Oahu attracts millions of visitors each year. One of the most popular things to do when you are visiting Oahu is to drive around it and see all of the sights at your own pace. However, before renting a car and getting ready to start the journey, many people ask the question, “How long does it take to drive around Oahu?”
In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to driving around Oahu. We will discuss the different route options, estimated driving times, factors affecting driving time, recommended stops, and tips for a safe and enjoyable driving experience. By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to plan a successful driving trip around Oahu.
Overview of Oahu
Let’s first start with a quick overview of Oahu, the third-largest Hawaiian island. It has a total area of 596.7 square miles and is home to nearly one million people, making it the most populous island in the state.
Oahu is divided into four main regions: Honolulu, the North Shore, the Windward Coast, and the Leeward Coast. Each region has its own unique culture, landscape, and attractions.
- Honolulu is the capital and largest city in Hawaii, located on the south coast of Oahu. It is the commercial, cultural, and political center of the state and is home to many iconic landmarks, including Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and Waikiki Beach.
- The North Shore is known for its world-renowned surf spots
- The Windward Coast is famous for its lush rainforests and stunning beaches.
- The Leeward Coast is a more remote area of the island, with fewer tourist attractions but plenty of hidden gems to discover.
Route Options for Driving around Oahu
When planning a driving trip around Oahu, there are two main route options: clockwise and counterclockwise. The clockwise route starts in Honolulu and follows the south coast of the island, while the counterclockwise route starts on the Windward Coast and follows the north coast of the island.
Both routes offer stunning views of the island’s natural beauty and cultural attractions. However, the counterclockwise route is less crowded and offers more opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking and snorkeling. On the other hand, the clockwise route is more convenient for those who want to explore the city of Honolulu and its many attractions.
The most popular route follows the H-1 highway around the south coast of the island, passing through Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, and then continues on the H-3 highway through the Windward Coast. From there, the route takes travelers along the North Shore on the Kamehameha Highway and then back to Honolulu on the H-2 highway.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Oahu?
The total distance of the clockwise route around Oahu is approximately 134 miles, while the counterclockwise route is slightly longer at around 150 miles. The estimated driving time for the clockwise route is around 3 hours, while the counterclockwise route can take up to 4-5 hours, depending on traffic and the number of stops.
Factors Affecting Driving Time
Several factors can affect how long it takes to drive around Oahu:
- Traffic Conditions:
- Traffic conditions on Oahu can be heavy, especially during rush hour in Honolulu. This can significantly increase driving time and make the journey more challenging. To avoid heavy traffic, it’s recommended to plan your driving trip during off-peak hours, such as early morning or late afternoon.
- Road construction:
- Road construction is another factor that can affect driving time in Oahu. The island’s roads are constantly undergoing maintenance and repair, which can cause delays and detours. Before starting your driving trip, check for any road closures or construction updates to plan your route accordingly.
- Number of Stops:
- The number of stops you make along the way can also affect the driving time around Oahu. While there are many scenic spots to visit, taking too many stops can significantly increase your travel time. You should plan your stops in advance and prioritize the must-see attractions to make the most of your time.
Here are some recommended stops to add to your driving itinerary:
- Honolulu – This is where you’ll start your trip. You can stay here for a few days and explore more of what the city has to offer.
- Waikiki Beach – One of the most famous beaches on earth, Waikiki Beach is located just south of downtown Honolulu.
- Diamond Head: Located on the eastern edge of Waikiki, Diamond Head is a volcanic cone that offers stunning views of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. The hike up to the summit can be a little challenging but it’s well worth it for the panoramic views of Honolulu and the ocean.
- Hanauma Bay: One of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve with crystal clear waters and vibrant marine life. Once you arrive, you can rent snorkeling gear and explore the coral reefs, or just relax on the beach and enjoy the scenery.
- Byodo-In Temple: Located in the lush Valley of the Temples, Byodo-In Temple is a replica of a 900-year-old Japanese temple.
- North Shore: Known for its world-renowned surf spots and laid-back vibe, the North Shore is a must-visit destination on Oahu. Once here, you can explore the small towns and surf shops, watch surf competitions at famous breaks like Pipeline and Waimea Bay, or just enjoy the beautiful beaches and scenic lookouts.
- Pearl Harbor: A historic site that commemorates the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the role of the United States in World War II. Take a guided tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, explore the exhibits at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and pay your respects at the memorial wall.
- Polynesian Cultural Center: A cultural attraction that showcases the traditions and customs of Polynesia. Explore the six different island villages, watch cultural performances and demonstrations, and cap it off with a traditional luau feast.
- Kualoa Ranch: A scenic ranch that offers a variety of outdoor activities, including ATV tours, horseback riding, and zipline adventures. Explore the beautiful valleys and mountains of the ranch, visit the film locations of famous movies and TV shows, and enjoy the natural beauty of Oahu.
- Lanikai Beach: A picture-perfect beach with crystal clear waters and powdery white sand. Visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the stunning views of the Mokulua Islands. The nearby Lanikai Pillboxes hike also offers panoramic views of the beach and ocean.
Assuming you are starting from Honolulu, here are the estimated driving time and approximate miles to each destination.
|Distance from Honolulu
|Duration from Honolulu
|Polynesian Cultural Ctr.
Tips for Driving Around Oahu
Driving around Oahu can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to take some precautions to ensure a safe and stress-free journey. Here are some tips for driving around Oahu:
- Plan your route in advance and check for any road closures or construction updates.
- Avoid driving during rush hour in Honolulu to minimize traffic delays.
- Use a GPS or navigation app to help you navigate around the island.
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially when driving on scenic routes with narrow roads and steep cliffs.
- Respect the local culture and be mindful of traffic laws and regulations.
Here is a short video with some additional tips to consider when driving around the island of Oahu.
Final Thoughts on Driving around Oahu
Driving around Oahu is a great way to experience the natural beauty and rich culture of the island. Whether you choose to drive the clockwise or counterclockwise route or make your own itinerary, planning your driving trip in advance and taking some precautions can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
We hope that you enjoyed our list of attractions in Oahu and that you have a better understanding of how vast the island is. We’ve tried to include everything from popular tourist spots to lesser-known gems.
Have fun exploring!