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9 Marvelous Oahu Scenic Drives For Jaw-Dropping Views

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The bright and sunny skies of Oahu are an enviable sight to behold. Many tourists visiting Hawaii want to experience them first-hand, exploring the island to see all the stunning sights.
Here are some of our favorite Oahu scenic drives, for your next trip!

Woman on a scenic drive in Oahu
Some of the best Oahu scenic drives end with a gorgeous beach!

Commonly dubbed “The Gathering Place”, Oahu is an enchanting destination that offers a perfect fusion of ancient, modern, and nature. The best way to admire its scenery? It’s by buckling up and hitting Oahu scenic drives by yourself!

Are you planning your trip to Oahu last minute?

Let us help!
Here you will find at a glance our favorite activities, tours, hotels and more. Everything you will need to make this unforgettable!

Top Activities and Tours in Oahu:
1. USS Arizona & Mighty Mo Private Tour
2. Luau Dinner & Show
3. Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki
4. Waikiki Turtle Canyons Cruise & Snorkeling
5. Oahu Helicopter Tour
6. Waikiki Sunset Cruise + Cocktail

Click to search the best (updated) deals to rent a car!

Our Favorite Hotels in Waikiki:
1. Sheraton Waikiki
2. The Royal Hawaiian
3. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki
4. Moana Surfrider Wakiki Beach
5. Prince Waikiki

View of a green mountain in Oahu
Planning a few Hawaii road trips on your own is easy and cheap!

Some of our favorite scenic drives, for an unforgettable Oahu road trip, originate in the island’s eastern half. Near its mountainous summit.

The eastern mountain ridge is dotted with lush green valleys and sprawling coastal plains. The winding roads bend through the valley and up into the highlands. Here quiet forests, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful state parks abound.

Even the beaches of the North Shore and South Shore are absolutely stunning.
In Oahu you will find some of the best Hawaii scenic drives, like nothing else in the world!

If you’ve been doing your research, chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of options available.
The good news, though, is that most of Oahu’s scenic drives are short and sweet. Which means you can add quite a few of them to your itinerary!

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Oahu Coastal drive (Hawaii)
The Oahu coastline is full of interesting views

Lagoon Drive

Are you one of those who want to test their rental car as soon as they get it?
The closest Oahu scenic drive, once you’ve landed at the Honolulu Airport, is Lagoon Drive.

After driving under a highway overpass that was originally built in 1914, you’ll find that Lagoon Drive quickly turns right at an intersection.
In just a short while, you’ll also have a view of the airport as you drive along the coast.

Lagoon Drive is the perfect way to kickstart your Hawaii vacation, because it’s a super short drive. While it lasts just 5 minutes by car, it really is worth the trip. 

Just think of incredible views of teal-colored water dotted with dozens of small lush islets. It’s the perfect instagrammable spot in Oahu!

There’s also a parking lot at the very end of the road.
Leave your car and sit in.
You’ll get to watch planes taking off and landing, with a gorgeous Hawaiian landscape in the background.

Planning a road trip?
Click to download our FREE printable

Woman walking on a beach in Oahu
Find a secluded beach along the way and spend some time just being happy to be in Oahu!

Diamond Head Road

Diamond Head Road is great for a winter Oahu road trip. From December to March, in fact, you’ll be able to see whales offshore!
This scenic drive, in fact, offers sweeping views of the ocean. It cuts through lush, green hills, and is punctuated by quite a few short hiking trails.

The most popular lookout at Diamond Head Road in Oahu is Kuilei Cliffs. You can’t miss it, because there’s a large parking lot. Usually pretty crowded.
This is where you go to enjoy great views of Oahu’s South Shore and fancy oceanfront mansions.

At the eastern end of the parking lot, you’ll also find the Amelia Earhart Memorial.
Amelia was the first person ever to fly alone from Hawaii to North America, on January 11, 1935.

Diamond Head Road is one of the best Oahu scenic drives also because on a clear day you can see the two prettiest islands ever. Molokai and Lanai.
Don’t forget your camera!

Dream beach in Oahu
The amazing lookout points on Highway 3 are super instagrammable!

Highway 3

Highway 3 is king, the crown jewel, the Big Mac of Honolulu’s three-mile-long (about 5 km) stretch of beautiful and scenic coastline. 

