Shaka Guide’s East Oahu Shoreline Drive Itinerary
Shaka Guide’s East Oahu Shoreline Drive has 19 stops along the island’s scenic roadways. You can hike two inactive volcanoes, explore seven beaches, snorkel at one of the island’s most popular spots, and visit a 400-acre botanical garden. That doesn’t include all the lookout points, historic sites, and photo ops that you’ll pass along the way!
Our app gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace — that’s one of our favorite things about it. However, with all these stops, you’re probably wondering how your day will look. We’ve created this suggested itinerary to help guide you through your east coast adventure with Shaka Guide. Pick what you want to do and go explore!
Shaka Guide’s East Oahu Shoreline Drive map
Depart Waikiki EARLY
We suggest leaving around 8 a.m. if not earlier; the first few activities on this tour are some of the busiest on Oahu. Oh, and make sure you have a hearty breakfast to start your day — don’t worry, we have a bunch of lunch recommendations so you can enjoy some authentic, Hawaiian cuisine.
Hike Diamond Head OR Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
Approximate time: 2 hours
Here, we recommend choosing to either hike Diamond Head OR snorkel at Hanauma Bay. As we mentioned, these are some of the most popular attractions on Oahu. The parking lots tend to fill up and they each take some time. You could definitely do both, just be prepared to spend about two hours at each spot!
Hanauma Bay, Oahu | Photo by Tor Johnson, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
If you want to hike, we still recommend paying the $1 to park at Hanauma Bay to take a quick look at the beach. You’ll see the sprawling coral reef that’s home to over 450 varieties of sea life. On the other hand, if you choose to snorkel, head past Kapiolani Park to a small lookout point to marvel at Diamond Head. The tour will guide you there — Diamond Head truly is one of Waikiki’s most iconic landmarks.
Oh, and if this helps you make your decision, there’s another hike that’s about the same difficulty level and mile count as Diamond Head later in the tour. It’s called Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.
View from the top of Diamond Head | Photo by Christian Joudrey
Pro Tip! If you’re passing Diamond Head and headed towards Hanauma Bay, stop at Leonard’s Bakery — or Leonard’s MalasadaMobile to grab a malasada for the road. You’ll thank us later.
Pull Over at Halona Blowhole and Eternity Beach
Approximate time: 20 minutes
About ten minutes down the road from Hanauma Bay are Halona Blowhole and Eternity Beach, also known as Cockroach Cove and Halona Beach Cove. This beach is known for providing the backdrop to the famous kissing scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the movie “From Here to Eternity.” The beach has since been featured in movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides,” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
It’s a rocky climb down to the beach, but if you feel like taking a moment to look for sea turtles and rest in this secluded spot, expect to spend more like 40 minutes. You can go swimming here — but be warned — there are no lifeguards and the waves can be rough.
Halona Beach Cove
Watch Bodyboarders take on Sandy Beach’s Shorebreak
Approximate time: 20 minutes
Sandy’s is famous for its shorebreak, which is when waves break directly onshore. If you stop at Sandy’s, you might want to skip swimming (it’s the most injury-prone beach on Oahu) and instead just watch the bodyboarders; these daring individuals don’t use a board at all — just fins and their bodies to ride the waves.
Hike Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
Approximate time: 1.5 hours
Prepare to see some of the bluest water you’ve ever set your eyes on while walking Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. This hike was formed on the site of an inactive volcano that overlooks the southeast shores of Oahu. On a clear day you can even see Moloka’i and Maui! And, if you’re hiking in the winter, you might see Humpback whales. Makapu’u is considered easy and is paved the entire way.
If you’ve already hiked Diamond Head or if you’re tired from snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, you might want to skip this spot. However, we recommend you visit Makapu’u Lookout to check out the historic lighthouse — we’ll guide you there on the tour.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse
Grab Lunch (and Dessert) in Waimanalo OR Head Straight to Kailua for Lunch
Approximate time: 1 hour
At this point on the tour, you’re probably hungry. If you’re looking for a local favorite, grab a plate lunch in Waimanalo at Ono Steak and Shrimp. If you’re unfamiliar with a plate lunch — it’s a staple meal here in Hawaii. It comes with rice, a meat or a fish, and salad, either greens or macaroni. We recommend the garlic shrimp and steak or the garlic ahi. After you’ve finished your meal, head to Dave’s Ice Cream for a sweet treat. This shop is serving Hawaiian-inspired flavors like chocolate macadamia nut, haupia, and ube.
