimming or simply lounging by the shore.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Next, take on the Lanikai Pillbox hike for breathtaking views of the Mokulua Islands. Capture the beauty of Lanikai beach and beyond from the old military pillboxes along this easy trail.

And that's not all. Don't miss out on other attractions like:

  • Waimea Waterfall
  • Chinaman's Hat Island
  • Banzai Pipeline
  • Turtle Beach
  • Byodo-In Temple & Kualoa Ranch

Whether you're into natural beauty or cultural landmarks, Oahu has something for everyone. So buckle up, hit the road, and let Hawaii's third largest island surprise you at every turn.


Oahu's must-see stops include Waimanalo Beach for tranquility, Lanikai Pillbox hike for stunning views, and other attractions like Waimea Waterfall, Chinaman's Hat Island, Byodo-In Temple & Kualoa Ranch, Banzai Pipeline, and Turtle Beach. Don't miss the Dole Plantation's World's Largest Maze. Whether you love natural beauty or cultural landmarks, Oahu has something for everyone.


Practical Tips For Your Self-drive Tour Across Oahu

Explore Oahu at your own pace and avoid traffic jams like a pro. Here are some tips for a smooth and enjoyable self-drive tour:

Avoid Peak Times During School Holidays

Oahu can get crazy busy during school holidays, so plan your trip outside these peak periods if possible. Check the Hawaii Department of Education website for school term dates.

If you're stuck traveling during school holidays, hit the road early in the morning or later in the afternoon when traffic is lighter. And take the road less traveled for a smoother ride.

Book Your Car in Advance

Don't delay in getting a rental car; reserve early, particularly during peak times. Book ahead, especially during high season. Discover Cars is a reputable car rental company on Oahu with a wide range of vehicles for every budget.

Make your reservation as soon as your travel dates are confirmed. And don't forget to brush up on Hawaii's driving laws.

While guided tours and public transportation are options, nothing beats the convenience and control of having your own wheels. Stop whenever and wherever you want, without worrying about schedules or crowds.


For a smooth self-drive tour across Oahu, avoid peak times during school holidays and travel early morning or late afternoon to dodge traffic. Booking your rental car in advance, especially during high season, is essential. Having your own vehicle offers convenience and control, allowing you to stop whenever and wherever you wish.

Diamond-Head-Beach Park-Relaxation

Other Attractions Beyond Natural Beauty in Oahu

Oahu, the third-largest island in Hawaii, isn't just about stunning beaches and scenic hikes. Oahu has plenty of remarkable experiences to offer visitors, ranging from the lavish yachts at Ko Olina Marina to a traditional Hawaiian feast at Paradise Cove Luau. From luxurious yachts at Ko Olina Marina to traditional Hawaiian feasts at Paradise Cove Luau, there's something for everyone.

Ko Olina Marina

If you want a taste of luxury in Oahu, head to Ko Olina Marina. This world-class marina showcases impressive yachts against crystal clear blue waters.

You can stroll along the docks admiring these magnificent vessels or even charter one for a day out on the water. The marina also offers various water activities like snorkeling tours and sunset cruises, allowing you to explore Oahu's beautiful coastline from a different perspective.


Pearl Harbor National Memorial

If you're a history nerd, you gotta check out the Pearl Harbor National Memorial when you're in Oahu. This location serves as a potent reminder of the sorrowful incident that forced America into World War II.

This place is a big deal for the locals too. It is embedded deep in their consciousness, regardless of origin or creed.

The memorial honors the 2,403 US citizens who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack. Each one is remembered with respect and honor.

There are a few sites you can explore within the monument:

The USS Arizona Memorial: Built over the sunken battleship where over 1,000 sailors and marines died.
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum: Shows off vintage aircraft from WWII and teaches you about aviation warfare strategies.

Battleship Missouri Memorial: Walk the decks of the last battleship built by the US Navy and where the end of WWII was celebrated.

At these places, take a narrated tour to gain an in-depth understanding of the events before, during and after WWII. The tales are sorrowful yet motivating, demonstrating to us the tenacity of the human soul.

But hey, even if you're not a history buff, the views from the memorial are pretty sweet. You get to see the harbor and the Honolulu skyline. Worth a visit, right?