With access points from either side of Pearl Harbor, driving the other three miles north from Honolulu’s busy urban center to the North Shore is a journey to unwind in.

Highway 3 is one of our favorite Oahu scenic drives, because there are a lot of amazing lookout points.
That’s where you can pull over and stare out at the gorgeous Pacific, or just appreciate how lucky you are to be here.

Hint: if you’re planning a couple trip to Hawaii or an Hawaiian honeymoon, Highway 3 is where you’ll find quite a few romantic places to take lovely pictures!

Highway 3 is also a great day trip from Honolulu.
It will take you all the way past Diamond Head and all the way down to Haleiwa.

While driving, you’ll pass the magnificent Koolau Mountain Range, hit up the stunning treeline of Haʻikū Valley, and literally drive by all of the sites associated with Hawaii’s most famous exports: pineapples and luau.

Highway 3 will take you all the way to the eastern side of Oahu. With the added bonus of jaw-dropping views of Kāneʻohe Bay and Oʻahu’s windward side. They’re right there, as soon as you get out of the tunnel’s eastern exit.
You’ll definitely have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming!

Highway 3 is the one place you’ve always fantasized about, whenever you’ve thought about a trip to Hawaii.

Woman jumping on a beach in Oahu
Bring some sun lotion if you’re going to Farrington Beach!

Farrington Highway

Farrington Highway is one of Oahu’s scenic drives on the north shore.
It begins in the small town of Wailua

You can – and should – stop at the Wailua Falls along the way. It’s one of the highlights of this road trip, and the perfect point to take a lot of pictures.

If you prefer to spend some time at the beach, you should know that Farrington Highway will take you all the way down to Farrington Beach.
Make sure you add a good sun lotion to your Hawaii packing list: you’re going to need it!

The best part of this Hawaii road trip is where you get to Kaena Point.
The whole day can be planned around activities like swimming, picnicking, taking pictures and even paddleboarding, if you feel like it.

View from Pali Highway Lookout (Oahu)
Pali Highway is short but absolutely gorgeous

Pali Highway

Taking only around 15 minutes to cover, Pali Highway is a short drive that will get you to Pali Lookout, where you can see a large portion of the southeastern part of the island of Oahu.

Even though the end of the drive is the reason most visitors to Hawaii drive this road, the entire way to get there is also an experience worthy of praise.

As soon as you exit the tunnels on the east side of the Koolau Mountain Range, the road opens up to a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and of a glorious meadow filled with beautiful flowers.

As you continue on your way, you’ll notice that a lot of the vegetation has been cleared off, making the highway look even wider and brighter than before.
It’s a stark contrast to the lush vegetation that typically covers most of the rest of the island.

All in all, we think that the views of turquoise waters, combined with a luscious green and mountainous backdrop, make this one of the very best Oahu scenic drives.
And possibly one of the top Hawaii road trips!

Seriously, there’s nothing quite like seeing the Honolulu skyline fading away and giving way to lush valleys in a matter of minutes, so whatever you do, make sure not to miss out on this incredibly short scenic drive!

Couple laying on a scenic beach in Oahu
The Windward Coast in Oahu is perfect if you’re looking for secluded beaches

Windward Coast (Oahu)

The drive up to the east coast from Honolulu to Kaneohe – also known as Windward Coast – is probably one of the best Oahu scenic drives.

Let me share a secret with you: drive further north on the coast, all the way up to the North Shore! Not only is it worth the trip, but it will offer you the chance to spend the day living the life in Hawaii!

The Windward Coast is in fact one of the very best Hawaii road trips. Drive all the way up there on a clear day and you’ll discover a picture-perfect panorama!
You’ll see the color of the ocean turn from a very light turquoise, to a dark blue. Along the way, tiny beaches, nestled inside an incredibly green landscape, are the perfect places to spend some time alone.

You can – and should – stop at these secluded beaches. Whether you have planned a romantic Hawaii honeymoon or not.
Even the party-lovers who spend their trip hitting the Waikiki nightlife will enjoy this day trip!

Two very interesting stops along the way include the Valley of the Temples, which houses Byodo-in Temple. A serene Japanese Buddhist temple where you can spend some time taking pictures. 

And Mokolii, a tiny island, also known as “Chinaman’s Hat“.
Here you can have a picnic, stretch your legs or hike, according to how you have planned your day out.