If you want to wait and have lunch in Kailua, there are loads of eateries to choose from. You can skip grabbing lunch in Waimanalo (which means you might want to skip Waimanalo Bay too), and drive straight to Kailua town. Here you’ll find local cafes that are serving up fresh poke, colorful acai bowl, vegan and vegetarian options, sandwiches, salads, and plate lunches. Check out our blog post about “Where to Eat on Shaka Guide’s East Oahu Shoreline Drive,” for some Kailua restaurant recommendations!
Visit Waimanalo Bay OR Kailua Beach
Approximate time: 1.5 hours
Now’s the time to hit the beach! You’ve had a jam-packed morning, full of activities and fun. Take a moment to relax on one of Oahu’s beaches. You have two to choose from. If you opt to eat lunch in Waimanalo, you can stop by Waimanalo Bay. Note that the beach is in between Ono Steak and Shrimp and Dave’s Ice Cream, so if you get ice cream, you might have to back track just a little. Or, wait to get ice cream after the beach.
Another option, is to drive to Kailua Beach Park. Voted the best beach in 2019 by Dr. Beach, Kailua has soft white sand, clear turquoise water, and gentle waves. This makes it perfect for kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. If you’d like to give either sport a try, you can rent gear in town. Other Kailua pros: there’s free parking, picnic tables, and public restrooms.
Pro tip! Lanikai Beach is just a few minutes down the road from Kailua. It’s on the same stretch of shore, but it’s a bit more remote. You’ll also get picture-perfect views of the mokes, two small islands off the coast. There’s no public parking at Lanikai, so be mindful of the parking restrictions when you visit.
Relaxing Kailua Beach
Visit the Historic Ulupo Heiau
Approximate time: 15 minutes
A heiau is a temple built by ancient Hawaiians for ceremonies and spiritual worship. This particular heiau is thought to have been constructed by the Menehunes; mystical people who some scholars believe were the first group of ancient people to live in Hawaii. The Ulupo Heiau may have been used for agricultural ceremonies to promote crop fertility and later dedicated to promoting wartime successes.
Follow the small path to right of the rock platform and you can explore a traditional taro patch. Taro is an important part of Hawaiian culture. It represents the origin of humankind and is used to make poi — a beloved local food. Remember, a heiau is a sacred place for Hawaiians and must be treated with respect.
Explore Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Approximate time: 1 hour
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden offers a change in scenery. Greenery fills this garden oasis while the Koʻolau Mountain Range provides a picture-perfect backdrop. Ho’omaluhia is Oahu’s largest botanical garden at 400-acres. There are a variety of plants from all around the world including, Africa, Polynesia, Sri Lanka, India, and of course Hawaii. Ho’omaluhia means “to make a place of peace and tranquility,” and we hope this is exactly what you find as you’re winding down your day.
Keep in mind Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens closes at 4:00 p.m. If you really want to explore this spot, we suggest you choose one of the following: hike Diamond Head, snorkel at Hanauma Bay or hike Makapu’u — it will be difficult to do two of these three activities and make it to the garden before it closes. Or, come back the next day to visit the garden. Your purchase never expires and you can do the tour as many times as you please!
*Please note: Ho’omaluhia is currently the last stop on the East Oahu Shoreline Drive due to closures on the Pali Highway.*
Entrance to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
Stop at the Pali Lookout and Judd Trail
On your way home, stop at the Pali Lookout. You’ll see the spot where King Kamehameha fought to seize the island of Oahu to form one united Hawaii.
If you’re looking to hike one more time before you drive home for the day, head to the Judd Trail. This one-mile path runs parallel to Old Pali Road, a small stretch of the original roadway that connected Honolulu to Oahu’s west side. You’ll walk through lush jungle passing streams and small waterfalls along the way. Once you reach the end of the trail you’ll come across a swimming hole — feel free to jump in! This hike is family friendly, but you’ll have to cross a stream to get to the waterfall and it can get muddy and slippery if it’s been raining.
*Please note: at the moment our tour does not stop at the Pali Lookout or Judd Trail due to closures on the Pali Highway. Instead, you’ll end your day at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.*
Return to Waikiki
After you’ve finished exploring Ho’omaluhia we’ll guide you back to Waikiki with stories and music along the drive. Once you get back to the city, head to Waikiki beach to watch the sunset. It’s the perfect way to end the day!
If you want to do everything on the tour — hike every trail, visit every beach, explore Ho’omaluhia, snorkel at Hanauma Bay, and stop at every point — you should expect to spend about 10-12 hours. You’ll also want to depart Waikiki around 6 a.m. to cover everything before Ho’omaluhia closes at 4:00 p.m. It will be a long day; but you’ll get an in-depth look at Oahu’s Eastern Shore!
Also check out: Best Places to Get Shave Ice in Oahu