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Takes 3-6 hours depending on the number of stops & the length of the stops.
Start in Waikiki:
Diamond Head Lookout and Lighthouse on Diamond Head Road.
Continue on Diamond Head Road. When Diamond Head Road turns to go around Diamond Head, go straight on Kahala Ave. This will go through a residential area with nice houses.
Note: You can also take Diamond Head Road around to the entrance to Diamond Head. Even if you cannot do the hike, you can go through the tunnel into the crater to see what it looks like. Turn around just before the pay booth. Also Kapiolani Community College (KCC) has a nice cactus display. Only takes a couple minutes to stroll through. KCC is almost straight across from the entrance to Diamond Head. KCC also has a really nice Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.
After about 2 miles on Kahala Ave, turn left onto Keala'olu Ave (just before Kahala Hotel and Resort, formerly Kahala Mandarin Hotel).
Take Keala'olu Ave to Kalaniana'ole Hwy (72). Make a right to get to the highway.
Continue around island to Hanauma Bay (You don't need to go to the visitors center just to see the bay from above & take pictures). You can get some excellent views and pictures from the steps and lookouts that go up and to the left of the visitors center. $1 for parking (returned if you are there less than 15 minutes). Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays. Parking lot is often full & closed after 9am - 9:30am other days. Usually open again mid afternoon.
Scenic lookout just past Hanauma Bay - This is Lanai Lookout. On a clear day you can see Lanai. Also a chance to see humpback whales in the winter. This lookout also has some historical significance now as it is where then President Elect (now President) Barack Obama scattered his tutu's (grandmother's) ashes in December 2008.
Continue to Halona Blowhole and Halona Cove (From Here to Eternity Beach) next to it. Halona Blowhole lookout also overlooks Sandy Beach. Occasionally you can see humpback whales from Halona Cove area.
Sandy Beach - Nice beach.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail - Just past Sandy Beach and just after the road turns inland, look for a gate and a paved trail on the right. There is a nice parking lot now. Trail is about 1 mile one way. You can often see whales from this trail in the winter. Best place to see whales from this trail is at the humpback whale informative sign. Hike is about 30-40 minutes each way.
Continue to Makapuu Pt. Lookout. Overlooks Manana (Rabbit) Island and Makapuu Beach. Sea Life Park is almost right across the street from Makapuu Beach.
Continue to Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area (Waimanalo Bay Beach). Scenic isolated beach (just before Bellows AFB). Entrance to Waimanalo Bay is just past a McDonald's & right across from a polo field. Bellows Beach is also nice. Open to the public on weekends.
Continue to Highway 61 (Pali Highway). Make a left onto Pali Highway. Take it back to Honolulu, stopping at Pali Lookout.
Note: If you were to make a right onto Pali Hwy (61), you could go to Kailua and Lanikai Beaches & spend time there before going back to Honolulu.
Note: See the info about Nuuanu Pali Drive/Area in Driving Tour #3. As this is in Honolulu it could also be added to this driving tour if there is time. It is just on the Honolulu side of Pali Lookout off Pali Highway.
DRIVING TOUR #2 - CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR
Takes 3-6 hours depending on the number of stops and the length of the stops.
Start in Waikiki:
Take McCully or Kapahulu to H-1 West.
Take Pali Highway (61) across to Kaneohe. Stop at Pali Lookout.
Continue to Kaneohe. Make a left onto Highway (83) to Kaneohe (or go straight if you want to go to Kailua and Lanikai Beaches).
Note: If you have already taken Driving Tour #1 and stopped at Pali Lookout, you can take Likelike Highway (63) to Kaneohe from Honolulu. Or if you are taking this tour starting from the Pearl Harbor Museums, you can take H-3 to Kaneohe. If you take Likelike Highway or H-3, take the first Kaneohe exit. That will be Kahekili Highway.
At the far side of Windward Mall in Kaneohe, make a left onto Haiku Road. Take Haiku Rd. across Kahekili Highway to Haiku Gardens. The botanical garden is just below Haleiwa Joe's Restaurant. Nice small Botanical garden with a Koi pond. It's free. The sidewalk to the garden is right at the restaurant.
Go back to Kahekili Hwy. Turn left. Go about two miles. Turn left into Valley of the Temples (Byodo-In Temple). Very Scenic.
Back to Kahekili Hwy. Continue around the island. In a mile or so Kahekili Hwy will end and intersect with Kamehameha Hwy (83). Continue around the island to Haleiwa.
Stops on Kamehameha Hwy:
Kualoa Regional Park/Chinaman's Hat (nice for pictures). There is a Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet on the right just before Kualoa Park. Nice stop for free samples, coffee trees, macadamia trees. They have an inexpensive tour if you want. Kualoa Ranch is across from Kualoa Park. Several good tours at Kualoa Ranch.