Iolani Palace

Located in downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace is more than just a historic building - it's a testament to the beauty and resilience of Hawaiian culture.

Built in the late 1800s to serve as the royal residence for Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii before its annexation by the United States, the palace combines traditional Hawaiian motifs with contemporary Victorian design.

Visitors can take guided tours of the palace's grand rooms and learn about its role in Hawaiian history, from its use as a political center to its eventual restoration as a symbol of the islands' cultural heritage.

Whether you're a history buff, a lover of architecture, or simply seeking a deeper understanding of Hawaiian culture, a visit to Iolani Palace is an essential addition to any Oahu itinerary.



If you're looking for a taste of Asia without having to leave Hawaii, then Chinatown in Oahu is the perfect destination. Located in Honolulu, this vibrant district encapsulates the rich cultural heritage of the Chinese immigrants who came to Hawaii during the 19th century.

With its bustling markets, unique eateries, and colorful architecture, a visit to Chinatown Oahu is a must in every itinerary. Whether you're interested in sampling some traditional dim sum or simply taking a stroll through the historic streets, there's plenty to see and experience in this lively community.

So why not add Chinatown Oahu to your list of must-see attractions when driving around Oahu?



Oahu, Hawaii offers more than just natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy luxury yachts and water activities at Ko Olina Marina, while history buffs can explore the Pearl Harbor National Memorial to honor the lives lost in the Pearl Harbor attack. The memorial includes the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, and Battleship Missouri Memorial, offering insightful tours about World War II events. These attractions showcase the resilience of the human spirit.



In conclusion, while it takes roughly 3 and a half hours to drive around Oahu without stopping, the real joy lies in taking your time. With so many scenic routes, beautiful beaches, historic landmarks, and charming towns to explore, a full day or even more might be needed to truly soak in the island's beauty.

So buckle up, prepare for an adventure, and discover the diverse landscapes and vibrant culture that make Oahu such a unique destination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Oahu a Large Island?

Yes, Oahu is the third-largest island in Hawaii and is one of the most populous islands, being home to over 950,000 people. Whether you're a local or a visitor, there's never a dull moment on this vibrant island, boasting countless natural wonders, delicious culinary delights, and a fascinating fusion of cultures.

How Big is Oahu Island?

Are you wondering just how big Oahu Island really is? With a land area of 597 square miles, it may not be the largest island in Hawaii, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to things to see and do.

From the bustling city of Honolulu to the world-famous beaches of Waikiki, Oahu Island is home to a diverse range of landscapes and attractions that make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Oahu Island is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.

Is Oahu an Island or a City?

Oahu is an island, not a city. It's one of the main islands in the state of Hawaii and is also known as "The Gathering Place". The city of Honolulu, which is the capital of Hawaii, is located on Oahu's southeast coast. So while there are cities on Oahu, including the capital city Honolulu, Oahu itself is an island.

Can you Drive Around Oahu in a Day?

Yes, it's possible to drive around most parts of Oahu in a day. You can't drive the entire circumference of the island, as Kaena Point in the northwest isn't passable by car. However, you can cover most of the island in a long day drive.

It would take roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes to drive the 110-mile loop around the eastern half of the island without stopping. Nonetheless, many suggest taking a whole day to enjoy stops along the way, including scenic routes, beaches, and other points of interest.

Is Oahu or Maui Better?

Oahu and Maui are both stunning Hawaiian islands but each offers a different vibe and experience.

Oahu, home to the capital city Honolulu, is often bustling with activity. It's known for its iconic Waikiki Beach, historic Pearl Harbor, and world-famous surf spots like the North Shore. Oahu tends to be more urban and developed, offering a wide array of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.

Maui, on the other hand, is known for its laid-back atmosphere, scenic beauty, and outdoor adventures. It boasts some of the best beaches in Hawaii, the largest dormant volcano (Haleakala), and the historic town of Lahaina. Maui is also famous for the Road to Hana, a picturesque drive filled with waterfalls and breathtaking views.

In terms of cost, Oahu is generally less expensive than Maui. Both islands offer unique experiences and your choice would depend on what you're looking for in your Hawaiian getaway - whether it's the vibrant city life and historical sites of Oahu, or the natural beauty and tranquility of Maui.

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