Try to find some space in your Oahu itinerary for this road trip, it really is worth your time!

Hanauma Bay View from above
Hanauma Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii!

Tantalus Round Top Drive

Tantalus Drive is a pretty short Oahu road trip. Just 6 miles (9 km), but it’s definitely worth doing if you have enough time!
This scenic drive will take you by Tantalus Quarry & Lava Tube, Diamond Head State Monument, and Hanauma Bay.

Along the road, you’ll get to take gorgeous postcard pictures of Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.

The drive to Tantalus Quarry and Lava Tube Park is particularly beautiful! There are opportunities for hiking, snorkeling, and rock climbing.

When you get to the end, don’t forget to pull over at Tantalus Lookout Point for a break.
The view is absolutely breathtaking.
Besides, it’s the perfect way to cap off your road trip!

Turquoise water and dream beach in Oahu
Kamehameha Highway can be a half-day trip from Honolulu: it’s worth the time!

Kamehameha Highway

Kamehameha Highway is a scenic drive along Oahu’s Windward Coast. If you do not have enough time to drive along the whole Windward Coast road that I mentioned above, this is a pretty good alternative!

This scenic drive starts in Kailua and ends in Kailua. It only takes about 3 hours, so you can add it as a half-day trip in your itinerary.
You’ll have enough time to get back to the beach to enjoy the sunset, without having to stress out too much!

Kamehameha Highway allows you to see some of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches. This road is in fact considered one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world.
That’s because it takes you through Diamond Head State Monument and Punchbowl Crater.

Along the road, you’ll get to enjoy amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. The perfect backdrop for taking a few selfies with your family and friends.
You’ve got to make sure to fill that Hawaii travel album with great shots!

Girl on the hood of a car in Oahu
Plan your Oahu road trip also if you’re visiting solo – Driving in Hawaii is easy!

Makapu’u Point

The road trip to Makapu’u Point and Makapu’u Lighthouse is one of the very best scenic drives in Hawaii. With tall sea cliffs and jaw-dropping views, it’s the perfect way to spend one full day away from the crowds. 

Most people – Hawaiians included – visit here either to picnic at Hanauma Bay or hike the Makapu’u Trail.
Either way, you’re sure to see gorgeous views of the ocean and the luscious valley from up here.

The scenery along the coastline is magnificent. If you do not have enough time to explore Diamond Head or Koko Head, at least stop for a bit at Hanauma Bay.
It’s one of the bucket list places in Hawaii you absolutely can’t miss!

Surfer girl on a beach in Oahu
Surfing in Hawaii? Yes please!

Oahu Scenic Drives – Popular Questions

Do I need a car to explore Oahu?

Actually, it depends on what you want to do!

Me and Al always rent a car at Honolulu airport, because we prefer to just drive around. It’s the option that offers more freedom, so we just plan our itinerary without limitations.

You can click here to check out the best rental car offers in Oahu.

In case you don’t feel like driving, I suggest you check out the Oahu bus routes.
While you won’t be able to reach each and every part of the island, it’s still a great way to explore.

The Honolulu buses in fact are ranked as one of the best transit systems in the world!

The best Road To Hana Video Itinerary – For your trip to Maui!

Is it worth driving around Oahu?

Short answer: Absolutely yes!!!

Long answer: while Waikiki and its beaches are absolutely fab, you’d be missing out big time if you didn’t explore further the island.

There are so many things to do in Oahu and road tripping is one of our favorites!

Driving in Oahu: is it easy?

It really depends on where you want to go.

Driving in Hawaii is relatively easy, as roads are well signed and in good conditions. This is especially true for Oahu.

Yet Oahu’s roads are also the busiest. Traffic jams are common in Honolulu. Quite often we prefer to just walk around Waikiki Beach at night.
Because we don’t feel like spending the whole evening stuck into traffic and then trying to find a parking spot!

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9 Jaw-Dropping Oahu Scenic Drives
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Travelling Dany – Danila Caputo

Danila Caputo is a bilingual travel writer living in between Naples and the Amalfi Coast (Italy), graduating from the University of Naples Suor Orsola Benincasa in Foreign Languages and Literature. She travels and works with her husband Aldo, photographer and videographer. Their blog chronicles their adventures around the world, their love for the USA (where they have family), Italian/European culture and tips on how to be responsible travelers. You can find out more about their latest trips and their life on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook.

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