There are some scenic beaches between Kualoa Park & Laie including Kahana Bay Beach Park & Punaluu Beach Park.
In Laie, make a right at the stoplight. Go to Laie Pt. Very scenic with a sea arch, good for pictures. Polynesian Cultural Center is in Laie. Also Mormon Temple is in Laie.
Just past Mormon Temple & just before leaving Laie, there is Hukilau Beach. Hukilau Cafe is across the highway from Hukilau Beach. It is on kind of a traffic circle 1/2 block off the highway.
Just past Laie, is Makaekahana State Recreation Area. Scenic with an isolated beach and several islands.
Kahuku - Several shrimp trucks including Giovanni's. Romy's is just on the other side of Kahuku. Those are the two most popular shrimp trucks.
North Shore Beaches:
Turtle Bay Resort - Kuilima Cove there is good for swimming & snorkeling mostly all year except when there is huge surf on the North Shore. There are a limited number of free parking spots at the resort. Tell them at the gate that you are going to the beach. They'll give you a parking pass & tell you where to park.
Sunset Beach Park - Ted's Bakery will be on the left just before Sunset Beach Park.
Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai Pipeline) located right across from Sunset Elementary School.
Pupukea Beach Park (Shark's Cove) Scenic with lots of small lava islands to walk on. Nice for snorkeling in the summer.
If you make a left on Pupukea Road (at the stoplight), go up the hill and park off to the side where the road to the Heiau starts. Walk back on Pupukea Road about 1/2 block for great view of some of the beaches. Then drive to the end of the road to the Heiau about 1 mile) and park in the Heiau parking area. There are some good informative signs about the Heiau. Also take the short (about 1 block) red dirt trail straight ahead toward the ocean for a nice view of Waimea Bay. Jump up on top of a concrete or metal box for a really good view of Waimea Bay.
Waimea Bay Beach Park - Best scenic beach on the north shore. May be difficult to find parking during the summer & on weekends. Waimea Valley (formerly Waimea Falls Park) is just across the highway.
Laniakea Beach - About 1/2 way between Waimea Bay and Haleiwa. Look for parking on the opposite side of the road. Many sea turtles are here. This is also called Lani's Beach or Turtle Beach.
Just before Haleiwa, make a left onto the bypass to Honolulu. (Go through Haleiwa if you have more time). Take Highway 99 to H-2 then H-1 to Honolulu. Follow signs to H-2 to H-1 Honolulu. You will pass Dole Pineapple Center. Stop there if you have time. There is a nice pineapple garden display (free).
If you stop in Haleiwa, there are a couple of nice beaches. Also shops with shave ice. Also a surf museum (free) in North Shore Marketplace. Several good restaurants in Haleiwa also.
Continue to Honolulu.
Note: Attractions like Pali Lookout, Haiku Gardens, Byodo-In Temple (Valley of the Temples) can be done from tour #1 or tour #2 as they are in or near Kaneohe.
Note: Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of Hawaii's best botanical gardens. Located in Kaneohe. Can be added to Driving tour #1 or #2 or on a different day. Expect about 2 hours at the botanical garden. Great place for picnic lunch. Free guided nature hike on Saturday morning, Free guided nature hike on Sunday afternoons. http://www1.honolulu.gov/parks/hbg/hm...
Note: You can combine driving tours #1 & #2. But it will be a long day.
HERE ARE SOME SITES/LINKS WITH MAPS AND/OR NARRATIVE DRIVING TOURS:
www.discoveringhawaii.com Free (pdf) download Oahu movie location map.
http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/tours/ Good driving and walking tours.
http://www.hawaiidriveguides.com/Oahu... Drive Guide Magazine - Includes drives and maps including some detailed maps.
http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/oahu/dest... Good Oahu map & detailed maps of areas & towns. Under each map, there is an "Enlarge Map" to click on. A PDF file will open with just that map. It has a good magnification feature.
http://www.oahunorthshoremap.com/ Click on either map to enlarge
http://www.gypsyguide.com/apps/Oahu/ GyPSy Guide GPS Self-Drive Tours around Oahu, 225 commentary points that play automatically.
DRIVING TOUR #3 - CITY OF HONOLULU TOUR
Takes 3-6 hours depending on what you want to see.
Rather than a driving tour, these are some highlights that you can see, stop at or drive through.
Note: These are attractions if you only have a limited number of hours to tour Honolulu. You can pick & choose which ones depending on how much time you have. You can also combine some of these with driving tour #1 or driving tour #2.
Note: These are somewhat in order starting from Pearl Harbor museums as there are many questions on the forum asking about what to do after the Pearl Harbor museums. You can also use the same order starting from & ending in Waikiki.
National Cemetery of the Pacific. Make sure you drive to the lookout that overlooks the entire city of Honolulu.
Roundtop Drive/Tantalus Drive. This is just above National Cemetery of the Pacific. It is like driving through a rainforest. Some good views of Honolulu. A great view of Honolulu from Puu Ualakaa State Wayside about 1/2 way up Roundtop Drive. Puu Ualakaa State Wayside is famous for being in Elvis Presley's 'Blue Hawaii' movie & also a boyhood picnic area of President Barack Obama & his family. The view from the lookout is one of the best overhead views of a city in the U.S. Roundtop Drive and Tantalus Drive are basicaly the same drive. The road just changes its name at the top. You can do National cemetery of the Pacific & Roundtop/Tantalus at the same time.
Chinatown, Aloha Tower, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hale and a few other historic sites near the palace. Lots of good shops & restaurants in Chinatown & Aloha Tower Marketplace. Go to the viewing deck of Aloha Tower (free).
Kapena Falls, Liliuokalani Gardens, Royal Mausoleum are in the same area just on the opposite side of H-1 from Chinatown. They are fairly close to National Cemetery of the Pacific. Neither Kapena Falls nor the waterfall (Waikahalulu Falls) at Liliuokalani Gardens are impressive, but if you are in the area, they don't take long. The pool at Kapena Falls was a bathing area for Hawaiian royalty. Nice easy hike of about 1 block to Kapena Falls from the parking area behind Oahu Cemetery.
Nuuanu Pali Drive is a scenic about a two mile drive off Pali Highway. It reconnects with Pali Highway. There is a description of the drive in the link below about Nuuanu Pali area.
Part of the movie, "The Desendants", was filmed in this area.
This article has more information about the Nuuanu Pali area:
Map of the area:
Ala Moana Beach Park - Walk out to the end of Magic Island there for a great view & photo-op of Waikiki & Diamond Head.
Waikiki - Drive through Waikiki. There are many shopping centers/restaurants with free or inexpensive validated parking. Honolulu Zoo lot is $1/hour. Some free & some metered parking spots along Kalakaua Ave. toward Waikiki Aquarium.
Diamond Head lookouts just past Diamond Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse may be hard to see because of trees, but there is only one set of lookouts. If you are at the lookouts, the lighthouse is 1/2 a block or so back toward Waikiki.
Drive around Diamond Head & through the tunnel into the crater. If you don't have time to climb Diamond Head, you can turn around just before the pay station.
Kapiolani Community College (KCC) almost right across from the entrance into Diamond Head Crater. Nice cactus garden that only takes a couple minutes to stroll through or just see them from the car. Nice Farmer's Market at KCC on Saturday mornings.
DRIVING TOUR #4 - LEEWARD (WEST) SIDE
Takes 3-6 hours depending on the number of stops and the length of the stops.
These are stops you can make on the Leeward side.
Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu
Germaine's Luau - You can also park here to see Barber's Point Lighthouse - Take Exit 1 from H-1
Ko 'Olina Marina - Several tour boats from here - Take H-1 to the end (actually the beginning as it starts on the Leeward side). Drive another mile or so past the end of H-1. Follow signs for Ko 'Olina.
Ko' Olina Lagoons (same directions) - Limited number of free beach passes for the lagoons.
JW Marriott (same directions)
Disney's Aulani Resort (same directions)
Paradise Cove Luau (same drections)
Fia Fia Luau (same directions)
Kahe Pt. Beach, aka Electric Beach - Good for snorkeling from shore or tour boat. Pod of spinner dolphins that you can watch from shore or tour boat. Located across from power plant on Farrington Highway (93). Great spot for a picnic to watch the spinner dolphins.
Waianae - Pokai Bay Beach Park - Sheltered by a breakwall. Located at Waianae Valley Rd. There is a heiau at the end of the peninsula. Also lava rocks. Nice place to see the surf crash against the rocks.
Waianae - Bust of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Braddah Iz) Located at Waianae Community Center. Go north past the McDonald's, then over the bridge. Waianae Community Center will be on the right about 1 block past the bridge.
Waianae Boat Harbor at Waianae Regional Park - Located just past Waianae Community Center.
Makaha Beach Park - Located in Makaha. Famous surf spot.
Kane'aki Heiau - Restored Hawaiian Temple - Located in the valley above Makaha.
Makua Cave - Located north of Makaha. Nice cave. Lots of grafitti on the cave walls, but still worth a five minute stop.
Yokohama Bay - Located at the end of the road. Nice place to see whales in season.
Kaena Point Hike - 2 1/2 mile one way (about one hour) hike to the point. 2 1/2 miles back. Mountains & ocean are nearby which makes it a very scenic hike. Lots of lava rock formations. Several sea arches. Nice hike to see whales off shore in season. Monk seals at the point. Laysan Albatross at the point in season. Other sea birds.
Note: There are some homeless camps along the highway.
Note: Do not leave any valuable in your vehicle in this or any other area on Oahu.